Vandals fell Dereham's civic Christmas tree

Chris HillMean-spirited vandals spoilt the festive mood in Dereham by hacking down the town's 35ft Christmas tree.The symbolic civic tree, proudly illuminated in the market place three weeks ago, was felled with a hand saw at about midnight on Wednesday.Chris Hill

Vandals spoilt the festive mood in Dereham by hacking down the town's 35ft Christmas tree.

The symbolic civic tree, proudly illuminated in the market place three weeks ago, was felled with a handsaw at about midnight on Wednesday.

The tree - which was donated by local aggregates firm Barker Brothers - fell away from shops and roads, instead hitting a bin near town centre parking bays.

Children cried and outraged townspeople looked on in disbelief as their traditional centrepiece was sawn into pieces and transported away yesterday morning.

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And with only a week to go before Christmas, councillors said even if a replacement could be found, it would cost �1,000 to install it and replace the smashed lights.

Dereham mayor Ann Bowyer said: "I was gobsmacked when I heard what happened, and so many

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people have been asking me why it is gone.

"Everyone is extremely angry and irritated at such a mindless act. It has spoilt things for the people of this town and we are now wondering whether we can afford to even think about putting another one up."

Town councillor John Gretton said he hoped the town could rally round and restore the Christmas spirit by donating a similar tree or helping with the costs.

"We have gone to so much trouble to spend money on the lights and this tree was very generously donated to the town, but someone has been working against us," he said. "It is simply appalling.

"But people are very generous and if they could come up with something on this occasion it would be appreciated by the whole town."

Peter Dunning, one of the workers who chose and erected the tree three weeks ago, said: "I feel sick as a pig. It took us four hours to find this beautiful tree. It is a pity it didn't hit whoever did this in the head when it fell."

Mr Dunning's colleague Ted Smith said: "There was one little lad here who was crying and wanting to find out what happened to his tree. He wanted to know if Santa was still coming. This is what whoever has cut the tree down has done."

Dereham's ageing CCTV system failed to catch the offenders in the act, as the roving camera panned away from the tree when it was still standing and returned to record it on the ground.

The cameras are due to be replaced in the new year as part of a �3.5m upgrade to equip Breckland towns with digital equipment which can respond to movement and zoom in on faces and number plates.

A spokesman for Breckland Council said: "The irony is that these new cameras would have caught this activity. It highlights why we have invested in CCTV."

Dereham police inspector Paul Wheatley said he was still determined to catch the vandals and his team has already offered �200 towards the replacement fund.

"The CCTV does not show the tree being felled, which is frustrating for me because I want to catch these people," he said.

"I am absolutely disgusted. These people have hurt the whole community of Dereham and I will do my utmost to catch the offenders."

To donate a tree or money, contact Dereham Town Council on 01362 693821 or the EDP's Dereham office on 01362 854701 or

Anyone with information about the crime should contact police on 0845 456 4567.

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