'The speculation is ridiculous': Ex-lumberjack, 69, arrested after Sycamore Gap tree felled, denies cutting it down

1 October 2023, 08:00

Walter Renwick denies any involvement in cutting down the Sycamore Gap tree
Walter Renwick denies any involvement in cutting down the Sycamore Gap tree. Picture: Facebook/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A former lumberjack who was arrested in connection with the felling of the iconic Sycamore Gap tree has said the suggestion he cut it down is "ridiculous".

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Walter Renwick, who lives just eight miles from where the tree used to stand, was arrested on Friday night after the famous 300-year-old tree was found chopped down on Thursday.

He and a 16-year-old boy who had previously been arrested were later released while police continued to investigate.

Local rumours had linked the pensioner with the tree felling, because of his former profession and because he had recently been evicted from his property.

But Mr Renwick, 69, said he was not "stupid" enough to cut down the tree. Relatives said he wasn't in good enough health to commit the crime.

Read more: Glimmer of hope for Sycamore Gap stump as shoots could regrow from 'deliberately' felled tree

Read more: Woman 'grieving all over again' after iconic Sycamore Gap Tree where she scattered her brother's ashes is felled

The felled Sycamore Gap tree
The felled Sycamore Gap tree. Picture: Alamy

"The speculation is bloody ridiculous," Mr Renwick told the Mail. "I'll tell you this much, I wouldn't be so sad to do that."

'It was a lovely tree, an iconic tree, but I mean to go up there and cut that down, I'm not that stupid."

He added: "It makes it sound like me, doesn't it, because it was a good cut,' he said, referring to the clean way the tree had been cut down.

"It was dark obviously but it was a lovely moonlit night... the cut was brilliant.

"When I say brilliant, you can tell a good lumberjack by the way he cuts a tree down. I haven't seen the cut obviously, but I have seen it on the computer."

Forensic investigators from Northumbria Police examine the felled Sycamore Gap tree
Forensic investigators from Northumbria Police examine the felled Sycamore Gap tree. Picture: Alamy

Mr Renwick said: "My chainsaw's down here by that barn door, but you can see that it hasn't been used for ages."

The world-famous tree had stood in a dip along Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland for 300 years before it was chopped down with a chainsaw on Wednesday night.

The felling of the tree - which featured in 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - has sparked outrage, with authorities calling it a 'deliberate act of vandalism'.

Detectives continued to investigate after claims that the damage was done by 'a professional who knew where they were going to cut' on a windy night during 83mph Storm Agnes which would possibly have disguised the sound of a chainsaw.

The Sycamore Gap tree in its former glory
The Sycamore Gap tree in its former glory. Picture: Alamy

A close relative said: "There is no way he [Walter] could've done this, he absolutely loves the land. He lives for the land.

"He's really not well enough to do anything like that. Walter is on loads of different medications for various conditions – he'd rather starve than leave the house to get food."

Mr Renwick's younger brother Colin said: "I know 100 per cent he's not done it. I'm utterly convinced he has not done it.'This has been nothing more than trial by Facebook. I went down to see him the other night when I read his name on Facebook. I said, 'tell me you didn't do this', and he said, 'what the hell do you think I am? Of course I didn't do it'.

Mr Renwick learned he was suspected of cutting the tree down when his brother visited him and said: "I'm pleased to see you're still here.

"He then said the tree had been cut down and that 'everybody is pointing the finger at you'."

Mr Renwick used to run Plankey Mill farm and campsite but was recently evicted by his landlords, the Jesuits, who are a Catholic order.

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