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Was the Sycamore Gap Tree felled as a social media prank? Theory emerges as landmark 'could become a giant totem pole'
2 October 2023, 09:26 | Updated: 2 October 2023, 14:13
Police investigating the felling of the world-famous Sycamore Gap Tree are looking into claims it was cut down as part of a social media stunt.
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The new line on enquiry emerged after the latest person arrested last night in connection with the destruction of the landmark tree was released.
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 he has said any suggestion he cut it down is "ridiculous" and that he's "not that stupid".
Reacting to social media gossip yesterday, he said: "The speculation is bloody ridiculous. 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."
Relatives said he wasn't in good enough health to commit the crime.
Mr Renwick's daughter-in-law told The Times that he was in custody at Newcastle police station for "something he hasn't even done".
She added: "He’s got two leaking heart valves. He’s never fit enough to get up there. He’s down here living like f*****g Bear Grylls."
Mr Renwick 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."
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 comments come amid reports that the tree's remains could be turned into a giant totem pole, in a bid to keep tourists interested, or possibly a memorial carving, the Daily Express reported.
Thousands of pounds have been raised so for to pay to renovate the historic site.
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.
A close relative said: "There is no way he [Walter] could've done this, he absolutely loves the land. He lives for the land. "
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."
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'."