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

28 September 2023, 17:34 | Updated: 28 September 2023, 17:47

The felled tree had special significance to Heather Sutherland after her brother Martin's suicide
The felled tree had special significance to Heather Sutherland after her brother Martin's suicide. Picture: Alamy/Submitted
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

A woman who scattered her brother's ashes at the iconic Sycamore Gap Tree says she is "grieving all over again" after its felling.

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Heather Sutherland, from Newcastle, told LBC the image of the tree lying on the ground sent a "physical jolt through my body", before she burst in to tears.

She said she and her brother Martin, who died by suicide in 2011, would visit the site at Hadrian's Wall as children because of their shared love for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

She told LBC: "It can be really difficult to find the good when you're dealing with suicide loss, so I specifically chose the tree as a location, I wanted to mark our sibling relationship that focused on laughs and smiles, and the connection we had as brother and sister.

"I always felt in Sycamore Gap I had a place of calm, stability, focus and a place I could go to when I felt the need. It felt a freeing but also really reflective place."

Read more: Boy, 16, arrested after 300-year-old world-famous Sycamore Gap Tree along Hadrian's Wall felled during the night

Martin Sutherland died by suicide in 2011 aged 27
Martin Sutherland died by suicide in 2011 aged 27. Picture: Submitted

Heather told LBC it was also a way for her young daughter to connect with her late uncle. She said: "My daughter never knew my brother, but she knows the tree as Martin's tree."

She said when she saw the tree had been felled, she was "stunned".

Heather added: "I did feel a physical jolt through my body and my breath was taken away, and then I was crying - about its felling, but more realising I wouldn't be able to see it again.

Read more: Concerned resident sets up £10,000 GoFundMe for 'full size bronze replica' after vandals cut down Sycamore Gap tree

"During the pandemic I did struggle with not knowing when I could get there again, and I don't like feeling the same way again.

"I've just been thinking - how could someone do that? How could someone do such a thing? An act that makes zero sense and appears to have zero real reason has taken away the ability to make future positive memories for me, for my family, and for countless other people both inside and outside of the North East."

The tree served as a tribute to Martin
The tree served as a tribute to Martin. Picture: Alamy

National Park officials said on Thursday they believed the tree was "deliberately felled" overnight.

Northumbria Police began an investigation, and a 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.

Super intendant Kevin Waring said the felling has "caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond".

On Thursday morning the national park authority said: "(We) can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down over night. We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled.

"We are working with the relevant agencies and partners with an interest in this iconic North East landmark and will issue more details once they are known."

The sycamore was felled overnight
The sycamore was felled overnight. Picture: Alamy

The sycamore, which stood in a dramatic dip in Hadrian's Wall which could be seen from the nearby road, was looked after by both Northumberland National Park Authority and the National Trust.

The National Trust said it was "shocked and saddened" to confirm that the "iconic" tree had been cut down overnight after pictures emerged on Thursday morning of it lying on its side near the ancient Roman wall, which is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Superintendent Kevin Waring, of Northumbria Police, said: "This is a world-renowned landmark and the events of today have caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond.

"An investigation was immediately launched following this vandalism, and this afternoon we have arrested one suspect in connection with our enquiries.

"Given our investigation remains at a very early stage, we are keeping an open mind.

"I am appealing to the public for information to assist us - if you have seen or heard anything suspicious that may be of interest to us, please let us know.

"Any information - no matter how small or insignificant you think it may be - could prove absolutely crucial to our enquiries."

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