By Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
The hunt is on for a vandal who doused a tree in toxic chemicals – and left a trail of incriminating footprints from the scene.
Newcastle environmental campaigners have hit out at a shocking act of vandalism in Kingston Park and called for the culprit to be “severely reprimanded”.
Save Newcastle Wildlife reported that the base of a mature ash tree in Windsor Way appeared to have been covered in what they believe to be glyphosate weedkiller, which the perpetrator appears to have then stepped in – causing them to leave behind footprints on the surrounding grass as they traipsed the substance away in the direction of Ascot Court.
The group has previously complained after an apple tree on the same plot of land was attacked with a chainsaw.
Newcastle City Council said it will monitor the tree to ensure it does not become a health hazard and urged any witnesses to the incident to come forward.
Rachel Locke, of Save Newcastle Wildlife, said: “We are saddened by this act, but pleased to see the perpetrator was foolish enough to leave incriminating evidence in the form of footprints.
“It is unfortunate that an ash tree, which has the potential to support more than 1,000 species, has fallen victim, particularly when ash dieback is set to wipe out 95% of the UK’s ash trees.
“Furthermore, glyphosate – the chemical used to try to kill the tree – is a harmful herbicide, not only to domestic pets and humans, but to wildlife too.
“A number of trees have already been removed to make way for the Kingston Park Road scheme and any further loss of trees is deplorable, particularly in this manner, at a time when the country is supposed to be in lockdown.
“Kingston Park is fortunate enough to have several notable and veteran trees – even an ancient oak tree. Sadly, even this mighty oak has been subject to vandalism. People should be taking pride in, and celebrating, these trees, not seeking to destroy them.”
Newcastle City Council, which recently committed to planting a tree for each newborn child in the city, confirmed it is investigating.
A spokesperson said: “This incident has been reported to us and it is extremely concerning that someone could seek to cause this kind of damage to a tree.
“We are not able to confirm what liquid was poured around the base of the tree or what the long-term effect on the tree will be.
“We will monitor the tree for signs of ill-health and ensure that it does not become a danger to the public but unfortunately our powers of investigation in matters like this are limited.
“If anyone does have information about who was responsible they can report it to us through Envirocall, either via the council website or by calling 0191 278 7878.”