GRIEVING girls have marked the spot where their much-loved dad was tragically found dead by planting a tree to remember him by.
Kayleigh, 17, Ellie, nine, and six-year-old Leah helped plant the apple tree as a memorial to Darren Waller.
The 36-year-old had been missing for five months when his body was found on grassland behind the Phoenix Centre, on Hartlepool’s Central Estate.
Darren’s ex-wife, Lisa Gleaves, who remained good friends with Darren after their divorce, joined their children for a poignant planting ceremony yesterday.
Tomorrow will mark the 12-month anniversary of when Darren was found after a large-scale police search that culminated in a national TV appeal.
Lisa, 36, from the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool, said: “It’s full of mixed emotions, it’s sad to visit here as it’s where Darren was found, but it’s nice to have the tree and something else to remember him by.
“It will be nice to see it flourish and to come back and see the tree growing.”
A stone heart will also be fixed near the tree saying: “Dad, deep in our hearts you’ll always stay loved and missed everyday.”
Darren, who had lived in a flat in Alma Street, went missing on January 9 last year.
His girls endured a torrid time wondering what had happened to their dad and their worst fears became a reality when his body was found.
Hartlepool Borough Council park and countryside wardens offered to supply and plant the tree next to a pond that is part of a community woodland project off Hindpool Close.
The recommendation was originally made by the Central Estate Management Organisation.
Cath Torley, from the group, said: “We always had Darren’s family in mind when this was started.
“They have left a lot of flowers here so now it’s nice to have something living.”
An inquest in September last year heard how the trained mechanic lay dead for five months before he was found after falling asleep in a field during freezing January weather.
The work by the council’s countryside team comes on the back of a £24,000 grant from the SITA Trust.