A family has been left distressed after vandals destroyed a tree planted in memory of a much-loved man who died of cancer.
The 14ft-tall mature silver birch was planted for the family of Alan West in Hartlepool’s Burn Valley Gardens.
But Alan’s widow Pat West, 66, was left heartbroken after someone hacked it down close to the base just three weeks after being planted.
Alan, who was a keen gardener and nature lover, died after a short battle with cancer last October just two weeks before his and Pat’s 45th anniversary.
Pat said of the vandalism: “I has really hurt that it had been destroyed. It represented so much.
“I was determined he would have something beautiful. We chose a silver birch because he was silver haired.
“Alan was such a nature lover. I deliberately bought a big tree as I thought if we put a little sapling in it would get torn up within days.”
Pat, her daughter Rachel West, 41, and 16-year-old granddaughter Josephine watched park volunteers plant the tree on April 21.
She discovered the damage just 16 days later, last Saturday when she was walking her dog in the park which she does every day to see the tree.
Rachel said: “The hope was in time to have a bird nest put in the tree as dad loved nature and could often recognise many birds.
“Since the tree was planted, mum faithfully watered it every day so that the roots would soon get well established.
“She would walk the dog through the park everyday, stop by the tree and have a little chat with my dad. “It was good having something living to talk to.”
Pat said she deliberately did not put anything on the tree stating it was in memory of Alan as she feared it could make it more of a target to vandals.
Burn Valley Park has suffered several incidents of theft and vandalism recently.
Just last month we reported how thieves helped themselves to flowers planted by children from Eldon Grove Academy after working with countryside officers and the Friends of Hartlepool Wild Green Spaces group.
Pat added: “I just feel sorry for them if the only kicks they can get out of life is by destroying things.”
Alan previously featured in the Mail by managing to grow grapes in his garden in Tristram Avenue 70 miles north of Britain’s most northerly commercial vineyard near Leeds.