Tree in memory of tragic dad

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THE three grieving girls of tragic dad Darren Waller are set to plant a tree in his memory,

The fruit tree will be placed on the grassland where Darren’s body was discovered by a dog walker five months after he went missing.

His three girls will help mark the spot in a small ceremony on May 16 - just two days before the anniversary of when he was found on Hartlepool’s Central Estate.

Kayleigh, 17, Ellie, nine, and six-year-old Leah will help dig the hole and place the tree as they remember their much-loved dad.

It comes after Hartlepool Borough Council park and countryside wardens offered to plant the tree as part of a community woodland project near the Phoenix Centre, off Hindpool Close.

Darren’s ex-wife, Lisa Gleaves, who remained good friends with Darren after their divorce, said: “The kids are really looking forward to it. It’s something to remember their dad.

“Things are still raw and it’s all still very emotional but we are happy that people are thinking about it.

“It will never be a happy place to visit, but maybe it will be more peaceful and a bit nicer to remember Darren there after it’s planted.”

Darren, who had lived in a flat in Alma Street, went missing on January 9 last year.

The girls endured a torrid time wondering what had happened to their dad and their worst fears became a reality when his body was found.

Lisa, 36, from the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool, said the girls rarely visit the site as it brings back bad memories, but hopes the council’s idea will create a nicer spot to visit.

She said: “I had been thinking about doing something ages ago and then I got a phone call from the council saying they would do something.

“I thought the tree was a really nice idea and we are very thankful to the council for thinking about it.”

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.

Police had launched an extensive search and a national appeal that culminated in the family appearing on BBC’s Missing Live TV show.

The work by the council’s countryside team comes on the back of a £24,000 grant from the SITA Trust.

They have created a network of freshwater wetland areas across the town to provide habitats for many nationally-declining wetland species such as frogs, newts and toads.

Deborah Jefferson, the council’s countryside officer, said: “We were aware of the significance which the area near the Phoenix Centre has for Darren’s family, so we got in touch with Lisa Gleaves to ask her whether, once the pond is installed, she would like to plant a tree there in memory of Darren.

“This month marks the first anniversary of Darren passing away and on Wednesday, May 16, at 3.30pm, Lisa and her daughters will be planting an apple tree, which we will be providing.

“It will be a lasting reminder of Darren and we are very pleased to have been able to help his family in this way.”

The other wetland sites in the town are at Ward Jackson Park, Burn Valley Gardens, Seaton Carew Park, Golden Flatts and Summerhill.