Surrey Police are on the hunt for a suspect who has cut down numerous trees with a chainsaw in the Walton and Weybridge area as well as in parts of neighbouring Spelthorne.
The mystery tree feller is thought to be operating under darkness and has chopped down up to 30 trees in just 10 days, mainly along the Thames walk.
On Sunday, March 28 it was first reported to police that a number of trees were cut down in the Cowey Sale area of Walton.
Since then, Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council have said there have been at least another 20 instances of felled trees. They have described this as “concerning” to the police, council and local residents.
In what has been dubbed the “Surrey chainsaw massacre”, the healthy trees have been felled along a two-mile route between Walton and Weybridge.
Other residents have said the same offender may have been operating in places such as Shepperton and Chertsey.
The shocking results of the chopping spree can be seen along the towpath and roads, with heavy branches and debris creating hazards for runners, cyclists and drivers. Another few felled trees have been found by the Xcel Leisure Centre in Walton.
The remains of the trees have also been found in the river after five were destroyed by Elmbridge Canoe Club in Weybridge, which had posed threats to boats and canoeists. The club has checked its CCTV footage but the cameras did not cover the specific area.
The felled trees at Cowey Sale have now been cleared and there are signs of the devastation, but the ones by the canoe club remain.
Extra police patrols have now been set up to catch the person or numerous people, who police believe may be travelling in a small red car.
Police have advised people to not approach any suspects carrying chainsaws – as they may be dangerous – and instead report it directly to them.
The vandalism has sparked fury on social media and a Facebook group named Elmbridge Tree Patrol was set up on Wednesday, (April 7). The group currently has over 550 members and counting.
The group’s owner, Cameron Flynn, posted: “As you all know there’s a maniac going around Weybridge, Walton on Thames and Cobham chopping down trees ruining the environment, ecosystem, habitats and making everyone upset.
“I have set up this group so we can all, as a community, volunteer to patrol the area at night to try and hunt down and video record this lunatic. WE MUST SAVE OUR COMMUNITY!”
One person on Facebook said she came into contact with the culprit when she shouted at the person out of their window asking what they were doing – to which they apologised and sped off in their car.
Elmbridge Borough Commander, Inspector Bert Dean, said: “I do not underestimate the impact this mindless damage has on the local community as well as the risk it has posed to motorists by obstructing roads.
“We are looking at every opportunity to identify who is responsible for this and will continue to work closely with Elmbridge Borough Council to tackle this issue. If you have any information which could help, and you have not already got in touch, please contact us.”
In a joint statement, Surrey police and Elmbridge Borough Council said: “We would like to reassure the local community that we are following up all relevant information and the investigation remains ongoing. Patrols will also be carried out in the areas which have been targeted.”