A former lumberjack investigated over the felling of one of Britain’s most famous trees has vehemently denied any involvement, saying: ‘I’m not that stupid.’
Walter Renwick, 69, gave an interview to a Mail on Sunday reporter just hours before police started searching his property on Friday night.
Reacting to social media gossip, he said: ‘The speculation is bloody ridiculous. I’ll tell you this much, I wouldn’t be so sad to do that.’
Mr Renwick’s Northumberland farm is eight miles from where the 300-year-old tree at Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall was cut down in the middle of the night last week, prompting national outrage.
He said: ‘It was a lovely tree, an iconic tree, but I mean to go up there and cut that down, I’m not that stupid.’
Walter Renwick (pictured at his home), 69, who was recently evicted from his property, has dismissed rife accusations online that he was behind the shocking act of vandalism
The iconic Sycamore Gap tree was felled overnight on Wednesday, sparking fury across Britain
Now reduced to a stump, the 70ft sycamore was one of the world’s most photographed trees and featured in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner.
Part of the Hadrian’s Wall Unesco world heritage site, it has drawn walkers and visitors from all over the globe.
In 2016, it was named Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust.
Mr Renwick blamed the online finger-pointing on his work – he was a lumberjack for 40 years – and because of his eviction from the farm last week following a long-running dispute. He now lives in a camper van nearby.
‘It makes it sound like me, doesn’t it, because it was a good cut,’ he said, referring to the culprit’s handiwork. ‘It was dark obviously but it was a lovely moonlit night… the cut was brilliant.
‘When I say brilliant, you can tell a good lumberjack by the way he cuts a tree down. I haven’t seen the cut obviously, but I have seen it on the computer.’ He added: ‘My chainsaw’s down here by that barn door, but you can see that it hasn’t been used for ages.’
Mr Renwick ran Plankey Mill farm and campsite for decades. He closed the campsite and sold the animals on the farm after a dispute with The Jesuits in Britain, who own the land.
One of Mr Renwick’s closest relatives, who asked not to be named, said: ‘There is no way he [Walter] could’ve done this, he absolutely loves the land. He lives for the land. He’s really not well enough to do anything like that. Walter is on loads of different medications for various conditions – he’d rather starve than leave the house to get food.’
Mr Renwick’s younger brother Colin, 64, added: ‘I know 100 per cent he’s not done it. I’m utterly convinced he has not done it.
‘This has been nothing more than trial by Facebook. I went down to see him the other night when I read his name on Facebook. I said, ‘tell me you didn’t do this’, and he said, ‘what the hell do you think I am? Of course I didn’t do it’.’
Mr Renwick learned he was under suspicion when his brother visited him on Thursday night and said: ‘I’m pleased to see you’re still here.’ Mr Renwick expressed bewilderment. ‘He then said the tree had been cut down and that ‘everybody is pointing the finger at you’.’
News of the felling provoked a furious reaction from politicians, environmentalists and the public. Many felt ‘appalled’ and ‘saddened’ at the loss.
‘This is a heartbreaking act of mindless vandalism,’ said Mary Foy, Labour MP for Durham.
Mr Renwick revealed that even his own brother rushed to his home to find the truth. Pictured: Police at his home
Northumbria Police announced tonight that it a second man, in his 60s, has been arrested in connection with the felling of the tree at Sycamore Gap in Northumberland. Pictured: Forensic officers at the trees stump
Si King, the TV cook and Hairy Biker, posted a video online in which he accused the ‘warped’ culprit of ‘murdering a sentinel of time and an elemental spirit of Northumberland’.
Horticulturalists have raised the idea of helicoptering in a mature sycamore to take its place.
Antony Gormley, the sculptor of the Angel Of The North, is understood to be in discussions to create an artwork where the tree once stood. A 16-year-old held in connection with the felling was released on bail on Friday.