Two men in their 30s were arrested and released on bail on Tuesday in connection with the felling of the Sycamore Gap tree, the latest development in the investigation into who chopped down one of Britain’s most photographed trees, which had stood for two centuries in a dip in Hadrian’s Wall.
The two additional arrests brought the total number of suspects to four, according to the Northumbria Police. A 16-year-old boy and a farmer in his 60s, arrested in September, were also out on bail.
The Sycamore Gap tree, about 100 miles southeast of Edinburgh, was cut down overnight between Sept. 27 and 28, during a storm with 60-mile-an-hour winds in what the police described as “a deliberate act of vandalism.” Reports of the destruction of the tree, which was featured in the 1991 film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” led to an outpouring of emotion, both by those in England’s northeast and by international tourists.
The police inquiry has been difficult because the crime occurred in a remote, sparsely populated area, with no bystanders around to see the tree fall. It was also unclear what could have motivated someone to cut down the popular tree.
In Britain, the police can make arrests only if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect involvement in a crime. The farmer who was arrested and released in September, Walter Renwick, a former lumberjack, denied any responsibility even before his arrest, telling The Sun tabloid that it was sad that the tree had been chopped down.
Rebecca Fenney-Menzies, the detective chief inspector of Northumbria Police, said that the police had been pursuing different leads to establish what happened and who was involved. One fact has been clear from the start: Felling a tree of such scale would have required expertise, particularly at night and during such a fierce storm.
“The loss of Sycamore Gap has been felt deeply across the community as well as further afield,” Inspector Fenney-Menzies said on Wednesday. “I hope this recent wave of arrests demonstrates just how much work has been undertaken by our dedicated specialist teams in what has, so far, been a very difficult and complex investigation.” She urged anyone with information to come forward.
The National Trust cut up and removed what was left of the tree last month. The tree had stood along a dip in Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage site that marks the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire at its peak.