A living memorial to commemorate neo-natal and post-natal deaths has been destroyed in a heartless attack.
The memorial tree, in People’s Park, Banbury, was the idea of Horton Hospital campaigner Val Ingram. It had become a focal point for grieving parents who could place ribbons in their children’s memory on its branches.
But heartless vandals snapped the silver birch sapling in half overnight on Friday and left the wreckage on the ground to be found the following day.
Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, Mrs Ingram said a plaque was due to be placed at the tree in a special ceremony to be held in the spring, but that would now be put on hold until a replacement tree could be found.
She said: “Only a few days ago someone said how lovely it looked on a sunny day with the ribbons dancing.
“It was particularly insensitive as the day after was Mothering Sunday, which can hit hard.”
The ribbons on the tree have since been retrieved and will be hung on a new tree once it is in place.
Mrs Ingram said the tree had had a positive affect in raising awareness of neo-natal and post-natal deaths and, as a result of the tree’s planting, St Mary’s Church planned to start holding an annual ceremony in memory of children who had died.
“There has been quite a lot of good that has come out of having the tree there,” she said. “It is important people have somewhere to go to remember their child.
“I won’t give up until we have a new tree because it means a lot to a lot of people.”
The tree was planted in October last year, organised by the Save the Horton Action Group and supported by Banbury Town Council, Oxfordshire Sands and Banbury and Bicester MP VictoriaPrentis.
Mrs Prentis,who herself has suffered the loss of a baby, has been a long-time campaigner for maternal safety and is vicechair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Baby Loss.
Since the tree’s vandalism, there has been support from members of the public with one person offering to pay for a new tree.
Mrs Prentis said: “I was honoured to be asked to plant the tree in October, so I am very sorry that it has been vandalised. It is truly shocking.”