Mysterious weed-killer sprayer kills tree

Thursday, 20th July 2000, 1:00 am

A WAR hero has been left heartbroken after a tree he planted to mark the Millennium was poisoned by a mysterious weed-killer sprayer.

Pensioner Charles Tower, 85, from Mollington Road, inShotteswell, was asked to plant the tree in March, because of his bravery during the war and his contribution to village life.

But last week villagers discovered the tree, and the grass surrounding it, was dead.

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Shotteswell resident and parish council clerk Valerie Ingram said: At first we thought we perhaps hadn t watered it enough so we got a forestry expert in from Stratford. He confirmed it had been sprayed with poison.

Further out of the village there is a patch of hedgerow with a tree that has also been sprayed and the chap from Stratford confirmed it had all been sprayed at the same time. It s just vandalism and we re all shocked but Mr Tower in particular is devastated.

He was ever so pleased to be asked to plant it and he wore all his medals and dug the hole with a spade his wife gave him for their silver wedding. Mr Tower was bringing out buckets of water and looking after it then he was desperately ill and in hospital but he s now recovered to find this. It s so sad.

Mr Tower said: I think it was a deliberate, dirty trick. It was a very healthy tree. I used to take the odd bucket of water down to it and it was well-rooted. The tree was something extra special for the Millennium, it was a one-off occasion. I can t believe anyone would stoop so low to do that.

Mr Tower was taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942. In 1943 he dived into the river Kwai to save a fellow soldier after he had fallen in from the bridge they were building. Mr Tower s bravery was recognised when he was presented with a Royal Humane Society Certificate in 1946. Last winter Mr Tower came to the rescue again when his wife Vera fell in Shotteswell brook. Mr Tower waded into the waist high water and dragged her out.

Villagers asked Mr Tower to plant the Millennium tree in recognition of his actions. The parish council paid for the horse chestnut tree which was chosen because of a village tradition. Opposite the site of the Millennium tree in the centre of the village is a flourishing horse chestnut planted to commemorate the Queen s silver jubilee in 1977.

And there is also a huge tree further into the village which was planted to mark the coronation of George V.

Mrs Ingram said: It s a lovely village and we have a good community spirit. We have 100 houses here in the village and more than 70 people turned up for the planting ceremony we had.

We re planning on planting another tree in the autumn and I just hope whoever has done this realises how wrong it was and will not do it again.