Sycamore Gap suspects deny felling tree and damaging Hadrian’s Wall, court hears

Adam Carruthers, who is charged for felling Sycamore Gap tree last year, arrives at Newcastle Crown Court alone wearing a black mask and sunglasses
Adam Carruthers, who is charged for felling Sycamore Gap tree last year, arrives at Newcastle Crown Court alone wearing a black mask and sunglasses - IAN FORSYTH/GETTY IMAGES EUROPE

A second man has denied being responsible for the felling of the famous Sycamore Gap tree in Northumberland.

Adam Carruthers, 31, arrived at Newcastle Crown Court alone wearing a black mask and sunglasses, while his co-accused was “unavoidably detained.”

Daniel Graham, 38, did not attend the hearing but the court was told he continues to deny sawing down the most famous tree in Britain on Sep 28 last year.

During the 20-minute hearing, a trial date was set for Dec 3 this year and prosecution and defence barristers were given a timetable to produce written cases.

Carruthers, who is from Wigton, Cumbria, entered a plea for the first time in front of Judge Paul Sloan KC, the recorder of Newcastle, denying the destruction of the tree and damage to Hadrian’s Wall, which it stood next to.

Christopher Knox, Graham’s lawyer, said: “My client is unavoidably detained. Your honour knows the details and I cannot tell you any more than you know.”

Efforts were made to video link Graham to the hearing from a location in Cumbria, but they were unsuccessful.

Daniel Graham, 38, (left) and Adam Carruthers, 31 were accused of causing £622,191 worth of damage to the tree
Daniel Graham, 38, (left) and Adam Carruthers, 31 were accused of causing £622,191 worth of damage to the tree - ELIZABETH COOK/PA
The tree at Sycamore Gap was chopped down 'deliberately' and has subsequently caused  damage to Hadrian's Wall
The tree at Sycamore Gap was chopped down 'deliberately' and has subsequently caused damage to Hadrian's Wall - OWEN HUMPHREYS/PA

Judge Sloan told Carruthers: “Your trial has been fixed for Dec 3 this year. I will extend your bail on the conditions you remain at your home address and notify the court if you intend to move from there and that you do not contact prosecution witnesses.”

He continued: “If – and I stress if – you have committed any offence arising from these allegations, the sooner you tell the court, the better for you, the more credit you will receive and the less your sentence will be.”

Graham and Carruthers, who are both groundworkers at Graham’s Carlisle-based company, are bailed to appear again before the court for a case management hearing on Aug 27.

They will face trial for cutting down the tree – which has been scientifically assigned a value of £622,191 using the capital asset value for amenity trees system – in the early hours of Sep 28 last year.

The pair are further charged with causing criminal damage without lawful excuse to Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO world heritage site, to the value of £1,144, caused when the tree toppled onto it.

At a previous hearing before the Newcastle magistrates, Rebecca Brown, the prosecutor, told the court: “This is a case that will be instantly recognisable to you, indeed anyone hearing the charges read out.

“The prosecution say the tree was deliberately felled on Sep 28 last year and the resultant fall damaged Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO world heritage site.

“The prosecution say these defendants are responsible as part of joint enterprise.”

Sentencing guidelines say that if convicted the men could face jail terms ranging from 18 months to four years.

But Ms Brown continued: “This is a complex case with unusual features. There is a large amount of expert evidence, including botany, cell site analysis, ANPR and image enhancement.”

The tree was a much-photographed tree and had won multiple awards before it was felled
The tree was a much-photographed tree and had won multiple awards before it was felled - TOM WHITE/PA

The Sycamore Gap tree in Northumberland was one of the world’s most photographed trees and featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.

It was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016 in the Woodland Trust’s awards and was much-loved by people from across the world.

The sycamore, which was over 200 years old, was found chopped down, with its upper section lying across the historic Roman barrier. Despite being felled, the tree lives on at a secret National Trust location in the form of blooming seedlings.

In December last year, staff at the National Trust revealed that material they collected from the felled tree was showing “signs of life”.