Retired accountant Robert Page killed a protected pine blocking a lucrative property deal (Picture: BNPS)
An ‘arrogant’ pensioner who poisoned a protected tree because it stopped him selling his luxury home has been ordered to cough up £80,000.
Robert Page, 71, cooked up an elaborate scheme to bring down a 65ft Monterey pine in his front garden – then ‘lied through his teeth’ about its demise.
The retired accountant poured deadly herbicide into holes drilled in the trunk and ‘choked’ the tree of oxygen by setting concrete around its roots.
Page was ‘determined’ to destroy the mature Monterey because it stopped him selling his £900,000 home in Poole Harbour, Dorset, to a property developer.
A Preservation Order was put on the 65-year-old tree in 1989 and planning permission was repeatedly refused.
Page poisoned the pine in 2016. Two years later, when it had withered and died, tree officers from the local council discovered it had been sabotaged.
The father-of-two saw the officers on his property in the posh suburb of Lilliput, Poole, and was overheard saying to his wife: ‘Don’t tell them anything.’
Page, 71, stood to make £100,000 from selling his house to a property developer (Picture: Corin Messer/BNPS)
The Monterey pine in 2019 (Picture: Google/BNPS)
The tree stump in the garden of Page’s house in Poole, Dorset (Picture: Corin Messer/BNPS)
During Storm Arwen last month, the dead tree crashed onto his neighbour’s garage.
In a four-day trail at Salisbury Crown Court, Page claimed someone had come onto his property and killed the tree.
But he was found guilty of breaching a Tree Preservation Order with intent to destroy the pine. The court also heard he had put his neighbour’s property at risk.
Judge Robert Pawson said: ‘The history of the matter gives your game away.
‘You made an application to demolish your house. One of the reasons it was refused was because of the Monterey pine.
‘A second application was made to demolish yours and one neighbour’s house and build a block of two flats.
‘Another application was refused – as was your appeal. In June 2018 you made a fateful fifth application to fell the tree.
‘In my judgment, you have formed an irrational dislike of the tree or you wanted to get rid of it to secure a favourable financial agreement in the future.
‘The evidence showed there had been a determined effort to kill the tree. This was a calculated effort which succeeded.
‘That tree cast a literal shadow over your house and garden.
The tree was removed by workmen after it crashed onto a garage block (Picture: BNPS)
The tree fell down during Storm Arwen last month (Picture: Richard Cole/BNPS)
‘Now that tree casts a metaphorical shadow over you and your family – your wife and your son. What they have had to put up with is entirely unjustifiable.
‘You lied throughout the trial and you sought to pull wool over the eyes of the jury and to deceive them at every turn.
‘You were also very arrogant and posed a significant risk to your neighbours.’
Mark Ruffell, mitigating, said his client had received hate mail ‘as a result of the adverse publicity this case has attracted… That in itself has a punitive effect on the defendant.’
He added: ’He was a man of previous good character. He feels the weight of the conviction in his shoulders and people looking at him.’
Mr Ruffell said Page has since planted a replacement tree on his property.
Page was fined £55,000 – £50,000 for the amount his property has risen in value by the loss of the tree and £5,000 to cover the loss to the public. He was also ordered to pay £25,000 court costs.
Judge Pawson added: ‘As an educated man I do not believe for one second that you had not considered the possibility of being caught – you took a considered risk.’
Page made no comment as he left court.
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