Families devastated after heartless vandals target baby memorial tree

Parents have been left heartbroken following the vandalism of a baby bereavement tree in Holywells P

Parents have been left heartbroken following the vandalism of a baby bereavement tree in Holywells Park, Ipswich Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

A group of bereaved parents in Ipswich have been left brokenhearted after callous thieves stole from a remembrance tree.

The Tree of Remembrance in Holywells Park, purchased in 2016, provides a quiet place of reflection for bereaved parents.

Each leaf on the tree is engraved with the name and date of birth of a baby lost during the pregnancy or neonatal periods, alongside a short message in their memory.

However earlier this month, three families have had their sanctuary taken away after it was discovered their leaves had been stolen.

Laura Houlden, fundraiser for the group, said group members are devastated by the heartless crime.

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Mrs Houlden said: “These families have suffered through enough in the loss of their babies, so to go through all those emotions again is very traumatic.

“Once a family knows where their leaf is on the tree, it is the first thing they go to look for. We are devastated and completely saddened by what has happened.

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“It is a very special place for families to go on so many levels – so many people don’t have a place they can go and physically see their baby’s name, so to have that removed is a major trigger.

“Families go to the tree because they need that comfort and support.”

It is not the first time heartless thieves have targeted the tree, with vandals having stolen or damaged leaves – and the tree – in 2017 and 2019.

“Unfortunately this isn’t the first time this has happened,” Mrs Houlden added. “It happening once is bad enough, but for it to happen again is a sad state of affairs.

“It seems like we aren’t able to prevent this from happening, sadly someone being there 24/7 just isn’t practical.

“It is already in a secluded but accessible area of the park so that it is somewhere families can go when they need that comfort and a special place to remember.

“We will continue doing all we can to try and prevent this from happening again.”

Ipswich Borough Council has pledged to increase patrols in the park in the wake of incidents, while one kindhearted local businessman has offered to supply the group with free CCTV cameras.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are appalled by this act of vandalism and share the heartbreak of those associated with the tree. We are working with the group to see what steps can be taken to stop this from happening and have increased park patrols in the area.”

The group does not charge for the leaves, although accepts donations to help cover the £40 costs of each leaf.

Donations to the group can be made via their website.

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