Bungling housing developers building student flats accidentally chop down memorial tree to murdered TV presenter Jill Dando outside former BBC studios in Exeter
- Former colleagues of TV presenter Jill Dando were devastated to see the memorial tree gone
- The 20-year old tree in Walnut Gardens was accidentally cut down by housing developers building student homes
- TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered in 1999 outside her home
- The developers have apologised and pledged to plant another tree in her memory
Bungling developers building posh student homes have caused fury after cutting down a memorial tree for murdered television presenter Jill Dando by mistake.
The former BBC studios, where the tragic Crimewatch star started her career, are being replaced by a new student complex.
The scheme was only approved after the developers agreed to keep the beautiful 20- year old Acer tree that had become a spot where her friends and former colleagues went to remember her.
But it has now emerged the developers preserved the wrong tree at Walnut Gardens in Exeter, Devon – and cut down Jill’s memorial last month.
Jill Dando’s former colleagues noticed that the 20- year old tree was accidentally chopped down last month
It is understood a planning report identified the wrong tree to developers, leaving former colleagues and friends ‘devastated’ by the ‘tragic’ mistake.
The developers StudyInn have now apologised and pledged to plant a fresh memorial tree and commission a sculpture of her on the site instead.
Exeter City Council said the memorial Acer tree was not clearly marked and a walnut tree that was more than 100-years old was instead identified as the one that needed saving.
Developers StudyInn apologised for their mistake and pledged to plant another tree in Jill’s memory
Ms Dando’s former colleague at BBC Radio Devon Sarah Harris was among the friends who decided to plant the memorial tree where Ms Dando first worked for the corporation.
Sarah told the BBC she felt ‘upset and very, very let down’.
She said she had been communicating with the council and developers since February 2019 to ensure the tree was saved and was given several assurances it would be.
TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered in 1999 outside her home
The former BBC studios, will be turned into new student homes
She added: ‘I’m devastated, but to think the walnut tree was the memorial – I mean she died in 1999, not 1899.
‘You can’t have an old tree as a memorial tree – you plant a tree for somebody. I cannot believe it happened.’
Ms Harris added she did not blame the new developers who were given the wrong information.
The scheme for the student complex was only approved after reassurance that the memorial tree would stay intact
Journalist and presenter Jill, who was murdered in 1999 outside her home, started her career working for the BBC in Devon.
She became a newsreader for BBC Radio Devon in 1985 and that year, she transferred to BBC South West, where she presented a regional news magazine programme, Spotlight South West.
In 1987, she worked for Television South West, then BBC Spotlight before being transferred to London the following year where she went on to achieve national fame.
The popular TV presenter was shot dead on Monday, April 26, 1999, outside her home in Fulham, West London.
Pictured with her partner Alan Farthing at the Nta awards in 1998
A man named Barry George was charged and convicted of the murder in July 2001.
After an appeal, and a retrial at the end of 2008, he was found not guilty.
Despite extensive investigations and countless theories, her murder remains unsolved.
The tree was cut down in August and was noticed by another former colleague, Charles Eden, who went to look at the site to find ‘bare earth’.
He said it was ‘tragic’ but he hoped the new tree and statue will be ‘something Exeter can be proud of.’
Developer StudyInn confirmed the wrong tree was marked on a planning report.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are very sorry and appreciate that this has caused distress’.
MFL – Statement from Exeter City Council