Memorial tree dedicated to Jill Dando accidentally cut down by housing developer

Developers building posh student homes cut down a memorial tree for murdered TV presenter Jill Dando by mistake.

The student complex on the former BBC studios, where the Crimewatch star started her career, was only approved if developers agreed to preserve the Acer tree.

Friends and former colleagues of Jill, who was murdered in 1999, went there to remember her.

It has now emerged the developers preserved a mature walnut tree instead at Walnut Gardens in Exeter, Devon.

It is understood a planning report identified the wrong specimen, leaving former colleagues and friends “devastated”.

Sarah Harris, who worked with Jill at BBC Radio Devon, was among those who decided to plant the memorial tree.

Sarah said 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.

She added: “I’m devastated, but to think the walnut was the memorial – I mean she died in 1999, not 1899. You can’t have an old tree as a memorial – you plant a tree for somebody. I can’t believe it happened.”

Developers StudyInn apologised and pledged to plant a fresh memorial tree and commission a sculpture of her on the site.

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A spokesman said: “We are very sorry this has happened and appreciate this has caused distress, particularly to those who were close to Jill Dando and had planted the original tree.”

He said a report had identified the tree to be kept as the walnut, which they employed a specialist to remove and preserve.

Exeter City Council confirmed the memorial Acer was “not clearly marked”.

Jill’s former colleague Charles Eden said it was “tragic” but he hoped the new tree and statue would be “something Exeter can be proud of”.

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