An upmarket town is in uproar after a chainsaw vandal felled up to 20 trees in a spate of mysterious attacks.

At least 20 huge trees by busy roads, walkways and along the banks of the River Thames have been scythed down by the phantom lumberjack in just 10 days.

Police are now investigating the seemingly random 'chainsaw massacre' that targeted trees in the Cowey Sale area of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, which is in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Locals started noticing stumps appearing in the picturesque area at the end of last month, with some saying similar vandalisms occurred in nearby Weybridge.

A Facebook group has even been set up by concerned residents in a bid to try and track down the person or group responsible.

The group started on Wednesday to help gather information about the rising incidents and attracted more than 400 members in around 24 hours.

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Cameron Flynn, who set up the group, said the sight of so many old trees viciously hacked down was heart-breaking.

The 29-year-old pizza chef said: "There were two trees that were chopped down at the end of my road last week. It's such a sad sight.

"The person or people who did this are absolutely disgusting. There's just no reason for it, it doesn't make any sense, they're not selling the wood, they're just leaving them, it's just mindless vandalism.

"Some of these trees are very old - it's like vandalising a gravestone. It's heart-breaking to see it happen on my doorstep."

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Police are now investigating the phantom tree felling and appealed for information from the public.

Cameron was told by police to close the Elmbridge Tree Patrol group because officers did not want locals patrolling the town looking for the culprit, as it would be too dangerous.

He added: "I set up the group because I thought the whole situation was getting out of hand and I wanted to do something to help.

"I'm really shocked so many people joined the group. Around 400 people joined in just 24 hours, I'm amazed all those people joined because they want to find out why this has happened.

"Everyone is feeling really shocked and disappointed at why someone would do this. We have so many unanswered questions.

"One tree was cut down and just a stump was left, then the council put a sign on it appealing for information and this maniac came along and chopped it down again. This shows it is someone who really doesn't care at all."

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One resident wrote on the Elmbridge Tree Patrol group: "As you all know there's a maniac going around Weybridge, Walton on Thames and Cobham chopping down trees ruining the environment, eco system, habitats and making everyone upset.

"I have set up this group so we can all as a community volunteer to patrol the area at night to try and hunt down and video record this lunatic. WE MUST SAVE OUR COMMUNITY."

A series of pictures posted on social media showed the extent of the damage done to trees in the town, where the average detached house costs around £1.2 million.

Some large trees have had their thick trunks sawn clean through with just a stump remaining, while others have just been chopped down with the felled branches left lying on the ground.

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One incident even showed a remaining stump left by the vandal was later cut down again after the council put a notice about the spree of vandalism on the stricken tree.

Elmbridge Borough Commander Inspector Bert Dean said the felled trees risk blocking roads and causing a hazard to passing vehicles.

He said: "I do not underestimate the impact this mindless damage has on the local community as well as the risk it has posed to motorists by obstructing roads.

"We are looking at every opportunity to identify who is responsible for this and will continue to work closely with Elmbridge Borough Council to tackle this issue.

"If you have any information which could help, and you have not already got in touch, please contact us."

Investigators said their first report came on March 28 when officer were told that a number of trees were cut down by chainsaw.

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Since then, Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council have identified at least 20 other instances of trees being cut down in Walton and Weybridge.

A spokeswoman for the force added: "This is concerning to both Surrey Police, Elmbridge Borough Council and residents.

"We would like to reassure the local community that we are following up all relevant information and the investigation remains ongoing.

"Patrols will also be carried out in the areas which have been targeted."

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Local councillor Christine Elmer tweeted that some of the trees that had been chopped down were planted in memory of loved ones who had died.

She wrote: "It's really important if anyone has any info on who is going around our town and wider Borough cutting down trees, including Memorial trees, to get in touch with the Elmbridge Police."

Cllr Elmer, who is cabinet member for corporate and community development at Elmbridge Borough Council, said the felling of at least 20 trees caused "upset and distress" in the towns of Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge.

She added: "It's incredibly sad that someone would want to go around doing this.

"I simply can't understand why they would do this, causing so much upset and distress, it's destructive. It is also very dangerous.

"We are very proud of our Green Borough. It's the bird nesting season so goodness what else damage is being caused by this act of vandalism."

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John Cope, a Conservative local election candidate who lives in Walton called for anyone with information to come forward to the police.

He added: "It has been absolutely shocking to see someone take a chainsaw to trees in Walton, especially given at least one was planted as a memorial.

"Given how senseless the criminal damage is, I worry whoever is doing this won't stop and could escalate to something much worse.

"The sooner they are brought to justice, the sooner the area will be safer and the sooner we can replant the trees."

One resident wrote on social media: "It's disgusting. Those trees could have had birds nesting them, it's devastating to nature.

"What has possessed someone to do it? I read on a local Facebook forum that there is a tree-felling task on the game Fortnight so maybe it's some bored gamers cutting down trees in real life as some sort of lockdown dare or prank. Who knows?"

Anyone with information or CCTV footage can contact police on 101 or online, quoting incident reference number PR/ 45210028887.

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