There are four slowly dying wounded victims, a perplexing mystery that seems to be taking root and whispers swirling on the breeze over ‘whodunnit’ and why.

Anyone venturing down to the woods in a corner of Renfrewshire seeking peaceful solace beneath the leafy boughs of mature sycamore, beech, ash and oak are instead at risk of finding themselves in the midst of a real life ‘murder’ mystery.

For in the heart Teucheen Woods, a haven for nature since the 1860s and now run by a community group devoted to protecting its trees and wildlife, it seems that a callous assassin has been at work.

Members of Inchinnan Development Trust, the group of locals who took over the historic woodland two years ago, have been horrified to find four of their beloved towering sycamore trees appear to have been deliberately targeted by a tree assassin, with deep holes drilled into their trunks and poison injected, which is slowly killing them.

The recent discovery, which now means the affected trees will have to be chopped to little more than stumps, comes just a few months after others on the edge of the Renfrewshire woodland had their branches hacked at by a mysterious chainsaw wielding attacker.

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Both incidents have been reported to the police, door to door enquiries carried out and statements taken. According to the community group, because of the protected nature of the woodland, there has been talk of the National Wildlife Crime Unit becoming involved.

But while the police enquiries continue, the incidents have left the group, which lavishes effort on running community events within the woods such as health and wellbeing walks, woodland crafts and nature identification sessions, wondering why on earth anyone would want to wreak damage two years in a row on their lovely trees.

“Who would do it… and why?” wonders Maggie Morrison, the Trust’s development officer.

“It’s very emotional. We are all very sad that this has happened. And it’s such a shame that these trees will be lost, when we are desperately trying to protect trees.”

The wood, which spans almost six acres and stands on the site of a bloody 12th century battle, has been protected by a Renfrewshire Council Tree Preservation Order since the 1950s, making it an offence to fell or carry out any work on its trees without permission.

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It is also recognised as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation: red-Listed tree sparrow flutter between the trees’ branches, while its canopy provides shelter for a host of other species such as bullfinch, stock dove and great spotted woodpecker. There are bats, red fox, bank vole and roe deer among a host of other woodland creatures.

While resting beneath the ground are believed to lie the remains of those slain in the bloody Battle of Renfrew in 1164, when a force of 15,000 men under Norse-Gaelic lord Somerled were attacked and defeated by King Malcolm’s much smaller army.

Such is affection for the woods, that when its previous owners revealed plans to auction it off in 2019, villagers quickly formed the community trust and instigated moves to take it over themselves.

But while the woodland has become a much-loved feature for many and regarded as a ‘green lung’ to offset emissions from nearby Glasgow Airport,  clearly someone has taken a dislike to it.

In the recent attack, four mature sycamore trees – three of which grow along the fence line of an adjacent housing development, and another near a footpath leading to the same development – were targeted. All are covered by a Tree Preservation Order.

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The trees are said to have shown a growth response consistent with systemic herbicide damage, with evidence of drilling and in some cases saw marks.

Some of the drill holes were found to be stuffed with woody material, thought to be a bid to conceal the damage.

To their despair, the community trust has been told all four are showing “significant decline and are likely to die”, with specialist contractors recommending they be felled to monolith or high-stump.

“Last year someone damaged one of our mature trees,” adds Maggie. “Someone somehow got up to the upper branches and used the chainsaw to cut through.

“It wasn’t done professionally or properly, and left a huge branch hanging off. We had to ask a professional to come here and make the area safe.

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“We carry out an annual survey of the wood - even though we only have to do it every five years, we want to make sure everything is okay.

“The survey in April didn’t show anything. Now the trees are almost standing like dead wood. There are drill marks at base of the trees; whoever has done it has pulled back the bark at the bottom of the tree.

“It’s like a home-made murder plot.”

No-one knows who might be so driven by hatred of the trees to do such a thing.

However, there has been one festering issue that has created a rift in the area: the location of a new housing estate built on the fringes of Teucheen Wood.

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Cala Homes’ Gilchrist Gardens development first met opposition from some quarters upset that it would span parts of the old battlefield site.

Now there are some who think homes that back on to the wood are simply too close.

“Until you have lived right next to a wood, you don’t know what it’s like,” adds Maggie, who believes there should be a 20m gap between the woodland’s boundary and the estate.

“People see a beautiful woodland then realise there are lots of trees that shed leaves in autumn, gardens are in shade in summer and there are animals - not everyone likes wildlife on their doorstep.”

Developers of the housing estate, Cala Homes, point out they have adhered strictly to the rules: “Cala has delivered the Gilchrist Gardens development in accordance with the approved planning applications for the site,” points out a spokesperson.

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“Any tree works have been undertaken following a robust process involving the local authority and with the oversight of a tree specialist. Much of our work has been to support the long-term health of the woodland and wildlife habitats.”

However, SNP Cllr Iain Nicolson, says the proximity of houses to so many mature trees was bound to raise problems.

“The issue of the houses being built too close to the existing woodland is all too common when it comes to our planning system,” he says.

“With this particular development, the issue was raised with the planners by members of the local community and myself, and was just swept aside.

“Rear garden fences are hard up against the trees and some roofs were built directly under the tree canopy.”

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He adds: “The simple fact is it’s a crime to damage or vandalise trees that are covered by a tree preservation order, and if we are to preserve our protected woodland, we need people to step up help protect them which includes our planning system.”

Renfrewshire North and West MSP Natalie Don MSP, has also expressed concerns over the attacks: “I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the woods and have been very impressed by the dedication of the small staff team and the many volunteers who combine to make Teucheen Wood a community asset for everyone in Inchinnan.

“It is therefore, extremely disappointing to learn of what appears to be deliberate damage inflicted upon these trees given the efforts made by the local community to maintain and enhance the woods.

“I would urge everyone visiting these woods to be mindful of respecting our natural environment and of course report any suspicious activity straight away.”

Meanwhile, back at Teucheen Wood, concerns remain among the community group over the costs involved in bringing in professionals to tackle the now dying trees, and the fear that something else might happen.

“It’s time consuming and costs us money to deal with," adds Maggie. "There might be people who don’t like the trees, but we can’t just remove them.

“We’re not pointing fingers at anyone. We just need this to stop.”

A Renfrewshire council spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports of damage to the trees in Teucheen Woods, and would advise the landowners this is a matter they should raise with the police.”