A TREE planted by youngsters in memory of a teacher who lost her battle with cancer has been stolen.
Lynne Brown, a former headteacher at the Helen Gibson Nursery, in East Boldon, helped develop the forestry school at West Boldon Lodge.
Lynne died of cancer in 2011.
To mark the 10th anniversary of her founding the forestry school, youngsters from the nursery where she worked planted a tree in woodland around the lodge.
Staff at the nursery in East Boldon have been left devastated after discovering the weeping willow tree has been stolen.
Headteacher Jenny Parker said: “At first we thought the tree had just been moved but when we started asking, we realised it hadn’t been moved and it had been stolen.
“It’s devastating as it was planted by our nursery children in memory of Lynne, and now it has been taken.
“The children don’t know yet, but they will be really upset as they know and understand the sentiments behind the tree being planted.
“It’s just very sad someone would do this.”
It is believed the tree, planted by youngsters aged between three and four years old, may have been taken over the weekend after it was discovered missing on Monday.
Last year, between February and July, 150 youngsters a week were educated about forestry at the site and the project has seen the centre grow to now welcome 5,000 visitors a year.
Children from Helen Gibson Nursery visit the centre every week.