This CCTV footage captures a chainsaw-wielding gang in an unexplained ”cut-and-run” attack – as they chop down a tree in the middle of a busy street.
Three assassins – clad in balaclavas, hoodies and high-visibility jackets – hit the 40-year-old tree close to a row of shops in Cambridge in sight of passers-by.
They are seen approaching the tree carrying a petrol-powered saw before one of the men uses the chainsaw to cut through the trunk while the other two stand guard.
As the tree crashes to the ground the men escape with the chainsaw leaving two terrified children on bikes stopped dead in their tracks.
Local business owners believed that the cut-and-run could have been an act of revenge by youths who are often asked to stop loitering in the area.
Paul Phillips, manager of the Spar store which captured the CCTV footage of the event at 4.30pm on Friday, said the ”bizarre” incident had baffled shopkeepers.
He said: ”You can see that they deliberately walk up to the tree with one thing on their minds.
”Everyone is talking about what happened. Some say it was done by hired hit men. Whatever the reason it is the most bizarre act of vandalism I have heard of.
”If those two kids on bikes had gone past when the tree was falling they could have been killed.
”You can see the shock on their faces when one of the men comes running towards them carrying a chainsaw.”
Another trader, who did not want to be named, said it was an act of vengeance on local business owners.
He said: ”Some shopkeepers who tell the kids to move on from the shops just don’t handle it the right way and are constantly calling the police.
”I think that has rubbed some of the kids up the wrong way and that’s why they have done the tree.
”There is a little of trouble around here – it’s a rough area. One trader had a knife pulled out on him after what happened to the tree.”
Cllr Margaret Wright, Cambridge city councillor for Abbey ward, condemned the appalling act of vandalism.
She said: ”I can only describe what has happened as a cut-and-run attack. It is most bizarre and it is difficult to understand what the motivation was.
”This was a breathtaking act of vandalism against the local community who can hardly believe what happened.
”The tree had stood there in front of the Barnwell Road shopping centre for over 40 years. It is clear the perpetrators knew they were breaking the law.
”There were plans to string up solar lights in their branches in time for Christmas.
”This was a dangerous act of vandalism. The tree fell over towards the shops. People could have been killed or injured.”
Diana Oviatt-Ham, Cambridge City Council’s tree officer, said that the council, who owned the tree, had no idea why the attack had happened.
She said: ”It could have been quite serious if anyone was under the tree when it fell.”
Anyone with information about the incident should contact Parkside police station on 0345 456 4564.