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Terror in southern England as dozens of much-loved trees are felled in the dead of night

On a typical day, the picturesque district of Elmbridge would fit all the descriptors of any well-to-do English countryside locale: It’s quiet, green and safe, a world away from the bustle of nearby London, and its residents take pride in its leafy landscapes and riverside views.

But these are not typical days in Elmbridge. A chainsaw-wielding, tree-felling “maniac” has been roaming the sleepy region under cover of darkness, bringing down the area’s greenery and mobilizing terrorized villagers to launch a surveillance operation in the hope of catching the offender. The campaign of clandestine attacks began a month ago, and has rattled locals.”I feel like he’s playing a game with us,” resident Cameron Flynn told CNN this week. “People are very confused by the whole situation … Some people are scared because there’s this maniac going around with a massive chainsaw, cutting trees.”

But rather than cowering from the branch-chopping culprit, Elmbridge residents have banded together. A sleuthing Facebook group, the Elmbridge Tree Patrol, has amassed more than 1,200 members in weeks, and locals are posting tips and possible sightings on a daily basis. Flynn, who created the group, said he was inspired by a local online litter-picking community. But within hours, his initiative has captured the fear and determination of the region. Members have volunteered for nighttime patrols, the details of which are kept tightly guarded in case the phantom feller has joined the closed online group. “This is now an emergency,” one of the group’s moderators, Rob Dash, told followers on Tuesday. “It is incredibly sad that someone is destroying these trees,” Police Inspector Bert Dean added in a statement to CNN. “Not only are these a haven for wildlife, but they bring much pleasure to our community.”

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