A TREE planted in memory of a loving husband and father has been ripped from its roots and stolen, leaving his widow devastated. The pear tree had been planted on land close to St Neots Bowling Club 18 months ago in memory of Little Paxton resident and

LATER IN LIFE: Marian and Brian were married for almost 50 years.	Picture: SUPPLIED

A TREE planted in memory of a "loving husband and father" has been ripped from its roots and stolen, leaving his widow devastated.

The pear tree had been planted on land close to St Neots Bowling Club 18 months ago in memory of Little Paxton resident and St Neots Bowling Club coach Brian Appleton.

Marian Appleton, who had been married to Brian for almost 50 years when he died two years ago, told The Hunts Post: "I planted the tree in memory of my husband and it meant something special to me and my family.

"To the senseless thieves who took it, it was just a tree, to us it was so much more."

Mr Appleton who was born in Norfolk and was an engineer for Iseki in Little Paxton, died in November 2004 of a heart attack aged 72.

He played bowls two or three times a week and was a fit and healthy man.

Mrs Appleton, who is club secretary at St Neots Bowling Club, said: "We played bowls together, did the decorating in the house and we never needed to call out a handy man as Brian could turn his hand to almost everything.

"It was his first heart attack, it was out of the blue and none of us expected it."

Before it was stolen, the 7ft tree stood on a piece of grass next to the bowling club in St Anselm Place. The couple had been members there since 1987.

Mrs Appleton said: "The tree had been dug up and ripped out from its roots and the soil and grass had been put back so neatly you would never have known a tree had been there. It is just such a mindless act."

Mrs Appleton, who has three sons, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren had planned to fix a plaque to the tree and plant some bulbs around it.

Huntingdonshire District Council has agreed to replace Mrs Appleton's tree within the next few weeks with a bigger pear tree to try to deter thieves.

A council spokesman said: "We felt very sorry for the Appleton family after we heard their memorial tree had been stolen so we have decided to plant a new one and put a plaque on it."

INFORMATION: Anyone with information should contact St Neots police on 0845 4564564.