WINCHESTER'S Christmas tree has been removed due to vandalism.

The fir tree had been standing on the High Street over the festive period but was taken down by Winchester Business Improvement District (BID).

It is thought the vandalism occurred between 1.50am and 2.15am the day before. 
A police spokesperson said: "A number of suspects have pulled a number of branches from the tree whilst ripping down the tree lights and the star. 
"Officers who were attending an incident nearby heard the commotion and saw a number of people running off."

The top of the tree had been ripped off and left at the base along with the festive lights, which had been damaged beyond repair.

Winchester BID Manager, Paul Spencer, said: "We've had a couple of people attempt to pull the lights off this year, but this time we have unfortunately had to remove the tree. 
"It seems that somebody climbed up and stole the star, and one of the branches were found snapped.
"It's a real shame a few people decided to act like that; we originally planned to keep it there until January 6. Last year, everything was fine.
"We are working with the police who have CCTV footage, and our Rangers have gathered some research about the case themselves."

The decision received criticism on social media. Barbara Garfath tweeted: "So why is the solution to vandalism in Winchester, the removal of something that was created for all to enjoy? Already we have lost two fountains and numerous benches due to this defeatist mindset."

The BID responded: "Sadly the damage can not be repaired this time and as a result due to safety reasons it will be removed earlier than planned this year. We are reviewing for next year how we can prevent this happening again."

If you have any information about this incident, please call 101, quoting reference number 44180479502.