Killer leaves paper trail

RESIDENTS of East Fremantle’s historic Plympton ward fear there’s a serial tree poisoner with a mysterious fixation on paperbarks on the loose.

But East Fremantle council says it sent an arborist down who couldn’t find any recent poisoning, just traces of historical damage which dates back to January last year.

The residents say mature melaleuca quinquenervia street trees have been targeted in the night-time attacks, with sections of their bark stripped and a black, gooey substance poured onto them.

The poisoning is a hot topic in the town, with one resident penning a poem both lamenting the effect on the tree and warning neighbours to be vigilant. Copies have been taped to three of the affected trees.

• Paddy Glasgow says she’s been considering camping out in her car to catch East Freo’s tree poisoner. Photo by Steve Grant

Sewell Street resident Paddy Glasgow says she’s at her wits end and has been considering camping out in her car in an attempt to catch the culprit.

Ms Glasgow and her immediate neighbours have been keeping an eye on each other’s trees because of the repeat attacks, and she rushes out early in the morning if any poisoning has been reported, trying to flush them away with a heavy watering.

Ms Glasgow’s partner Jono Farmer is a former East Fremantle councillor and says the paperbarks have a short but rich history.

“Plympton wasn’t always so green; back in the 80s and 90s there were no trees — it was like a desert,” Mr Farmer told the Herald.

The newly formed Western Power contacted the council in 1996 about including the historic ward in its first round of underground power projects in WA.

With the tangle of power lines disappearing, Mr Farmer and his council colleagues hatched a plan to put a native tree in front of every home.

Another resident, who only wanted to be known as Kate because of fears of being targeted by the poisoner, believes the latest poisoning might be linked to the earlier incidents. Kate says there was also evidence of poisons being used then, and a number of trees died or showed signs of distress.

But mayor Jim O’Neill says the council’s arborist doesn’t think the trees are being poisoned.

“We can’t find any evidence recently of any deliberate damage,” Mr O’Neill said, adding that they’d send someone down again this week for another look.

by STEVE GRANT and CHARLIE SMITH

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