CREATING a “spirit garden” at Bishop David Brown School to replace trees planted in memory of youngsters who died while at the school has been described as “vacuous” by one of the bereaved mothers.

The families of the children and their former classmates have reacted with anger after John Reed, a former deputy head teacher, publicised that two trees have been cut down to make space for a car park.

The brother of a third pupil has told the News & Mail that his memorial tree has also been removed.

The two trees with which Mr Reed was involved when he was at the school, were in memory of Luke Willis who died after an asthma attack in 1992 and Jemma Doyle who died from meningitis six years later.

Luke’s parents, Claire and Spencer, have written to James Rodgers, the head of school, to express their sadness and anger at the removal of the trees.

“Those trees were symbolic of the growing that these two young people should have done. Putting in new trees doesn’t mean anything,” Mrs Willis told the News & Mail, dismissing the idea of the school garden suggested as an alternative memorial site.

The member of a third bereaved family, Ruben Dieguez, contacted the News & Mail to say a tree planted in memory of his brother Renan, who died aged 13 in 1994, has also been cut down.

Ruben said his older brother died suddenly while they were playing at home: “He just lay down and never woke up.”

Ruben, who was eight years old at the time, said he and his family planted the tree with most of the school present at a ceremony.

“We used this memorial tree as a special place as my brother was buried in Spain.

“So, on his anniversary we would pay our respects there.”

Renan’s father Amadeo was a gardener and agreed with a previous headteacher to tend to the memorial trees and surrounding vegetation.

Amadeo, who is in his 90s, has moved to his native Gran Canaria but Ruben has stayed in Woking, where he lives with his partner, their child born last year and a 12-year-old stepson.

“Since my father moved away, I noticed the area was overgrown and the plaques of the pupils were missing,” Ruben said.

“Last year I walked past one day to see the tree and noticed some diggers in that area. I called the school and asked what was happening and they informed me that there was work happening.

“I had a call from a teacher who told me the trees would be replanted and not to worry.”

The school, and its predecessor, Sheerwater County School, had a long tradition of planting trees in memory of staff and pupils who died, including a fir in 1960 after pupil Jim Perry was killed on his bike.

This week Mr Rodgers said that any bereaved family members or former classmates of pupils who had died should liaise with him so that visits to the school’s garden can be arranged.

“Clearly, as a school, we understand the role we play in the community and while many are upset by what has happened we have spent a significant amount of money developing the spirit garden as a place for quiet reflection and contemplation,” he added.

Mrs Willis would like somebody to apologise for cutting down the trees. “It’s been deeply upsetting,” she said.

For more on this story, see the 11 March Woking News & Mail, in shops today