Greater Tainan Police on Thursday nabbed a man suspected of slashing hundreds of trees on streets and in public parks over the past two weeks.
Beginning on Dec. 4, locals reported finding many trees in their neighborhood slashed, and some said a man was seen riding a bicycle in the early hours and chopping at trees as he rode along the road.
The public reacted furiously to the vandalism, because a number of the trees were old and protected.
The online community rallied around the cause, calling on people to help in a manhunt to track down the person they called “the Tree-Slashing Lunatic.”
A photo of the suspect, captured on a roadside surveillance on Wednesday, was circulated online. A local police officer identified the man, and arrested 49-year-old suspect Shao Wen-kung (邵文光) at his home on Thursday.
Shao was quoted by police as admitting that he had slashed the trees, saying he did it to vent anger over a legal dispute with a neighbor surnamed Chen (陳), with whom he was recently in a fight.
According to the police report, Shao often quarreled with neighbors, allegedly making noise at night by banging things against the wall. Chen went to Shao’s house in February to make him stop, but they ended up in a fight and sued each other for injuries.
Shao was quoted by the police as saying that he was resentful because he lost the fight, as well as suffering the burden of the lawsuit and also recently losing his job.
As a result of these personal problems, he bought a small axe and began slashing at trees to release his pent-up anger, he was quoted by police as saying.
According to authorities, of the 500 trees attacked, the most serious was more than 200 cuts to an old banyan tree, which was the pride of the local neighborhood and under city protection.
Shao was charged with destruction of public property, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison. In addition, he is to pay damages to the city in accordance with the trees’ current market prices.