A Sutton-in-Craven family’s Christmas cheer suffered a blow after a 12-foot pine tree in their garden was chopped down by thieves.

The rare pine was cut down Sunday afternoon, just hours before a family were to decorate it with lights for Christmas.

Katie Elsworth, of Crag Top Farm on West Lane, and her son Archie, nine, and daughter Molly, seven, were away from home when the theft occured. All that was left of the impressive tree was a three feet stump.

“I can’t believe why anybody would chop it down,” said Mrs Elsworth, 42. “They snapped off what they wanted and they’ve gone.

“The kids and I were going to decorate it that afternoon. I’ve never seen Archie so upset. It took me an hour-and-a-half to get him to stop crying.

“He said to me: ‘Mummy, that’s not what the spirit of Christmas is about’. I think it was the first realisation for them that the world isn’t what we’ve painted it to be.”

The Elsworths only moved to the farm from Embsay during the summer holidays and their new neighbours are nearly as upset as the Elsworths themselves.

“They told me: “For this to happen on your first Christmas with us is awful’.”

Gwen Harrison, who sold the farm to the Elsworths, was also devastated when she heard the news.

“It’s all very sad, especially for them because Christmas is coming,” she said. “To have the children so upset makes us more upset.”

Mrs Harrison said she and her children bought the tree for her late husband Leslie, who planted it 30 years ago.

“It was a special tree for my husband,” she said. “Our family bought it for him because it was not your run-of-the-mill tree.

“He loved its shape and the cones it produced.

“I never expected it would be chopped down.”

The incident occurred between 1pm and 3pm and Mrs Elsworth reported it police, who told her there was very little they could do unless witnesses came forward with information.

Mrs Elsworth is now appealing for people, who might have saw the incident or the tree being hauled away, to contact the police.