An 'arrogant' homeowner who killed a protected tree because it threatened to scupper a £100,000 property deal is facing a hefty fine.

Robert Page, 71, was told by a judge that he had 'murdered' the 65ft tall mature Monterey pine and 'lied through his teeth' over its demise.

A jury heard that Page wanted rid of the 65-year-old specimen from the front garden of his £900,000 home near Poole Harbour as it stood in the way of a lucrative property deal.

The retired chartered accountant had agreed to sell his large detached home to a developer who wanted to demolish it and build a block of luxury flats.

A court heard the pensioner had stood to make £100,000 from the sale.

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The court was also told that the tree cast a shadow over his south-facing house and that was another reason he wanted it gone.

But his grand plan fell through when planning permission was refused. The public amenity value of the evergreen, that was protected by a Tree Preservation Order, was cited as one of the reasons for refusal.

Page then applied to have the tree legally felled, claiming that it was a danger, and this was also refused.

Soon after, the luscious pine, which had decades of natural life ahead of it, began to wither and die.

A tree expert from the local council inspected the dying tree and discovered it had been sabotaged. A deadly herbicide had been injected into drill holes and cement poured around its base to choke it of oxygen.

Page returned home from a bike ride with his financial advisor wife and was overheard to tell her 'don't tell them anything' upon seeing the expert on his property.

The pensioner denied a charge of breaching a TPO order with intent to destroy the tree, claiming that somebody else must have come onto his property and killed it.

But he was found guilty following a four day trial at Salisbury Crown Court, Wilts.

Judge Robert Pawson adjourned the case for sentencing but not before tearing into the defendant.

He said: "You deliberately decided to get rid of that tree, whether it was a thorn in the side of the planning officers and you were hoping for another deal with the developers.

"You sat there and lied through your teeth. It displays a certain arrogance."

The maximum sentence for the crime is an unlimited fine. Page also faces paying expensive court costs as well.

Judge Pawson added: "You are certainly entitled to a fair trial but it costs money and that is going to end up at your door."

He also described the case as a 'murder trial of a tree'.

The court heard that the 'huge and historic' pine tree was made subject to a TPO in 1989 - 17 years before Mr Page brought the house in the affluent Lilliput area of Poole.

Nick Cotter, prosecuting, told the jury during the trial that the two applications to remove the tree were lodged with the then Poole Borough Council in 2015 and 2016. By 2016 the tree was dead.

Mr Cotter said: "The expert evidence is incontrovertible. The tree was clearly damaged in a sophisticated way to kill it.

"I do not have Mr Page holding a hatchet but it does not mean there is no evidence to suggest that he did it.

"When you start placing the evidence together it becomes like dead wood on the shoulders of Mr Page, weighing him down.

"We have a history with this tree linked indelibly to Mr Page.

"We have two applications in 2015 to renovate the property and sell it to make £100,000 profit - a motivation to get rid of the tree.

"It was raised as one of the reasons why those applications did not work. He had his focus on the tree from 2015 onward. "We know it was on his mind in 2016 - we have the application to take it down.

"His case is that someone came there when nobody was around and managed to chop away some wood on one occasion and on another occasion came back again to chop some more. This tree fiddler then covered the damage.

"They did all that secretly and silently over a couple of months and nobody spotted anything.

"The evidence all points to Mr Page and his actions have led very sadly to the death of this tree."

Page, a father-of-two, will be sentenced on December 15.