Published: 15:53, 12 December 2018
| Updated: 16:47, 12 December 2018
The owner of a fledgling Christmas tree business is devastated after being hit by mean-spirited vandals.
Kiersten Attwell, 23, set up shop in a marquee in Howfield Lane, Chartham for the first time just two weeks ago but discovered on Monday morning that it had been slashed to bits overnight.
As well as the 40-foot tent, worth £10,000, the thoughtless yobs also knifed through a £500 fishing bivvy which was inside and made off with several trees and a drill.
Mr Attwell, who runs Kent Christmas Trees, discovered the damage at 7.30am when he arrived to open up shop and says repairing his premises will leave him thousands of pounds out of pocket.
"I'm gutted. Two minutes of their mucking around has cost me thousands," he said.
"I'm fuming, as anybody else would be.
"We're working 15 to 16 hour days, starting at 6am and finishing at 8pm, and doing collections and deliveries, in the weather, and then people come around and do this."
The young entrepreneur, who lives in St Augustine's, Chartham, decided he wanted to set up a new business after returning from travelling overseas but now thinks he will be lucky to break even.
"Someone has come here and slashed everything," he continued.
"They have put a knife through every single section of the marquee. It's going to cost me quite a lot of money to get it fixed.
"I'm in serious trouble. The business has been going OK so far, but it's been hard because the first year you're establishing yourself.
"It's not like going into Waitrose and stealing a few bars of chocolate or a case of beer - everything comes out of my wallet."
Mr Attwell says he will not let the incident stop him from keeping his shop open through to Christmas Eve and that he will even be extending his opening hours until 8pm in the hope of increasing trade.
"I'm not going to give up, just because they're trying to hurt my business," he said.
A police spokesman said: "We received a report of criminal damage to a marquee at a property in Howfield Lane, Chartham, between 7pm on 9 December and 7am the following day.
"It was reported that the marquee was ripped open and Christmas trees stolen from within.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 01843 222289 quoting reference 46/21199/18.
To order a Christmas tree from Mr Attwell visit Kent Christmas Trees.