Sunday, November 25, 2012

Police smashed way into car after bluebottle swarm sparked corpse fear

Police smashed their way into a fly-filled car believing a dead body might be inside and its jobless north Norfolk owner is now faced with a bill of several hundred pounds. Officers were called to North Walsham’s Mundesley Road car park after a passer-by noticed a swarm of bluebottles buzzing around inside the Chrysler Neon and became concerned. But, after smashing the rear windscreen, police discovered not a decaying corpse, but a fishing-tackle box. Owner George Wallis, who fishes as a hobby, said it had contained maggots which must have hatched and escaped into the car interior during the three or four-day period his vehicle had been in the free car park.

Unable to contact Mr Wallis at the time, police arranged for the damaged vehicle to be towed to a garage in Great Yarmouth and he has now been told he must pay a £150 towing fee, plus £20-a-day storage.  Mr Wallis, 40, who lives in North Walsham, is furious that he is expected to pay the bill when his car was legally parked and secure. “The police made my vehicle insecure by breaking into it. They should pay, not me,” he said. “I can’t afford to get it back but I need a vehicle. Jobs in this area are difficult to find and you need your own transport to get to places.

“I’ve given the go-ahead now for it to be scrapped because I can’t afford to get it back, but scrapping will cost me £75 and I don’t know whether I’ll still have to pay the towing charge and storage,” said Mr Wallis, who moved to North Walsham last year from his native Whitley Bay, in the north-east. A police spokesman said the car, which had a flat tyre, appeared abandoned and a “very vast amount of flies” could be seen inside. The spokesman added: “The amount was very concerning for the time of year and weather conditions.

“The officer had had genuine concerns about what could have been in the rear of the vehicle. Having smashed the rear window and found only fishing gear, the officer was aware that he couldn’t leave the vehicle insecure, so he arranged for the vehicle to be recovered. Various checks were conducted to locate an owner but the vehicle was not registered with a new keeper, so an owner could not be immediately found.Under Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace), police believed Mr Wallis was liable for any costs involved.” But the spokesman added: “if the owner disputes police actions or feels they shouldn’t pay, then they are able to write in to legal services at force headquarters.”


Patty O'Heater said...

Go to Citizens Advice, prepare a case for "small claims" - up to £5,000 and go against the moron who gave the go-ahead to break in to the car and whichever police force was involved.

Gareth said...

Sorry, Pat, but it just won't work.

The police can break into a vehicle if they have reasonable grounds to do so. It's not like a building where they would need a warrant to enter the building.

If you think the recovery and storage fees are unreasonable for a car, bear in mind that they are the same for a motorcycle. That's right the government think it costs as much to recover and store a 70kg scooter as it does for a 1000kg car. I know this because we had a scooter stolen, it was found two streets away behind a bush. Rather than ringing me and telling me they had it collected and taken to a storage facility ten miles away. I had to pay £170 to get it back.