June 25, 2011

UK: Elderly man accused of stealing rhubarb from allotment

LONDON, England / The Telegraph / News / Crime / June 24, 2011

An eighty-eight-year-old 'law abiding' great grandfather has been left 'devastated' after police accused him of 'taking' rhubarb from an allotment
 Allotments in Yetminster where Bill Foster holds a plot of land Photo: SWNS

Green fingered Bill Foster was accused of taking the rhubarb from an allotment near the allotment he tends at picture postcard Yetminster, near Sherborne, Dorset.
Two officers quizzed shocked retired local government officer Mr Foster - who has never been in trouble with the police in his life - for 15 minutes after they knocked on his door.

But yesterday outraged Mr Foster said the only rhubarb he had taken was from an allotment rented by parish councillor Rev John Parfitt who had given him permission.

"I am devastated by what has happened. The police came knocking on my door after someone had reported me for taking it but I had permission to take the Rhubarb.

"I took four sticks of rhubarb two or three times a month but I had permission from the Rev Parfitt.

"Then the police came knocking on my door - they came to see about it. This is the first time I have crossed the police and I am 88 years of age. The police said there had been reports I had been taking rhubarb from the allotment."

Yesterday Phil Lashbrook - who has had an allotment there for 55 years - said another allotment holder Michael Bird had reported the matter to the police

"Mr Bird saw him taking rhubarb. Seven or eight of us have signed a petition asking him (Mr Foster) to go. We sent it to the parish council.  "But the parish council said it was a police matter and to report it to the police". Mr Bird added: "I reported him because he was taking stuff from my allotment."

The parish council rent the 20 allotments out for 20 pounds a years to local people.

Yesterday The Rev John Parfitt - who used to be the Director of Education for the Diocese of Bath and Wells - confirmed: "I gave Mr Foster permission to take my rhubarb but what happened with the rest of the allotment holders I have not got a clue."

Dorset Police yesterday said officers had been to the village - but no offences been committed.

"We have made inquiries and have spoken to all parties but no offences were committed. Words of advice have been given."

Rhubarb, a perennial and seasonal plant, has stalks that are often cooked and used in pies and other foods for their distinctive tart flavour. It is usually stewed and served with custard, or found in jams and crumbles. It is one of the first food plants ready for harvest in the UK, usually in the months of April and May, and grows all the way through summer until the autumn, so is quite easy to cultivate at this time of year.

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