Police investigate after seafront trader sends stab vest e-mail to councillors

POLICE are investigating after a picture of a stab vest and the words “never know when you might need one of these” were sent to councillors ahead of a crucial vote on a £50million entertainment complex.

The picture also contained the word “Ron” on the vest and is believed to refer to the deputy leader of Southend Council, Ron Woodley.

Some claim it could be construed as a veiled threat to councillors due to decide on the controversial Seaway development today which would include an 11 screen IMAX empire cinema, 20 lane Hollywood Bowl, 80 bed hotel, restaurants, a public square and a 555 space car park.

Councillor Woodley has been a supporter of the plan from Turnstone Estates while some seafront traders and prominent business people in the town have claimed it could destroy the area.

Essex Police confirmed it was investigating the e-mail purportedly from the former chairman of the Seafront Traders’ Association Paul Thompson to a number of independent councillors on Southend Council.

The e-mail, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, includes a picture and the word “Ron” with a comment underneath which states: “On eBay, £75. Never know when you might need one of these”.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We are investigating a report of malicious communications in Southend. It was reported to us on Saturday. Enquiries are ongoing.”

Mr Thompson dismissed suggestions of any threat or malice and said it was a “joke” because some councillors felt they had been stabbed in the back by Mr Woodley’s support of the Seaway project.

Mr Thompson said: “It was a reference to a few councillors who have said they feel Ron has stabbed them in the back, so I said they may need one of these in future.

“It was nothing inappropriate at all and this is a load of rubbish from council officers. The police have far better things to do with their time.”

Councillor Woodley said: “I’m disturbed about this as it is my name on a stab vest, but most importantly this has been sent to members of my group who are on the development committee.

“I read it as being some sort of threat to me and my group.

“I did not receive it but members of the Independent Group are concerned about it and reported to the council’s chief executive.”

One of the councillors to receive the e-mail was Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety.
He said: “From a safety point of view with all the hate crime committed against politicians of all persuasions and protection being given, it is rather bad taste to put this type of thing out.

“The problem with this is that it could be misinterpreted. It is in very poor taste and could well be received as a threat to personal safety.”

A spokesman for Southend Council said: “We are aware that the police are investigating this matter, but it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter