'Catapulting epidemic' in 'peaceful English' village sees animals killed, cars damaged and funeral-goers targeted

19 April 2024, 08:38 | Updated: 19 April 2024, 09:20

Locals are
Godstone, in east Surrey, is a quintessentially English village in the Home Counties. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Henry Riley

A picturesque village in Surrey is being blighted by a catapulting epidemic which has seen animals killed, cars damaged, windows smashed and even mourners targeted during a funeral.

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Godstone, a village of just over 3,000 in the Home Counties, is not usually synonymous with crime.

However, locals - many of whom want to remain anonymous due to safety concerns - have spoken to LBC about the issue which they fear will never be resolved.

They have also lost patience with police who have not made a single arrest.

The east Surrey village boasts the beautiful Godstone Green pond
The east Surrey village boasts the beautiful Godstone Green pond. Picture: Alamy


Peter O’Connell, the rector of St Nicolas Church, recounts how he and mourners were targeted as a funeral took place.

“I came out after the service and three cars including mine had windows shot out. Particularly for the mourners who are there to see off someone they loved - to come out and experience such damage to their car - was quite traumatic”.

‘Catapulting epidemic’ blights Surrey village, with funeral targeted

The 13th century church is a magnificent building but it’s noticeable there’s something different about the stained glass windows.

Mr O’Connell said: “We had someone fire something through one of the stained glass windows. It was the nativity window, they managed to take out the figure of Mary holding Jesus right at the middle of the picture”.

He also explains there have been attempts to shoot tiles on the church roof.

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St Nicholas church in Godstone, Surrey.
Funeral-goers were targeted following a service at St Nicholas Church. Picture: Alamy

Denise (not her real name), recounts when a large rock came crashing through her window - smashing the glass, and narrowly missing her mother-in-law.

She said it happened not in the the dead-of-night, but just after 8am - and when her four-year-old daughter was home.

Many cars have been damaged
Many cars have been damaged with windows being smashed and glass left in the street. Picture: LBC

Other residents say local wildlife being terrorised, badly injured and even killed.

Danni Rogers from the Swan Sanctuary has seen the destruction first hand. He tells me that swans, waterfowl and other animals are being killed from headshots.

In his work in Godstone he recalls having witnessed “eyes exploded, throats cut, skulls fractured, wings damaged and broken legs”.

Most harrowing of all, though, Danni tells me he has seen children “come up to feed the same animals they have been feeding for years, only to see me only to see me pulling a dead swan out of a lake. It’s horrible”.

In total the area has seen swans and ducks blinded and killed, birds hit, pigs targeted, as well as cats.

A peacock has also been killed.

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Swans have been hurt and killed in the attacks
Swans have been hurt and killed in the attacks. Picture: LBC

There is a sense of helplessness among the group, all of whom adore Godstone as an area but feel completely let down and alone. They want questions asked of Surrey Police.

One man tells me the police are “disinterested” and “seemingly resigned to the fact they can’t do anything”.

Another alleges that police told him he could take on a perpetrator “if you feel like you can”, while they were causing damage - conceding it would be a two hour wait.

One lady tells me she’s concerned that currently it’s animals being targeted but “how long before that changes and we become the target”.

She tells me “I just don’t feel safe here anymore”.

Locals here want answers, they want criminals caught - and to enjoy the beautifully peaceful village they know Godstone can be.

Some are considering leaving the area for good, but others are remaining resolute, determined not to let the “intimidation win”.

Many locals have lost patience with the police
Many locals have lost patience with the police. Picture: LBC

'Mindless cruelty'

In response Claire Coutinho, the Conservative MP for East Surrey, told LBC: “The mindless cruelty of those who have used catapults around Godstone Green is nothing short of a disgrace"

“Officers have been conducting extra foot patrols on the Green to make sure residents and wildlife are safe, and reviewing CCTV of individuals that might be involved”

The Cabinet Minister adds “Anyone who has any information about who might be responsible for terrorising our wonderful community should not hesitate to contact the police on 101.”

A spokesperson for Surrey Police said: “We have received reports of incidents of catapulting offences in the Godstone area.

"These have included reports of persons catapulting at birds and also catapulting at property and vehicles.”

“The local team is aware of these issues, and officers have increased patrols in the local area but there is no specific peak time or day identified for when these offences typically take place, which makes it harder to target these patrols most effectively.”

“We know that catapulting offences are under-reported, and we would encourage people to always report these offences, as well as any reports of people carrying catapults and suspicious behaviour, as it all helps build up a picture of what is going on in the are”

“Following a report of suspicious activity involving persons carrying a catapult, the CCTV was obtained and circulated both internally and on our Facebook page appealing for information to help us identify ID the suspects involved.

"Unfortunately, we have not been unable to identify the individuals in these images so far – if we do, we will look at any interventions which could be put in place”.

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