'Somerset Gimp' found guilty of leaping out at terrified women drivers and 'writhing on ground' late at night

27 October 2023, 15:26 | Updated: 27 October 2023, 19:32

Prior to the trial, Hunt was ordered to not "crawl, wriggle or writhe on the ground wearing a full-body covering or mask".
Prior to the trial, Hunt was ordered to not "crawl, wriggle or writhe on the ground wearing a full-body covering or mask". Picture: Police
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

The self employed gardener has been found gulity of being the Somerset Gimp on Friday, after terrorsing female drivers in May but claims he stood on the roadside to kill himself.

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Bristrol Magistrates Court heard how female motorists driving home late at night were left terrified after seeing a man dressed in a black gimp suit, a court heard.

Joshua Hunt, 32, was fined £100 and ordered to pay £200 compensation to each of his three victims and £620 prosecution costs.

Hunt was seen writing on the ground by a lone female driver, whilst another was left shaking and crying by the incident.

Bristol Magistrates Court heard the incidents occurred in the evening on 7 May and just past midnight on 9 May 2023 in Bleadon, near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

Hunt was arrested after the second incident and told police: "I am not a gimp - I do not own a gimp suit. I am not in a gimp suit."

The defendant told court that he had serious mental health issues and did not intend to cause harm to others.

Motorist Lucy told of the ordeal in a written statement, detailing how she was driving home along Accommodation Road in Bleadon when she saw something moving on the ground.

"He was writhing and crawling as if in a military fashion," she said.

"I could see the person was wearing very tight, dark clothing and had a mask on their face. The mask was dark and very tight and two white crosses where the eyes should be.

"My first thought was it could be a possible abduction and the person was trying to get me out of my car.

"It was terrifying although I had only seen them for a few seconds.

"He was dressed all in black with a shiny, black facemask with white crosses on. They were face down in a military fashion and writhing and crawling on their belly."

She added: "The whole incident felt so surreal, and I was questioning myself about what I was seeing and making this statement makes me feel anxious.

"I genuinely believed it was an abduction because you read about this in the newspapers. When I got home I was breathing heavily and I was having a borderline panic attack.

"I had never seen anything like this before. I feel scared and I never want to see this thing again due to the fright it gave me.

"I didn't sleep more than three hours that night."

Martin Mills, a passenger in a vehicle driving in the area at the same time as Miss Lodge, saw a man "commando crawling" on the floor.

"I can see they were all in black and shiny and the car lights were reflecting off him," he said.

Read more: Man accused of being Somerset gimp banned by court from wearing masks or wriggling on floor ahead of October trial

Read more: Man arrested after multiple 'gimp' sightings in Somerset

24 hours later on 9 May, Samantha Brown was driving home from work with her sister-in-law and another colleague when she saw a man dressed in black wearing a facemark.

In a statement, she described feeling "sheer horror".

"When I saw them my sister-in-law screamed. I had to speed up to get past them and he jumped to the side of my car," she said in a statement.

"When I saw the person I felt sheer horror. When I got home I was shaking and crying. I was scared by this person - anything could have happened and they had their hands behind their back and they could have been holding anything."

Ms Brown's sister-in-law, Chloe Smith said: "I was scared by what he was doing because it was dark and they were dressed like that."

The teenager in the car said when he saw the man he grabbed the door handle in case he tried to open the door.

"I was angry that he scared Samantha and Chloe," he said.

After the second incident, Police arrived at Bleadon and spotted a white Berlingo van in a field, which was reversing, and decided to stop it.

PC Declan Coppock arrested the defendant, who was wearing grey trousers and a black hooded top.

Whilst being arrested, Hunt denied being the Somerset Gimp.

In court, the officer said: "I noticed his [Hunt's] skin was extremely wet and damp - suggesting he had been lying on the side of the road", the officer said.

"I am not dangerous, I am a normal person, I have got a few problems", Hunt said during his arrest
"I am not dangerous, I am a normal person, I have got a few problems", Hunt said during his arrest. Picture: Social media

Hunt told the police: "I am not dangerous, I am a normal person, I have got a few problems."

A search found that Hunt was not wearing a T-shirt or underwear.

Found in his van were wet black clothing, women's tights, face masks and gloves.

White neon paint used for drawing on a mask was also found, the court heard.

Hunt told police during an interview that his mental health had been in "crisis" over problems with his medication and wanted to take his own life, the court heard.

"I stood in the road because I wanted to kill myself and I never intended to scare anybody. I am crying out for help and need help with my mental health", he said.

The court heard that during a search of Hunt's home in Claverham, officers found a journal in which he had written a story about someone called Jack who purchases a black rubber suit and mask with white paint on the mask.

"The face was looking like something out of a horror film - a face that would scare the life out of anyone", Hunt wrote.

Hunt had also done internet searches in 2022 and 2023 about the "Somerset Gimp" and the "Gimp of Cleeve", the court heard.

Giving evidence, Hunt told the court he was in a "very traumatic state of mind" in May 2023 and was speaking with the Samaritans and getting counselling.

"I hated myself with the way I looked and the way I am and everything about me," he told the court, fighting back tears.

He explained he would go out at night and change into black clothing to go "mudding", explaining the term to court.

"A lot of people wouldn't understand, which is something I do to get covered in mud which is another reason I was there as it is close to the estuary where there is mud."

"The clothes I wear and face masks are for mudding only, hence why I had them in the vehicle", he added

"Time from time, it is a self-loathing thing because I feel so crap about myself. It's a release because I feel like s**t - I cover myself in s**t."

Hunt told the court on the two nights he had been seen on the side of the road he had wanted to kill himself by being hit by a car.

"It never entered my head that what I was doing was frightening people", he said.

"I apologise to those people - I agree what I was doing was frightening but hand on my heart I never intended to cause them harassment, alarm or distress."

Under cross-examination from Robert Yates, prosecuting, Hunt described how he would go mudding at the estuary.

"It is a public place but it is discreet - I only go mudding in discreet locations", he said.

Mr Yates asked: "You live on a farm, there are fields - private land - the public wouldn't be there. So why not go mudding there?"

Hunt replied: "It's not a case of reasons why I don't do it at the farm."

Mr Yates asked: "I am going to suggest that the reason you went to Accommodation Road was that you wanted to be seen and shock people?"

Hunt replied: "No it wasn't."

Mr Yates asked: "You go mudding because you want people to see you?"

Hunt replied: "I don't agree. All mudding I have done has been done discreetly."

District Judge Joanna Dickens said: "I accept that you have already received punishment and spent time in prison and lost your good character in a very public way and no doubt affecting you for the remainder of your life."

Prior to the trial, Hunt was ordered to not "crawl, wriggle or writhe on the ground wearing a full-body covering or mask" where the offences took place.

There had been some photos circulating thought to be Hunt but it has now been revealed they do not picture the gardener and are instead other gimp-suited people.

The fist shows a man standing in a black gimp suit in Somerset and in the second an unknown man, also dressed in all black, is seemingly wriggling on the ground.

This image is of a man dressed in a gimp suit in Somerset but does not picture Hunt.
This image is of a man dressed in a gimp suit in Somerset but does not picture Hunt. Picture: Social media
This gimp suit cladded person wriggling on the ground is not Hunt but was thought to be.
This gimp suit cladded person wriggling on the ground is not Hunt but was thought to be. Picture: Handout

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