In 1992, Brian Jones was banned from every Barclays' bank in Britain. 'Stink bombs,' he explains. 'You put them on the floor and gently lower your heel. They leave one hell of an aroma.' During five weeks, he hit 67 branches, plus one branch of the Co-Op by mistake. 'They were next to Barclays and I went through the wrong door,' he says, braying with laughter.

Mr Jones, 46, of Tickenham near Bristol, is big, burly and brash but wasn't always so anarchistically inclined. He left school at 16, became a mechanical engineer, setting up his own business at 20. In the mid-Eighties he sold the company and started dealing in property. By the end of the decade, business was booming.

'I had all anybody could want,' he says. 'Quarter of a million pound house, Range Rover and BMW outside, both paid for. I took a rampant annual income - pounds 100,000 a year easily. We were having holidays in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.'

He had always got on well with his local bank manager in Keynsham. But then the relationship turned sour. Early in 1992 he suddenly found he was being refused credit by companies he'd dealt with for years.

'I'd been financed on God knows how many business properties and projects. The final one was a hotel I was buying. I phoned the company that always financed my catering equipment and someone there gave me a little whisper. He said, 'Brian, go to the credit records and check'. So I did. All it said was, 'Search carried out by Barclays Bank'.

'I was told that searches of this type were normally carried out to test the creditworthiness of finance applications. But I'd made no such application. I had a pounds 425,000 secured overdraft facility, pounds 70,000 in cash reserves and business assets of around pounds 1.4m.'

However, Mr Jones says that after the credit checks nobody would give him finance for his business. He couldn't sell his assets because they secured the overdraft. His pounds 70,000 reserves were all but gone within six months. 'I was stuffed,' he says.

Bang went the six-bedroomed house and the luxury holidays. At one point his wife, Pauline, pawned her maternity ring to buy Christmas presents for their children, Nicola, 16, and Duncan, 13. Today the family live in a converted farmhouse. At the entrance is a sign advertising rockery stone, a sideline taken up at the height of the dispute.

Meanwhile, Mr Jones decided to take some direct action. 'First of all, I stood outside the bank with a sandwich board on. It had a copy of the bank's code of conduct on, and said they could cost me my business. After a while I decided this wasn't hitting home hard enough. So I decided to build my own trailer with a billboard, and drove it around the country. On one side it said the bank had entered into my affairs without my consent. On the other it said how the chairman had decided not to talk to me after 360 letters.'

Convinced he couldn't get the upper echelons of Barclays to listen to him, he stepped up his campaign. 'I got stickers together saying, 'This bank's code of conduct stinks'. But I decided this wasn't good enough. So I went to a joke shop and obtained stink bombs at 40p for four. I'd never done anything like that in my life before - I'm a law-abiding citizen. But we all get annoyed at times, don't we?

'I was averaging them six to a small branch, eight to a big one. I'd walk into a branch and then walk out, letting them off as I went. I always left stickers saying, 'I'm Brian Jones - I'll be back'. And I always left a piece of literature that explained why I'd come there. As I'd walk away, I'd look back from 100 yards and see the bank being vacated. People would be coming out of there like ants out of a hot bath.'

Finally he executed a stink bomb raid on one of Barclays' offices in London. 'I got a phone call from a bailiff. He said do you live in Tickenham or Twickenham? I said Tickenham. He said I'm in Twickenham trying to find you. He said I've got some documents for you. It was an injunction banning me from every branch of Barclays in the country.'

He took out a private summons against Barclays and his bank manager, accusing them of tampering with computer material and securing unauthorised access to a computer- operated credit rating system. But in August 1993 magistrates found there was no case to answer. Eventually, both sides had had enough. The bank decided to write off his overdraft of pounds 352,000.

Today, Brian Jones earns a living as a banking consultant to fellow businessmen and lawyers. The rest of his time he devotes to Safe (Struggle Against Financial Exploitation), formed two years ago when he met Chris Joseph, 36, whose company Hook Advertising had also been embroiled in court battles with Barclays.

'I start at seven every morning and I finish at 11 every night, seven days a week,' he says. 'This week I stole two hours to play golf with my son. When bank personnel begin to treat people how they themselves would wish to be treated, then we'll stop.'

Safe, which now deals with hundreds of calls a week, is not afraid to continue Mr Jones's style of protest. One customer running a fishing fleet was suddenly told by Lloyds that his overdraft was being reduced for no apparent reason, threatening his business. Safe responded by threatening to pay the bank with a consignment of fish dumped on the doorstep. Lloyds restored the overdraft.

Earlier this year, Safe dished out 400 Barclays shares to aggrieved customers and took some along to the bank's AGM. And on Monday, posters went up on 16 advertising hoardings around London announcing a new offer: 'Are you being persecuted by a high street bank? We help people fight banks. Join Safe and we'll give you a free share in your bank, so that you can attend it's AGM with us and address your views to the chairman in person.'

So what next? A whoopie cushion on the chairman's seat at the next AGM? Not quite, but Mr Jones says they have something up their sleeve for when his old foe announces its half-year profits next Tuesday. 'This is what we call real people power,' he says with glee.

A spokesman for Barclays, Tim Baxter said: 'As far as we're concerned the case is closed. The legal side failed, therefore he didn't have a case. I think that speaks for itself.

'We don't have a relationship with Mr Jones any more. The situation has been resolved. It's true that we wrote off his debts, but that was for commercial reasons.'

Safe, 15 Adeline Place, London, WC1B.

(Photograph omitted)

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