VILLAGERS in Dickleburgh, Norfolk, promised yesterday to fight to overturn five-year jail sentences imposed on two 'local heroes' who tried to frighten a teenager they suspected of theft and vandalism.
Locals who condemned the sentences as 'a travesty' are to join residents of nearby Harleston and of Horham, Suffolk, in a campaign for the release of Duncan Bond and Mark Chapman.
Bond, 35, a builder from Harleston, and Chapman, 29, an engineer from Horham, were jailed on Wednesday after admitting kidnapping and threatening Gavin Last, 17. Norwich Crown Court heard that the pair took the law into their own hands after mini-motorcycles that Bond had bought for his sons, Oliver, 10, and Nicholas, four, were stolen.
The theft was in one of a series of break-ins near Dickleburgh. The defence said that Gavin Last was part of a gang of 'troublemakers' and Bond and Chapman believed he had information about the theft. After tracking him to his home they bundled him into their van, tied his hands behind his back and threatened to knife him or douse him in petrol and set him alight. He was dumped unharmed after 20 minutes.
Today, Bond's wife, Glynne, 34, will meet Chapman's parents, Jenny and Brian, and Nick Yandell, a garage owner from Harleston, to draw up a plan to present to angry villagers at a meeting tomorrow. Hundreds of people are expected to attend.
Mr Yandell said: 'The phone hasn't stopped ringing. We've had hundreds of calls, some even from abroad. People want to give money so that we can hire a lawyer. You know, we are innocents when it comes to the law but we are determined that we will succeed.' Bond and Chapman have appealed against the sentences.
Villagers in Dickleburgh say they are fighting not just for two 'honest and respectable' men who stood up to local 'thugs' but for the soul of their community. Hedgie Algar, 49, Bond's best friend, said: 'They only did what we had been talking about doing for a long time. If they hadn't done it, sooner or later someone else would. They should get a medal, not five years.'
Villagers blame the children of two families for a wave of petty crime, including shoplifting, the theft of cars and car radios, and vandalism.
Mr Algar explained: 'It had just got out of hand in the past few years. They normally picked on the vulnerable but they chose the wrong guy with Bondy. Taking those bikes was like taking his kids' lives away. He begged the police to do something about it, but they didn't seem to be able to.
'This is our village. I was born here and I will die here. It's the country - you expect to be allowed to live in peace. We want our village back.'
The children of one of the families blamed for much of the 'trouble' yesterday admitted they had had a 'wild past' but insisted that they had reformed. One of them said: 'I used to do things - car radios, shoplifting - for the money and because there was nothing to do. But I haven't done anything in the last year.'
He insisted that he and other youngsters had never committed crimes in Dickleburgh and blamed recent incidents on 'outsiders'. Most villagers dismiss such claims.
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