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Man dies after ‘rock-throwing incident’ in grounds of Kent castle 

An angler has died after yobs allegedly pelted him with rocks using a catapult as he fished with his two brothers in a boat on a lake at a 15th century castle.

The man in his 60s died in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, following the attack at 5pm yesterday by the yobs who were stood on a bank.

It is not yet clear whether the victim was actually struck and if he became ill after the attack in the picturesque Darent Valley between Sevenoaks and Dartford.

It comes as locals and MPs claimed the area had been under siege from yobs in recent weeks with some threatening people and even trying to steal a woman’s dog.

Residents had told of concerns the area was facing an anti-social behaviour crisis, with one telling local MP Laura Trott on Facebook: ‘Something like this was coming.’

Ms Trott, Conservative MP for Sevenoaks, said she was raising concerns over anti-social behaviour as a ‘matter of urgency’ and was ‘very concerned by the reports’. 

Police said this afternoon that the victim, who has not yet been named, ‘may have been involved in an altercation’ with two youths before he died. 

Witnesses reported seeing armed police arrive and administer CPR before paramedics also tried to save the man’s life, but he died at the scene. 

His daughter is said to have rushed to the scene where she let out what one witnesses described as a ‘piercing scream’ when she learned her father was dead.

The man in his 60s died in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, pictured today

Forensic officers looking round the boats by the lake on the grounds of the castle in Kent today

Forensic officers looking round the boats by the lake on the grounds of the castle in Kent today

‘She did not know what had happened and said she was just told that her father had been injured,’ said a witness.

‘The woman was at the police cordon and asked to see him and was told that he was dead. She was in tears and let out a really high pitched scream.

‘She said she last spoke to her father that morning. It was awful to see.’

The man was a member of the Kingfisher Angling & Preservation Society and had spent the morning before his death stocking the lake with trout with the society’s director Martin Duffell.

A woman who answered the door at Mr Duffell’s house in Orpington today would not name the victim but said: ‘He was a member of the angling society.

The man had spent the morning before his death stocking the lake (pictured today) with trout

The man had spent the morning before his death stocking the lake (pictured today) with trout

Police officers at the scene today following the death in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle 

Police forensic officers looking round the boats by the lake on the grounds of the castle today

Police forensic officers looking round the boats by the lake on the grounds of the castle today

‘He was a very nice, very kind man. He spent the morning with Mr Duffell stocking the lake with trout. It’s absolutely tragic – and it was in such a beautiful, tranquil area. Everybody is shocked. He was a very nice man.’

It costs £400 for an annual membership at the club, along with a £250 joining fee. Most of the fishing at the Lullingstone Castle lake is done by boat.

The water is stocked with rainbow trout. On its website, the society warns members about poaching in the area.

It says: ‘Poaching activity on the River Darent continues to be an issue and members are reminded of the recommended course of action.

‘It is very important that you report all poaching incidents that you witness. DO NOT APPROACH THE POACHER. Call the police immediately.’

A box full of nitrous oxide abandoned in grass just yards from Lullingstone Castle today

A box full of nitrous oxide abandoned in grass just yards from Lullingstone Castle today

Police tape at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, following the man's death

Police tape at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, following the man’s death

A car with fishing rods inside at the scene in Lullingstone Castle in  Kent this afternoon

A car with fishing rods inside at the scene in Lullingstone Castle in  Kent this afternoon

Police have yet to confirm they have launched a murder investigation and have not said what led to the incident or if the death was caused by a rock.

A police source said a catapult was likely used to launch the rock at the elderly man, who is from the Essex area and was visiting the castle’s lake to go fishing.

The victim’s Volvo estate car remains behind a police cordon. Police have not made any arrests or issued a description of those they want to question over the incident.

A marine unit van and forensic investigation van were later seen parked opposite the cordoned castle gate.

These were joined by a second forensic van containing two investigators wearing face masks and white overalls and a large Kent Police van shortly after 2pm.

The forensic teams began to photograph the silver Volvo V70 Cross Country estate which was parked at the side of the castle gate. Officers wearing protective gear opened the front passenger door to examine the inside of the vehicle.

The entrance to Lullingstone Country Park off the A225 was also blocked off by a police van. Local residents said the lake is a dammed part of the River Darent which flows around the grounds of the castle.

A police car at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford today after yesterday's death

A police car at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford today after yesterday’s death

The lake at Lullingstone Castle where the man was fishing with his brothers (file picture)

The lake at Lullingstone Castle where the man was fishing with his brothers (file picture)

One said: ‘One person said he was in the grounds of the castle and that he was fishing. There is a private lake on the grounds where you can pay to go fishing.

‘It’s quite expensive I think. Eynsford has a very high population of elderly people and a lot of them go fishing.’

The 42-year-old said yobs have been wreaking havoc in recent weeks, adding that a group of about up to 30 men aged in their 20s or older have been targeting locals.

Writing to local Tory MP Laura Trott on her Facebook page, Stephen Jury said: ‘Something needs to be done!

‘The level of anti-social behaviour in and around the villages has become a joke and there isn’t a policeman in sight until it is too late!

Lullingstone Castle was built in 1497 and is a tourist attraction in the area (file picture)

Lullingstone Castle was built in 1497 and is a tourist attraction in the area (file picture)

‘There have been several instances over the last week or so.

‘Why does it take the death of an innocent man for something to be done? I just feel for that poor man’s family but something like this was coming!’

Ms Trott, who became MP for Sevenoaks in December’s election, said: ‘All our thoughts go to the victim’s family and loved ones at this time.

‘I am speaking with the police and the local councillors this morning and I will raise your concerns regarding rising anti-social behaviour as a matter of urgency.

‘This is something a few constituents have also emailed me about and I am very concerned by the reports.’

She called for anyone with information to get in touch with police urgently.

People look at the police presence at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford today

People look at the police presence at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford today

However, there is no suggestion that it was members of that group who were allegedly throwing rocks yesterday.

** Did you witness what happened last night? Email tips@dailymail.com ** 

A cricket club manager was allegedly threatened with a broken bottle recently, and the man said they also tried to steal a woman’s dog in nearby Farningham.

He added: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if they were involved. Eynsford is usually so peaceful, but it’s been a nightmare over the past few weeks.’

The entrance to Lullingstone Castle remained taped off by police today. An officer and marked car was guarding the castle gate which was closed.

One woman, who walks her dog past the castle every day, said: ‘I’ve been told by someone who lives in the castle it was an angler there who (died).

‘She seems to think there were three brothers fishing on the lake there and stones were being thrown at them. It’s shocking. Two of them came in and went home but one of them never did. They’re quite elderly.

‘I was on that cricket pitch yesterday and there must have been a group of at least 20 to 30 people.

Police presence at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, this morning

Police presence at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, this morning

Police tape at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle today after a man died there yesterday

Police tape at the entrance to Lullingstone Castle today after a man died there yesterday

‘Kids have been coming down on the train because it’s a nice spot by the river. And during the height of lockdown this village road has been busier than the A20 with daytrippers.’

How Lullingstone Castle has been owned by the same family since the 15th century

Lullingstone Castle was built in 1497 and is a tourist attraction in the area, featuring a 15-acre lake and several gardens containing international plants.

 

The estate, near the famous Brands Hatch Circuit, has been owned by members of the same family since the 15th century.

The castle, which opens for three days per week during spring to autumn, has shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The impressive manor was said to be a favourite of Henry VIII and Queen Anne, with a bathhouse built for the latter still hidden in its grounds. 

The land has been owned by the Hart-Dyke family for 20 generations and is one of England’s oldest family estates, with the land mentioned in the Domesday Book. 

It was also home to the Lullingstone Silk Farm, established in the early 1930s, which produced material for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation robes and wedding dress.

Lullingstone also features a garden of exotic plants from across the globe, a venture which got off to a dangerous start when horticulturist and heir Tom Hart Dyke was kidnapped while plant hunting in Columbia in 2000.

The 44-year-old was held captive for nine months by suspected Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in the Darien Gap near Panama.

He had been hunting for rare orchids with his travel partner Paul Winder at the time. 

Her friend added: ‘There’s been so much trouble over the weekend. There have been yobs causing a lot of trouble at a local shop and on the local cricket pitch.

‘They pulled out hanging baskets and were throwing stones. We don’t have that sort of trouble round here.

‘There’s an old boy who tends the cricket pitch and he was threatened with a broken bottle last weekend.’

Another man from Sidcup, who goes for walks in the village, said the Lullingstone golf course was closed because it had been ‘trashed by horses and bikes’.

One concerned neighbour said there had been previous incidents by the lake where people had been stealing fish.

She said: ‘It’s a really beautiful lake down there in the castle. The only issue I’ve known in the past with the fishermen is they’ve had issues with people coming to steal the fish because they’ve got some lovely ones in there.

‘That is a known problem. All we saw was the police cars come racing past yesterday.’

Her partner added that he had stumbled across dumped laughing gas canisters near the castle while on a walk.

Nearby roads were closed and forensic officers searched fields close to the grounds. An air ambulance was also seen circling above the picturesque village.

Another witness said yesterday: ‘I came out and saw armed police running up the road. Other officers told me it was now a crime scene.’

A Kent Police spokesman said: ‘Kent Police was called at 5.21pm on Thursday,  May 28 to reports of a disturbance in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle.

‘Officers and South East Coast Ambulance Service attended and a man in his 60s was pronounced dead at the scene.

‘It is reported he may have been involved in an altercation with two boys or teenagers near to a lake within in the grounds, prior to his death.

‘Investigators are appealing for information from anybody who was in the area, including dog walkers, anglers and golfers, who witnessed the incident or saw two young people in the vicinity of the lake between 12pm and 7pm.

‘They are also keen to obtain video footage from any vehicles that travelled along Castle Road or Shoreham Road, and any cyclists or joggers in the area between these times.’ 

Anyone with details can contact Kent Police on 01622 604100, quoting 28-1127 

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