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Vigilante rams car into innocent man in bungled pursuit in Lancashire

As a pillar of the genteel seaside community of Lytham St Annes, pensioner Douglas Travis was keen to do his bit to keep the area safe.

But the 88-year-old’s crime-fighting days might be over after he mistakenly pursued an innocent man he thought was driving ‘suspiciously’.

Fearing the motorist might be a burglar, the retired antiques dealer trailed the man into a crematorium – but accidentally hit him with his car. Now the pensioner-turned-vigilante has appeared in court charged with driving offences after magistrates heard it was all an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Travis was described as ‘the eyes and ears’ of local police for his work on the Lancashire resort’s neighbourhood watch scheme.

Douglas Travis, 88, mistakenly pursued an innocent man he thought was driving ‘suspiciously’ into a crematorium in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire (pictured)

Following a spate of burglaries in the area, he spotted a suspicious-looking Ford Transit on October 10 last year.

Travis, who owns a £750,000 bungalow in the affluent town, saw the vehicle driving down a street dubbed ‘Millionaire’s Row’. Fearing the driver was up to no good, he followed the van and took photographs of its number plates as it drove towards a nearby council-run graveyard.

But angered at having his picture taken, driver Anthony James got out and stood at the front of Travis’s Toyota – only for it to ‘jerk forward’ and hit him. In fact, the pensioner was mistaken – as the ‘suspect’ was simply on an innocent visit to a family grave, Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard last week.

Although Mr James was not badly hurt, Travis was initially charged with assault. Robert Castle, defending, said: ‘My client is a keen member of the Neighbourhood Watch – one of the eyes and ears of the police, who rely on Mr Travis.

‘They are respectable people trying to keep their property safe. He checks vehicles going through the area where there have been several burglaries.

‘He regarded the Transit as being suspicious and followed it for a few hundred yards into the crematorium. He thought his car was in neutral but the automatic gearbox was in drive and it jerked forward.’

Travis was described as ¿the eyes and ears¿ of local police for his work on the Lancashire resort¿s neighbourhood watch scheme

Travis was described as ‘the eyes and ears’ of local police for his work on the Lancashire resort’s neighbourhood watch scheme

Magistrates agreed a charge of assault against Travis could be dropped on the basis he admitted driving without due care and attention.

Prosecutor Nick Turner said: ‘Travis thought something sinister was afoot when in fact the man was at the graveyard to visit the grave of a loved one. Confusion arose in this unfortunate case and the defendant’s car went forward and hit the man.’

Chairman of the bench Sylvia Kirby said: ‘At the end of the day your car shot forwards and hit somebody stood in front of it.’ The court heard that Travis had a pension income of £30,000 a year. He was fined £40 and must pay £60 costs.

The Fylde area which covers Lytham St Annes has the second lowest crime rate in Lancashire, but in 2016 police warned residents about burglaries in the area. 

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