A family who are isolating in Devon in their second home during the coronavirus outbreak say they have been told to “go home” by local “vigilantes”.
Businessman Tony Willis and his family left the capital for their second home in Bigbury-on-Sea, Devon, which they bought 10 years ago.
They arrived at their holiday home before the government advised Britons to avoid non-essential travel, going there for a birthday celebration and to be near an elderly relative.
Willis said his family have been targeted on a number of occasions by “vigilantes” and said doing so should be considered a “hate crime”.
He told the BBC: “Over the past week we have had ‘Go Home’ daubed in the dirt on the back windscreen of our car, leaflets telling us to do the same and someone haranguing me to ‘Go Home’ from the street outside our house.
“This is pure harassment and in another context would be considered a hate crime.”
He said he had been left a leaflet which read: “Second home owners. Go home. Stop being selfish. Listen to the government advice.”
He added: “Since the lockdown we decided to stay here because it would be non-essential travel to go back.
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“I spend a lot of time in Devon, I carry on a business down here and my wife's from Devon.
“We are following all the rules, we are self-isolating and we only go out when we have to for provisions.
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“We love it down here and we're not going to be run out of town by a few idiots."
Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “This is a family who are probably just as frightened and concerned as everyone else.
"If they are already here we should welcome them and make them feel part of our community.
"This is not a time to turn person against person and for us in the South West to turn against the people of London or vice versa."
Bigbury Parish Council chair Beth Huntley said: "We hope the community is free of the virus, but every newcomer brings a threat to the older community.
"It would be lovely if people who own holiday homes stayed close to their homes.
"But I think a conciliatory approach is always a good idea."
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In neighbouring Cornwall, tourism bosses have urged people to stay away from the area.
Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, said: "Our advice is do not come. Moving around can easily accelerate the spread of the virus.
"That applies to people with second homes here – and to visitors who had planned a holiday."