Man wearing full-body rubber suit terrorises villagers in Somerset

Victoria Ward
The mystery offender has targeted at least 14 local men and women while dressed in a range of disguises

Until last week, the biggest concern facing residents of the sleepy Somerset village of Claverham was the odd missed bin collection. 

But that was before a man in a “full black rubbery” gimp suit began terrorising the local community, charging at lone individuals late at night while grunting and breathing heavily.

The mystery offender has targeted at least 14 local men and women while dressed in a range of disguises, sending a ripple of fear through Claverham, which has a population of just 2,000, and the neighbouring village of Yatton.

A woman in her 20s who managed to take a picture of the rubber-clad offender before fending him off at around 11.30pm on Thursday was left traumatised and terrified to go out in case he was watching her.

“I was walking along with my torch and looked up to see someone charging at me in a full black rubbery suit,” she told the BBC.

"He kept coming towards me and was touching his groin, grunting and breathing heavy.

"As I tried to take a step back he was right in front of my face and he put his leg forward. I was just trying to assess the situation in my head quickly.

"Everything was running through my head. I thought: 'This is it, I'm going to get attacked'.

"I was looking round thinking, oh my god. It's not just a man jumping out at me going boo. Every time I close my eyes I just see that face."

The week before last, the same man is believed to have chased a young man in Yatton. His sister begged fellow residents to call the police if they saw anything suspicious, saying “we need to get him off the streets.”

Avon and Somerset Police confirmed last night that a man in his 20s had been arrested on suspicion of indecency offences in the two tiny villages, around 12 miles from Bristol.

Riley Steadman helped hunt for the culprit 

A spokesman revealed they had received 14 reports of a man approaching people while wearing various disguises, “one of which was a black body suit.”

As rumours of the bizarre incident spread through the neighbourhood, many expressed fears for the local children. 

One mother collecting her two children from Court De Wyck Primary School, where the perpetrator was pictured, said: “The fact that he ran away over some fields suggests that he knew the area very well.

“Most people wouldn’t have known that there was a way out of the High Street into the fields - and that’s scary to think he comes from around here and might possibly know us all.”

Rebecca Steadman, 45, who runs Pizza2Go on Claverham High Street, said the recent discovery of a man’s body in a car - another highly unusual development - had only fuelled concerns. 

“Dressing like he did was only ever going to cause fear and approaching someone in the dead of night is just criminal,” she said.

“This is really a quiet place to live normally, but the day after gimpman made an appearance a body was found in a van. 

“But I think the dead man had been there for several days so the police were able to eliminate him as a potential suspect.”

Others had a more gung-ho attitude and vowed to patrol the streets, en masse, next time he made an appearance.

Mrs Steadman’s son Riley, 16, added: “We were on the street within a few minutes of it happening and helped in the search for the guy.

“But some of us were willing to go out at night and make sure he doesn’t repeat this.”

An employee at the local cafe That Coffee Place, who did not want to be named, said she could not help but be amused that it was all happening in Claverham.

“It’s just such a sleepy, small place, nothing ever happens there,” she said. 

“But I suppose it’s only funny unless someone gets hurt. It’s not pleasant when people are being frightened like this. It seems very odd. I can’t help but think he wants to be caught.

“If it was all a joke, it’s clearly gone too far.”

Residents said the man had been terrorising locals for some time but had recently escalated his behaviour.

He is not believed to have approached a woman before last week, when his behaviour was “of a very sexual nature.”

A relative of the victim said he had previously been seen looking through people’s windows and one local man claimed he had targeted farm animals.

Locals said a man in a gimp suit had been seen in a park in Yatton around two years ago. 

And Peter Lomas, a local parish councillor, said the council had been informed of a similar incident in Yatton four months ago.

Police reassured the public over the weekend that they were doing all they could to locate the man.

A helicopter and sniffer dog were dispatched last week in an unsuccessful attempt to track him down. 

Peter Jenkins, 58, who was out walking his dog in the evening sunshine yesterday said: “Well thank goodness he’s been caught. It’s not the kind of character anyone wants to be confronted by around here, at any time of day or night.”

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