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Two pensioners were “traumatised” after they claim to have been “followed” by two council dog wardens in a park.
Judy Latimer and Paul Southcombe, who are both in their 70s, were walking their pooches when they were approached by the staff on Tuesday morning.
The wardens allege the couple had breached the dog control Public Spaces Protection Order by allowing their dogs to exercise off the lead on a marked sports pitch at Deans Cross Park in Plymstock, a suburb in Plymouth.
But the wardens were wearing plain clothes and Paul said they looked more like a “couple of guys on their way to a football match” rather than council employees. In a video captured by Judy, both men can be seen wearing grey hoodies and baggy trousers.
One even followed Judy into the toilet at a café, Plymouth Live reports.
Plymouth City Council has since admitted that the pair were council employees and said it is looking into whether they “exceeded their remit”.
Paul said, although the men did show ID proving they were council employees, he was left unconvinced because he felt as though it looked like something you could “make on your own PC”. He said: “We’re in our 70s and we’re told to watch out for scams and I’m very alert to them.
“Unless I’m very, very sure I just cut off contact.” After a short conversation, Judy and Paul decided to leave the area because the men appeared “suspicious”.
Paul continued: “If they were looking to fine us then you’d have thought that they’d be more laid back and steady and calming with people. But they obviously had no training.”
And this was just the start as they claim the wardens began following them. Judy said: “We just couldn’t believe it, we just couldn’t believe it.
“We left from a different exit so they couldn’t track my companion’s car but they continued to follow us. They kept telling us, ‘All we want is your details and we’ll leave you alone’ but we paid them no attention, we just kept on walking.
“They were constantly bullying us and telling us they were going to call the police. It was really meant to spook us, it was intimidating.”
After walking around for some time they tried to escape the wardens by going to a cafe but the determined wardens continued to follow, even waiting outside the women’s toilets for Judy. “It was quite sinister,” said Paul.
“They stood behind our table and everyone was looking wondering what was going on. It was very sinister.”
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Paul also suffers from “an unreliable heart” and requires a pacemaker. He also has diabetes, which can sometimes make him unsteady on his feet. He said the presence of the wardens caused him to feel ill with Judy describing him as looking “visibly grey in the face”.
“My blood sugar level was extremely high and I wasn’t worried I was going to have a heart attack but I was struggling with my breathing,” explained Paul. Judy said she tried to explain to the wardens that Paul wasn’t feeling well and they were making him worse.
Allegedly, their only response was to smirk and point to their body camera. They then offered to call an ambulance but Paul and Judy said they were just “taunting” them.
Paul and Judy also claimed that the wardens began telling them how much they were “enjoying” following them. Judy said: “They kept on saying, ‘We’re not going to stop you we’ll follow you wherever and we’ll follow you wherever’.
“He also said, ‘It’s a nice day and I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of overtime today’.”
The friends eventually made it to a GP surgery, by which point Paul was now struggling to even speak. But even after he entered the surgery the wardens continued to follow him into the waiting room.
While Paul was receiving treatment a couple of police officers arrived at the surgery. Judy admitted she wasn’t sure who called the police but was thankful to see them.
She said: “I was sat on the floor with my head in my hands thinking what are we doing but then I looked up to see a police officer and I immediately said, ‘Oh, thank God’.
“And he was rational, and friendly and just explained how the police don’t get involved in these sorts of disputes. He said, ‘That’s not our business’.”
The police officer then explained that they were at the surgery to help Paul, who they’d heard was feeling unwell. The officers then helped arrange for Paul to be seen by a doctor and he had the “full works”.
This was also the end of their ordeal as the police officers requested that the wardens “disappear”. Judy said one of the officers informed her and Paul that the wardens had left and been “picked up” by their company.
Summing up their emotions, Judy said: “This whole experience has really unsettled us. We are both quite frankly traumatised.”
A Plymouth City Council spokesperson has since verified that the wardens are Plymouth City Council employees. In a statement, the spokesperson said: “Following a number of complaints from residents about dog fouling in Dean Cross Park, two plain-clothed enforcement officers visited the park on Tuesday.
“Plain-clothed officers are primarily deployed to enforce dog fouling but if other offences like littering or dog control breaches are witnessed, they are authorised to issue fixed penalty notices.
“While on patrol, the officers spotted two people breaching the dog control Public Spaces Protection Order by allowing their dogs to exercise off the lead on a marked sports pitch. When the couple were approached, they were uncooperative and refused to give their details to the officers.
“We are looking into whether our officers exceeded their remit on this occasion but we will continue to enforce dog control laws on sports pitches.
“Dog fouling is unwanted on all streets and open spaces in Plymouth, but particularly on sports pitches because of the health risks to children and adults who play sports. Keeping dogs on a lead on the pitches ensures the owners notice when their dog has fouled and can pick up straight away.”
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