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The strangest British crimes from 2023

The Sycamore Gap Tree
Image: The famous Sycamore Gap Tree was illegally felled in September 2023 |

It has not been a slow news year for true crime in 2023. But amidst the biggest news stories of the past 12 months, there are some that have just been plain baffling. From the arrest of the infamous Somerset Gimp to a man being charged for driving too slowly, it has truly been a year for some strange crimes.

Here are some of the oddest crimes from 2023.

The lane hogger

In September, a man was found guilty of driving his Range Rover without ‘reasonable consideration’ for other drivers on the road. 42-year-old Olakunle Olaniyi-Edwards was convicted after he remained in the right-hand lane while driving at speeds of 36mph in a 50mph speed limit area, thus forcing other drivers to undertake. He was fined and had three points added to his licence.

The shoplifting middle classes

A shoplifting crisis, which has been linked to both the cost-of-living crisis and organised crime, has seen an unexpected surge of offenders in the middle classes. According to the chair of Marks & Spencer, Archie Norman, shoppers don’t always scan all of their items properly at the self-checkout, but this isn’t stopping them from taking the item home with them. According to Norman, this is because, as regular customers, they feel entitled to take them. In response, stores are bringing in extra security or simply replacing the checkouts with staffed tills.

The abusive car passenger

When police pulled over a car in Watchet, Somerset, it was the passenger, not the driver, who became an issue. Jamie Cooper verbally assaulted the officers, got into the police car and beeped the horn, threatened to ‘dump on the bonnet’ and waved his penis at the officers. He was fined and charged.

The robber suing the police

A man fleeing the scene of a crime on a stolen motorbike is suing the police for the injuries he sustained while attempting to evade them. Working with an accomplice, 24-year-old Sonnie Stow stole the bike from a car park after a confrontation that led to its rightful owner’s leg being broken. Stow was riding around on the motorbike when he was apprehended by police. Two police dogs were used to stop him, one of which bit him in the stomach, causing serious injuries. Stow was jailed for four and a half years. His barrister is claiming that while he recognised the seriousness of his actions, he required a skin graft and muscle reconstruction.

The tree felling

There was a national outpouring of grief in September after it was discovered the Sycamore Gap Tree, a popular landmark that had stood next to Hadrian’s Wall and was named ‘English Tree of the Year’, had been illegally chopped down overnight. The tree, which appeared in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, was planted in the late 1800s and had been the site of countless marriage proposals and ash scatterings. It was later revealed the wall had also sustained damage during the incident.

The anonymous letter writer who left his number

A man writing anonymous letters to ‘sexy’ women was caught after he left his phone number on them. Danny Patrick, a convicted sex offender, targeted women by finding their addresses and leaving them letters asking them to contact them with their name and age. Patrick was caught on one of the women’s doorbell cameras and was reported to the police. His mobile number meant it was easy for police to trace him and he was arrested. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison and given a restraining order.

The tagged masked robber

In July, 29-year-old Lewis Tracey was convicted for the role he played in a five-man house raid and was sentenced to six years and 11 months for aggravated burglary. Tracey was recruited at the last minute for the operation that involved the men wearing masks and wielding machetes. Though he was careful to turn off his mobile phone beforehand so the data couldn’t be used to determine his location, he forgot about something else: the fact he was wearing an electronic tag at the time of the crime. Tracey is the only member of the group to have been caught.

The Somerset Gimp

The Somerset Gimp, a man who has been terrorising women and motorists at night by dressing from head to toe in a latex outfit and stepping in front of cars or wriggling on the ground, was finally convicted this year. 32-year-old Joshua Hunt was arrested minutes after being spotted by a woman and was later connected to 25 incidents. Hunt has been banned from wearing any kind of face mask or covering, all black outfits in a public place between 9pm and 6am and crawling or writhing on the ground for five years.