A male individual has been convicted of intentionally frightening drivers on a dim rural road by wearing all black clothing and a mask with painted eyes and mouth. However, he denies being the infamous “Somerset gimp”.
At Bristol magistrates court, 32-year-old Joshua Hunt admitted to being the masked individual who had caused fear among drivers in north Somerset on two occasions in May. However, during his testimony, Hunt clarified that the attire he wears is not related to being a gimp.
A gardener named Hunt admitted to searching for information on his phone about the Somerset gimp, a mysterious individual who has been seen since 2018. However, he claims he only did so to stay informed about events in the area.
He stated that he would put on his black outfit and participate in “mudding”, where he would intentionally cover himself in dirt, as a result of his low self-esteem. He also revealed to the court that he had been considering standing on or near a road and allowing a car to hit him.
Hunt, of Claverham, north Somerset, was found guilty of two charges under the Public Order Act 1986. The district judge Joanna Dickens said his “bizarre” outfit had left those who saw him terrified and there was an intention to cause fear, alarm and distress.
At her trial, Dickens did not pass judgment on whether Hunt was the gimp, but stated that Hunt must have been aware that dressing like the gimp would have caused fear.
According to court testimony, on the evening of May 7th, a woman was driving alone on Accommodation Road in Bleadon, north Somerset when she noticed a “dark object” on the side of the road. In her statement, she described the figure as a person wearing tight dark clothing and a mask with white crosses over the eyes, who appeared to be moving in a military-like manner.
The woman was concerned that it may be an attempt to abduct her. She expressed, “I was extremely afraid.” After the woman left, she contacted the authorities upon arriving home. “It felt unreal. I was trembling with fear, almost having a panic attack,” she shared.
At the stroke of midnight on May 9th, two females and a young adult were returning from work when they noticed a person wearing a black mask standing in the middle of the road. The individual had their legs spread apart and their arms behind their back. The driver reported that her passenger let out a scream. “I was overcome with fear,” she stated. “The costume was quite frightening.” She quickly drove away and contacted the authorities.
The individual who was riding with her stated: “I was terrified and I covered my eyes with my hands. It was pitch black and we were in the middle of nowhere.” The teenager described the scream as resembling a scene from a horror film and had trouble falling asleep afterwards.
Two law enforcement officers promptly arrived and discovered Hunt, who was now sporting grey sweatpants and a blue sweatshirt. He informed them: “I am not a gimp, I do not possess a gimp costume, I am not dressed in a gimp outfit. I am not a threat. I am just an ordinary individual with some issues. I require assistance, essentially.”
During the van inspection, authorities discovered damp black attire and face coverings adorned with neon-painted eyes and a mouth.
During the police interview, Hunt stated that his mental state had declined quickly and he was in a state of crisis. He mentioned that he had recently started taking new antidepressants. He clarified that his actions were an attempt to end his own life rather than to intimidate anyone. He expressed a need for assistance with his mental health.
During the police investigation, they discovered that the individual in question had used his phone and searched his home for information on the “Somerset gimp”. They also found a journal where he had written a story about a character named Jack, who had purchased a black rubber suit and created a mask out of tights with a painted face. He described the face as resembling something from a horror movie and believed it would terrify anyone who saw it.
Hunt acknowledged providing evidence that he was present on the verge on May 7th, but denied that he was crawling. The court was informed that he contacted the Samaritans shortly before he was observed.
The individual stated that he had no intention of standing in the street on May 9th and being hit by a car, but ultimately changed his mind. He also mentioned that he was not aware that the neon paint he used would glow in the dark. He emphasized that he never meant to harm or cause distress to anyone.
According to court testimony, he was one of six siblings and resided on his family’s farm. His family had made efforts to seek assistance for him from mental health experts.
Hunt was penalized with a fine of £100 and ordered to compensate each of his victims with £200.
In the United Kingdom, the organization Mind can be contacted at 0300 123 3393 and Childline at 0800 1111. In the United States, Mental Health America can be reached at 988 for calls or texts, or through their online chat at 988lifeline.org. In Australia, support services can be accessed through Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636, Lifeline at 13 11 14, and MensLine at 1300 789 978.