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 maintained that he was not the infamous “Somerset gimp”.
In court, Joshua Hunt, 32, admitted to being the masked individual who had caused fear among drivers in north Somerset on two separate occasions in May. However, during his testimony at Bristol Magistrates Court, he stated that his attire was not related to a gimp.
Hunt, a gardener by profession, admitted to conducting searches on his phone for information about the Somerset gimp, an enigmatic figure that has been sighted since 2018. However, he claimed that he only did so to stay updated on events in the local area.
He stated that he planned to wear his black outfit and engage in “mudding”, covering himself in “excrement”, due to his lack of confidence. He also revealed to the court that he had considered standing on the road and allowing a car to hit him.
Hunt, a resident of Claverham in northern Somerset, was convicted of two offenses under the Public Order Act of 1986. The district judge, Joanna Dickens, stated that his unconventional attire caused fear and terror among those who witnessed it, and that there was a clear intent to cause distress and alarm.
At her trial, Dickens refrained from making a decision on whether or not Hunt was intentionally trying to scare people by dressing like a gimp, but acknowledged that he must have been aware of the potential for fear.
During the court hearing, it was reported that on Sunday, May 7 at approximately 11:15pm, a female driver was traveling along Accommodation Road in Bleadon, located in north Somerset. As she approached a certain area, 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 with a mask covering their face, and white crosses over their eyes. The person was moving and crawling in a military-like manner, according to her account.
The woman was worried that it might be a kidnapping. “I was very scared,” she stated. She drove away and contacted the authorities once she arrived home. “It felt unreal. I was trembling with fear, almost having a panic attack,” she explained.
At the stroke of midnight on May 9th, a group of three individuals – two women and a teenager – were heading home from work when they suddenly spotted a masked person dressed in black, standing in the middle of the road with their legs apart and arms behind their back. The driver’s passenger let out a scream and the driver herself felt a sense of pure terror. She described the costume as frightening and quickly drove away, calling the police for assistance.
The person riding with her exclaimed, “I was terrified! I screamed and shielded my eyes with my hands. We were in the middle of nowhere and it was pitch black.” The teen added that the scream was reminiscent of a scene from a horror film and it was difficult for him to fall asleep after the event.
Two officers of the law promptly appeared and came across Hunt, who was now donning grey sweatpants and a blue hooded sweatshirt. He stated to them: “I am not a gimp, I do not possess a gimp suit, I am not currently wearing a gimp suit. I am not a threat. I am an average individual with some issues who requires assistance, essentially.”
During the investigation, law enforcement discovered damp dark-colored garments and face coverings featuring eyes and a mouth that were painted with fluorescent paint inside the suspect’s vehicle.
During the police interrogation, Hunt stated: “My mental state has declined rapidly and I am currently in a state of crisis.” He mentioned being prescribed new medications for depression. “I was trying to harm myself, not to frighten anyone. I am desperately seeking assistance for my mental well-being.”
During the investigation, authorities discovered that the individual had searched for information on the “Somerset gimp” and had also written a journal entry about a fictional character named Jack. In the story, Jack purchased a black rubber suit and created a mask out of tights with a painted face. The journal described the face as resembling something from a horror movie that would frighten anyone.
Hunt admitted to being near the edge on May 7th, but refuted claims that he was crawling. It was revealed in court that he contacted the Samaritans just prior to being spotted.
He stated that on May 9th, he had not intended to position himself in the path of a car and get hit, but he came to his senses. He also mentioned that he was unaware that the neon paint he used would glow in the dark. “I never had any intention of causing harm or distress to those individuals,” he clarified.
According to court proceedings, he was raised on a family farm as one of six siblings. His family had sought assistance from mental health experts for him.
Hunt received a penalty of £100 and was ordered to compensate each of his victims with £200.
In the United Kingdom, individuals can reach out to Mind at 0300 123 3393 or Childline at 0800 1111 for support. In the United States, you can contact Mental Health America by calling or texting 988 or visiting 988lifeline.org. In Australia, there are several resources available such as Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636, Lifeline at 13 11 14, and MensLine at 1300 789 978 for assistance.