Mistake over van ‘break-in’ led to Hayling Island attack

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PLUMBER Dennis Eaglestone admitted hitting an innocent man round the head with a spirit level because he mistakenly believed his van was being broken into.

The 57-year-old was obsessed with the thought thieves were going to break into his works van because he had been a victim of the crime before.

Chichester Crown Court heard his paranoia was so great he even dreamed about it and would constantly listen and look out for thieves from his home in Southwood Road, Hayling Island.

The court heard that on January 5, 2011, Eaglestone looked out of the window to see a man taking tools out of a van parked outside his home.

Recorder John Hardy said: ‘In the past his own van has been broken into.

‘He appears to have developed something of an obsession about vans being broken into.

‘Upon seeing a van parked outside his house and somebody out the back doors of the van he jumped to the conclusion that it was his van and it was being broken into. He ran downstairs, confronted the person and hit him with a spirit level which he took from the van itself.

‘What is indisputable is a blow fractured the skull of the entirely innocent person who is the victim of the assault, causing him severe physical injuries, which meant having to take time off work at great financial cost to him.

‘After the man was struck Mr Eaglestone realised it was not his van and it was the other person’s who was lawfully going about his business as a plumber, ironically.’

Eaglestone was charged with grievous bodily harm and admitted his guilt to police at the earliest opportunity.

A charge of common assault will lie on file.

The case has been adjourned for a psychiatric report and Eaglestone will be sentenced in May. He has been warned he could be jailed.

But Recorder Hardy added: ‘The fact that you’re a man in his mid-50s of hitherto good character demonstrates to me that this offence is not in your nature.’