Mystery sabotage leaves Leigh Park cafe owners with £2,500 bill

Debbie Payne who is joint owner of the  D and I Fast Food Cafe in Leigh Park'''Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142187-3)
Debbie Payne who is joint owner of the D and I Fast Food Cafe in Leigh Park'''Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142187-3)
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A COUPLE who say their business was targeted by a saboteur are still looking for answers.

Ian Payne and partner Debbie Trigg own D&I cafe in Fulflood Road, Leigh Park.

On 17 occasions between May and July this year their freezer was switched off, which meant they had to get rid of thousands of pounds of food because they could not risk food poisoning.

The freezer is in a neighbouring building owned by Vision Travel, which has its office next door and uses the unit for storing papers.

On July 17 a secret camera they had installed there captured Steven Pinchen, the boss of the coach firm, fiddling with the plug before walking out.

Police arrested and charged him with criminal damage.

But at Fareham Magistrates’ Court yesterday, the 63-year-old, of Southbourne Avenue, Portsmouth, denied deliberately trying to damage the contents of the freezer and said he only wiggled the plug around to stop the screeching noise it was making. Magistrates found him not guilty and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr Payne, 48, said: ‘We feel violated by what has happened to us. It happened 17 times between May and June and we lost £2,500 of stock.

‘But that is not the issue. It could have led to food poisoning for our customers.

‘Thankfully it didn’t because after the first time we checked it thoroughly every day.

‘As well as the freezer being switched off we’ve had 10 malicious calls to environmental health telling lies about us.

‘But we still have a five-star hygiene rating.

‘Someone has even made two malicious calls to the fire brigade saying this place is on fire. Whoever is doing this has a grudge against us.’

Ms Trigg said it has left her ‘angry and upset’ and determined to find out who the culprit is.

In court, prosecutor Noel Watkins put it to Mr Pinchen that he was caught ‘red-handed’ trying to damage the food in the freezer.

In response he said: ‘I go in the unit regularly to collect paper work for the office. When I go in in the morning if it’s (the freezer) screeching I can jiggle the plug and it will go back to a hum.

‘It is a high-pitched screech, like the sound of a motor.’

He said he had ‘jiggled’ the plug several times but had never switched the freezer off.

He refused to comment after the case. But his solicitor, Rhys Evans, said: ‘This was an accident. This was simply one of those things which happen in day to day life. There was no malice behind it.’