Joshua Hunt, 32, left one woman fearing she was being abducted and caused another to break down in tears after crawling and writhing on the floor wearing an all-black outfit and mask on 7 and 9 May.
He was caught after a police officer found his van reversing from the entrance of a field, with Hunt telling the officer: “I am not a gimp – I do not own a gimp suit. I am not in a gimp suit.”
A search of his vehicle found a number of masks, black gloves, black tape and clothing and a UV white marker. Subsequent searches of his property found a disturbing journal entry, in which he had written a story about a character named Jack who created masks made of women’s tights.
Hunt, of Claverham, Somerset, had denied two offences of causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act. He was found guilty by a district judge and was fined £100 and ordered to pay £200 compensation to each of his victims and £620 prosecution costs.
In a written statement, motorist Lucy Lodge said she was driving home along Accommodation Road in Bleadon, near Weston-super-Mare on 7 May, when she saw something moving on the ground.
“He was writhing and crawling as if in a military fashion,” she said. “I could see the person was wearing very tight, dark clothing and had a mask on their face. The mask was dark and very tight and two white crosses where the eyes should be.
“My first thought was it could be a possible abduction and the person was trying to get me out of my car.”
She added: “The whole incident felt so surreal, and I was questioning myself about what I was seeing and making this statement makes me feel anxious.
“I genuinely believed it was an abduction because you read about this in the newspapers. When I got home I was breathing heavily and I was having a borderline panic attack.”
Martin Mills, a passenger in a vehicle driving in the area at the same time as Miss Lodge, saw a man “commando crawling” on the floor.
“I can see they were all in black and shiny and the car lights were reflecting off him,” he said.
Shortly after midnight on 9 May, Hunt returned to the same area and stood in the road while wearing a similar black latex suit, frightening a car carrying two women and a teenager.
Samantha Brown, who had been returning from work with her sister-in-law, said: “When I saw the person I felt sheer horror. When I got home I was shaking and crying. I was scared by this person – anything could have happened and they had their hands behind their back and they could have been holding anything.”
Following reports of the second incident, police went to Bleadon and spotted a white Berlingo van in a field which was reversing and decided to stop it.
PC Declan Coppock spoke to the defendant, who was wearing grey trousers and a black hooded top, and arrested him – with Hunt telling him he was not a gimp. Hunt told him: “I am not dangerous, I am a normal person, I have got a few problems.”
He also added, “I need Mum,” before telling officers during his interview that his mental health had deteriorated rapidly, adding: “I am crying out for help and would like some support for my mental health.”
A search of his address found the short story in his journal, in which he had written: “The face was looking like something out of a horror film – a face that would scare the life out of anyone.”
He had also done internet searches in 2022 and 2023 about the “Somerset Gimp” and the “Gimp of Cleeve”, and had bought women’s tights from an Asda store and ordered UV paint sticks on eBay.
Giving evidence, Hunt, a self-employed gardener, told the court he had been in a “very traumatic state of mind” in May of this year and was speaking with the Samaritans and getting counselling.
Becoming emotional, he said: “I hated myself with the way I looked and the way I am and everything about me.”
He explained he would go out at night and change into black clothing to go “mudding” – off-road driving in mud.
“The clothes I wear and face masks are for mudding only, hence why I had them in the vehicle,” he said
“Time from time, it is a self-loathing thing because I feel so c*** about myself. It’s a release because I feel like s**t – I cover myself in s**t.”
Hunt told the court that on the two nights he had been seen on the side of the road, he had wanted to kill himself by being hit by a car.
“It never entered my head that what I was doing was frightening people,” he said.
“I apologise to those people – I agree what I was doing was frightening but hand on my heart, I never intended to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.”
District Judge Joanna Dickens said she accepted Hunt had already spent a month on remand in prison prior to his trial and that was a bigger punishment than any sentence she could impose.
“I accept that you have already received punishment and spent time in prison and lost your good character in a very public way and no doubt affecting you for the remainder of your life,” she said.