A houseboat owner who is the sworn protector of a swan dubbed ”Mr Asbo” challenged a crew of Cambridge rowers to a cage fight in a row over waterway access, a court heard.
Robin Middleton, 55, known locally as ‘Battleship Bob’, has become embroiled in a long-standing dispute with rowers on the River Cam.
Bob, who sails a catamaran powered by a skull and crossbones sail, claims that rowers are harming swans and wildlife on the river – including the vicious Mr Asbo.
Cambridge Magistrates Court heard that Bob verbally assaulted a group of eight rowers with a tirade of abuse after they attempted to overtake his craft.
He challenged the rowers to a ”cage fight” before he jumped into the river and grabbed their vessel.
Chairman of the bench Ian Kerr told Bob that despite the long-running dispute with other river-users his behaviour was not warranted.
Bob, of Fen Ditton, Cambs., said: ”Whilst we are aware of the friction that exists between yourself and rowers, and we accept the causes are not one-sided, we find your behaviour was not reasonable – it was totally unacceptable.”
He was found guilty of a public order offence on Wednesday and will be sentenced next Thursday.
Bob first fell out with the Cambridge rowers after he became concerned that their oarstrokes were harming wildlife and antagonising a notoriously aggressive swan.
Mr Asbo (pictured above with Mrs Asbo) has terrorised rowers on the Cam in recent years but won a reprieve in July after rowers attempts to have him forcibly removed were turned down.
Battleship was with his son Jay, 25, on June 30 this year when the incident occurred outside the Plough pub in Fen Ditton, Cambs.
The court heard that the argument began when Nick Siragher, a member of the Cantabrigian Rowing Club eight, challenged the position of Bob’s catamaran in the middle of the river.
Giving evidence, Mr Siragher said that the argument happened at a point in the river where boats are meant to cross sides.
He accused Middleton of blocking the path of boats and told the court he felt ”incredibly threatened” by the ”intimidating” episode.
Middleton said he was crossing the river, adding that the rowers should not have tried to overtake because it was on a bend and because sail has right of way on the water.
He claimed that Mr Siragher had abused his son, Jay, and that his actions had therefore been reasonable and lawful.
But magistrates convicted Middleton of using threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment or distress.
Middleton will be sentenced at Cambridge Magistrates Court next Thursday.
Strange animal-related articles