A farmer has found himself at the centre of a race row after police ordered him to tear down signs next to his fishing lake which states: “No Eastern Europeans.”
Eddie Whitehead, 75, erected three 4ft-high green signs after £10,000-worth of carp was stolen from his fishery.
Officers were called in after shocked dog-walkers spotted the signs at Dog Lane Fishery in Napton-on-Hill, Warks., and reported him for being “racist”.
Mr Whitehead operates a strict ‘catch and release’ policy but over the last 12 months has had to re-stock the fishery three times after a spate of thefts.
Police ordered him to remove the signs which he had placed around the water’s edge – saying they were “offensive”.
Yesterday Mr Whitehead accused the police of punishing him for protecting his livelihood while turning a blind eye to crimes committed by immigrants.
Mr Whitehead, who has seven grandchildren and one great-grandson, fumed: “I have to do this to stop the fish being stolen.
“I’m not racist, I see the Eastern Europeans down at the lake all the time and we chat and have a laugh, but I can’t have them stealing all the fish.
“Most fishermen come down here in the day, but they come down at night with cheap rods when the fish are easiest to catch.
“They’re depleting the stocks it’s as simple as that.
“I haven’t got time to sit and watch them to see if they are taking fish. I’m concerned for my own safety too.
“That’s the reason I don’t want them. I may be breaking the law, but it’s my livelihood. I’ve just restocked the lake with #9,600 of carp.
“They are breaking the law in England because they are pinching the fish.
“I am sure they are Eastern Europeans. I’ve had no problems with people from other countries. Every fishery has the same problem.
“Most anglers come here in the morning with all the kit but these immigrants turn up late afternoon with little folding rods and loads of plastic bags which they use to take the fish away.
“They wait until all the other fishermen leave and then shred my lake of fish.
“No one should keep these fish because we operate a catch and release policy.
“I put the signs up because I know, for certain, that the Eastern Europeans are responsible.
“Two officers turned up and ordered me to take the signs down and when I asked them what would happen if I didn’t comply, they said I’d be charged with a race crime.
“I was staggered, I’ve never been racist in my entire life but I have to remove the signs because I don’t want a criminal record.”
The signs were up for about five months before Warwickshire Police ordered them to be pulled them down last Friday (5/4).
A force spokeswoman said: “Where there is a belief that there is an intent to harass, alarm of distress people this could be considered a racially motivated crime.
“We have a duty to investigate to these complaints and advised the signs were removed on the grounds they were offensive.”
One walker, who reported the sign to the police but did not wish to named, said: “It’s bizarre, backward and racist.
“It’s the sort of thing you’re shocked to see in this day and age.
“They’ve obviously had problems with people taking fish, judging by the other signs they’ve put up.
“But you don’t expect to see this ignorant, racist kind of thing.
“I can’t understand how they think this is acceptable.
“My ten-year-old was astonished and shocked to see it.”