Published: 13:00, 15 September 2014 |
A pub landlord says he feared a chilling TV drama filmed in Faversham was becoming reality as a suicidal tractor driver circled his remote village boozer with a gun.
Derek Coles and wife Ruth locked themselves in the Shipwright's Arms, in Oare, as loner Dan Pilcher paraded the perimeter with his father's air rifle.
The terrifying scenes reminded the couple of those in Channel 4 hit crime drama Southcliffe, which was filmed in the pub and on the surrounding marshes.
It told the story of a gunman who blasted 15 people to death on a killing spree before turning the gun on himself.
Mr Coles, 66, said: "The first thing that came into my mind when I saw him was that someone was trying to recreate Southcliffe.
"I'm not easily frightened, but the fact he seemed so unstable was very unnerving..." - landlord Derek Coles
"All of a sudden we had this guy walking around with a gun. He even looked a bit like the bloke as well.
"I didn't know what he might do. I'm not easily frightened, but the fact he seemed so unstable was very unnerving."
Maidstone magistrates heard Pilcher had downed a bottle of vodka and a cocktail of painkillers, amphetamines and sleeping pills before going to the pub on Sunday, June 29.
The 28-year-old, who lives with his parents in Fostall Road, Faversham, had taken his father's legally-owned air rifle, which he used for rabbit shooting.
He was spotted by 60-year-old Mrs Coles walking around the car park of the 17th century pub at 8am.
Mr Coles said: "He had a gun case - I didn't know whether it was an air rifle, a shotgun, or what. He came to the door and asked if we had any jobs going. I said no and he left.
"He came back not long after and I told him he was on private property and to leave or I would call the police.
"He seemed spaced out, and definitely under the influence of drink or drugs."
Pilcher left, but returned five minutes later - this time with the gun out of the case.
Mr Coles retreated inside the pub and locked all the doors and windows before phoning his neighbours and warning them to stay indoors.
He then called the police and remained on the phone as Pilcher attempted to break in, rattling the doors as he walked around the pub.
Mr Coles said: "It was definitely frightening. I would have tackled him and got the gun, but he wasn't rational and I thought I'm getting a bit too old for this now. I don't think it would have been wise."
Two armed police response teams were sent to the pub, but waited half-an-hour before moving in.
Pilcher was arrested in the car park and the unloaded weapon was recovered, along with two bottles of wine he had stolen from a shed at the back of the pub.
Mr Coles said: "The police knocked on the door and said they'd arrested him. It was a relief.
"It's the first time I've felt threatened in that way. In the process of time it has faded, but it was upsetting and it did make us jumpy."
Pilcher told police he had no recollection of the morning, but believed he had intended to write a suicide note on a piece of paper he was carrying.
He appeared in court after previously admitted trespassing on land with an air weapon, burglary and using threatening behaviour towards Mr Coles.
Probation officer Pam Young - who interviewed Pilcher before he was sentenced - painted a picture of a troubled man living an isolated life, who had blasted himself in the chest seven years before.
"He's a young man of extremely low self-esteem and comes across as a lonely, isolated individual...." - probation officer Pam Young
She said: "He's a young man of extremely low self-esteem and comes across as a lonely, isolated individual.
"When he was 21 and under the influence of alcohol there was another incident involving a weapon.
"He's not sure if it was deliberate or not, but he shot himself in the chest and went to hospital. He doesn't know why on this occasion or previously he wanted to take his own life.
"He had a sheet of paper with him when he went to the pub, he believes with the intention to leave a suicide note.
"I asked him how the landlord and neighbours must have felt seeing a man walking around with a gun and he has demonstrated what appears to be sincere remorse, as well as empathy."
Mrs Young added Pilcher was troubled by issues with cannabis and amphetamines and what was once a bottle-of-vodka-a-night alcohol addiction.
Magistrate Alan Golding told Pilcher: "We think you need a lot of help. You probably don't realise how much help you need.
"But we're going to give you a chance, and you must take that opportunity."
Pilcher was told he would be under the supervision of probation for a year and was ordered to attend drug rehabilitation for six months.
Mr Golding added: "Drugs are causing your problems. We need to get you off them, then the depression will rise, you'll not be depressed and won't get into these problems again."
Pilcher must wear an electronic tag and stay in his house for the next 30 days between 10pm and 6am.
He must also pay £35 costs and £80 compensation to Mr Coles, who was happy with the sentence.
He said: "I am angry it happened, but putting someone like that inside is not going to help him. If he's in prison with drug dealers and villains he'll come out worse than when he went in.
"If it keeps him off the drugs it's a result, as long as he doesn't come round here again."
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