Published: 06:00, 09 June 2021
| Updated: 14:20, 09 June 2021
An allotment holder was so convinced his broad bean crop had been deliberately poisoned that he sent off soil samples and plants for analysis and reported it to the police.
Carlo Attubato began to suspect foul play when his plants mysteriously started to wither.
He has worked the half-plot at the borough council-owned Sandling Road Allotments in Maidstone for the past 28 years.
The 85-year-old also has an extensive vegetable garden behind his home in Tovil Road, so he feels he knows a thing or two about crops.
Earlier this year, he became concerned about the broad beans at his allotment. They were withering but plants grown from the same seed batch at his home were thriving.
He was worried enough to send soil samples and the affected plants to QTS Analytical, a science laboratory based at Kent Science Park near Sittingbourne.
The firm's analysis found traces of DDT and metolcarb, both historic compounds no longer in use, but also more surprisingly solvent compounds including cyclohexanone, flouranthene and pyrene, all of which would be detrimental to the plants' growth.
Lab manager Steven Mann said the solvents could have been left over from a burning process but could also have been present due to dumping.
Mr Attubato is now convinced someone has deliberately poisoned his crop and has reported the matter to the police as criminal damage.
He said: "I've used nothing myself on the crops that would account for this.
"I've grown everything over the years: potatoes, sweetcorn, parsnips, peas, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, cantaloupes and broad beans. But I've never seen anything like what happened this year."
The Sandling Road Allotments, which are managed by Maidstone Allotments Management Committee, are on what used to be a brick field. The land was also used as a dump for household waste during the Victorian era.
"I believe somebody wants me out of the allotment..."
There are 134 plots – the largest of 11 allotment sites looked after by the committee in Maidstone.
Mr Attubato, who came to this country from Italy in 1964, working first as a chef and later as a self-employed builder, added: "I believe somebody wants me out of the allotment – but it's been very difficult to get the police or the allotment management committee to take this seriously.
"In the meantime, I've spent £72 for the analysis and I'm faced with the prospect of having to dig out all the polluted soil and start over, perhaps only to have the same thing happen again."
Police confirmed they had received a report of criminal damage at the allotment in Sandling Road and a PCSO had visited to gain further details.
However, a spokesman added: "At this stage there are no identified lines of inquiry to progress an investigation any further."
Maidstone Borough Council said: "Our Parks and Open Spaces team has been made aware of this allegation, although we have not yet seen any results from soil testing.
"We are willing to help investigate this and may need to take further samples following our own scientific procedures. More information will become apparent when the results of these tests are assessed.”
Anyone with information should call police on 01622 604100, quoting reference 46/71740/21.