Coronavirus: 'I'm scared I'll return to find my home burnt out'

By Johanna Carr
BBC News Online

  • Published
Mimi GullifordImage source, Mimi Gulliford
Image caption,
Support worker Mimi Gulliford said she has put a note in her window explaining she is a key worker

A support worker living in a minibus during the coronavirus lockdown has said she is scared someone will destroy her home after being subjected to abuse from people who think she is a tourist.

Mimi Gulliford, 33, has been living in a car park in Wadebridge, Cornwall, in order to be close to her workplace.

She said people had been abusing her on a daily basis and she felt vulnerable.

She said she was praying restrictions would be lifted "before it really turns and we get angry mobs with pitchforks".

Ms Gulliford, who supports adults with learning disabilities, moved into the minibus after her winter let came to an end last month.

"I put a big note on my window explaining that I am a frontline worker," she said.

"I am here for the duration of the lockdown because I am adhering to government guidelines and not travelling or moving around (and) I am a permanent resident of Cornwall.

"I think it has helped a bit but unfortunately we have been getting quite a lot of abuse," she said.

Image source, Mimi Gulliford
Image caption,
Mimi Gulliford took a photo when four police cars arrived at the car park at once at the weekend

Ms Gulliford said she was finding it difficult to sleep as she could hear people outside, others had taken photos of her bus and people regularly shouted abuse as they passed by.

Police officers had attended the car park on a number of occasions to question her presence and on Saturday she said four turned up at once.

Ms Gulliford said she had been working 70-hour weeks during the pandemic.

"I am at work the whole time wondering if I am going to come back to find my van burnt out," she said.

"We want people to know that not everyone in a motorhome is a tourist."

Image source, Ernie Kellaway
Image caption,
Ernie Kellaway said he gets abused and accused of being on holiday on a daily basis

Ernie Kellaway, 55, has been living in a van for eight years and is also staying in the car park.

Mr Kellaway, who is retired, had been at the coast when the lockdown was announced but decided to go inland so as not to take advantage of the situation.

He said he was concerned police resources were being wasted on daily visits from officers wanting them to explain their presence.

"On Saturday five police cars were here within 20 minutes of each other including a big police van with two people in drove that in and drove out again," he said.

"It was like a crime scene here."

Image source, Mimi Gulliford/Ernie Kellaway
Image caption,
Ms Gulliford and Mr Kellaway have put notices in the windows of their vehicles hoping it will stop some of the abuse

He is also worried about the abuse he has been receiving from members of the public.

"On a daily basis I'll have one person come and throw abuse, accusing me of being here on holiday," he said. "I say 'no I'm not, this is where I live'.

"I am not safe at all.

"I understand where people are coming from because they think we are coming down from up the line and we are on holiday but we're not.

"I am doing as I'm told. I am on lockdown.

"The police told me to ring 999 (if people are being abusive or threatening) but by the time they get here I could be dead."

Local councillor Robin Moorcroft has been supporting the pair and posted on Facebook to inform the community they both had a legitimate reason for being in the car park. He said the response on social media had been positive.

Although both residents said they had been visited multiple times by police, Devon and Cornwall Police said it supported them being there.

Sgt Sue Honeywill, said both residents were adhering to government guidelines and "have the full support of the local policing team".

She said harassment and abuse of others would not be tolerated and added patrols at the car park, which backs on to the Camel Trail, had been stepped up in an effort to police hotspots during the pandemic.

"We hope an increased police presence in the area will offer reassurance to the residents," Sgt Honeywill said.

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