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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Police drop inquiry into man who tidied up Cumbrian cycle path

People power has triumphed as a police probe against a pensioner who removed metal railings while tidying up an overgrown cycle track has been dropped.

Jim Higgins photo
Jim Higgins

Grandfather Jim Higgins says that since he was arrested two months ago he has shed weight, finds it impossible to sleep and was an emotional wreck.

A petition calling for the police investigation to be brought to an end gathered 640 signatures with more people vowing to fight Mr Higgins’ corner.

However as details emerged of the extent of opposition to the police operation, a force spokesman confirmed to the News & Star that the case had been dropped as there was “insufficient evidence” and no further action would be taken against Mr Higgins.

The 66-year-old began to clean up a stretch of Moor Row cycle path in Whitehaven, near to his home, in April.

He cut down overgrown vegetation, built a wooden bench and ripped out a metal fence as a hidden spike impaled his dog through its head.

But the charity Sustrans, which owns the path, reported the 130m of Victorian railings as missing to police, and Mr Higgins was later arrested.

He vowed to carry on his clean-up operation, even signing up as a Sustrans volunteer and creating a fairy village on the path, which has been visited by hundreds of children in the space of a fortnight.

But the tired pensioner has now admitted defeat and decided to take a step back from the work he has been carrying out, as he has became concerned about his health.

Mr Higgins told how of the toll of the police investigation.

“It turned me into a wreck,” said the retired police officer.

“I’m not sleeping, my wife has been crying as she’s so upset by it all and wants me to stop what I’m doing with the fairy village, so I’m taking a back seat. I just give up.”

His weight has plummeted from 20 stone down to 16 due to the constant stress and he is constantly plagued with nightmares, he said.

Eleanor Roaf, regional director for Sustrans in the north west, said the railings were regularly inspected by volunteers and that given its age, the fence was in a “good condition”.

She also added the charity had not received any reports of any injury to animals or dogs.

“We reported the removal of the Victorian railings to the police. Metal theft is a serious problem for us and many other organisations maintaining buildings and infrastructure.”

Sustrans has stressed that it has no plans to close down fairy village.

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