A BITTER feud over a family business caused a Ringwood man to crash his 11-tonne tipper truck into his son’s home, endangering the lives of his two young grandchildren as they slept inside, a court heard.
A furious Malcolm Wyatt executed a “revenge attack” against son Ashley and almost caused the house to collapse, Southampton Crown Court was told.
The pair had a “falling out”, prosecutor Tim Lawson said, over Wyatt Aggregates Ltd. Both directors of the business, they each were in the process of instigating civil proceedings against the other.
Matters “came to a head” on 11th July, the prosecutor continued, when Ashley Wyatt removed a number of items from the Crow Lane base of the business.
Malcolm contacted police and urged them to investigate but the force, wary of the prospect of civil proceedings, declined to do so.
As a result the situation “deteriorated” Mr Lawson said, with Malcolm turning up at his son’s Ringwood home just after 8pm on 14th July while at the wheel of the 11-tonne truck.
Malcolm (57) was sitting in the cab with the engine running. He had phoned police – his mobile was on loud speaker so it could be heard – Mr Lawson explained, adding: “He said he would drive into the house if nothing is done.”
Ashley’s wife Louise was standing near the cab when he realised his father was going to carry out his threat, so had to shout to her to get out of the way.
“The defendant then reversed at speed, hitting the main entrance of the house,” Mr Lawson added. “The defendant moved the lorry five to 10 metres forward and then reversed again, driving at the house for the second time. He caused part of the front to cave in around the door.”
Mr Lawson said two of Ashley and Louise’s children, aged five and eight, were asleep in a downstairs room of the property. Had the house collapsed, it “could have killed” the youngsters.
At one point the eight-year-old got out of bed because of the commotion and approached the door. He could have been hit had Malcolm reversed a third time, Mr Lawson said, but fortunately the defendant drove off.
During the incident Louise could hear Malcolm making threats to kill Ashley, the prosecutor added, calling the incident a “revenge attack”.
In victim statements Louise said she felt “shock and horror” while Ashley was “completely gutted” his relationship with his father had declined to such an extent.
Police arrested Malcolm the day after the incident. After being released, he went home and his partner heard him make more threats against Ashley, so she called officers, who rearrested him.
In interview with police Malcolm said: “I cannot deal with him any more – the only way is to kill the ****”.
He also said he went to his doctor and asked to be referred to a mental health team but the GP refused.
Mr Lawson outlined the damage to the house cost £16,775 to fix and Ashley claimed he had suffered more than £9,000 in lost earnings.
The court heard Malcolm had no previous criminal record. He appeared having pleaded guilty to making threats to kill and criminal damage at an earlier hearing.
Defending Malcolm, Jo Chester said he had successfully worked in the aggregate industry for more than 18 years and had a good reputation.
She claimed Ashley initially worked on oil rigs but found that incompatible with family life and his father had opted to bring him into his business. As part of that move Malcolm retained a 50% share and gave Ashley and Louise a 25% stake each, meaning not one person had overall control.
The relationship subsequently “deteriorated” and “regrettably” Malcolm had not sought legal advice to redress the controlling stake, Ms Chester said.
Malcolm claimed his son tried to run the business – which they had not agreed to – did “not do any work” or felt it was “beneath him”, and sacked his sister, Ms Chester stated in court.
The defendant, who lives at The Mount, Poulner, found it “difficult to retain perspective” amid the feud, she said, and Malcolm claimed machinery that she said was worth £100,000 had been taken from the firm’s base by Ashley.
Ms Chester said her client believed he had “tried to go about things in the right way” as he had reported the incident to police and gone to his GP. But he had been frustrated by their responses.
The family was “eternally divided”, Ms Chester continued, since Malcolm wanted no more contact with his son and will no longer be allowed to see his grandchildren.
“He will have to try and salvage what he can of a very good reputation and hard earned working life that has now been completely destroyed,” Ms Chester remarked.
Sentencing, Judge Gary Burrell told Malcolm: “You cannot take the law into your own hands.”
He continued: “It’s just dreadful what you did. It was gratuitous and undeserved. Whatever you felt the grievance was it did not merit those actions in any shape or form.
“Putting it simply, you could easily have killed someone. Quite easily. As it was, you caused significant damage. And you may have ruined your relationship, not just with your son, but your own grandchildren in due course.”
Noting the defendant’s previous good character, his mental health at the time as well as Malcolm’s time in custody, Judge Burrell suspended the 16-month jail term he imposed for two years.
He ordered Malcolm to do 150 hours of unpaid work and gave him a three-year restraining order that bans him from contacting his son and daughter-in-law or going to their address.
Judge Burrell told Malcolm to pay £16,775 compensation to Ashley for the damage caused and warned him not to reoffend.
“There will be no more, I can assure you of that,” Malcolm told him.