A VETERAN Tory councillor believes he is the victim of an “attempted blackmail plot” after he was secretly filmed discussing planning permission for an unauthorised lorry park in West Thurrock.
Aveley councillor John Cowell said he has contacted Essex Police, Thurrock Council and Leader of the Conservative Group, Garry Hague after being handed the DVD of the recording in “mysterious circumstances”.
The full version of the DVD has been professionally made with introductory graphics, subtitles and music.
The two minute segment apparently sees Cllr Cowell at his place of work, discussing the controversial issue of the unauthorised lorry park in West Thurrock run by Titan Truck Park Limited.
Cllr Cowell took YourThurrock through the chain of events.
He said: “A man dressed in black came to my house and handed me a DVD. He told me to stay away from planning matters.
“Someone later a man rang me from public telephone boxes in Aveley and Romford and repeated the threat.
“It was just before the Annual Council Meeting in May. On that night, I informed Legal (Democratic Services at Thurrock Council) and my leader (Tory Group leader Garry Hague) as well as Essex Police.”
Cllr Cowell explained some of the comments he made on the film. YourThurrock asked him what he meant by “We are attempting to by-pass planning permission.”
He said: “That has been taken out of context. I was on the HGV Committee and we were trying to solve the problem.
“There are members of Conservative, Labour and an Independent on the committee. Ask them as well”.
Cllr Cowell maintains that he did not know the identity of the other men in the office where he was being filmed.
He said: “Everyone knows me in Aveley. People come in to the shop and chat. I don’t know who they are”
Conservative Group leader Cllr Garry Hague has confirmed that the incident was reported to him.
He said: “An incident was reported by Cllr Cowell on the evening of the Council’s AGM. This was immediately reported to the Interim Chief Executive and Head of Legal and a written statement was provided to them for further investigation and for reporting to the appropriate authorities.”
Thurrock Council said: “Thurrock Council will not comment on issues relating to individuals, which are private.”
Essex Police have searched their database but have, at this point, no complaint logged in the name of Councillor Cowell relating to this matter.
A copy of the DVD has been handed to Essex Police.
Warning: There is explicit language on the video.