A farmer lashed out at a cyclist by throwing with a farmyard tool at his bike during a heated outburst of road rage, in which he berated his victim for failing to use a cycle lane.
Robert Fell, 66, crossed irked Andrew Smith when he was forced to overtake his £2,950 Specialised Tarmac Road Bike – whilst the costly cycleway running parallel to the road stood empty.
Mr Smith, in his 30s told the farmer: "You're too close", prompting Fell, who was just yards from home, to wind down the window of his VW Transporter van and retort: 'Well get on the cycle path then!'
Mr Smith, with an axe to grind, followed Fell back to his nearby farm in the tiny hamlet of Millington on the outskirts of Knutsford, Cheshire.
Shortly after Fell got out of his vehicle, Mr Smith walked past a 'Private Property Keep Out' sign on a private road and confronted the elderly farmer in his yard, saying: "Why are you speaking to me like that?"
Farmer Robert Fell who threw a farmyard billhook at a cyclist during a road rage row
Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd)
Fell fired back: "Get off my lane!" before grabbing the billhook – which is used to trim tree saplings – and hurling it toward Mr Smith.
The tool struck Mr Smith’s bike, damaging the carbon framed L6 Sport Disc Road Bike. He was arrested shortly afterwards at the rural premises.
At Stockport magistrates court, Fell pleaded guilty to causing harassment alarm and distress, after his not guilty pleas to assault and criminal damage were accepted.
While Mr Smith, who was not in court, claimed £2,195 worth of damage was caused to his expensive bike, JPs refused to order Fell to pay any compensation as the victim had been on private property at the time of the attack.
The incident, which took place around 3pm on April 8 of this year, came after Fell had experienced various "difficulties" with cyclists failing to use the cycle lane built in 2017 next to his property as part of the £200m A556 Northwich by-pass scheme.
The three-year highways project involved a new dual carriageway being built from Altrincham to Chester, whilst parts of the old main Chester Road going through the millionaire's village of Mere was narrowed to accommodate cyclists riding along the so-called "Tatton Trail."
Defence lawyer Lesley Herman said: "Mr Fell lives near a new motorway junction and a cycle path has been put in place, at some expense to the government.
Farmer Robert Fell berated the victim for failing to use a dedicated bicycle lane near his home
Copyright Cavendish Press/Ricky)
“It is very close to his property and he has a lot of difficulty with cyclists who do not choose to use this cycle path.
"The complainant was the one who said 'you are too close' and the defendant then responded by saying "Well get on the cycle path then". He then went home and did not think there was going to be any problem.
"But Mr Smith went along a private road for some distance to get to his house. There is a sign that says 'private property keep out' and Mr Fell was surprised to find someone on his property.
"He had a serious accident at work and is a man who has to walk on crutches – and there was a young man on his property. He accepts that he misread the situation and the cyclist said 'why are you speaking to me like that?'
"It is a working farm and he has equipment which he is using. A billhook was in his right hand and he was concerned so he threw it in the direction of the cyclist but at the floor and it caused a scratch on the bike.
"If he had intended to throw it at Mr Smith himself, it would have caused him some damage. He just wanted to frighten him and for Mr Smith to leave. It is a very unfortunate incident and he knows he cannot behave in that way and that he has to see it the other way the person would have seen it. He accepts Mr Smith would have been concerned for his safety."
Earlier Nick Smart, prosecuting, also determined that if the billhook had been thrown “with any great venom” it would have caused more damage.
“The prosecution accept the damage would not have been £2500 or anywhere near that in my view,” he said.
"Whilst I think it is right there is a guilty plea, there is a fair degree of latitude. Mr Smith may have trespasses in his land but he should not have had a weapon in his hand. The defendant is essentially a man of good character. He has had difficulties with the police, but they were over 20 years ago."
Fell has been conditionally discharged for 12 months and ordered to pay £107 in costs and surcharges.
JP Ravji Patel said: "The victim has been onto private property where it says 'do not enter' and it made the defendant vulnerable. Therefore, there is to be no order for compensation."
At home, Fell declined to comment.
His wife Linda said: "We just want to put this behind us and move forward with our lives."