- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

LONDON — A British businessman fed up with being targeted by vandals has installed a 30-foot Roman-style catapult on the premises to hurl bucket loads of chicken manure at culprits attacking his rural offices.

Former stuntman Joe Weston-Webb thinks the vandals are in cahoots with competitors of his company, aptly named Grumpy Joe’s Flooring Sales, in the River Soar valley of Nottinghamshire, England.

The defense arrangements, which include priming the catapult with chicken droppings from a nearby farm, include 32 closed-circuit TV cameras, security fencing and motion-sensor lights — all guarded by a no-nonsense sign that reads:

“WARNING: These premises are protected by smart poo …”

His company, at Kegworth, in Nottinghamshire, has been hit by a string of raids by hoodlums.

But Mr. Weston-Webb’s fury really exploded when arsonists struck at his company buildings, causing $4,000 worth of damage, and slashed car tires and smashed windows with paving slabs at his daughter’s home nearby.

The 70-year-old entrepreneur says he thinks jealous business rivals may be responsible. The attacks, he says, started earlier this year, after Grumpy Joe’s won a lucrative contract to supply a British TV show, “Strictly Come Dancing,” with portable flooring.

“It’s too much of a coincidence,” Mr. Weston-Webb told reporters recently. “We are pretty certain it was a rival company, but I can’t prove it.”

He thinks the police are little, if any, help. “There’s no way anyone will get caught” by the authorities, he said. “So I thought I would set up my own defense.”

He then rolled out the catapult, a remnant of his days as a traveling showman, which he used to shoot his wife, Mary, across a small stretch of the River Avon and into a net.

Mary Weston-Webb defended her husband’s decision to lace the place with his rather odd booby traps.

“We just feel so helpless,” she told the Times newspaper in London. “We feel very vulnerable.”

The local police authorities in Nottinghamshire — the legendary home of Robin Hood, where the flooring company is located — are less than amused.

They have warned Mr. Weston-Webb that “a crime-prevention officer will be making contact” with him, “to offer some practical security advice” — as well as a few well-chosen words on just what constitutes “reasonable force” in deterring would-be criminals.

“The reasonable force must be proportionate to the threat,” said police Inspector Jeff Haywood.”The setting up of booby traps is outside the scope of the law and is something Nottinghamshire Police would advise against.”

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