The callous criminals who stole Sonia McColl’s park home have new accommodation: prison. We report on the details of their sentences and Sonia’s reaction…
Two heartless thieves who stole a park home belonging to Park Home Owners’ Justice Campaign founder, Sonia McColl OBE, have been jailed.
Stewart Gregory, 43, of Surrey, and Darren Baseley, 47, of Devon, received 22 month and 20 month terms respectively when sentenced at Exeter Crown Court on 2 July.
The evil pair made off with Sonia’s home at a Devon haulage yard in 2017 while it was undergoing work. Itinerant fairground worker, Gregory, stole Sonia’s park home with the help of Baseley, who worked at the haulage yard.
Gregory, of Aldershot Road, Normandy, stole the home in November 2017 after he was sub-contracted by TS Haulage, based at Willand, near Cullompton. It was being moved from Warwickshire to Sonia’s daughter’s home in near Barnstaple, to act as a granny annexe.
In a lengthy victim impact statement, Sonia outlined exactly how the shocking theft had devastated her life.
‘The impact from the theft of my home has dominated, changed and consumed every part of my existence for the last three years,’ explained Sonia. ‘My life being the only thing that is truly mine. Fear, loss, anger and stress have been my constant day and night companions – but these are only words – you have to experience this to know how it truly feels.
My initial stress was indescribable; a mixture of shock, horror at my situation and a numbness (where my mind almost refused to accept what I was being told.) As a widow, I felt desperately alone, helpless and very vulnerable. I really did not know what I could do to make things better as everything I had worked all my life for was gone and I could not buy another home.
‘For over a year I was homeless, reliant on the goodwill of family, friends, B&Bs and park home residents around our country who offered me a bed. I only had my small car and would often sit in it watching the lights in other people’s houses; knowing my car was the only refuge I owned.
‘When they stole my home, they stripped me of everything except my life. My refuge, my safety, my privacy, my bed (where I could sleep) my cooker (where I could feed myself) my toilet, my ability to wash in private, my relaxation in my chair, my TV entertainment, a place to hang my clothes and a door to close that would help to keep me safe.
‘That is what those thieves have done to me and they have shown no remorse whatsoever. I have done nothing to them but they have profited from what they have done to me. They know where my home is. They know to whom they sold it and who is living in it. They have stolen from me and stolen my family’s inheritance.’
But as her extraordinarily successful campaigning work over the years for the Justice Campaign has proved, Sonia has always been a fighter.
She added: ‘May I thank all those wonderful PHOJC members who have supported me over almost four years. Both you and I know who you are and I will never be able to thank you enough.
‘It has been one hell of a journey. Hopefully my story may go some way in helping any other park home residents who are fighting their own personal battle and perhaps show that even through fear and loss you really can win through. In the words of Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” and “Never, never, never give up.”’
A HOLIDAY FOR SONIA:
Although the ordeal is over, Sonia is left exhausted. The Park Homes Policy Forum, set up by Sonia’s friend and fellow park home residents’ campaigner, Tony Turner, has organised a fund to raise money for a holiday for her. You can donate at https://www.collectionpot.com/pot/292876/