Remembrance: Soldier mannequin with wooden rifle outside Four Ashes pub in Takeley triggers alert to Essex Police
Police were called to Takeley after reports of "a man with a gun" outside the village pub – and found a mannequin dressed as a soldier and armed with a wooden rifle as a Remembrance Sunday tribute.
The dummy – called Tommy, slang for a common soldier in the British Army – had been outside the Four Ashes for almost a fortnight as an homage to fallen soldiers and to help highlight the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal.
It was created by ex-soldier and pub regular Steve Warren, who dressed it in his old uniform and seated it at a bench outside the Dunmow Road drinking place.
Tommy is sitting over a letter in which 'he' is telling 'his wife' his story. He holds a mug of tea in one hand while resting the other on a 'rifle' – which Steve carved from a few pieces of wood, painted and wrapped in camouflage cloth.
But police removed the wooden weapon after receiving "several complaints".
Publican Tricia Cotter said: "How anyone would ever think there's something wrong with a bit of wood on a bench, I don't know.
"The bizarre thing is unless you walk up to Tommy, you wouldn't notice the gun."
Tricia said that while Steve was creating his Remembrance mannequin, she had suggested it might be easier for him to attach a toy gun – but Steve was determined to build it from scratch.
Tricia, the Four Ashes publican for 29 years, first became aware of complaints about Tommy last Thursday (Nov 5). Her pub is closed because of the Covid lockdown, but she was on site waiting for a plumber. She saw two police officers inspecting Tommy and spoke to them.
"They said they'd had reports of a man with a gun and we laughed about it," she said.
The officers were complimentary of Tommy and Tricia thought that was the end of the matter. But the next day, when she arrived at the pub to meet the plumber again, she found that the rifle, which had been nailed to the table, had been wrenched away.
A note, from Essex Police, stated: "We have had to remove the gun from your mannequin after receiving several complaints about a man with a gun. This has been taken to the police station."
Tricia and her customers were disappointed that their commemoration had been spoilt, especially as Steve had put so much work into assembling it.
On Remembrance Sunday morning (Nov 11) Tricia stood outside her pub with a Poppy Appeal collection box and invited passers-by to have their photos taken with Tommy in exchange for a donation.
Essex Police's comment
"We were contacted on Thursday by a member of the public reporting they had seen a man with a gun outside the Four Ashes pub in Brewers End, Takeley.
"On attending, officers found it was a mannequin with a wooden rifle and the landlord explained it was intended as a tribute for Remembrance Sunday.
"We received further calls from concerned members of the public the following day and tried to speak to the landlord, but the pub was closed.
"We were mindful the display was intended to mark Remembrance Sunday, but unfortunately it was causing unintended alarm to passing members of the public as it looked realistic from a distance.
"With that in mind, we removed the wooden rifle and left a note for the landlord to explain this."