Edward Delaney, who lives in the van on rural land with his family, was shocked to read the “horrible” and “disturbing” comments – and claims it isn’t the first time his young family has faced death threats. Edward, 31, owns the plot of land in Rowledge, Surrey, and has submitted a planning application to turn it into two traveller pitches.
More than 50 objection letters to the application have been submitted to the local council and the dad says he has read some “upsetting” comments on the authority’s online planning portal.
Speaking to Surrey Live, Edward said: “I thought it was a nice neighbourhood here for my kids, but they were in tears when they saw it. They were distraught, it was heartbreaking.
“It was just horrible to read. We never thought we’d receive death threats in this day and age, in 2021.
“It’s really shocking to see what people are capable of.”
Police are investigating the graffiti, which was first spotted daubed on the van on Wednesday October 27. The vehicle now needs to be repainted.
Neighbours have offered the family support, giving them flowers and sweets.
But Edward, who moved to the area in August, is concerned about some of the responses to his planning application.
Edward said: “I am a hardworking person, with three kids and one on the way. I have never been involved in any crime, or had any problems with anyone. It’s really disturbing.”
One Farnham resident wrote: “I am fearful for the many elderly residents of this area.”
A Rowledge resident said she is “wary due to the reputation of such a community in the area”, adding the generalisation: “Their honesty can be questionable.”
Another objection letter claimed some locals felt threatened by the Travellers moving in.
However, a woman who wrote in support of the application said she feels the objections are “nothing but racist” and that the council “should not be swayed by others’ malintent”.
Surrey Gypsy Traveller Communities Forum (SGTCF) said it had not been aware of the vandalism, but it hopes the “deeply offensive” words are removed from the van as soon as possible.
The forum was founded in 1996 to create opportunities for public agencies, charities, interested individuals and groups to talk to traveller communities.
A SGTCF spokesperson said: “It is always upsetting to see racist comments, which, apart from being deeply offensive, are against the law.
“[The racial slur] is a word that should never be used; it is as bad as the N word to a Black person. How frightened and threatened the owner of this van must have been when they found death threats sprayed on their vehicle.
“Whatever the circumstances behind this vandalism, we hope the words will be removed as soon as possible.”
Surrey Police said it was called to reports of racist language graffitied on a vehicle at an address in Farnham on the morning of Wednesday, October 27.
The force is now appealing for witnesses to the “distressing incident of racist abuse”.
Inspector Sam Adcock, Borough Commander for Waverley, said: “We take all reports of hate crime extremely seriously and we will seek to bring offenders to justice in each case.
“This was a particularly distressing incident of racist abuse which will not be tolerated.
“If you or someone you know is a victim of a hate crime, please do not suffer in silence, report it to us or via third-party True Vision.”
Officers are investigating the incident and would like to urge anyone with any information to come forward, quoting reference number PR/45210113466.
For more information on how to report hate crime and details of the support available for victims, please visit Surrey Police’s website here.