Police warn Benedictine monks to ‘end campaign of intimidation’ against Cotswolds wildlife park

Dressed in a hooded coat, the shaven-headed monk stands stock-still and stares at wildlife park owner Melanie Meigh for more than half an hour.

It is part of a campaign of intimidation, alleges Miss Meigh, by Benedictine monks because they want her off their land.

Now police have warned the monk at Prinknash Abbey in the Cotswolds about the incident which left Miss Meigh, 58, fearing for her safety.

Any repeat of his ‘stalking’ may result in his arrest.

It is a bizarre chapter in the history of an order founded almost 1,500 years ago by St Benedict on the principles of seeking out peace and loving one’s neighbour.

Last night, Miss Meigh said she believes the monks want her to close her wildlife sanctuary, The Bird Park, which is on the abbey’s 300-acre property.

She first fell out with them in 2016 when she opposed their £3.5 million plan to build luxury houses on the wildlife park’s car park. Since then the monks have allegedly refused to carry out vital repairs to the park, tried to stop her opening a tea room, and objected to her hosting a children’s event at Halloween because of the festival’s pagan roots.

By law, Miss Meigh cannot be forced to leave because she has protected tenancy status under the 1977 Rent Act.

During the incident on April 18, she went over to confront the monk who had been staring at the park’s visitor centre.

She says he told her: ‘I’m watching you,’ and insisted he could stay where he was because he was on monastery property. Last night, Miss Meigh told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I felt genuinely threatened by his creepy behaviour. He was stood still, just silently staring at me as I was opening the park.

‘A few women with children were there too and they felt equally unsettled. He didn’t seem to care even when I photographed him or asked him to leave.

‘I’ve had a long-running legal battle with the monks and I know they want me out, hence why they let sewage flood the park and ignore my requests for them, as my landlords, to carry out basic repairs. But now they’re resorting to psychological warfare tactics. It’s almost too much to bear.’

She contacted Gloucestershire Police and showed the photo of the monk to Police Community Support Officer Debbie Collicott and another officer.

Miss Meigh said: ‘They thought the incident warranted them visiting the monastery to speak to the monk. So they set off up there before coming back about half an hour later to report back to me.

‘PCSO Collicott told me she warned him he would be taken into custody if he did it again.

‘I hope a visit by the police makes these monks realise they can’t go around trying to intimidate women with their horrid, passive-aggressive behaviour.’

The park was founded in 1974 by Miss Meigh’s father Philip on land leased from the monastery.

Since taking over the site in 2008, Miss Meigh has invested more than £1 million and boosted visitor numbers to 40,000 a year.

Today the park is known for its stunning aviaries and rare species of birds, such as coscoroba swans.

But the monks have complained to the local council, saying it resembles ‘a theme park incompatible with a working monastery’.

Last night, Father Martin McLaughlin, the Abbot of Prinknash Abbey, said: ‘The police came and talked to a monk but there was nothing in that from our point of view.

‘Anything I say, it’s really difficult at the moment as we have a legal dispute [with Miss Meigh]. We’re in an impossible position.’

The three-year dispute between Miss Meigh and Prinknash Abbey is being heard by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

 

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