Abuse driven by Bath road rage video on YouTube
A Bath businesswoman has been bombarded by abusive phone calls after a road rage confrontation was seen by tens of thousands of people on YouTube.
Police are now investigating threats made to knitwear shop owner Sarah Duncan after the seven-minute video clip of the contratemps on George Street became a YouTube phenomenon.
By the time the original footage had been taken down by the video-sharing website on Sunday night, it had been seen by 37,000 people.
The scenes of Mrs Duncan remonstrating with a man who filmed her on a mobile phone as she tried to get into Milsom Street on the day of the city’s Christmas lights switch-on ceremony provoked hundreds of comments on YouTube, Reddit and Facebook, the vast majority critical of her.
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Some posted the name of her shop, along with her email address and phone number, and encouraged others to boycott the store and send her abusive messages.
Mrs Duncan, who moved to Bath ten years ago with her husband Roy, is seen trying to drive into Milsom Street, which was shut all day in preparation for the event featuring John Cleese.
She holds up westbound traffic in George Street for well over a minute before giving up.
But she then gets out of her Audi car and begins yelling at the man who had been filming her.
Mrs Duncan tells him that filming people without their permission is illegal and then proceeds to follow him, at various times joined by her husband.
She says: “Give me that phone. It’s illegal, give me that phone.”
She adds: “I’m trying to get to my shop to deliver goods.”
But the cameraman refuses to hand her his phone and continues walking away from the businesswoman.
In response to her questioning he says: “I just think that it’s ridiculous that you should be blocking the road.
“The traffic down here is bad enough anyway.”
He continues: “I just think it’s an interesting example of where the traffic closures in Bath are causing problems.”
He later adds: “This will be great on You Tube. I just think it will be awesome.”
Both Mrs Duncan and the man threaten to call the police at various points in the exchange, with the businesswoman saying she would tell officers the man assaulted her.
The clip – titled Road Rage in Bath – took off on YouTube on Friday night, despite being uploaded on the day it was filmed in November.
On Sunday night, the video was taken down, with the message ‘This video is private’ now appearing, although it was later reposted by other people and has also been embedded in some national newspaper website coverage.
Mrs Duncan made an official statement to police earlier this week. She says officers have advised her to make no comment about the issue but that she is grateful for the support of her customers.
She has taken down all but the front page of her shop’s website so that it no longer shows her email address.
Inspector Steve Mildren of Bath police said: "We are looking at the mobile phone footage to see if any police action is appropriate.
"But whatever happened between the woman and the man who filmed her, it is unacceptable that unknown people should then start sending her abusive and threatening messages and phone calls.
"We take this seriously and are investigating robustly these criminal offences."
The man who posted the video, who has not been identified, said taking it down was the right decision.
In a comment on Facebook, he said: “In my opinion, some of the comments on YouTube were inappropriate and offensive. My intention was to highlight traffic problems and how people deal with them. Businesses in Bath are having a hard time anyway and this doesn’t help the reputation of our lovely city. It was the right decision to take it down.”
The high profile of the case has forced Bath novelist Sarah Duncan to tell her readers that she is not the woman involved.
On her blog, she says: “Just to clarify – the video of road rage currently going viral all over the net has nothing to do with me. It’s a coincidence that the shop and I share a name, and we’re both in Bath. I don’t drive an Audi, have short dark curly hair and never wear green. And I hope I’m not so daft.”
See this week's Bath Chronicle for full coverage of the issues raised by the video.
Deputy editor Paul Wiltshire discusses the dilemma facing the paper, plus there’s the reaction of Bathonians and what the experts have to say