A naked hooded man shackled to a tree was the sight that greeted Kent Messenger reporter Rob Bailey when he set out to investigate the practice of “dogging”.
He was with police patrolling a local beauty spot which had a reputation as a meeting place for people wishing to have open-air sex.
A subsequent page-one comment piece in the Messenger headed “This depravity must stop” has resulted in Kent County Council promising to carry out landscaping work to tackle the problem.
Bailey told Press Gazette: “The area had been a popular spot for this sort of thing for a long time and it has made it a bit of a no-go area for locals who want to walk their dogs or let their children play there.”
Bailey and photographer John Wardley went along to the area at 1pm with a pair of police officers.
“The police told us that the problem wasn’t that bad and we shouldn’t expect to see anything – but from what I’d heard I thought it was worse than that.
“When we went into the lay-by a number of cars instantly pulled away and left.
“We then went up into the woods and saw a couple of guys walking around.
“We were walking up to the top of this hill when we saw someone off to our right – this guy was stark naked next to a tree.”
Upon closer investigation they realised the man was wearing a leather hood, had shackles on his feet and was handcuffed to a branch.
A sign hanging around his neck said: “This equipment has been left for your use and pleasure. If you f*** it, please use a condom which will be found in its socks.”
Bailey said: “It was 100 per cent lucky, just to stumble across something like that when you’ve got a photographer with you.”
The story and pictures appeared on the front page of all five editions of the Kent Messenger. The story prompted an immediate promise of action from Kent County Council.
Strategic planning cabinet member Richard King said he was shocked when he read the story and has ordered the removal of the trees screening the lay-by and for fences to go up to keep people out.
This led to a follow-up front page for the paper.
By Dominic Ponsford