Man dying of terminal illness cleared of all wrong-doing for mooning speed camera in England

Devastated when he was diagnosed with a rare terminal illness, Englishman Darrell Meekcom set about drawing up his “bucket list”.

The retired lecturer and former A&E nurse vowed to create precious memories for his young family before, he says, “I become a prisoner in my own body”.

Topping the list were a trip to Disney World with wife Sarah, 37, and daughters Phoebe, 11, and Molly, nine, tickets to see pop star Adele in Las Vegas and a Mediterranean cruise.

Next came a “big-game” fishing trip, a vintage car road trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and circuits around Brands Hatch in a racing Jaguar.

Lastly, he joked, he’d like to “moon” at a speed camera — payback for the few occasions he’d been caught out in his more humble Ford Focus.

“I never dreamt, in a million years, that I’d ever actually do it,” says Darrell, 55, whose neurodegenerative disorder means he has a life expectancy of between six and nine years.

Just three weeks after his diagnosis of multiple system atrophy (MSA), however, a seemingly irresistible opportunity presented itself.

Driving home one Friday lunchtime, he pulled into the Tesco Express on Stourbridge Road in Worcestershire so that his wife could pick up a loaf of bread.

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While Sarah popped into the shop, Darrell spied a mobile speed camera van parked up nearby and, well, “You only live once, don’t you?”.

“It was spur-of-the-moment,” he says of that day last November.

“It was quiet, there was no one around, so I walked over towards the back of the van, quickly pulled down my jeans to show a bit of builder’s bum at the camera in the rear window.

“I had no idea if there was anyone in the van. I couldn’t see anyone. It was just a laugh; the kind of silly prank you might do as a schoolkid on a coach.”

Cheered on by a bunch of real-life builders who exited Tesco in time to see the full moon, Darrell returned to his car feeling “very smug” at having ticked off a bucket list item to a round of applause.

Sarah, a former nurse, but now her husband’s carer, recalls: “I never imagined it would be the start of a nine-month nightmare”.

But nightmare it was: three police cars descended on their Kidderminster home barely 20 minutes later. Wrestled to the ground and handcuffed in his own back garden, Darrell and his wife say they were — given his health — left fearful for his life.

His arrest on suspicion of indecent exposure and dangerous driving, which a distressed Sarah captured on her phone camera, made headlines.

Lying on his front, hands cuffed behind his back, Darrell can be heard calmly telling officers: “This is ridiculous. I mooned at a speed camera … I’m terminally ill, I’ve got a very short time to live”.

Months of stress followed, but the nightmare finally ended last Tuesday when magistrates cleared Mr Meekcom of the only charge brought to trial — obstructing a police constable in the execution of their duty.

Two further charges of using threatening behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress were dropped. West Mercia Police have launched a review into the incident.

This is the couple’s first interview since the verdict and it’s hard to disagree with their assessment that the case “beggars belief”. Darrell compares the police’s actions that day to “taking a mallet to smash an acorn”.

It’s a huge relief to be cleared, but I just feel lucky to be alive, he says.

“Another two or three minutes face-down in handcuffs and I’m convinced I could have ended up dead in my back garden.”

His defence lawyer, John Rogers, adds: “It seems to me that no one really looked at this sensibly. In my view, it could have been dealt with outside the court.

“Mr Meekcom readily admitted that he had mooned at a police speed camera. They could have, in the circumstances, just given him a warning and said: ‘You’ve been a naughty boy; don’t do it again.’”

Darrell is the first to agree that “mooning” at a speed camera is a puerile, ill-advised thing to do. But he explains that it was his recent diagnosis of a terminal illness which made him throw caution to the wind that day.

MSA — which also afflicted the late Wales and British Lions forward Gareth Williams — causes gradual damage to nerve cells in the brain, affecting balance, movement and basic functions such as breathing, digestion, bladder control and blood pressure.

“The diagnosis was shattering,” says Darrell, who had to give up nursing and his lecturing job at the City of Birmingham university in 2017 through ill health.

“At 50, I was a fit man still playing rugby once a week. Within two years, I was so stiff I could barely get out of my chair. When you’re dying, you think differently. When I saw the speed camera van I just thought ‘Stuff it’.”

At first, Darrell thought the officer he spotted in his rear view mirror — taking down his car details — was a traffic warden.

“I said: ‘What are you doing? I’m not parked illegally.’ And then the penny dropped.”

What sounds like an almost farcical stand-off ensued, with — Darrell claims — the officer standing in front of his car to prevent him driving off, while Mr Meekcom manoeuvred around him.

When Sarah came out of the shop, the officer had already stepped aside. He would later say that he’d felt harassed and threatened by Mr Meekcom’s behaviour and offended by his bare buttocks.

“We drove off and I thought that would be the end of it,” says Darrell.

“But before we could even make of a cup of tea there was a knock at the door.”

The officer told Mr Meekcom he wanted to speak to him about an allegation of indecent exposure and dangerous driving, but Darrell refused. Instead, he put on the Monty Python song Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, opened the window and started singing.

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