A local police source has confirmed this evening that a major investigation is underway after a number of Southend motorists have had their cars smashed up by vigilantes who have accused them of mis-using Parent and Toddler spaces at local supermarkets. Within the last seven days, 14 different car owners have reported serious damage to their vehicles after parking in these spaces, and every incident has been accompanied by an abusive windscreen note explaining how they can avoid being targeted in the future. Police estimate that the combined repair bill so far is more than £90,000.

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John and Patricia Leggett spoke to a Southend News Network reporter earlier today after their 2014 Ford Focus was targeted at Tesco Extra in Southend. They were visiting with their 3-year-old grandaughter at the time, and after parking in one of the Parent and Toddler spaces they removed the child seat from the vehicle as it fits into a travel system. John said: ‘We returned to our car and both wing mirrors were hanging off, the paintwork had too many scratches to count, and every window had been smashed. According to the aggressive note flapping around under one of the wipers, this was ‘revenge’ for daring to take up a Parent and Toddler space without a child, but they only made this accusation as we had taken the child seat out to go shopping!’

The same attack happened to Mary Bouster from Chalkwell after she committed the ‘heinous’ act of using one of the dedicated spaces at Sainsbury’s Rayleigh Weir without a child. She said: ‘I hold my hands up here – I used one of these spaces when I should have parked in a normal one. However, when I got out of the vehicle, I noticed that a couple of hooded individuals were watching me from one of the trolley shelters. I did a pretty big shop, and when I returned an hour later my brand new car had been burnt out and all I had left was a smouldering wreck. The horrible note was just left on the floor.’

A spokesperson for the local Association for Parking Enforcement has said that all supermarkets in South Essex have suspended Parent and Toddler parking with immediate effect, and the ban will stay in place until the people that are responsible are caught. A police official added: ‘We have very little intelligence to go on so far, but we have received an email from a concealed source. We cannot give out many details about the message, but they have said that they intend to move on to ‘dirty bonnet protests’ if this ‘inhuman parking concession abuse’ continues in the area. We also know that they refer to themselves as the Guardians of Parking Virtue (Essex Branch).’