A boss who suspected a worker of theft decided to make an example of him - and throw political correctness out of the window at the same time.
Simon Cremer and three of his employees allegedly wrestled Mark Gilbert to the ground, tied his hands behind his back and bundled him into a van.
They then drove him to the town centre where he was made to wear a sign naming him as a thief. He was paraded in front of startled shoppers before being frogmarched 350 yards to the police station, where he was arrested on suspicion of theft.
Some might approve of the medieval approach to justice, which is reminiscent of the days when suspects were named and shamed by being sent to the village stocks or tarred and feathered.
But the stunt backfired on the accusers after they were arrested on a range of charges, including false imprisonment.
The extraordinary scene unfolded on Friday last week when 39-year-old Mr Gilbert was dragged out of the van in a busy shopping street in Witham, Essex.
He was then escorted by Mr Cremer and another man around the corner to the police station. Slung around his neck on a piece of cardboard was the message: 'THIEF. I stole £845. Am on my way to police station.'
Mr Cremer, 41, who runs In House Flooring of Witham, said that Mr Gilbert had been at the company for six months and earned around £1,000 a week.
He has been accused of taking a business cheque and making it out to himself. Mr Cremer was contacted by the Cash Converters company after the cheque apparently bounced.
Mr Cremer said he had no regrets about the way he treated his employee, despite having to spend a night in a police cell and being given three months' notice to move by the owner of the warehouse where his business rents space.
'I was very angry,' he added. 'When we got to the police station I handed him and the keys over. I thought I was making a citizen's arrest. I regret what I did but I know in hindsight it wasn't the wisest decision. I should have called the police and asked them to come and get him.'
Essex Police confirmed that five men were on bail in connection with the incident.
A spokesman said: 'A 39-year-old man from Colchester has been arrested on suspicion of theft.
'A 44-year-old man from Halstead and a 22- year-old man from Witham were arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment, assault and theft.
On Saturday, a 41-year-old from Maldon and a 42-year-old from Colchester were also arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment.
'They have all been released on police bail until November 27.'
The spokesman added: ' It's important to remember that people are innocent until proven guilty.'
There was no answer yesterday at the flat Mr Gilbert shares with his girlfriend at a newly-built development near Colchester town centre.
Mr Cremer, who opened In House Flooring eight years ago and has six employees, said he was still waiting for police to return his van, which was seized after his arrest and contains his tools.
Another case of public humiliation happened in August last year when a man was tarred and feathered and made to wear a sign saying 'I'm a drug dealing scumbag' on an estate in south Belfast.
Locals took the law into their own hands when police failed to act on allegations that the man, who was in his thirties, was selling illegal substances.
Two masked men tied up the victim, poured tar over his head and covered him with white feathers, apparently from a pillow-case.
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