Ex-soldier put pig's head at Cheltenham mosque as 'revenge'
FORMER soldier Simon Parkes has been jailed for four months after leaving a pig's head on the gates of a mosque.
The 45-year-old widower from Bishop's Cleeve left the remains at the Maszidal Falah Mosque in Cheltenham in an "act of revenge" against Muslim extremists who burnt poppies on Remembrance Day. He then sprayed an anti-Islamic insult on the wall of the building.
Parkes pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated criminal damage and causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress on November 13, 2010.
Parkes, who had served in Northern Ireland before being demobbed in 1993, had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder with flashbacks to some of the horrors he had seen, the court was told
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Prosecutor Lisa Hennessy said the pig's head had been discovered early in the morning by Mohammed Siyaed when he arrived at the mosque.
"Parkes did it with another man who has never been identified," she added.
Police traced Parkes using CCTV footage.
Mrs Hennessy added: "Officers accessed his Facebook account which showed a photograph of him wearing a face covering at the scene of the offence."
Stephen Thomas, in mitigation, said it was an act of extreme outrage.
He added: "But he accepts what he did was very foolish and rash and a misguided venture for which he is truly remorseful. He has offered to write an apology to the mosque."
Mr Thomas said Parkes was not a racist and had friends from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Sentencing Parkes at Gloucester Crown Court, Judge Jamie Tabor QC said: "You deliberately set out to not only insult another religion but you undoubtedly in my judgement intended to inflame and increase racial tensions at a sensitive time. Instead of simply treating that with the silent contempt it deserved, you played right into the hands of those men by reacting in the way you did.
"Fortunately, in Cheltenham, level heads prevailed and wider counsel was taken."
Parkes left the Army after six years to care for his mother who died recently from cancer.
In the Army, he had served in Northern Ireland, the Falklands and Belize.
He suffered several traumas while on active service.
Mr Thomas pointed out that the Muslims who burnt poppies had been fined only £50.
But Judge Tabor said there was no comparison between what Parkes did and the burning of poppies.
Speaking after the case, former soldier Dave Martell, who works with the Cheltenham branch of Royal British Legion, said: "The biggest challenge is for former service personnel who have suffered stress to recognise there is a problem.
"There must be a willingness for them to receive help for it to be successful."
A Cheltenham mosque spokesman said: "This was a very shocking incident for the whole community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
"We would like to reiterate our thanks to the police, the council and the local neighbours for their tremendous support."
Cheltenham South Policing Inspector Tim Waterhouse said: "I hope this sentence sends out a clear message that this sort of appalling criminal behaviour will not be tolerated."