The father of a tsunami victim says he feels caught in a Midsomer Murders-style drama after receiving a vicious poison pen letter slating him and the annual charity music festival held close to Stedham in memory of his daughter.
Three days before this year’s OnionFest event on July 30, Alan Jones received an anonymous letter in a handwritten envelope from a Stedham resident calling him a ‘nasty, disgusting specimen’, ‘a liar’ and a ‘truly callous evil man’.
The letter continued: ‘How can you justify this in the name of charity, it’s a totally selfish act’ and claimed the Onionfest ‘rendered the homes of elderly, frail, sick and dying folk unusable for 24 hours’.
When Charlotte Jones was killed at the age of just 23 in the Boxing Day Asian tsunami of 2004, her father, family and friends set up Char’s Fund.
They have since raised £175,000 to educate young people in Thailand – fundraising events include the OnionFest held on land at Minsted Heath Barns.
Mr Jones, who lives just a few miles away in Petersfield, told the Observer: “I was absolutely astonished – the letter came out of blue and the language is so vile.
“It’s got Midsomer Murders written all over it – sleepy West Sussex village, charity festival organiser threatened.
“I would have thought there would be less bigotry exhibited by residents of Stedham.”
He admitted OnionFest had received strong complaints in the past, but organisers had worked hard to resolve issues, resulting in no complaints at all this year.
“It nearly didn’t happen because we are all so fed up with the problems, but this is a memorial day when we think of Charlotte, have a good time and raise money in her name for charity.”
Organisers submit a health-and-safety plan to Chichester District Council, obtain an event licence and pay public liability insurance.
They bought noise meters to monitor levels and employed security guards.
They leaflet every house in Stedham and Iping informing them of the event and consult with the parish council.
This year organisers even downsized numbers and closed the music on the main stage two hours early at 9.30pm.
Stedham villager Jane Darby-Hill said: “This happens only once a year and I think the people of Stedham should embrace it.
“The organisers do everything asked of them. I rode close by during the day and thought how nice the music was and how wonderful to have such a memorial for Charlotte.”
She said it was sad OnionFest had become ‘tarred with the same brush’ as an illegal rave held last year on Iping Common which was nothing to do with it.
Chairman of Stedham Parish Council Chris Morgan said: “The parish council could not possibly condone the writing of a letter like that under any circumstances. Speaking for them, I am very shocked to think a Stedham resident could have done it.
“I have heard no complaints this year. As far as I am aware it finished on time, wasn’t noisy and everything was tidied up afterwards.”