Ice cream van attacked with crowbar as Cold War hots up

David Stevenson of Trillo's Ice Cream
David Stevenson of Trillo's Ice Cream

When one Whitby vendor passed off cheap ice cream from Aldi as the century old luxury recipe owned by a rival, a Cold War was about to hot up in front of shocked tourists on the West Cliff.

Businessman David Stevenson had acquired the Trillo Ice-cream brand from cornet king Neil Trillo, whose family brought it over from Italy before World War One.

Stevenson paid a cool half a million pounds for the ownership of the brand – while the Trillo family got to keep their name on the product.

Mr Trillo was also still allowed to sell Trillo ice cream from his van – provided he bought it from Stevenson and sold nothing else.

While Stevenson, a local farmer, built Trillo ices up into a thriving business over ten years he also allowed its inventor to use his pitches in Whitby, North Yorkshire, to park his van.

But relations began to chill when Stevenson was ordered by council bosses to stop loaning his slots to Mr Trillo.

Mr Trillo then annoyed Stevenson by pinching his pitches on weekends – when no council staff were on duty to stop him.

Stevenson, who paid the council £30,000 a year for the licenses, said Mr Trillo just made excuses when he complained about the poaching.‎

But when Stevenson found out his rival was not even selling proper Trillo ice cream, but a much cheaper supermarket brand, the conflict erupted into violence.

Stevenson smashed his rival’s van with a crowbar in front of stunned customers waiting for ices on Whitby prom on a sedate Sunday afternoon.

Mr Trillo’s petrified vendor Robert Killam yanked the van window shut when he saw Stevenson storming up.

But the businessman then went to the boot of his car and returned with a huge crow bar he used to attack the van, Scarborough magistrates heard.

Once inside, he swiped the day’s takings and yanked the wire out of the plug to the freezer containing the “inferior” ices, the court heard.

The fracas erupted on Whitby’s North Promenade near the Yorkshire resort’s famous Whalebone arch.

Prosecutor Martin Butterworth said: “There were people who were buying ice creams but they were ushered away.

“Stevenson said they were closed and were not selling any more ice creams. He gathered up the ‘Trillo’ signs and put them in the boot of his car.‎

“He came back with a large crowbar – so big he had to hold it in two hands. He was running at the van window with the crowbar saying ‘Let me in or I will smash it up.”‎

The Trillo family arrived in the area 100 years ago from Arpino, Italy, and started selling ice cream from horse and carts.

‎But the court heard Neil Trillo’s wares were nothing like the rich dairy product associated with one of the proudest names in Yorkshire confectionary.

Mr Butterworth said; “It was stuff from Aldi and a cheaper mix from Bradford – and this impacted on Mr Stevenson’s reputation – when an individual purported to be selling his ice cream, when it was not.”

The court heard that Stevenson grabbed the crowbar and attacked the wheel of the trailer, intending to disable the vehicle.

But then he realised that would just leave the van stuck on the pitch. So he started shouting at Mr Killam: “You have no right to be here. Move it – or I will smash it up.”

Mr Killam said in a statement: “Mr Stevenson had approached the van and I had already shut the window.

“He was shouting directly at me – ‘Drive this trailer away now or things will get very heavy.

“Mr Stevenson was waving his arms around and was very agitated.” ‎

The court heard he also swiped the day’s takings, saying it was for the rent, but returned the money when the police turned up.

Stevenson, of Trout Hall Farm Cottage, Trout Hall Lane, Skelton-in-Cleveland, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, admitted threatening behaviour and causing £205 criminal damage to the stock and ice cream trailer.

He was fined £500, ordered to pay £205 compensation to Mr Trillo, £85 costs, and a £30 surcharge.

Julian Gaskin, mitigating, said: “He completely lost his temper. He wanted to disable the vehicle but then realised it would be on the pitch and stay there.

“He then spoke to Mr Trillo on the phone. While Mr Stevenson was in the trailer and Mr Killam had moved away, Mr Stevenson picked up the money on the side and told Mr Trillo he was going to have to pay for the pitch.

“But the money was returned when the police came.”

Stevenson employed 17 people and had invested time in championing the local reputation of Trillo ices.

“It is not right that another individual can usurp that by selling lower grade, lower quality ice cream and it was quite frustrating no one seems to be able do anything about it,” Mr Gaskin added.