Emu, hotel chef thwart driver fleeing hit and run crash in Malmesbury


LONDON — England has two new, unexpected celebrities — a 42-year-old chef, and a massive emu, who inadvertently teamed up to help catch a hit-and-run suspect who fled a crash scene after narrowly missing pedestrians and causing extensive damage .

Dean Wade says he heard a loud “screeching noise” near his workplace in Wiltshire, southwest England, on Monday, and raced out to see a jeep careening from side to side, before smashing into the front of an empty shop close by.

In an interview with The Washington Post Wednesday, Wade, who has only been working at the Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury for two weeks, said he could see the driver, who “appeared drunk,” was getting ready to back away from the scene. A female passenger had also left the vehicle.

“There’s no way you’re going anywhere,” Wade told the man, who he said was “swaying” and “staggering” all over the place, seemingly under the influence. But the man, although unable to run fast due to his physical condition, was determined to escape, heading off on foot.

Wearing his slip-resistant rubber kitchen clogs and chef’s overalls, Wade chased the driver for 15 to 20 minutes, through bushes, allotments and gardens before the pair ended up at an animal sanctuary.

This was when the real confrontation began.

“I could see this massive emu,” Wade said. “I’m six foot tall and it was bigger than me.”

Wade said he could tell the bird, which was surrounded by its offspring, was likely to spring into defense mode if anyone intruded on its enclosure.

“Mate don’t go in there,” Wade warned the man, who he said ignored his advice, replying: “I can fight emus” before heading into the animal’s pen — where he was repeatedly pecked.

“It was stabbing his body all over,” Wade said, causing the man to curse and unsuccessfully attempt to “kung-fu-kick” the animal away.

The bird kept stabbing at the driver, who eventually gave up, fled the pen and headed towards a river — while Wade took the opportunity to flag down a nearby police car.

Wiltshire police confirmed on Monday they were dealing with a “minor injury” and “extensive damage” following the collision which forced the road to close as emergency services attended the scene.

Officials said one person had been arrested for drink-driving following “an extensive search of the area.” They did not name the suspect.

Wade told The Washington Post Wednesday that he had just relocated from the sprawling city of Leeds to the picturesque village of Malmesbury for his new job at the Old Bell Hotel, which claims to be England’s oldest hotel. According to its website, the venue has served travelers since the year 1220.

“In Leeds we don’t stand by and do nothing,” Wade said, crediting his home city in West Yorkshire and his passion for justice for providing him with the instinct to chase after the driver.

We asked Emmanuel the TikTok-interrupting emu about his sudden fame

Emus are classified as one of the world’s biggest birds, according to National Geographic. The animals can weigh up to 97 pounds and grow over six-foot tall. While they cannot fly, they have “long powerful legs” which they often use to kick predators that come too close.

Wade was keen not to stress that he did not consider the birds aggressive, but rather, “curious creatures” that are determined to protect their young.

“I know what female birds are like,” he said, adding that he has encountered angry swans seeking to protect their chicks in the past.

Wade admitted his new life and job in Malmesbury had so far surpassed all expectations — from uniting with an emu on Monday to solve crime, to being invited to appear on national radio and TV in the UK, to fielding interview requests while on a roadside attempting to fix a punctured tire — although that incident is not believed to be bird related.

The emu, despite its newfound fame, has retained a lower profile, with the wildlife sanctuary declining interviews, but telling national broadcaster BBC that all its emus were unharmed and that they are “wonderful creatures.”

And, following Wade and the emu’s successful partnership, the hotel and the animal sanctuary have also teamed up — striking a deal that sees staff deliver bucket-loads of vegetable peelings from the kitchen to the animals each day in a bid to reduce food waste.

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