THE Mayor of Henley has been the target of abuse on the internet after being photographed parked in a loading bay.
Lorraine Hillier was reduced to tears by the media response to some of the comments made by Facebook users when Henley resident Rob Strike posted the image online.
She said she was shocked by the vile tone of some of the posts and attacked Mr Strike for trying to make an example of her.
?I think he?s made something out of nothing,? she said. ?I?d like to know what he?s got against me. If I hadn?t been the Mayor nobody would care.?
Councillor Hillier admitted she had made a mistake but dismissed her critics, saying she had spent only a few minutes parked in the Bell Street bay while she was buying supplies for one of her businesses, the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street.
Mr Strike condemned the internet ?trolls? but defended his action, saying he had been right to expose the Mayor.
The row was sparked when Cllr Hillier visited Sainsbury?s Local for a few minutes during the lunchtime rush hour on Monday.
Mr Strike photographed her yellow Nissan Rasheen parked in the bay outside the store, which is clearly marked ?Loading only?.
He then posted the images on the Henley Past and Present group page on Facebook and claimed the Mayor?s car had helped cause gridlock.
Mr Strike said there was a large lorry parked on the kerb opposite while carrying out drain cleaning work outside the Old Bell pub, leaving a narrow space between the two vehicles to pass through.
He wrote: ?To my amazement, there was no regard to the fact she [the Mayor] had now totally blocked the road as cars, buses and lorries were having to use the space to get past.
?Four to five minutes passed and by this time a lorry had not been able to pass, causing the whole of the town centre to block up.?
He said Cllr Hillier ignored drivers who tooted their horns at her and added: ?You really should know better and also have some respect for the rules and regulations of your own town.
?But, of course, as usual she probably thinks she is above the law or just has no respect for anyone else.?
Fellow Facebook users supported Mr Strike.
Linda Sargeant wrote: ?If I hadn?t seen the photos I wouldn?t have believed it. Who does she think she is??
Mike Richards said: ?Totally brain dead and she?s in charge of the town, unbelievable.
Caroline Ely added: ?That is terrible for an elected councillor.? Romy Painter said: ?Absolutely disgraceful attitude to think she can just park wherever in the town. The rest of us park in the car park or on the short stay bays for 20 minutes and walk.?
Some other comments were personally abusive and contained obscenities.
Tony Devern called the Mayor ?self-absorbed? and ?ignorant? with a ?self-important sense of entitlement?.
Later, he wrote: ?Tories by nature are arrogant, pompous and nasty, especially to working class and vulnerable people. Time and time again they show their contempt for others.?
However, many other people defended Cllr Hillier.
Tom O?Halloran wrote: ?Stop villainising a legend. It?s the first time we?ve ever had an approachable, down to earth mayor. She can park on my foot if she likes.?
Fellow town councillor Kellie Hinton said: ?I am a councillor on the opposing party to Lorraine but still I don?t think she should be classed as a villain for something people do all day long. Some of the comments on here are disgusting, uneducated and just plain incorrect.
?Lorraine works hard for the town and her businesses which sell food. Sainsbury?s sells food. How do you know she wasn?t stocking up on flour and eggs or something similar for her businesses?
?Being Mayor doesn?t make her exempt from rules and being an older lady doesn?t make her an ?old bag?. Considering she is a Conservative, Lorraine is a hard-working and down-to-earth citizen and had she known she was causing distress to anyone, she would have rectified the situation.
?I am not saying she was right. I just think people make mistakes and they learn from them. It doesn?t mean other people should use those mistakes to vilify somebody with disgusting personal comments.?
Julia Key wrote: ?Can?t believe there are so many people in Henley with nothing better to do than this! Rather sad and pathetic really.
?As for her being the Mayor, I hardly think it is a job that brings huge rewards or recognition so no idea why you are all so keen to vilify someone who is doing a thankless bloody job.?
Cllr Hillier, who also runs the Upstairs and Downstairs tea shop in Duke Street, said: ?I think the comments are quite abusive and some of them are unnecessarily rude. I wonder if people would actually say this to somebody?s face? I think a lot of it is because I?m the Mayor and they are trying to make it a thing about that. I?m shocked at the fuss.?
She admitted that ?on reflection? she had made a mistake but said she shouldn?t be accused of thinking she was above the law.
?It?s totally untrue and I?m not ignorant,? said Cllr Hillier. ?I wouldn?t normally have been in my car but they [Hot Gossip] needed the items quickly.
?As I came to Sainsbury?s I went into the loading bay. I was literally three minutes because I was flying because they had someone who had ordered sandwiches. I bought some ham, beef, brie, peppers, avocado and cucumber.
?When I pulled in there were no cones or anything. There was a car further down the loading bay.?
Cllr Hillier said she had been in such a hurry she hadn?t noticed the drainage lorry and drivers were still able to pass. She said only a lorry driver tooted at her when she came out of the store as he couldn?t get through.
?I could see his issue and then I just moved my car straight away,? she said. ?Cars had been able to get through before that but, sod?s law, a big lorry came. I didn?t even see a tailback to be honest.
?I think we have got to keep things in proportion. If I had been genuinely parked there then fair enough, but I wasn?t ? I pulled in, got my stuff and pulled out. I think there should be a bit of flexibility for small business people when they need to move things about the town urgently.?
Mr Strike, 39, who has lived in Henley for 20 years, said he was surprised by the debate his post had generated but added: ?I totally stand by putting it up. This was just to make people aware of what our lady mayor was up to.
?She thinks because she?s a local business owner she can park anywhere in Henley and be free of the rules.
?I don?t agree with some of the abusive comments which were made towards her and towards other people making comments standing up for her.?
Police said they wouldn?t comment.
So far this year, Henley?s three police community support officers have issued more than 500 tickets for traffic and parking violations.
In June a woman was fined £720 by magistrates for outstaying the 10-minute limit on the loading bay in Duke Street.