A Jamaican chef who has fallen on hard times is pleading with the police to return the van where he lives and works - despite not taxing or insuring it.

Robert Green felt his future was bright when he first parked up his converted prison van outside Freemantle United Reformed Church last October and began selling food from his home country of Jamaica.

But after two months of what he said was booming business, he was forced to move by the landowner - starting a chain of unfortunate events which led to his van being seized by the police.

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Robert Green at the opening of his business (Image: Newsquest)

With the possibility of it being destroyed looming, the 64-year-old said: "I know the van wasn’t insured but I was trying to make the money to pay for it and now I can’t do that.

“If the police could just let me have it back over the summer, I know I could make the money needed to insure it.”

After being told by the landowner of the church building at the end of last year that he could not trade there, Robert's work ground to a halt.

He lived out of the van for months until May, after his vehicle – along with several others – were handed written warnings to leave the site issued by United Reformed Church Ltd.

The chef then moved the van outside of Shirley Baptist Church just off Shirley Road, before finding temporary accommodation in the city centre, where he has been for the last three weeks.

However, on Saturday, June 8, Robert’s food truck was seized by police for having no tax and no insurance.

Robert has been fined £255 and the vehicle impounded, with an additional £26 accumulating for each day that goes by.

But the father-of-11 says he cannot afford to pay the fine without being able to get his van back and his business started again - and has begged for the police to take pity on him, despite breaking the rules.

He said: “I’m 64-years-old, what job am I going to find at this time of my life?

“The food truck is everything I have; my passion is cooking.”

Robert, known as Mike to his friends, emigrated to the UK in 1989 and was previously a chef at the Marriott Hotel.

Robert previously owned another food trailer that was stolen in 2010 and bought his modified prison van during the Covid-19 pandemic when his late mother left him some money in her will.

“She’d be turning in her grave,” said Robert.

He added: “I’ve never been in trouble like this before.

“In Jamaica or even America, this sort of attitude of wanting to work and earn the money would be applauded, but at the moment there’s nothing I can do – it’s my whole livelihood at stake.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hampshire Police confirmed to the Echo: “We attended Shirley High Street at around 12.40pm on Saturday (June 8) and seized a van for having no insurance, MOT or tax.

“We have been in contact with the owner of the van regarding the seizure.”