Best Friends? ASBO-lutely!

As Natural England prepares to rule on whether to remove Mr Asbo from the river, 55-year old ‘Battleship Bob’ comes out in his defence.

Bill Key Boaties Bob Middleton Cambridge Cambridgeshire Rowing Association Chesterton green dragon pub mr asbo Natural England Phoebe Luckhurst punters river cam Rowing swan The Queen

He’s earned the title, ‘Mr Asbo’ and his antics have frustrated rowers and Adrian Chiles alike, but there’s one man on the river who is having none of this swan-bashing.

Bob Middleton, 55, has come out staunchly in Mr Asbo’s defence.

Bob, a boater, who has christened Mr Asbo with his own affectionate nickname – ‘Big Nose’ – makes an ominous warning: the swan and his mate will be removed from the river “over my dead body”.

Conservators of the River Cam appealed to the Queen and Natural England in a bid to remove the violent swan from the river in Cambridge after a series of attacks.

And as Natural England prepares to rule on whether Mr Asbo and his lady friend should be excluded from the river, a verdict to be expected by the end of June, Bob, known locally as ‘Battleship Bob’, has gone where no man has dared before and handfeeds the bird.

Battleship Bob feeding Mr Asbo (PHOTO: MASONS)

Bob joins ‘Swan Whisperer’ Michelle Childerley, who in April claimed that she had been “talking to the swan through his photograph to create a communication link” and believed that she could tame his wild ways.

Bob counts Mr Asbo as a close “friend” and boasts that they even share cuddles. He claims that Mr Asbo and he make a great team:

“The one they call Mr Asbo, who I call Big Nose, even floats in front of my boat and guides me along the river avoiding hazards.”

Bob believes Mr Asbo’s violent behaviour is merely defensive.

“When they attack these rowers they are only protecting their young. I have seen one of their cygnets killed by an oar last year. Only one survived. The others were taken by foxes and kids have been taunting the birds and killing cygnets.”

And rowers beware, because ‘Battleship Bob’ endorses Mr Asbo’s choice of victim:

“You can't blame them for attacking rowers. I've chased a few off myself.

A tender moment (PHOTO: MASONS)

“I've had enough of these Cambridge University college rowers getting their own way. We need to make a stand.”

Bill Key, president of the Cambridgeshire Rowing Association has asked this year to ''remove the offending bird'' because of continuing problems.

Mr Asbo has moved into the city centre for summer, and his roll call of crimes has raised fears that tourists and punt users could soon become targets. He:

Capsized a canoeist
Took on a motorised pleasure boat
Bit the end of an eight crew’s craft

He has also appeared on The One Show, in a controversial incident in which he was apparently provoked by a BBC television crew into attacking a rower's oar.


He has been seen close to a busy section of river near the Green Dragon pub in the Chesterton area of Cambridge.

Swans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and illegally taking, injuring or killing them, or interfering with their nests or eggs carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a £5,000 fine.

But more ominous still might be the thought of taking on Battleship Bob, who seems to be prepared for a fight for Mr Asbo and his lady friend, who he has also christened with a nickname, ‘Little Lady’.

“They will have to drag them out of my cold, dead hands.”