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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 14:28 GMT
Wife escapes bulldozer attack
Peter Rigden
Police say they are worried for Mr Rigden's safety
A man who locked his wife in a toilet and tried to knock it down with a digger is being hunted by police.

It is believed Peter Rigden, 64, enticed his wife into the outside loo of their 1.2m Crawley Down, West Sussex, home and then tried to bulldoze it.

His wife Gabrielle, 45, escaped with minor injuries before the toilet in Sandy Lane was knocked down.

It is thought Mr Rigden then set fire to his barn containing gas cylinders which exploded.

'Armed man'

A car was also set alight and destroyed in the grounds of the house.

Police officers and firefighters were called after Mr Rigden's French wife rang them from a neighbour's house at 1050 GMT on Thursday.

She was taken to hospital and treated for her injuries.

Mike Mondeo, who lives nearby, said police surrounded the house and insisted he stay inside.

The 1.2m house was put on the market last month

Mr Mondeo said: "The police told me there was a barn on fire at the end of the road but said they could not get the fire brigade to it because they thought a man was down there who was armed."

But when police searched the grounds they did not find anyone.

The five-bedroom house in Sandy Lane was put up for sale last month.

Neighbour Malcolm Simmonds said: "I gathered the husband just decided he would take matters into his own hands and start damaging the house."

On Friday police confirmed Mr Rigden was missing and said they were concerned for his safety.

Mrs Rigden and their two children were being looked after in a safe location.

Neighbours described Mr Rigden as an "eccentric".

He is described as being about 5 ft 8 in, of stocky build, with white, wavy, medium-length hair and a white beard.

He has brown eyes and walks with a limp.

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