Gillingham Town Council has had to install temporary toilets after the public conveniences in the High Street car park were damaged during attempts to free a woman who was stuck inside them.
The incident began in the early evening of Saturday July 3 when the woman, believed to be in her 20s, was unable to get out of the cubicle.
A group of bystanders or friends apparently sought to free her by trying to break down a rear service door but were unable to reach the woman.
At around 7.15pm the fire service was called and a crew attempted to open the door. But they were unable to open the ‘vandal proof’ cubicle door with small tools and called in town clerk Julie Hawkins.
‘I explained to the lady who was trapped that there is a button on the side which releases the door. I told her to press the door release button and the door opened immediately, and she came out,’ Mrs Hawkins told Gillingham News. ‘Unfortunately she could not see the button to press. She hadn’t noticed it.’
The town clerk said that the identity of the woman and her friends or bystanders remains unknown.
‘As the door opened they ran off. The fire brigade and myself were unable to stop them from running away,’ said Mrs Hawkins.
‘I think they now know how to get out of a toilet if that happens again. It was an unfortunate incident and we don’t know what caused it. I have no idea why she got stuck in there,’ added the town clerk, who when she briefed councillors at a meeting of councillors from the general purposes committee on Monday July 5 had said that she thought that ‘alcohol was involved’ in the incident.
As a result of the attempts to free the woman both the service door and the cubicle door will have to be replaced. The council is now awaiting a quote on the cost of repairs. In the meantime it has hired temporary toilets at a cost of £40 a week. ‘We have money in the budget to cover incidents like this,’ Mrs Hawkins noted.
‘We’re also going to put up a bigger sign. Hopefully it won’t happen again,’ said the town clerk, who offered reassurance for members of the public. ‘If anybody is out in any public toilet anywhere they will always see a quick release button close to the door. You don’t need to panic!’ she said.
A spokesperson for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘We were called to the public conveniences in High Street, Gillingham at 7.15pm on 3 July after reports that a lady was locked in one of the cubicles.’
Julie Hawkins said she wanted to give special thanks to the fire crews for their work on Saturday evening, especially as the call-out coincided with a major sporting event.
‘The incident meant they missed the first half of England’s quarter-final match on Saturday!’ she said.