Paralympian makes ‘dirty protest’ at Wisbech garage

Susi Rogers-Hartley at Wiggenhall St Mary
Susi Rogers-Hartley at Wiggenhall St Mary

A West Norfolk paralympian who became the face of a Lloyds Bank TV ad campaign staged her own ‘dirty protest’ at a Wisbech petrol station.

Showjumper Susi Rogers-Hartley, 49, visited a Shell garage in the town at 3am to fill up her car with diesel before riding at an event at Blenheim Palace.

The petrol station doors were locked so customers paid through a hatch.

But Ms Rogers-Hartley could not reach the window as she is paralysed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair.

After an argument the shopkeeper opened the door to allow her to pay for the fuel.

But when she asked if she could use the toilet she was told ‘no’ – so frustrated Ms Rogers-Hartley was forced to ‘spend a penny’ on the forecourt.

And the sportswoman chose a spot right in front of a CCTV camera, because she wanted to make a point.

Ms Rogers-Hartley said: “I couldn’t get my wheelchair up the ramp and she got a bit snotty about it but eventually she opened up the shop.

“I was desperate for the loo and asked if I could use their toilets now that I was in the store but she said ‘no’.

“I thought she would make a compromise with me because she would have still had my bank card while I used the loo.

“It’s a bit ridiculous really. She got snotty because I have to sign for my credit cards because I can’t give my pin number out.

“Well I was absolutely desperate so I told her I was going to go outside, she said ‘you wouldn’t, there’s CCTV cameras’ so I said I would, and I did and I made sure I did it right in front of the cameras.”

Ms Rogers-Hartley added that she did not regret the incident and would not change anything about how it unfolded.

She said: “At the time I was absolutely fuming but I’ve been telling all my friends and they think it’s absolutely priceless so looking back it’s quite funny.

“One of my friends said only you could get in the news by peeing in a petrol station forecourt.”

Shell has issued a public apology to Ms Rogers-Hartley and are planning to send her some free fuel vouchers.

A spokeswoman confirmed the petrol station in Wisbech has a late evening closed door policy for the safety of its staff.

She added: “We are very sorry for the distress this incident caused Ms Rogers-Hartley.

“We are investigating this incident and will look carefully at whether improvements can be made to our procedures.”

Ms Rogers-Hartley said she has yet to return to the petrol station forecourt.

The grade 1 paralympic showjumper appears in the Lloyds Bank 250th anniversary advert, charting the use of horses during that time.

Ms Rogers-Hartley features in the final scenes mounting a horse from her wheelchair and galloping off into the distance.

Elliot Dunster, head of policy, research and public affairs at disability charity Scope, said loos suitable for disabled people on long journeys can be ‘few and far-between’.

He said: “This is a bad way to treat any customer, but this level of terrible service can have a bigger impact on a disabled person.

“Being given no alternative but to urinate in public, on a petrol station forecourt, is demeaning and unacceptable.

“Disabled people often have to painstakingly plan travel routes to use accessible loos, which are still too few and far-between.

“Businesses like this one need to do a lot more to be accessible and accommodating and stop treating disabled 
people like second-class consumers.”