An ice cream man who deliberately rammed a rival seller’s van and broke her equipment following a bitter turf war has been jailed for six months.
Steffan Debattista, 20, lost his cool and reversed his van into rival Maxine Catalano, 49, after their frosty relationship boiled over following constant rows about their “patch” in Dudley, West Mids.
After ploughing into Miss Catalano’s “Super Whip” van, he even leaned into the vehicle during another bust-up and broke the lever off her dispenser – flooding it with £600 worth of ice cream.
Debattista was arrested after a note of his registration plate on his bright red van was made by a member of the public when he sped off with this chimes still ringing following the road-rage attack on September 4.
He was bailed by police for damaging the vehicle, but 11 days later struck again by targeting the van’s dispenser as Maxine sold ice cream.
Pulling up in his car Debattista angrily told her she shouldn’t be selling ice cream on his patch and demanded her boss’s phone number.
But when she refused, he leant into the window as stunned children looked on and broke her machine by pulling off the handle.
On Tuesday at Wolverhampton Crown Court, Debattista was jailed for six months after been found guilty by a jury of dangerous driving.
He had previously admitted a charge of criminal damage to Miss Catalano’s van.
The court heard how Debattista, from Lower Gornal, launched the hate campaign to scare her out of making sales in the area he considered his patch.
Judge Nicholas Webb told him: “The victim was in the business of selling ice cream and you disapproved strongly of the competition she posed.
“You set about trying to scare her from selling ice cream to members of the public.
You deliberately reversed into her vehicle causing several hundreds of pounds damage when you knew she was in the vehicle with a passenger.
“Not satisfied with that 11 days later you encountered her again.
“You went to her ice cream machine and you manipulated the lever to the ice-cream dispenser and you poured it all over the floor.
“This kind of behaviour is serious and you deserve absolutely no credit for your stance.
“This was prolonged dangerous driving culminating in a collision and what you did must mean custody.
“People who drive like this have got to realise it will be taken extremely seriously by the courts. Fortunately no-one suffered any serious injury.”
Speaking after the case Maxine Catalano – who first sold ice cream for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s uncle Antonio Catalano, from 1993 until 2004- described her attacker as “arrogant”.
Miss Catalano, a mother of three, from Rowley Regis, West Mids., said: “There aren’t any laid down areas where you can sell.
“And I have never had any problems with any other ice cream seller. We all normally agree amicably about where we stop to sell and at what time.
“I never gave Steff any grief but he was arrogant and I think he had a problem with me because I was a woman.
“His anger was terrifying when he first tried to ram me. He was trying to cut in front of me and to ram me.
“When we stopped at some traffic lights outside the old he parked adjacent.”
Maxine said she continued to drive around the area near to try and dodge him, with the police emergency services on her intercom in the van as she reported the drama.
Just when she thought she had lost her tormenter he pulled out of a side street directly in front of her.
She added: “I saw Steffan suddenly start reversing his van directly at me and he kept accelerating then stopping in front.
“I pulled up behind his van, which was now stopped at the lights outside the Floors to Go shop.
“I saw him suddenly start reversing his van directly at me and he collided, causing about #1,500 damage to the front of my van.”
Miss Catalano says both she and her niece received back and neck injuries.
She said she was too frightened to sell ice cream regularly until Debattista was jailed yesterday – and will now be heading back onto the streets.
However Debattista’s mother, Michelle, 44, slammed the sentence yesterday.
She claimed that Catalano “would wind him up” by turning up where he was selling and would “make comments” about the quality of his ice cream.
She said: “He’s been depressed and I’m worried about him being in prison – he’s never been away from home on his own before.
“The sentence is so unfair and harsh – nobody was hurt and I don’t believe he did what was claimed in court.”
Debattista was also banned from driving for two years and was ordered not to have any contact order with Miss Catalano or her ice-cream firm.