A milkman was arrested on suspicion of being a burglar despite showing police pints of milk and empties in the back of his van, his employer said.
The delivery man was held by officers in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, in the early hours of Wednesday, even after they witnessed him leaving milk on a customer’s doorstep, according to his boss.
Officers were investigating an incident at the Greenfield Convenience Store and were looking for a man in a van.
The milkman first rang his boss, Russ Gibson, at around 2.45am to say there was police activity in the area.
Mr Gibson said the driver then rang again to say he had been followed by police, stopped and asked what he was doing at that early hour, despite them seeing him make a delivery to a doorstep.
The officers seemed unconvinced, Mr Gibson said, so the driver showed them the milk and empties in the back of the unmarked white van, and he was allowed to continue on his way.
Around 15 minutes later, the driver had stopped for a coffee break and was met by officers from three patrol cars who said they were arresting him on suspicion of burglary.
The driver then rang his boss again, this time from Darlington police station, and Mr Gibson thought he was being pranked.
He spoke directly to police at the station, telling them they had got the wrong man, and a tracker would show them the van had not been near the convenience store.
Mr Gibson located the van and tried to stop hundreds of pounds worth of product – which should have been delivered to customers – from being wasted.
But he was told it could not be removed as it was evidence.
Mr Gibson then went to the police station in Newton Aycliffe where he got officers’ attention by banging on a window, and was helped by two officers.
He said they helped him stop his van from being impounded and he had it back by 7am, but by this stage the milk in the back was too warm to be sold and had to be replaced.
The driver was de-arrested for the burglary charge but is under investigation for obstructing a police officer.
Mr Gibson, owner of Aycliffe Dairies, said: “It was a right farce.
“We have been stopped by the police all the time and normally it is easily resolved.
“But regardless of what he said, they weren’t interested, they just saw a white van and a guy with a beard.
“It’s one of those stories where you don’t know whether to laugh or be angry.”
Durham Police said officers were responding to reports of an attempted break-in at a shop, and CCTV showed a van and someone acting suspiciously.
A spokeswoman said: “Officers attended the scene and stopped a van nearby.
“After refusing to provide his details, the driver of the van was arrested on suspicion of attempted burglary and obstructing a police officer.”
He has been released without charge for the attempted burglary and released under investigation for obstructing a police officer.