A FORMER vet from Taunton has been cleared of having a knife in a public place on the M5 after police dropped the case.

Maurice Kirk told the judge that he was "seriously assaulted" when police handcuffed him and arrested him on the motorway near Cullompton on June 3 this year.

Mr Kirk had been reported for wandering across the carriageway after he ran out of petrol.

He was found trying to refill his tank with diesel from a can and detained when he produced a knife which he tried to use to convert an empty plastic bottle into a makeshift funnel.

He refused to give his details but was identified by paperwork in his car and told officers he had the large kitchen knife to clean his fingernails.

Mr Kirk, aged 76, of Westgate Street, Taunton, was charged with possession of a bladed article in a public place but the case was discontinued when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court today (Friday).

Judge David Evans told him he was entitled to claim costs from central funds to cover his travel expenses to the case and an earlier hearing at Exeter Magistrates' Court.

Mr Kirk told the judge he had been "seriously assaulted" during his arrest but was told that the Crown Court was not the right place to lodge his complaint.

He is a retired vet and stunt pilot who claims to have worked on major movies including the Roger Moore Bond film Moonraker.

He has spent almost 50 years in a series of legal battles with police over allegations that he fitted a real First World War Lewis gun to a vintage plane.

He claims the gun was a dummy and that he has been the victim of a series of miscarriages of justice which destroyed his livelihood and marriage.

His arrest in June came two weeks after he was cleared of stalking Taunton Deane Conservative MP Rebecca Pow by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.