A fuming fisherman says police "smashed" his van to gain access after fearing flies and the foul stench of his tackle could be a dead body.

James Exley says he went fishing before going away with his family, but in the rush to get ready, left his gear and a tub of maggots in his work van.

The van had been parked outside his mother-in-law’s house in Barnsley, South Yorks, which is where he had been keeping the vehicle regularly.

But he got a shock when he returned to the vehicle to find a window had been broken and a door forced open - by police.

Van with damage from, police
His van was parked next to his mother-in-laws house but he claims police made no attempt to find the owner

“I was proper mad,” James told the Daily Star.

“I said, 'Why didn't you knock on the door so someone could open it for you, save you smashing it up?'

"I said, 'Why not try to find the owner first instead of doing all that damage?' The van's obviously registered to my address.

“They said because there were flies in front of the van they thought there was a dead body in the back.”

Damage to window of the van
The van had damage to the backdoors and front windows as police tried to gain access

James, a dad-of-two, had returned from his holiday on the day officers forced entry to his van.

His mother-in-law had been in her house, next to where the vehicle was parked, and James claims they made no effort to speak to her before breaking into the vehicle.

James, a delivery driver, is still paying off his van and has been left out of work after officers took away the vehicle.

James Exley
Delivery driver James has been left unable to work after police recovered the car and he has not had it back a month later

Despite repeated attempts, James says he has still not been able to get his van back.

He said: “I haven't got my van back yet. I can't seem to get any information about my van or when I can have it back.

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“No one has over a month later. I am losing £150 a day because I can't go to work.”

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said: “Police responded to a concern for safety after we received a report on 2 September that a van parked on Bridge Street, Darton, Barnsley, had been there for a number of weeks with nobody seen in it.

“Officers attended and were unable to locate the owner to gain access.

"They managed to get into the van and established there was nothing suspicious. The owner was eventually located and was safe and well.”