THE Argus learnt about a Facebook advert claiming to be selling a pair of seafront lights on Friday morning, days after they were removed for maintenance, writes reporter Connor Stringer.

We managed to get hold of a phone number for the seller and agreed to view the historic lights.

Under the pseudonyms Steve and Harry, my colleague and I were to take pictures of them in the hope Steve’s wife Elaine would approve of them for her garden.

READ MORE: Seafront lights seized from man trying to flog them on Facebook

We told the seller, who said his name was Joe, we intended to return later that evening with cash, once Elaine had given the green light.

Of course, we never planned to return.

“You wouldn’t believe this,” he told us on the phone just as we were about to arrive.

“I’ve just had a phone call from Brighton and Hove City Council and they said ‘where did you get these lights from?’ “They told me they belonged to the council and unless I wanted the police involved, they needed them back.

“The council are coming round my house in 15 minutes to come and get them,” he laughed.

READ MORE: Seafront lights seized from man trying to flog them on Facebook

Alarmed that the meeting had been called off just minutes before we were due to knock on his door, my colleague then asked what would prove to be the fatal question: “How are you feeling, Joe?”

The phone fell silent.

The Argus: He reached into the car and shouted 'give me the phone'He reached into the car and shouted 'give me the phone'

The game was up. “I’ve just sussed who you are, see you later,” he said and hung up.

Knowing our cover was blown, we scrambled to position ourselves within camera range of the house in the hope we could capture the moment the council would retake possession of the lights.

Sure enough, minutes later, a man, sporting a high visibility coat and council lanyard, pulled up just yards away.

As the council worker disappeared into the house to retrieve the lights, I inched the car closer to the front of the house, eager to get the shot.

Moments later, the man reappeared, hauling the historic seafront lights to his car.

Suddenly, Joe clocked us.

Pointing at the car, he ran down the footpath to confront us, banging on the window and demanding we hand over the photos.

The Argus: He snatched the keys out of the ignitionHe snatched the keys out of the ignition

The friendly salesman-like demeanour he had just moments ago had now vanished.

Before we could pull away, he flung the door open, reached into the car and pointed his finger at my colleague.

“You took a picture of me, you can’t take a picture of me, buddy,” he said.

“Give me your phone, you aren’t like two little f**cking muppets mate.”

Despite explaining that taking his photo in a public space was perfectly legal, he snatched the car keys out of the ignition, meaning we were stranded in the middle of the road.

As cars attempted to squeeze their way past, we called the police.

Realising he had no alternative, he threw the keys back in the car, demanding we delete the photos one last time.

I pulled away, stunned by what had happened.