“It’s been unbelievable, these are innocent people that have done absolutely nothing wrong.”
“It has been a nightmare for them, they are victims of circumstances.”
These were the words of Harold Hill resident Harry, whose girlfriend was one of many caught in a police raid last week. In the early hours of last Wednesday morning police carried out three firearms warrants for the Benskins Lane area of Harold Hill and roads off it.
The land there is believed to be owned by travellers and following the raids, two men have been charged and fourteen others have been arrested for offenses such as money laundering, possession of drugs, firearms possession and grievous bodily harm.
However, there are numerous mobile homes, that are rented to non travellers and it is these people that have been caught up in the raids and have had their properties smashed and left without electricity for over a week.
“My girlfriend came home from work and found the front door smashed and her kitchen window shattered. Her door was wide open and police were everywhere. Other residents there were woken up to find men smashing their doors in with hammers and standing over their beds with balaclavas and armed with guns. These are innocent people who rent caravans from the travellers. Many on the site have learning disabilities and have experienced a complete nightmare,” said Harry.
Police have since returned to the site to board up doors and windows but the electricity has still not returned.
“My girlfriend has a dog that is nervous around people and started to bark. The police repeatedly warned her to muzzle the dog or they would shoot it. She was so upset.
Honestly you would not believe how these poor people have been treated. Her caravan was left open with no security for two days. The rain then entered and had ruined all her flooring,” said Harry.
Councillor Jan Sargent has been involved in helping re house the people she said: “I have met with these poor people. Some have mental health issues and others have pets, so it has been a really difficult situation. Many are now having to re home their pets as sadly the temporary places of accommodation don’t accept animals. One lady has been sleeping in her car with her son and dog as she could not find a place that would accept all of them.
These people go to work every day to pay for their rent and have had their properties trashed.”