Travellers ‘drag racing’ in the streets as ‘shops looted’ after thousands shut down town for fourth day in a row

PEOPLE living near a showground are enduring a fourth day of misery as travellers “drag race” through the streets and allegedly steal from shops.

Cops have made two arrests after receiving more than 100 calls since hundreds of caravans packed onto Rutland Showground and some 1,500 travellers descended on the grounds at the weekend.

Hundreds of caravans arrived at Rutland Showground at the weekendCredit: © Terry Harris

Oakham residents have said they are 'scared to leave their houses'

Oakham residents have said they are ‘scared to leave their houses’Credit: © Terry Harris

Locals in Oakham, Rutland, have said they are “scared to leave their houses” and described the town as “in a state of panic” – with travellers not set to leave the showground for another two days.

Since their arrival, reports have emerged of travellers “drag racing” on nearby roads and physically and verbally abusing shop staff.

Police have been forced to ramp up patrols, with more cops on the streets and a specialist drone team operating in the area.

Speaking to The Sun, residents claimed some attending the event at the Rutland Showground had attempted to steal from shops and break into buildings, while others had allegedly begun fighting in the streets.

One local told The Sun: “We’re scared to leave our houses. They have blocked one of the bypasses with their trucks and some local staff in shops have been physically and verbally abused.

“The residents of Oakham are scared.”

Many shops and businesses have bolted their doors as a result of repeated reports of anti-social behaviour, with many pubs shutting up early to prevent rowdy scenes.

A McDonald’s restaurant was even forced to close because travellers attending a Christian religious event called the festival of “Light and Life” at the showground were having sex in the loos.

Police have made two arrests since the gathering began

Police have made two arrests since the gathering beganCredit: Rex

Some 1,500 travellers are thought to be at the event

Some 1,500 travellers are thought to be at the eventCredit: © Terry Harris

The fast food outlet shut its doors as trouble flared on Sunday night, with the Sun Online revealing it was because festival-goers were seen romping in the customer toilets.

And when asked to leave, campers “trashed” the burger joint – taking staff more than three hours to clean up the mess.

A source said: “They got asked to leave because it was mayhem and they threw food everywhere. The place was trashed.

“The toilets were completely blocked and they were having intercourse. It was so bad.

“There have been police patrolling the place most of the day but still there have been teenagers from the showground loitering outside.”

The fast-food chain did not comment on whether anyone was having sex in the loos, telling The Sun the closure was due to a “sudden surge in customer numbers” so it could “maintain social distancing”.

Meanwhile on Monday, Wetherspoon’s Lord Nelson and The Wheatsheaf closed early for the day while the Old Buttercross served beers only with meals.

And The Admiral Hornblower stopped serving from mid-afternoon amid reports that up to 250 traveller campers were set to descend on the historic town centre.

A McDonald's restaurant closed early after trouble flared

A McDonald’s restaurant closed early after trouble flaredCredit: Rex

Locals in the historic town of Oakham claim anti-social behaviour linked to the gathering has caused deep distress.

One resident who was walking his dog near the gathering, saw cars racing along the Rutland bypass.

He described the scene as like “something out of Mad Max”. 

“I saw a top-spec Range Rover turning out of the site and hit almost 80mph in seconds,” he told The Sun.

“Behind was a Mustang doing the same. It was mayhem.”

Others have taken social media to question whether the mass outdoor event should have been allowed – given the national spike in Covid case numbers.

One asked the Rutland Showground: “How have you allowed a huge event to take place which threatens a community which has obeyed the rules and kept Covid levels low?

“This beggars belief. Time to shut the event down.”

We’re scared to leave our houses. They have blocked one of the bypasses with their trucks and some local staff in shops have been physically and verbally abused.

Oakham resident

Some working in Oakham have spoken out online about the physical and verbal abuse they claimed to have received.

One shop worker wrote on social media: “It was very upsetting to see my colleagues and I face physical and verbal abuse when they were simply trying to do their job.

“They were not wearing masks nor were they socially distancing.”

According to residents, the town has been blighted by speeding cars and anti-social behaviour since the event began.

One said: “This must be up there as the most ridiculous decision ever made by anyone ever. It’s putting our entire community at risk.”

Rutland County Council has confirmed the event will close on Thursday, with the site due to be vacated on Friday.

Oliver Hemsley, leader of the council, has hit out of attendees who have “disrespected” the community.

“This is not an ideal situation, and we are certainly not happy that we have had to retrofit processes to ensure the safe running of this event for attendees and our community. 

“We have two main issues that the council and its partners, particularly the police, are currently handling. The first being the safe running of the event, including ensuring it is operated within Covid-19 regulations and that traffic, noise and waste is managed appropriately. 

“The second is around a small, yet significantly impactful group of attendees which have chosen to disrespect our community.

The travellers are due to leave the site on Friday

The travellers are due to leave the site on FridayCredit: © Terry Harris

“As a result, the Council and Police are having to manage the immediate impact of these attendees and will continue to do so to protect our community until the site is vacated on Friday.”

According to Cllr Hemsley, allowing travellers to leave the site on the day originally agreed will allow plans to be put in place to “minimise impact” on roads.

Leicestershire Police have insisted the event is legal and that confirmed that two arrests have been made after a number of anti-social behaviour reports.

Superintendent Jonny Starbuck said: “Initially we received over one hundred calls to police in relation to this event, mostly these calls to police were to notify us that it was happening and ask us if we were aware of the event. There was considerable anti-social behaviour reported and we have made two arrests. 

“Since the policing operation was put in place we have seen these calls to police drop to 20.

“We are aware of non-payment for food and shoplifting from local businesses and we are working with them to ensure the right action is taken. Mainly, we have had reports of anti-social behaviour and a few reports relating to Covid compliance. 

“We or our partners, have not advised any businesses to close – this is a decision for the retailers to make, taking into consideration what the right choice would be for their business. 

“I want to thank Rutland Council and our partners for all pulling together to provide the local community with the right support and reassurance.

“We understand that anti-social behaviour can have a significant impact on the local community and I would like to thank them for working with us on this matter and I would encourage them to continue to report incidents to us. 

“Again, we want to stress that this is a legal event and the majority of the people visiting are there to enjoy their faith.

“There are only a few who are determined to engage in this negative behaviour. We will deal with those who commit crime swiftly and robustly.”

Locals ‘scared to leave their houses’ as mass travellers descend on Rutland Showground


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