TRAVELLERS verbally abused an Echo reporter as they pitched up at a park, threatening to disrupt this year’s Southend Race for Life.
The travellers arrived at Garon Park, in Eastern Avenue, just days before the park hosts Cancer Research UK’s 5K Race for Life, where 2,000 women are expected to take part.
The Echo went down to the park to ask the travellers whether they would be moving on before the big event, which organisers were hurriedly having to re-route.
However, our reporter was held hostage and told he would be attacked if he tried to leave. The travellers also demanded we deleted our pictures and only released him when the police turned up.
Our reporter, who we are not naming, said: “They said if I walked away they would run after me and attack me.”
Race organiser, Gill Burgess, was shocked by the travellers’ actions.
She said: “That is terrible.
We knew there was an issue with travellers at the site. We are waiting for updates and working on contingency plans.
“The event will still go ahead, but if they are still there on Sunday we may have to reduce the route so it might not be as far as 5k.
“It’s a problem we can work around. It’s not ideal, but faced with that or cancelling, that would be a last resort.”
Southend’s top police officer, Ch Insp Simon Anslow, said officers had spoken to the travellers.
He said: “We were aware of the potential for the travellers to disrupt the Race for Life and were down at the scene on Wednesday night to make them aware of the impact they would have.
“The response to our officers was very positive, with them saying they wouldn’t want to disrupt the race and that they would leave that evening. The site is not council owned property, so we have been in discussion with a different landowner who needs to serve notice on them to leave.”
A spokesman for Southend Council said the authority was aware of the problem, but is not the landowner, so could not move the travellers on.
The land is owned by the Norman Garon Trust and a spokesman for them said an application to evict the travellers had been made before a judge.
Martin Terry, Southend councillor responsible for public protection said: “This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable.
“This is not council land, so it is a civil matter. But I would have expected a robust response from police over the way the reporter was treated. It is disappointing and I will be looking into the matter. The issue off travellers affects the council and private landowners alike.
“It would be most disappointing if it affects the Race for Life, so the landowners need to get together and get it sorted.”