‘Extortion tactics were used by travellers on illegal camp’

The vans off Thornhill Street.
The vans off Thornhill Street.

A city solicitor has warned private land owners about ‘extortion tactics’ being used by travellers who demanded cash to shift their illegal camp in Wakefield.

Six caravans recently pitched up on land belonging to solicitors firm, Wakefield Law, on Thornhill Street in the city centre.

But the travellers refused to move until the company paid them £1,800 - £300 for each van they had.

David Russell, a partner at the law firm, said: “They told me there was more of them coming and if they wanted us to leave we would have to pay them.

“They work on the basis that it would cost us thousands to get bailiffs to move them.

“It’s something that’s happened in Doncaster and we were told they have a four-wheel drive vehicle that drives around looking for places (to set up camp).”

But the plan backfired on the travellers in Wakefield after it was discovered that three of the caravans were in fact stolen, allowing the police to intervene

The stolen vans were taken away and the remaining travellers left the site a short time later.

Mr Russell added: “We’ve never seen them before, they just seemed to come from nowhere. We left on the Tuesday night and by daylight on the Wednesday they were there.

“At one pint I thought I was going to end up in a bare knuckle fight. It’s been incredibly disruptive but we never bowed to them.”

Police say they are still investigating, and one man voluntarily attended a police station in connection with the incident.