Raids on travelling community 'to halt escalating feud'

Firearm and CSI officer Image copyright Durham Constabulary
Image caption Firearms were found during the raids, Durham Police said

A series of raids has been carried out by 150 police officers in an attempt to halt an escalating feud in the travelling community.

In the past fortnight, a house has been petrol-bombed, vehicles have been crashed into houses and two teenagers' skulls were taken from a grave.

Levi George Price and his brother Gareth died aged 16 in 2001 and 2005 respectively.

Officers seized firearms and vehicles at sites across northern England.

The raids - co-ordinated by Durham Police and involving Northumbria, Cleveland, and North and South Yorkshire forces - found two sub-machine guns and ammunition.

Image caption Durham Police cordoned off part of the graveyard at Metal Bridge near Ferryhill at the weekend

They were carried out in Doncaster, York, Middlesbrough, West Rainton in County Durham, and near the Baltic Centre in Gateshead.

Ch Insp Caroline Dawson said the operation was designed to target just a small group within the travelling community.

The graveyard attack was firmly linked with the ongoing feud, said Det Supt Adrian Green from Durham Police.

Last week, a lorry crashed into the bay window of a semi-detached property in Darlington, days after a horsebox smashed into a home on the outskirts of the town.

Image caption Residents said they were frightened after a lorry crashed into a Darlington house last week

Durham Police were called on Saturday to the cemetery at Metal Bridge near Ferryhill following the discovery that the skulls of George and Gareth Price had been stolen.

Gareth Price died after being found hanging at Lancaster Farms Young Offenders' Institution in January 2005, the day before he was to be sentenced for rape.

His death was partly due to failures by agencies, an inquest jury said.

Levi Price also hanged himself, in the garden of the family home in Ferryhill, in 2001. The coroner found he could not be sure the teenager intended to kill himself.

Several arrests have been made but the skulls have not been found.

Four men, all from the Doncaster area, were separately charged on Wednesday with conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm. The charges are unrelated to the skull thefts.

Craig Price, 37, John Watson, 28, and David Watson, 28, have been remanded to appear before Sheffield Crown Court on 22 December.

John Stewart, 20, is due to appear before Sheffield Crown Court on Friday.

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