Police form ring of steel around North Watford traveller funeral

Ring of steel around traveller funeral: More than 100 police close roads for mourners’ street procession over fears warring families would fight and breach Covid rules

  • More than 100 officers were out in force around St Helen’s Catholic Church in North Watford, Hertfordshire
  • The police operation is thought to have cost tens of thousands of pounds and included at least six riot vans
  • There were around 30 people inside church but around a dozen more attended and stayed behind police line

Parts of a Hertfordshire town became a no-go zone today as police set up a ring of steel around a traveller funeral amid fears of violence between rival families and the flouting of Covid safety laws.

More than 100 officers were out in force around St Helen’s Catholic Church in North Watford, where rules on social gatherings meant just 30 travellers were allowed inside to say farewell to the deceased Mary Nevin.

The police operation is thought to have cost tens of thousands of pounds and included at least six riot vans, dozens of police motorcycles and a helicopter to spy on mourners from above.

The procession around local roads was flanked by motorcycle outriders, who blocked traffic at each junction to allow the cortege to pass by.

There were 30 people inside the church but around a dozen more attended and stayed behind police lines. Funerals are limited to 30 attendees in total.  

Travellers said goodbye to deceased Mary Nevin today and processed alongside the hearse as it left St Helen’s Catholic Church in North Watford, Hertfordshire 

More than 100 officers were out in force amid fears of violence between rival families and the flouting of Covid safety laws

The police operation is thought to have cost tens of thousands of pounds and included at least six riot vans, dozens of police motorcycles and a helicopter to spy on mourners from above

The procession around local roads was flanked by motorcycle outriders, who blocked traffic at each junction to allow the cortege to pass by

Onlookers estimated the police in attendance outnumbered mourners by approximately three-to-one.

Earlier police chiefs had spoken of fears that mourners might try to flout laws on social gathering.

The alarm was raised on Friday when 30 traveller wagons were spotted gathered at a local school.

Hertfordshire constabulary sent warning letters to locals to expect large numbers at the event and saying they expected traffic disruption around Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Redbourne.

Fearing crowds of mourners, senior officers held a series of urgent meetings yesterday with the deceased’s family, funeral directors, the church, and Watford Borough Council.

Today officers were placed as look-outs on roads for miles around from early morning to gather intelligence on numbers arriving.

But by the afternoon police chiefs were breathing a sigh of relief that no flare-ups had occurred.

Afterwards the family filed out of the church to a lone piper playing the Irish lament Raglan Road before the small convoy set off to an undisclosed burial site in Bedfordshire.

Before leaving an undertaker issued a warning that vehicles at the cemetery would be limited to five.

Afterwards the family filed out of the church to a lone piper playing the Irish lament Raglan Road before the small convoy set off to an undisclosed burial site in Bedfordshire.

There were 30 people inside the church but around a dozen more attended and stayed behind police lines. Funerals are limited to 30 attendees in total

Hertfordshire constabulary sent warning letters to locals to expect large numbers at the event and saying they expected traffic disruption around Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Redbourne

Mourners at the funeral wore sheets saying RIP Granmum on their backs in honour of the deceased, Mary Nevin 

 The piper who played Raglan Road during a procession down the road. He is pictured next to another attendee at the funeral 

Before leaving an undertaker issued a warning that vehicles at the cemetery would be limited to five due to Covid restrictions 

A neighbour who asked not to be named said: ‘It looked like the police were ready World War III. They warned us there might be trouble but in the end it all passed without a problem.

‘Everyone is just relieved nothing got out of hand.’

Last October there was widespread anger that 500 travellers attended a funeral in nearby Dunstable, Beds.

Tory MP Andrew Selous branded the crowds then ‘unacceptable.’

Supt Nick Caveney said of today: ‘We will not tolerate large gatherings in excess of the regulations and we are putting a proportionate policing response in place.

‘All agencies are working to prevent breaches from occurring by engaging ahead of time with family members.

‘The funeral directors will be working to keep the number of mourners inside the church to within the 30-person limit.’

He added: ‘In policing the pandemic, Hertfordshire Constabulary is following the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) guidelines in applying the coronavirus regulations in our response to any breaches.

‘Our officers are well-briefed on what this entails and are moving through the four Es of engagement, explaining, encouraging and finally to enforcing the coronavirus regulations if necessary.

‘It is always our intention to seek prevention first and enforcement last.’

Supt Nick Caveney said of today: ‘We will not tolerate large gatherings in excess of the regulations and we are putting a proportionate policing response in place’

Today officers were placed as look-outs on roads for miles around from early morning to gather intelligence on numbers arriving

A neighbour who asked not to be named said: ‘It looked like the police were ready World War III. They warned us there might be trouble but in the end it all passed without a problem’

St Helen’s Catholic Church in North Watford, where the congregation was limited to 30 according to coronavirus laws 

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