POLICE have raided a travellers' site in York as part of a huge operation aimed at ending an escalating gipsy feud.

Officers across six police force areas were involved in dawn raids today, arresting seven people and seizing weapons.

Police confirmed that two submachine guns and ammunition had been found during a raid at a traveller site in Doncaster. A pistol was also found along with shotgun ammunition.

The feud has already seen two skulls taken from the graves of a traveller family in County Durham, stolen lorries rammed into two homes in the Darlington area and a petrol bomb attack on a third house in the town.

York Press:

Police on the raid in Gateshead

The coordinated operation - codenamed Zepher - is being led by Durham Constabulary and involves 150 officers across the force areas of Durham, Northumbria, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

This morning's raids have centred on:

  • An traveller site in York
  • A traveller site at West Rainton, near Durham
  • A traveller site at Oakwell Park, Gateshead - next to The Baltic
  • A traveller site in Doncaster
  • An address in Middlesbrough

York Press:

Police at a traveler site in West Rainton

Detective Superintendent Adrian Green, who is leading the operation, confirmed arrests had been made and weapons and vehicles seized as part of the raids.

He issued a direct appeal to those involved to return the skulls from the desecrated graves from Metal Bridge cemetery, near Spennymoor.

"I would appeal to whoever has taken the skulls, that time is running out. Please call 101 or Crimestoppers and let me know where they are."

Officers arrived at West Rainton to conduct a search for the skulls - which have yet to be uncovered. No arrests have been made or items seized at the site.

York Press:

A gun seized in one of the raids

Chief Inspector Caroline Dawson told The Press's sister paper, The Northern Echo: "This is not about targeting travellers, this is about targeting a particular group that happens to be within the travelling community that are causing all these problems.

"It is not clear what the argument is about between these groups is about but we are clear who is involved.

"We will do whatever we can within our powers to stop them.

"Our priority is to find the skulls. Most members of the travelling community are shocked by the inciudents. They can't believe this would happen within their own community."

York Press:

Ammunition seized in South Yorkshire

Up to 35 officers from Northumbria Police visited the well-established traveller's site at Oakwell Park on Baltic Road, Gateshead, which is currently home to 15 caravans.

York Press:

A search was carried out for the missing skulls there and one vehicle was seized as part of the investigation. No arrests were made.

Inspector Mick Robson, of Northumbria Police, said; "The residents were very co-operative. We are happy with the progress of our operation this morning."

The desecration of the remains of two teenage brothers Levi George and Gareth Price, was branded as "depraved" by police - who confirmed at the time it was connected to the ongoing feud among travelling families.

The skulls of the boys, both 16 when they took their own lives, were taken as part of a "focused amd targetted" attack early on Saturday morning.

York Press:

Levi Price, left, and his brother Gareth Price, whose skulls were stolen in what police described as a 'depraved act' Metal Bridge Cemetery, near Ferryhill

Levi George Price was found hanged at the family home in Ferryhill, County Durham, in 2001, and his brother Gareth Price hanged himself in Lancaster Farms Young Offenders' Institution while waiting to be sentenced for the rape of a 17-year-old girl.

York Press:

The grave of their sister Rose Ann Price was undisturbed. The mother-of-two died after a car crash while travelling from Doncaster to Ferryhill in 2001 to spend bonfire night with her family.

It was revealed last night that four people from the Doncaster area were arrested by North Yorkshire Police on Monday in connection with the feud.

They have since been charged with conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm and have been transferred to custody in the South Yorkshire Police area.

A key figure in the region’s traveller community has already called for an end to the “senseless” attacks.