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Local man, 61, beaten up at Appleby horse fair and taken to hospital as police hunt for two suspects

A local 61-year-old man was beaten up at Appleby horse fair before ‘men from travelling community walked away from the scene.  

A number of men thought to be from the travelling community were seen walking quickly away from the scene of the attack shortly afterwards, although police say they are keeping an open mind.

The victim, a local man, had been drinking with older travellers earlier in the evening at The Midland pub in the market town, which is bursting at the seams from the huge annual influx.

He suffered severe bruising in the assault and was taken by ambulance to hospital but was later allowed home.

The incident has caused further tension between local people and members of the Gyspy, Roma and Travelling (GRT) community.

Locals have been complaining about disorder and littering surrounding the 250-year-old event, while gypsies have accused motorist of driving too fast and inconsiderately as they lead their horses and wagons along the roads.

Police have launched a manhunt for two men after a 61-year-old local was assaulted at the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria. Pictured: Horses are washed in the River Eden on the first day of the event on Thursday

The man injured in the assault left the Midland, close to the town’s railway station, but was attacked nearby at 10.20pm on Thursday night.

Police said the attackers left in the direction of the Midland and people living in Clifford Street, the scene of the attack, saw a group of around eight men walking briskly away.

A resident said: ‘The fair is now too big for the size of the town and sadly incidents like this are becoming too common.

‘Three years ago a local businessman was seriously attacked after his car accidentally struck a child from a traveller family. It’s terrible that local people are being subjected to incidents like this in what is a quiet country town for 51 weeks of the year.’

Another resident reported seeing seven men walking up the street towards the Midland in the minutes following the attack and said they were joined by an eighth soon afterwards.

Police say they cannot say ‘for certain’ that the attackers were members of the travelling community.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: ‘Police are appealing for information as they investigate an assault which occurred in Appleby last night. The incident took place at around 10.20pm.

A man aged 61 and from Appleby was punched a number of times by two men in the Clifford Street area. The men then left the area in the direction of The Midland pub.

‘The victim suffered severe bruising to his face and a cut over his eye. He was taken to hospital as a precaution but has subsequently been discharged.

‘Police are appealing for any witnesses or anyone with information to make contact.’

Police are appealing for witnesses to the assault, which happened at 10.20pm on Wednesday night and left the victim, a local man, in hospital. Pictured: Horses are washed in the River Eden on the first day of the event on Thursday

Police are appealing for witnesses to the assault, which happened at 10.20pm on Wednesday night and left the victim, a local man, in hospital. Pictured: Horses are washed in the River Eden on the first day of the event on Thursday

This year’s event has also seen problems arise in Kirkby Stephen, which neighbours Appleby.

Travellers traditionally camp there in the lead up to the fair starting, using roadside verges as makeshift stopover points.

There was anger from local people as they moved off leaving litter strewn across fields and verges.

One resident said: ‘Most of the rubbish has been cleaned up but it wasn’t by the travellers, they just left for the first day of Appleby and their mess was strewn everywhere.There was even a shopping trolley left behind.

‘I don’t see why local tax payers should foot the bill, they should pick up their litter when they leave.’

In the neighbouring village of Long Marton there were claims the village green had been used as an ad hoc toilet.

A post on a village community forum warned parents not to allow their children to play on the green until it could be cleaned up.

In turn travellers have complained that one of their traditional camps had been sprayed with cow manure and sectioned off with boulders by the land owner.

This year's event has also seen problems arise in Kirkby Stephen, which neighbours Appleby. Pictured: A bow top wagon was driven through the town centre on the first day of the event

This year’s event has also seen problems arise in Kirkby Stephen, which neighbours Appleby. Pictured: A bow top wagon was driven through the town centre on the first day of the event

That forced them to find a new pitch in Kirkby Stephen and they chose Upper Eden Rugby Club, leading to a stand-off with locals and the police.

The group of around 20 caravans and motor homes was moved on the following day when an eviction notice was served.

Travellers also issued a plea to motorists to slow down when passing their horses and carts.

Billy Welch, known as the Shera Rom or Head Gypsy is pleading with the public to be patient he said: ‘Please drive with caution there are families with small children in them.

‘It’s better to be late than the late. My concern is something serious could happen and someone could be seriously injured.

‘It’s not just the horse we have to worry about it’s the families and children. Drive with caution and be prepared to slow down.’

The fair looks set to receive a larger than average number of visitors because fewer people are holidaying abroad.

The flock to the town to watch centuries-old tradition of washing horses in the River Eden, before they are taken up the hill to the ‘flashing lane’ where they are put through their paces for prospective buyers.

Travellers also issued a plea to motorists to slow down when passing their horses and carts. Pictured: Some attendees arrive at Appleby Horse Fair on Thursday

Travellers also issued a plea to motorists to slow down when passing their horses and carts. Pictured: Some attendees arrive at Appleby Horse Fair on Thursday

A good carriage horse can sell for as much as £30,000, with deals being struck in swift, informal auctions at the roadside and sealed by slapping hands together.

Among those washing their horses in the Eden was Tianna Mullan, 13, and her grey mare Ice Cube. Tianna’s dad Bernard Mullan, 39, of Belfast, said: ‘She’s an excellent horse woman, she knows what she’d doing and the horse is happy.

‘Tianna races him in carriage races, they have a great understanding.

‘Taking the horses into the water has been done for generations, it’s one of the great traditions of the fair. It’s great to be back after so long away, it feels like coming home.’

RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy is supervising the event. He said: ‘Our advice is not to go into the water with their horses but there is no law to stop them doing it.

‘We have a team of 30 on hand to deal with any welfare issues for the animals and the horses that have gone into the river have been closely watched.

‘They have been fine, we haven’t seen any showing any sign of distress and if we do we’ll intervene. We’re not just here to monitor the travelling community. Every year we have to free a dog left in a hot car and that is more often from non travelling visitors.

‘We expect large numbers of people this weekend because of people being on staycations so we’re asking them to be particularly mindful of their dogs and preferably not bring them to the fair.’

This year sees a return to the fair after it was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19.

It was only the second time in its history it had been called off, the first being due to the foot and mouth epidemic of 2011. 


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