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'Domestic row ' in traveller family sparked church brawl
A BRAWL that erupted during a church mass on Saturday is believed to be linked to an internal row within a St Helens-based traveller family.
The Star’s front page exclusive yesterday revealed how churchgoers at Holy Cross had to flee for safety when a fight erupted between a group of men as Father Colin Fealey was delivering mass.
Parishioners were appalled by the mayhem, in which it was reported candlesticks were used as weapons.
Speculation that the violence was linked to feuding factions of travellers – which has escalated into numerous violent flashpoints in recent years - is believed to be wide of the mark.
Instead the Star understands this violence was a result of a "domestic row" that broke out between a family of travellers.
A Merseyside Police force spokeswoman said: “It is domestic related and we can’t go into anymore detail.”
Not attributing the violence to a specific section of the community led a small number of readers to criticise the Star yesterday, however, no credible source had confirmed the allegations at the time of going to press.
The Star has been the only newspaper to report on numerous incident of lawlessness believed to be linked to crime gangs connected to travellers, particularly over the last year.
This includes cars being rammed off roads, shots fired at houses in Derbyshire Hill and Sutton, arson attacks on vehicles, pub brawls and large scale disturbances in parks.
Unlike the church fight, many of those flashpoints are believed to be linked to violence involving rival crime gangs connected to the traveller community.
However, rarely is information about the crimes pro-actively released by police – instead limited details are provided to the newspaper once it has received tip offs from sources within communities.
A number of prosecutions related to disorder are ongoing, however, in some cases various charges are collapsing owing to a lack of evidence when the cases go through the courts.
So far police have not released descriptions of the offenders wanted in connection with Saturday’s disturbance.
An eyewitness, who has asked not to be named, told the Star: “There looked to be around 40 of them running riot.
“Police had to stop the mass because they were fighting. Quite a few elderly people were upset. The men seemed to be speaking a foreign language.
“Most of the elderly people went out through a side door, while the fighting carried on in Parade Street.”
Police found one man with a cut to his head, but he refused medical attention.
They confirmed there were around 30 people involved in the disturbance, but insisted that only two were actually fighting during mass, which was led by Father Colin Fealey.
A spokesperson for Merseyside Police said: “This must have been very upsetting for the other people inside the church at the time. Obviously this type of behaviour inside a church is totally unacceptable and we are continuing to work to trace those responsible.”
A statement from the Archdiocese of Liverpool read: “Towards the end of the 6.45pm mass at Holy Cross Church on Saturday, Feb 23 an incident took place which led to the involvement of the police. As those involved were not parishioners or regular members of the congregation, we are unable to comment further.”
A police spokesperson added: “CCTV is being examined and enquiries are on-going in the area. The neighbourhood team will continue to visit the church and school to offer reassurance.
“I would urge anyone who has had any information about this incident to contact officers via 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”