Angry mob besiege Portugal fans

A COMMUNITY gripped by fear after more than 200 hooligans violently attacked a Portuguese pub following England's Euro 2004 defeat is bracing itself for further trouble – amid an undercurrent of racial tension.

A COMMUNITY gripped by fear after more than 200 hooligans violently attacked a Portuguese pub following England's Euro 2004 defeat is bracing itself for further trouble - amid an undercurrent of racial tension.

Police have vowed to increase their presence outside the Red Lion pub, Thetford, in the wake of Thursday night's shameful scenes at the town's Market Square.

The trouble flared after England lost their dramatic penalty shoot-out to host nation Portugal in the Euro 2004 football tournament.

More than 300 English fans gathered outside the Norfolk pub run by a group of Portuguese businessmen. Hooligans pelted the building with bottles and stones and attempted to force their way in but were held back by police.

Inside, almost 100 Portuguese fans, and a smattering of English supporters, became prisoners in the pub barricading themselves in and staying away from the dozens of shattered windows.

Pub partner Heraldo Viegas said: "They were all around the pub - we were in the middle like an island being attacked by all sides. They were throwing stones and everything they could get to smash the windows.

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"The English people were trying to get in and we became very concerned. There were a lot of scared people in the pub hiding wherever they could, trying to get some protection - behind the fridge, under tables.

"I believe even if England won there would have been trouble. I am expecting more trouble as they sent a message saying they would be back."

Stacey Rawlings, 28, who was in the pub at the time with her Portuguese boyfriend, said she was afraid the violence would become even more serious.

"I was very scared that they were going to force their way in. If that had happened, I think there would have been some dead people," Ms Rawlings said.

"Everyone was covered in blood, I was but I didn't know whose it was. One woman was having an epileptic fit but the paramedics couldn't get in the pub - it was crazy.

"We do have a few racist people in Thetford but nothing on that scale. I think it was disgusting that this happened all over a game of football, there was just no need for it."

Amid concerns from within the English and Portuguese communities that the incident could provoke further trouble, south west Norfolk MP Gillian Shephard said she believed the incident was only sparked by tensions running high after the football match.

She said: "Everybody is appalled by this thuggish and criminal behaviour and nothing can excuse a disturbance which involved children and innocent bystanders.

"We are all accustomed in this country to fracas between rival football fans. I know the authorities and police were prepared for a bit of tension."

Mrs Shephard said she now hoped the Government would act to support migrant workers living in England.

"In this part of Norfolk we have a large number of migrant workers and before the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers tragedy, the Government were not even willing to recognise they exist," she said.

Police, who have met with community leaders, yesterday said they had arrested 15 people, 12 men and three women, for drunkenness, criminal damage, affray and public order offences. All were taken to police stations across Norfolk and were yesterday morning released on police bail.

Supt Vaughan Mullender said: "We were very aware of the potential for disorder on Thursday night and a number of detailed plans were put into place for drafting extra police officers.

"These plans were put into effect at the first signs of disorder, resulting in a large crowd being dispersed and a number of arrests being made.

"There were a number of minor injuries dealt with at the scene and some minor criminal damage. A full investigation has been launched.

"We are very disappointed that this incident occurred, having regard to efforts made by police and members of the community to enhance relations both generally and in the lead up to Euro 2004.

"But we must remember that this was an isolated incident in what was otherwise a high spirited and peaceful night in Norfolk."

The pub, which was closed yesterday , is expected to reopen today .

Anyone with information about the incident should contact Norfolk Police on 01953 424242 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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