Thetford fears fresh race violence

By Dave GooderhamA PORTUGUESE pub targeted by thugs after England were knocked out of Euro 2004 has reported a trouble-free weekend as a huge investigation continues to find the ringleaders.

By Dave Gooderham

A PORTUGUESE pub targeted by thugs after England were knocked out of Euro 2004 has reported a trouble-free weekend as a huge investigation continues to find the ringleaders.

But bosses at the Red Lion pub in Thetford voiced concerns there could be more trouble while Portugal remain in the football tournament.

Police have also stepped up their presence around the Market Square pub following England's dramatic penalty shoot-out defeat on Thursday, which saw more than 300 hooligans target the pub, which is owned by a group of Portuguese businessmen.

An estimated 30 windows were smashed as the louts threw bricks and bottles at the premises, while people inside the pub - which included young children - barricaded themselves in, fearing the hooligans might try to break into the premises.

Now the pub and the police are bracing themselves for more trouble when Portugal play their semi-final clash with Holland on Wednesday.

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Heraldo Viegas, one of the businessmen who runs the pub, said: "The police didn't want us to, but we reopened on Friday and since then we have had no trouble at all.

"We were concerned as on Thursday night the hooligans sent messages saying they would be back, but everything has been fine. We had more police near the pub and more security.

"It is difficult to say whether there will be any more trouble, although we did have trouble when England lost to France."

Norfolk police has launched a huge investigation to find the ringleaders of the gang that besieged the Red Lion on Thursday.

Twelve men and three women from the Thetford area were arrested for offences including racially-motivated violent disorder, affray, criminal damage and drunkenness.

They were questioned at police stations around Norfolk and have been released on bail until August while inquiries continue.

Superintendent Vaughn Mullender, of Norfolk police, said an incident room would be set up to gather witnesses, sort through security camera footage and evidence taped from Suffolk's police helicopter as part of the investigation.

He reassured the Portuguese community that there would be extra officers policing the streets over the next few days.

A Norfolk Police spokesman added: "There was extra police presence around the pub and we have had no reports of any problems. Arrangements will be made for when Portugal play their next match and the presence will continue."

There are an estimated 3,000 Portuguese workers in Thetford, many employed by factories in the Norfolk town.

Although some people condemned Thursday's violence as football hooliganism, others believed the match was an excuse and not a reason for the trouble - highlighting tensions within the two communities in Thetford.

South West Norfolk MP, Gillian Shephard, said it should serve as a "wake-up call" to the Government for action on the "special situation" in the area due to the increasing number of migrant workers.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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