'The locals don't miss anything': Southwold pub manager speaks after 14 arrests
PUBLISHED: 18:27 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 18:27 05 December 2019
A pub manager on Southwold's idyllic harbour has spoken out after 14 men were arrested on suspicion of entering the country illegally.
Thomas Heal, 23, duty manager of the Harbour Inn pub, witnessed the police and Border Force activity around 6pm on Wednesday night after a group of people were seen disembarking a boat.
A vehicle, described to be full of people, was later stopped by police in the nearby village of Blythburgh and 14 Albanian men were arrested.
A further two people were arrested on suspicion of assisting illegal immigration.
MORE: Arrests made in Border Force operation after 15 seen leaving boat on Suffolk coast
"It was a quiet night for us here really," Mr Heal said.
"Then around 6pm, we saw the police patrols at the harbour. There was a helicopter up around the Walberswick area looking for them.
"Someone must have called it in. The locals don't miss anything. The police came and asked us if we saw anything and told us to be vigilant."
Mr Heal said the picturesque harbour, which attracts thousands of people every year, is no stranger to police patrols.
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"We do regularly see police patrolling down here and we did have customs officers down this way this year just parked up," he said.
"They probably had some kind of information.
"Seems like they think Southwold is a vulnerable spot but because the locals call it in when they see something suspicious, it probably isn't a great place."
MORE: Police and Border Force on scene of ongoing incident
Mr Heal said his staff have not been briefed about what to do if they see something suspicious.
"The police officer told me if you see anything suspicious, call 101," he said.
"If our staff saw something like that, I'm not sure they'd report it.
"We get a lot of people come holidaying here and they'll moor their boats up, and there will be big groups of them.
"So if we saw 15 people coming off a boat, we wouldn't really think it was anything different. We'd think it was people coming and going and enjoying the area because it's quite a busy area for yachts and stuff, especially in the summer.
"We don't get an awful lot of people sailing in at this time of year, although we did last night. There were three people who came in last night, I know who they are, but they'd sailed in. So people are still doing it."