Terrified Town fans attacked

A BAYING mob of away football fans descended on a bar full of Ipswich Town supporters and embarked on a frenzied attack, which up to 50 people were caught up in.

A BAYING mob of away football fans descended on a bar full of Ipswich Town supporters and embarked on a frenzied attack, which up to 50 people were caught up in.

A gang of about 15 Queen's Park Rangers fans smashed bottles, threw bar stools and punched customers in one of the worst scenes of football violence in recent months.

The incident was the third of its kind in the last two months where trouble has been caused following matches, prompting fears the dark days of football hooliganism have returned.

Witnesses reported seeing the away fans, who were on their way back to London from Saturday's goalless match at Portman Road, get off the train as it pulled into Manningtree station at about 6pm. They then burst their way into Manningtree Station Buffet and began shouting “we are QPR” while throwing bottles and punching ITFC fans, including one pensioner.

More than half of the home fans in the café bar on the platform at Manningtree station were children as young as eight, who were left petrified by the random assault in which three home fans were injured. One person was taken to Colchester General Hospital.

The incident ended when the fans ran back to the train however the National Express service was halted by police and kept at the station for about 15 minutes.

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Four men, aged 44, 47, 48 and 50, were arrested by Essex police for offences ranging from affray to actual bodily harm and public order offences. They were taken to Clacton police station where they were interviewed by British Transport Police officers.

A spokeswoman for Essex police said: “We were called about 6.15pm to the Buffet to reports of a fight with Ipswich and QPR fans. There were 50 of them in total. BTP are now dealing with the incident.”

Paul Sankey, 52, who has owned the Station Buffet for the last eight years, described the incident as “scary” and said his 21-year-old daughter Charlotte, the only staff member working at the time, was very shaken up.

Mr Sankey was called as the violence erupted and he arrived just as the fans were running back to the train.

He said: “I locked the door and stood by it to stop anyone from coming in. Charlotte had taken the children up towards the back so they were kept out the way.

“We get a lot of fathers bringing their children in here before and after games. There were a lot of women and children in here at the time. They were petrified and some of the children were crying.

“I think the fans knew what they were doing because they all got off at a door right opposite us. We do have a lot of Ipswich fans come in here on match days when they are waiting for their trains, but they are usually families.

“Charlotte was just shouting at them to get out. She was shaken up afterwards. It was scary enough for a man let alone a young girl or children.”

Staff at the station called police and officers from Essex police and British Transport Police quickly arrived at the scene.

Two windows were smashed, and with the amount of glass and bottles broken as well as a bar stool, Mr Sankey believes the damage will come to about £300.

A spokesman for the BTP said: “The British Transport Police aren't out to spoil the fun but members of the travelling public, including law-abiding football fans, have the right to travel in safety on match days without fear of being abused or assaulted by a few rogue elements.”

British Transport Police today said the investigation was ongoing.

Were you one of those injured at the café or did you witness the event? Call the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

Messages from both home and away fans were posted on the ITFC supporters website Those Were The Days

Jimmy Luff wrote: “After the game about a dozen guys came in chucking bottles and glasses. A couple of Ipswich fans were cut and taken to hospital. Lots of kids in there crying. Back to the dark ages. QPR fans must be well proud.”

A fan, using the website name CoulsdonR, said: “Another QPR fella here. There is always gonna be a bad element but the majority of us are civilised, decent supporters. Never had a problem with Ipswich.”

AldersbrookBlue: “I have lots of QPR mates and it's a civilised club with decent fans, on the whole. Sadly, all London clubs will always have a few fans who feel that they can come out of the smoke to a provincial town and think they can lord it. And I say that as a London-based Town fan who has just arrived home from a drive down the A12.”

hertsblue: “Was on that train with my two kids - cant say I was very impressed. I did hear that the "fight" was pre-planned - don't know if it was or that was just talk. Got off at Liverpool Street and there were police everywhere and QPR fans singing their hearts out - sounding a bit aggressive if you ask me. I think we will take the car next time.”

Saturday's trouble follows a number of football-related arrests involving Ipswich matches

On Saturday, March 15, BTP officers were called in after train company National Express East Anglia reported a disturbance involving Charlton fans on the 5.30pm train from Norwich to Liverpool Street.

Staff on board the train called police and the train was held at Chelmsford station where officers had been waiting.

Stephen Rowlinson, 37, of Burrage Road, Plumstead, London, has been charged with criminal damage. He is due to appear in South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, April 23.

Trevor Green, of Blickling Close, Ipswich, appeared in South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court where he pleaded guilty to affray and admitted attacking rival fan Geoffrey Bonsor following a defeat against Watford on February 9.

Green, 28, is now facing a possible prison sentence and a ban from football matches when he appears in court next month.

Another Blues fan Robert Reed, 30, of Malvern Close, Ipswich, was banned from going to football matches for the next three years after admitting threatening an opposition supporter after the same game.