Bailiffs kept at bay by protester in noose

Officials trying to evict victim protesters from the site of the planned Manchester second runway were delayed yesterday by a woman demonstrator with a makeshift noose around her neck.

The woman, called Liz, has attached a rope around her to the entrance door of the main tunnel, The Worm, at the protesters' Sir Cliff Richard OBE Vegan Revolution Camp, where a total of four tunnellers are holed up. If the door is opened she would be hanged, and a notice and diagram has been left outside the door which clearly describes her position. Bailiffs and professional tunnellers, known locally on the site as "the men in black", spent yesterday dismantling a bunker at the entrance to The Worm and were trying to find a way of removing Liz without harming her.

The Under Sheriff of Cheshire, Randal Hibbert, who is heading the operation to evict people from the site in Bollin Valley, south of Manchester, said: "We are thinking of ways and means to get her out."

At The Cliff tunnel, dug halfway up a 50ft ridge, another female protester, Nadine, was causing the Under Sheriff's men further problems by lying head first inside the tunnel with her arms locked on to reinforced concrete. Mr Hibbert - whose men were stationed outside the tunnel through the night - said it could take at least another two days to remove her.

Three male protesters are also in the tunnel, one of six which bailiffs have yet to clear after removing people from the Zion Tree and Wild Garlic camps at the weekend.

A spokesman for the protesters said Liz and her fellow tunnellers, Disco Dave, Martin and Wayne, had enough supplies of food and water to hold out in the tunnels for up to a month.

One protester, Jeff Gazzard, said there were still around 80 protesters on the heavily-wooded area after a number of arrests yesterday. He estimated that it could take officials up to two more weeks to clear the site.

After a meeting with the bailiffs, he urged them to continue to allow the demonstrators a full supply of fresh air in the tunnels and let them give themselves up "voluntarily" when food and water supplies ran out.

He said their role was to hinder the eviction for as long as possible, but denied suggestions that gas cylinders had been put in place to harm officials.

"There is nothing down there which could be described as a booby trap," he said. However, Mr Hibbert said they had found a butane cylinder at the entrance to one tunnel. "We are taking this as a warning that threats should be taken seriously," he said.

The eviction process from the proposed pounds 172m second runway began at 4am on Tuesday last week.

Elsewhere on the River Bollin yesterday officers from the Environment Agency were investigating claims by the protesters that bailiffs had built illegal dams across the river to prevent supplies and reinforcements being floated to the remaining three camps.

Environmentally damaging blocks had been constructed across the water after an "armada-style invasion" by protesters at the weekend floating supplies to the remaining sites at the Flywood, Cliff Richard and River Rats camps.