I was beaten by the cold but had no fear, says protester in noose

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The Independent Online
A Manchester Airport runway protester who tied a noose round her neck to keep bailiffs at bay spoke yesterday of her 36-hour ordeal under ground.

Liz Snook, 20, emerged from her tunnel under the site of the proposed pounds 172m runway as police and bailiffs raided the largest protest camp, sending her fellow campaigners scurrying inside "the cakehole" - the most complex protest tunnel ever dug.

Ms Snook, from Pinner in north-west London, had avoided eviction by tying one end of a length of rope round her neck and the other end to a trapdoor covering a chamber above the entrance to "the worm", a tunnel which still houses her partner, Martin, and two others.

During her removal, a doctor was present and she was given oxygen, but she said that she never feared for her safety. Eventually, she came out voluntarily because of the cold.

Describing the professional tunnelers trying to remove her as "men in black" because of their SAS-style uniforms, Ms Snook added: "The men in black had not reached me and if it wasn't for the cold I could have lasted for another couple of days." She said that she felt no animosity towards those trying to remove her and said they had treated her fairly.

"They did everything to make sure I was safe and didn't threaten me," she said. "I went down first thing on Tuesday morning. I was at the bottom of the shaft and my legs were down it and I was lying half upright. In the end, I was sitting in my own urine and all my bedding was wet."

At Flywood Camp, one of only two remaining from an original seven, Muppet Dave, Matt and Denize, who is pregnant, jumped down the cakehole and locked it behind them as bailiffs and police moved in at 8am. There were also unconfirmed reports that a fourth protester, Neville, a former social worker, was inside too.

As professional climbers, police, bailiffs moved on to the site, they were greeted with shouts of "It's about time. We've been waiting for you", from groups living in tree houses. Four people were arrested, taking the total so far to 127.

Ernie Boardman, a spokesman for the Under-Sheriff of Cheshire, Randal Hibbert, who is responsible for the evictions, said he believed that there were about 40 protesters remaining on the site. However, aside from those in the cakehole, a further three remain in the worm.

The Independent was allowed down the cakehole three weeks ago. It has a narrow, clay shaft which twists and turns sharply - in one case vertically. The tunnel goes off in several directions and features at least two bedrooms and a larder with food and water for a month.

If they are to be pulled out, the men in black will first have to widen and shore up the tunnel and force their way through several metal-lined doors.

Cheshire police said that the three protesters underground at the Sir Cliff Richard camp would be left to come out voluntarily. However, the Under-Sheriff's spokesman said the protesters in the Cakehole would be dug out.