Rhino horn smuggling gang member fought to save Travellers' site

Richard Sheridan fought a 10-year battle against attempts by the authorities to clear Dale Farm in Essex

A Traveller who allied himself with the rights campaigners Vanessa and Corin Redgrave to fight the closure of Britain’s biggest illegal Traveller site can be named today as a key organiser in a global rhino horn smuggling racket.

Richard Sheridan, 47, fought a 10-year battle against attempts by the authorities to clear Dale Farm in Essex, securing the backing of two members of the acting dynasty. Sheridan also travelled to Geneva to address a UN committee and persuaded them to call for a suspension of the eviction of 400 people.

“The whole situation is really about planning,” said the Oscar-winning actress and activist in one of her visits to the camp. “There’s no crime being committed.”

Many of the families at Dale Farm had their roots in Rathkeale, the Co Limerick town identified by law enforcement as the focal point of the organised crime gang behind Europe-wide antiquities and rhino horn thefts.

Travellers started to move to the site on the green belt near Billericay, Essex, in 2001 and efforts to remove them started almost straight away. Families fought against their eviction on medical and personal grounds. Despite the support of the Redgraves and the UN, the camp was demolished in 2011 with many of the families moving to Smithy Fen in Cambridgeshire. It was there Sheridan was arrested during the 2013 police operation targeting the ringleaders of the British museum raids.