Police called in to investigate brawl at Aslef barbecue

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The Independent Online

A woman present at a barbecue brawl that has led to the suspension of the three most senior officials at the train drivers' union Aslef has made a formal complaint to Scotland Yard.

A woman present at a barbecue brawl that has led to the suspension of the three most senior officials at the train drivers' union Aslef has made a formal complaint to Scotland Yard.

Julie Atkinson made an allegation of actual bodily harm yesterday, six days after the fracas at a barbecue close to the union's headquarters in Hampstead, north London.

Ms Atkinson was one of three staff members suspended by Aslef's executive, along with the general secretary Shaun Brady, the assistant general secretary Michael Blackburn and the president Martin Samways, while the union holds an investigation into the incident.

Ms Atkinson has been off sick since Thursday, and contacted police by telephone to make the assault allegation. It will be investigated by Camden Police.

Aslef called off its annual conference yesterday for fear it would have been overshadowed by the fall-out from the barbecue and the suspensions. The conference was due to take place in Scarborough next month. No new starting date has been set.

Mr Brady said last night he was opposed to the suspension of the annual conference. He plans to urge members of the union to press the executive to reverse its decision.

Around 70 delegates were due to attend the conference and many have already booked leave as well as hotels in Scarborough.

This week's suspensions followed months of tension at the union, ever since Mr Brady, 41, was elected to his post last July in an unexpected victory over left-winger Mick Rix.

A Blairite, Mr Brady has clashed with members of the more left-wing executive committee, of which Mr Samways, 57, is a member.

Mr Brady has complained of losing day-to-day control of the union due to arguments with the executive, and last month said he was under virtual "house arrest" by his political opponents.

After his suspension this week, he said he had been through eight months of "absolute hell". He claimed it was not a dispute between left and right, but between "right and wrong".

Keith Norman, Aslef's district secretary for Wales and western England, has been appointed acting general secretary in the wake of Mr Brady's suspension.

A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed that a complaint had been made about an incident in Arkwright Road, Hampstead last Thursday.

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