Pitched battles follow funeral: Mourners sought after murder, writes Malcolm Pithers

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The Independent Online
AS FUNERALS go, the passing of David Edmondson was perhaps one of the more emotional, unusual and, as it turned out, expensive.

It led to street battles between mourners, passers-by and about 100 police officers. Shops and pubs were wrecked and set on fire, a 45-seat bus was allowed to run into a cleaner's shop and about pounds 10,000 damage caused.

Gangs ran wild throughout Thursday night and early yesterday in Darlington, Co Durham, where the 29-year-old pub doorman died. They lit fires, attacked a dog handler and grabbed a police dog by the throat.

The cause of the mayhem seems to have been the vicious way David Edmondson met his death. He was clubbed to death in a car park, struck about the head with a baseball bat. His friends and relatives blamed a group of travellers who had moved into the area. The police thought there might be trouble, but did not foresee its extent, and did not expect it on the day of the funeral.

'Feelings have been running high in the town and it appears that various groups had been drinking throughout the day and decided to cause trouble. We now want people to come to their senses,' Sgt Geoff Gibson said.

Deacon Ann McKeith, who officiated at the funeral at the Holy Trinity church, told mourners that the human response to the death was likely to be that of revenge. But she told the congregation: 'We have to forgive.'

But a short while later mourners were fighting in the streets. Youths broke into a single-decker bus, released the handbrake and watched as the vehicle trundled into a dry cleaner's. When the police arrived trouble flared again and nine police vans were called to the Hope Inn. The landlady there, Julie Appleby, 33, said gangs stormed the pub and began attacking people.

'They came in and said they were looking for the gypsies and did not believe me when I said they did not drink in my pub. They smashed stools and were very abusive before the police came,' she said.

The gangs then moved on to other pubs looking for people they thought might have been involved in Mr Edmondson's death. At the Red Lion, the assistant manager, Duncan MacKinnon, 27, a former policeman, said youths set fire to furniture and clothes.

'It was a nightmare. They were throwing glasses and customers were getting hit for no reason at all,' he said. Fourteen people were charged with public order offences and released on bail.

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