Police action to halt New Age festival cost pounds 500,000: Bank holiday marked by travellers' motorway protest, wind, rain and the arrival of a Pacific swift

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The Independent Online
AN EXTENSIVE operation designed to prevent New Age travellers holding a festival over the bank holiday weekend cost pounds 500,000, police said yesterday.

Extra police were deployed across the West Country to monitor travellers' convoys which have set up illegal mass camps in the area in previous years.

Terry Grange, acting Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, said the operation, codenamed Nomad, would cost his force more than pounds 300,000 and estimated that neighbouring forces would have spent about pounds 200,000. The aim was to help local authorities and landowners prevent illegal camps.

Police action included dispersing travellers' convoys which were deliberately causing chaos by using vehicles to block motorways. On Sunday, a stretch of the M5 on the border between Avon and Gloucestershire was closed for more than three hours by a 74-vehicle convoy. Police were pelted with stones when they arrived.

Mr Grange anticipates a steady increase in convoy vehicles in the area as part of the traditional build-up to the summer solstice activities surrounding Stonehenge and Glastonbury.

Elsewhere damp and chilly weather rounded off the wettest May for seven years. The Met Office said some central areas had three times their normal rainfall during the month. The best of the May sun was in West Sussex and Somerset. The worst weather hit Wales on 17 May when a tornado was reported.

Over the weekend, the south and east of the country saw some sunny spells but high winds kept the temperatures down to the mid-60s Fahrenheit, about average for this time of year. In other parts, particularly Scotland, rain and cloud kept temperatures down in the 50s.

Rescue services last night called off a major air and sea search for a sailor from Starcross, Devon. He had not been seen since he set out in a dinghy for his yacht moored in the Exe estuary on Sunday night. Coastguards said the search, involving police and helicopters from the Royal Naval air station at Portland, could find no sign of the man or his dinghy.

On the roads, three people were killed and two seriously injured when two cars crashed yesterday at Carmarthen, Dyfed. Police named the dead as Walter Griffiths, 62, his wife Catherine and their friend Ann Wall, all from the Llanelli area.

James Somerville, 20, a student at Stirling University, was killed after his Land Rover plunged 200ft over a cliff near Heriot in the Scottish Borders on Sunday.

A 18-year-old woman who was injured in a car crash on Sunday died yesterday in hospital. The crash happened on the A36 near Warminster, Wiltshire. Police named her as Connie Chan, from College Town, Berkshire.

She was among six people injured - one critically - when the car she was in spun out of control in torrential rain and hit a camper van before plunging down an embankment.

Yesterday, a mother and her child were thrown clear and escaped with cuts and bruises when their car somersaulted into the central crash barrier on the M1 in Northamptonshire and burst into flames. Police closed two lanes in both directions for more than an hour, causing 10-mile tailbacks.

A mountain rescue team and an RAF Sea King helicopter from Lossiemouth last night rescued two people from Ben Nevis after a report that climbers heard cries for help.

News that a Pacific swift had been seen flying over Cley-next-the-sea on the north Norfolk coast on Sunday prompted hundreds of twitchers to travel to the area yesterday. The bird has been recorded only once before in Europe.