Football match abandoned after hearse driven on to pitch by masked men

Police encourage public not to speculate about incident online as they request footage to assist in investigation

Vishwam Sankaran,Matt Mathers
Saturday 22 July 2023 17:37 BST
<p>Football net</p>

Football net

A pre-season friendly football match between Gateshead and local rivals Dunston was abandoned on Friday after masked men drove a hearse into the ground and abandoned it in the centre of the pitch.

Several men drove the hearse and a second vehicle, a silver car, to the centre of the pitch at half-time during the match at Dunston’s UTS Stadium in Tyne and Wear.

They drove the vehicles from the car park into the pitch and spun them around in circles, throwing leaflets from the cars’ windows.

Two men wearing ski masks then exited the hearse and joined the second car, which was driven out of the stadium, breaking through a barrier. The hearse was left behind on the pitch.

Amid the chaos that ensued the decision was made to evacuate fans from the stadium, and the match was abandoned with the score at 1-1.

One witness at the game, who didn’t want to be named, told The Independent that it was “very lucky” no one was injured during the stunt.

“Not long after the referee had blown for half-time, I heard a loud bang from the other side of the stand and immediately thought something serious might have happened,” the witness said.

“I then saw the hearse drive into the middle of the pitch and do donuts. It was followed by a silver car throwing out flyers.

“It’s very lucky that innocent people weren’t hurt or injured. The corner from which they entered the field is where the players often warm up at half-time, but fortunately, as far as I’m aware, there weren’t any there.”

“Due to an incident on the pitch occurring shortly after half time, tonight’s match has been abandoned by the referee,” tweeted Gateshead FC, who play in the fifth tier of English football and only six days earlier faced Premier League side Newcastle United in front of a sold-out stadium of 7,200 spectators, losing 3-2.

While no one is reported to have been injured or threatened during the incident, local police said they have launched an investigation, adding that those found to be involved “will be dealt with robustly”.

Dunston FC also tweeted that the match had been abandoned “due to an incident at half-time”.

“While inquiries are at an early stage, it is believed that those involved are known to each other and there was no wider risk to the public,” a police spokesperson said.

With videos of the incident being circulated on social media, police encouraged the public not to speculate and share any footage with them to assist with the investigation.

They have called for “anyone with information or footage capturing what happened” to contact Northumbria police or reach out to officers on duty in the area carrying out inquiries.

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