POLICE have launched an appeal to hunt down 14 mounted supporters who broke away from the Percy Hunt’s procession on Saturday and wreaked havoc through Alnwick town centre.
More than 500 members and supporters of the Percy Hunt gathered at the Pastures to show their solidarity and determination to continue their sport despite the enactment of the hunting ban.
As a procession of 150 or more mounted followers made their way past Alnwick Castle and down Bailiffgate to the Kennels, 14 mounted supporters broke away and made their way through the town centre to the astonishment of many Saturday shoppers.
According to police, the riders galloped up Narrowgate into Bondgate Within without stopping to check for on-coming traffic, causing petrified shoppers to seek safety in many town centre shops.
Alnwick’s CCTV cameras caught all 14 horses galloping up Bondgate Within, turning around at the Tower and galloping straight back up the street. This happened three or four times before eye witnesses say some riders moved up to Morrisons car park.
A Gazette reader who wished to remain anonymous said: “It was very irresponsible. It was ridiculous, just gob smacking.” And a spokesperson for Superdrug at Bondgate Within said: “We can confirm that customers took refuge in the store while the demonstration went on.”
Insp Heather Richardson of Northumbria Police said: “A lot of organising went into the event and a procession route was agreed with the organisers.
“The trouble was down to a few who spoilt the day for a lot of people and rode through the town centre in a reckless and dangerous manner, upsetting and frightening a lot of members of the public.
“There were families with little children and horses were weaving in and out of vehicles. How there was not any damage or injuries caused I do not know.
“It is unusual to see people riding horses on a Tarmac road at a gallop or canter, because normally responsible riders would walk carefully on the streets around motor vehicles. I would have thought this would have a detrimental effect on the horses.”
In a letter to the Gazette, published on Page 8 today, the chairman of the Percy Hunt, Charles Bucknall, apologised for the behaviour of the riders.
He said: “Emotions were running high and I hope that people were not upset or inconvenienced by this group. If they were, please accept the sincere apologies of the Hunt as this was most definitely not our aim.
“We are only too aware that the Hunt exists only as a result of good relations with farmers and local people, and this is something which we would certainly never seek to jeopardise.”
Police say they will be investigating the incident and will prosecute those responsible. Anyone with any information can contact them confidentially on 01661 872555 ext 61326.