Monday, July 11, 2011

A MAN was last night fighting for his life after a frenzy of alcohol- fuelled violence plagued one of Hampshire’s biggest free music events.

Music lovers told how drunken thugs went on the rampage in Romsey as the picturesque market town hosted the Beggars Fair street festival.

Organisers now fear for the future of the annual celebration.

Witnesses have a told how:

• A mass brawl left a 28- year-old hospitalised and another with a broken jaw and broken eye socket.

• A five-month-old baby suffered a nose bleed when it is believed to have been hit in the face by a bottle.

• A disabled man was knocked to the floor when he was caught up in a fight in an alleyway off the town’s Market Place.

Police even forced one pub, The Romsey Tavern, to close six hours early at 7pm on Saturday – even though management had live acts booked throughout the evening.

In the worst incident a man named locally as Andrew Tuckwell, 28, from Southampton, was seriously injured after he was caught up in a brawl involving as many as 12 people in the early hours of Saturday.

He was rushed to hospital where he is in a critical but stable condition and hundreds of his friends have already left heartfelt messages on his social networking page.

The former Mountbatten School pupil was attacked when he tried to break up a fight in Cupernham Road, Romsey.

Witnesses told how another man sustained injuries including a broken jaw and a broken eye socket.

The road was sealed off nearly all day on Saturday while detectives gathered forensic evidence and carried out door to door inquiries.

Detectives last night charged a teenager with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and actual bodily harm.

Lewis Packham, 18, of Tavistock Close, Romsey, was today due to appear before magistrates charged in connection with the incident.

Two other youths, both 18 and from Romsey, were also arrested and questioned by detectives in connection with the incident and have now been released on police bail.

A police spokesman said: “Officers dealt with a number of drink-related incidents where people had consumed too much alcohol and as a result their behaviour and conduct was unacceptable.”

He added some troublemakers were issued with fixed penalty notices for disorder.

Others were asked to leave the area and not return and those who refused, were arrested.

Police said they got a report at 4.16pm on Saturday that a five-month- old baby may have been hit by something although could not confirm details.

Beggars Fair organiser Delsia Bartlett said a minority had set out to cause problems at the event but many people had no idea there was any trouble and most had a “lovely” day.

She added: “We hope we can move forward. We have always feared something like this happening to jeopardise Beggars Fair.

“The aim of the fair is to make it a fun, family event for people to be proud of and we all work tirelessly to try to make that happen. It is clear some people have set out to spoil it for the majority.”

Many talk about being caught up in scuffles across the town throughout the day and into the evening, which was closed off to traffic.

One Romsey festival-goer, said: “Youths come along to get off their faces and don’t know when to stop.”

Another Romsey resident, added: “I intend to buy a riot-protection suit and mace spray before attending next year’s fair.”

The Romsey Tavern posted on its website: “We were made to shut early, either voluntarily or face an enforced closure. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to cover it.”