A lorry driver from Basildon has told Southend News Network’s Chief Reporter that he feels ‘lucky to be alive’ after a group of 12 desperate Kent residents attacked him and tried to break into the back of his lorry on Friday afternoon – the incident led to the Dartford Tunnel being closed for hours, leaving huge queues of traffic and total chaos for motorists. 42-year-old Ted Toddington spoke about how his ordeal began shortly after pulling into a layby close to the Kent entrance to the tunnels.
He said: ‘I pulled over into a layby as I needed to call the tunnel police officers for an escort as my load was dangerous – I had a lorry full of inflatable adult toys that had been fitted with faulty valves that left them prone to self-inflating at any moment. While I was waiting for the tunnel escort vehicles to arrive, a man in a hat knocked on my window and said that smoke was escaping from the back of the trailer, and when I jumped out a group of men started attacking me with sawn off pool cues. They were shouting at each other in a half-London, half-refined accent and that’s when I realised that they were all from somewhere in Kent, and the leader demanded the keys to open the trailer so that they could jump in and make the crossing to Essex.’
He continued: ‘When I refused to open my trailer, the beating got brutal, and if the crossing officers hadn’t turned up within a few minutes I could have been killed. I was finding it vey difficult to understand what they were saying to each other, but I was able to figure out that they wanted to visit the new seafront lagoon in Southend and make a better life for their children – it’s not even been built yet! One of them mentioned that their cousins had already sneaked in and bought a six-bedroom house in Rayleigh, and I have passed this information to the police.’
Crossing Constable Lewis Snoke told us that all of the men have been taken into custody before possible re-settlement in a camp close to Gravesend. He said: ‘We have a simple message for anyone who is thinking about trying to sneak into Essex without the paying the appropriate £2.50 crossing charge – you won’t get far. We are telling all lorry drivers to keep their vehicles locked at all times, and for the next 28 days we are relaxing the rules about dangerous loads needing an escort through the tunnel. Until the threat of Kentish infiltration has passed, just head straight into the tunnel and if there are any issues we will literally ‘cross that bridge’ when it happens.’