The police invasion of Raven’s Ait Island, Surbiton began at first light this morning, as the force attempted to remove a group of squatters who had set up home on the island since February.
Upwards of 40 officers are believed to have made the 4am push to regain control of the multimillion pound island, which the squatters had bragged they could hold for months after receiving an eviction notice on March 19.
But despite their bullish claims the occupants apparently came quietly, with most of the group either removed or waiting patiently on the banks to be ferried back to the mainland by about 9am.
Special police climbing teams were used to winkle several of the squatters from their hastily constructed ‘crows nests’, while rumours of the inhabitants bunkering themselves in underground tunnels appear to be unfounded.
Boat owner Richard Turk had been approached by police in recent weeks in an attempt to commandeer his fleet of pleasure craft for the invasion, but when he arrived at work at 8am this morning the operation was well under way.
He said: “They used two police boats and two RIBs, and there must have been at least 40 officers.
“The squatters were all just standing on the bankside cheering and chanting - they all thought it was quite funny.
“They’ve talked about how they could hold the island for months, but it looks like they’ve been seen off in just two or three hours.”
The group, who have styled themselves as eco-warriors, were caught out last week after it emerged they had used more than 30,000kW of electricity since taking control of the ait - the same power as 45 average homes would use in the same time.
A spokeswoman for Kingston police said: “A High Court writ was obtained to allow Royal Borough of Kingston to retake possession of the island at Kingston's County Court on 19th March 2009.
“The occupants of the island were given notification to comply with the courts order to leave the island voluntarily.
“As the squatters refused to leave the island, action was taken today in the early hours of the morning to implement the terms of the County Court Order, by ensuring the safe removal of all those that occupied the island.”
Kingston Council said they will be installing 24-hour security on the island while they find tenants for the former wedding and conference centre, which went into administration in November last year.