Riot police and armed officers were called to an eviction at a traveller camp in South Croydon after a firearm was allegedly discovered.

There were reports of a "stand-off" between police and travellers after bailiffs found a gun while trying to evict the group from a vacant car dealership lot in Brighton Road.

Riot police are understood to have entered the site at about 11.35am, as a police helicopter circled overhead.

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm and taken to a south London police station. 

Barbara Davidson, 48, who works near the site at the mental health charity Hear Us, said: "The bailiff went in and apparently was threatened. It became evident there were guns on site, so the armed response unit was called in and the helicopter came and the sniffer dogs.

"Apparently they found a couple of guys and they were arrested.

"The women and children came out and got put in a van, with babies in their hands and stuff. There were about four or five of them."

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A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the force was called at 9.25am "following reports of a person believed to be in possession of a firearm".

A witness who lives near to the site, formerly occupied by Select Motor Company and now owned by supermarket chain Lidl, said he saw two men being handcuffed by police.

The man, who asked not to be named, added: "They were on floor by the road.

"It is getting a bit worrying because the police were armed."

Traffic ground to a halt this morning as armed officers closed the road in both directions from about 9.30am until about midday.

Several police cars were still on the scene and dog handlers continued to search the site at 1pm.

There were about six caravans in the yard, as well as several vans. Heaps of rubbish could be seen in the motor company's former building.

Tim Parr, who works at the Towergold car dealership on Brighton Road, said the armed police had arrived in the area at about 9.30am this morning.

He said: "I know they [travellers] were on the old BMW site a few weeks ago, but they were asked to leave politely and they did.”

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A resident, who did not want to be named, said a group of travellers had broken into the site on Tuesday by using a transit van to drag away concrete blocks obstructing the entrance.

There were reports this morning that these concrete blocks had been placed back in front of the entrance in an attempt to prevent access to the site. 

A travellers' camp in the car park of Purley's Tesco Extra, just over a mile away from the motor depot, was broken up earlier this week. 

It was not immediately clear if the camp raided by police today was set up by the same group.

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A picture from inside the site in Brighton Road

A staff member at Herron Fisher, an insolvency company based opposite the site, said she could see at least three officers armed with "machine guns" standing outside the site.

Two more armed officers in plain-clothes had been stationed outside her office, she said, adding: "We haven't been outside to speak to them, we're just carrying on working."

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Another picture from inside the site

Niki Devlin, who lives in the area, said he was walking through the back streets around Brighton Road when he saw a number of officers putting on riot police suits in South Croydon bus garage. 

He said: "There were tons of riot police getting suited and booted in the bus garage, about 300 to 400 yards from the site."

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Paul Everest, who works at the Laithwaites wine shop in Brighton Road, said: “The police have shut Brighton Road just south of the Toby carvery, where the Honda garage is.

"The buses are stacking up and there is a police helicopter outside."

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Mr Everest added that a customer at the shop had "just come from South Croydon, heading towards Purley, and the road was shut that end.

"It looks like its blocked between the Honda garage and down to where the Red Deer used to be.”

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There was a moment of levity during the morning's dramatic events when a small Pomeranian was spotted wandering around the site.

A police officer in riot gear was also spotted cradling another small dog, thought to be a Jack Russell.

The dogs were believed to belong to a family living on the traveller camp, although the whereabouts of their owners was unclear.


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