The night a riot broke out in peaceful Thorpe St Andrew

The former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close dow

The former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close down an illegal rave, that resulted in twelve arrests and injury to an officer. Photo: Steve Adams

Riot police desperately holding back an angry mob; bottles flying through the air and police cars vandalised, and hundreds of youngsters looking for a rave. It was a night of the residents of sleepy Thorpe St Andrew will never forget.

Local residents Suzanne Sears and daughter Gabby who were witnessed the riot at he former Pinebanks

Local residents Suzanne Sears and daughter Gabby who were witnessed the riot at he former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close down an illegal rave, that resulted in twelve arrests and injury to an officer. Photo: Steve Adams

People who live in the streets around near the former Pinebanks leisure centre have spoken of their terror after hundreds of youths trying to enter an illegal rave threatened to overwhelm riot police and storm the venue.

The former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close dow

The former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close down an illegal rave, that resulted in twelve arrests and injury to an officer. Photo: Steve Adams

The former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close dow

The former Pinebanks Sports and Social Club, Thorpe St Andrew, where police were called to close down an illegal rave, that resulted in twelve arrests and injury to an officer. Photo: Steve Adams

'They were like rats climbing over the gates trying to get into the place. There were hundreds of them'

Police with riot shields successfully held off the would-be party goers late on Saturday, but one officer was injured and 12 people were arrested.

The alarm was first raised just before midnight by Raymond Howard, who lives near the derelict site.

He said: 'I rang the police and said something was happening at Pinebanks. There was the noise of people trying to get in.

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'There was a lot of banging and noise going on and no end of people walking down the road. The police arrived and told us to get inside the house and don't come out, and they were going to do their best to protect the property here.'

As increasing numbers of people, mostly in their late teens or 20s, arrived, Mr Howard took shelter in the home of his neighbour Steve Batson, while police parked cars in their driveways to deter attacks on their property.

Mr Batson said: 'The noise was like a football match – crowds and crowds of these youths looking for a rave.'

Officers secured the main leisure centre building, which is used to train police dogs, and seized sound equipment, but more people began to arrive via Harvey Lane and White Farm Lane, and became hostile to police.

A police helicopter was summoned, and police using riot shields prevented the mob from forcing their way into the building.

Some members of the crowd started hurling bottles at officers, and police cars were vandalised.

Suzanne Sears, who lives in White Farm Lane, said: 'They were like rats climbing over the gates trying to get into the place. There were hundreds of them. They all had plastic bags. They were out for a good evening.

'It was like the police could not cope with it. When I called the police they said: 'We have got 15 units on the way'. The next thing I knew there were dogs barking everywhere. It was mayhem. I was terrified. I just could not believe what I was seeing.'

Her daughter Gabby arrived home from work at 1am and was unable to drive down White Farm Lane because of the crowds, and had a police escort to her house.

At 12.34am, police turned to social media to discourage more people from arriving, tweeting: 'Thinking of attending a rave in #norwich? don't bother it's not happening! police at scene.'

Officers continued to hold off the crowd, which began to leave the site at around 1.20am. Police continued to monitor their movements and the incident was brought under control within two hours, but residents said the helicopter remained in the area.

Thorpe St Andrew mayor John Ward, who lives on White Farm Lane, said: 'I was very surprised they picked that site. Anybody locally would know that the police use it quite a lot, so it's not a very good venue for them.

'The local residents were quite surprised and shocked, and very pleased with the police response.'

Chief Supt Bob Scully said: 'This was a serious incident and while nearby residents would have been disturbed by police activity an illegal music event running throughout the night and into the early hours would have caused more impact on the local community.

'The action taken to shut down this event falls in line with our efforts to reduce serious anti-social behaviour and environmental damage caused by illegal and unlicensed events.'

Did you see what happened, or take any photos or video? Phone 01603 772468 or email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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