Late-night hotspots hit by violence

Felicity Davies - News Reporter 29 October 2009

Employees of The Trailer of Life, perennially popular with Cambridge Students, were due to appear in court this week after a fight broke out in front of the fast food trailer, situated in Cambridge's market square, earlier this summer.

Despite being immediately called to the scene, employee's claim that the police took fifteen minutes to arrive, which they say greatly affected the outcome of an otherwise manageable incident.

At around 4am on Friday 1st of August, two men, who it is claimed were drunk, approached the van, where staff members were starting to close down after another busy night. The men, said to be in their thirties or forties, are claimed to have been swearing and hurling abuse such as, "go back to your own fucking country", at the employees as they worked.

A female customer, who is said to have asked the men to leave, was apparently pushed to the floor. Peter Duda, an employee at the Trailer of Life, attempted to calm the men down, and was punched when trying to intervene. A violent fight proceeded to break out in front of the van.

The Cambridge Student (TCS) was told the Trailer is equipped with an emergency button to call the police to the scene in exactly this sort of situation. According to Mr Chwiedacz, an employee at the van, members of staff pressed the button maybe twenty times that night, becoming ever more desperate for help. Mr Chwiedacz told TCS: "I was shocked. I didn't know what to do." They were "starting on customers, starting on us."

The men, who were described as being "giant", continued to fight, even after they had been knocked to the floor. Mr Chwiedacz said that he was "really really scared that he was going to beat us up." The police still had not arrived by this time, despite being called several minutes earlier. TCS has received reports that the fray involved the use of a metal bar.

Mr Chwiedacz admits that "we shouldn't have done what we did," but claimed that without the police presence, it was difficult to know what they could do to protect themselves. He went on to say that if there had been "at least one police officer standing here, that's it, wouldn't happen.  It's just ridiculous."

They claim they had to wait fifteen minutes after initially pressing the panic alarm before police arrived, taking the maximum time allowed by police guidelines to respond to a 999 call.

When the police appeared they arrested Mr Chwiedacz, who has been charged with causing public affray along with two others who were not employees of the Trailer of Life. Mr Chwiedacz said that: "We are disappointed with the police; someone could die after this amount of time." All charges have been pressed by the Crown Prosecution Service, and investigation into the incident continues.

Mr Chwiedacz told TCS that it was not unusual to encounter violent members of the public at that time of night: "We have lots of people abusing us." Conversely, one of his business rivals, Uncle Frank's, told TCS that they very rarely have any trouble with aggressive customers at all, drunken or otherwise.

The police have assured TCS that the entirety of the town centre is under CCTV surveillance, and that a panic alarm system is used along with some radio links in Cambridge as part of the scheme called Cambridge Businesses Against Crime.

The hearing has been postponed due to both parties originally having solicitors from the same firm, and will now take place on Monday 16th November at Cambridge Magistrates Court.

Several Cambridge students have expressed dismay at the news. Rosy Southwell, a first year Natural Scientist, said that The Trailer of Life "really popular among students, and the staff are really friendly". Mark Southall, another Natural Sciences Fresher, added: "I often end up there after an intense night out."

The Trailer of Life is not the only popular student eatery to have recently experienced a case of alcohol-related aggression. An incident occurred in the Gardenia Restaurant (Gardies) situated in Rose Crescent, Cambridge, last Wednesday night, when a Girton women's drinking society turned up for dinner at the same time as the Alverstones, the male athletics society, were holding a swap.

TCS understands that the Alverstones had booked a table at the restaurant and paid a £50 deposit. As a result, the athletics club went upstairs to their table, having been asked to be ready to leave at nine o'clock so that the other group could also eat. Meanwhile, the Girton society sat in the Gardies office downstairs until the Alverstones left.

However, the Alverstones remained at their table until about ten past nine, and as they prepared to leave there was a disagreement between Dr Jeff Wheeler, a post-doctoral research associate at the Faculty of Material Sciences, and two Girton undergraduates.

Dr Wheeler allegedly had alcohol thrown in his face and, in a statement sent to TCS, claimed that he "exited the building to remove myself from the situation as not to provoke any further conflict, but was followed by several of the girls who continued to assault me.

"I was hit in the face repeatedly — which left visible marks for the next 3 days — and I regrettably responded by slapping one of the girls once as a means of alleviating any further assaults on my person. After that, enough people had exited the building to restrain the girls from further assaulting me. This all happened in a matter of seconds, and I've never actually met any of the girls involved."

The police attended the incident but, after a discussion with both parties involved, no arrests were made in this case.

Felicity Davies – News Reporter

This article was edited on 10/11/14 to redact the names of some of those involved in the incidents described.