Police have searched a travellers’ site in West Rainton as part of a probe into a family feud which saw homes rammed and two skulls stolen from a grave.
Officers from Durham Constabulary swooped on the site off Adventure Lane in a co-ordinated action involving 150 officers from five forces.
A number of arrests were made across the North East and Yorkshire, while both vehicles and firearms, including two sub-machine guns and ammunition, were seized.
The operations – dubbed ‘Zepher’ – came in response to an escalation in a feud between rival factions of travelling families in recent weeks.
Last week, two homes in Darlington were subject to ram-raid attacks.
And, on Saturday it was discovered that a grave at Metal Bridge cemetery near Ferryhill had been disturbed, and the skulls of two 16-year-old boys taken.
At West Rainton search teams were seen combing undergrowth and surrounding fields.
Speaking at the scene, detective superintendent Adrian Green said: “At West Rainton we are searching for evidence in relation to the feud and the incident at the weekend and we are searching for people who we intend to arrest.”
However, the detective said officers were no further forward in locating the skulls.
“I would like the people who have the skulls to know that time is running out,” he said. “Do the decent thing, call 101 or Crimestoppers and let us know there they are. Your community is appalled at what you have done.”
“Five forces have raised a number of addresses and travellers’ sites in Doncaster, North Yorkshire, Cleveland, County Durham and Northumbria.
“One-hundred-and-fifty officers are involved and we have made a number of arrests and we have recovered vehicles and firearms.
“This is in relation to the feud. We said it had gone too far and police are taking positive action.
“I would like to thank the traveller community for all the intelligence information they have provided since Monday.
“It shows that the desecration of the graves and theft of the skulls will not be tolerated by anybody and I thank them for their support.”
Four people have so far been charged with conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, in connection with the feud after being arrested in Yorkshire on Monday.
Three of the men, Craig Price, 37, John Watson, 28, and David Watson, 28 who are all from the Doncaster area have been remanded to appear before Sheffield Crown Court on December 22. John Stewart, 20, also from the Doncaster area is due to appear in court tomorrow.