POLICE were called to supervise a stand-off between an animal sanctuary owner and security staff after she returned to her property for the first time since she was evicted last week.
Paula Campbell, 47, visited Milkup Bank Farm, at Willington, County Durham, five days after her eviction which saw bailiffs move in to repossess the property on behalf of the mortgage company.
She was one of ten people who walked to what was previously run by Ms Campbell as the Rainbow Ark Animal Sanctuary.
The group split in two with one party approaching from the front of the sanctuary and the other from the rear.
They found security staff guarding the property along with a number of people looking after the animals, which were left behind after Ms Campbell was evicted.
Ms Campbell claimed she was using a right of way to cross land surrounding Milkup Bank Farm and the group were using that route.
After approaching the property she and daughter Jayne Campbell remonstrated with those already in attendance at the farm.
A stand-off developed and around seven Durham Police officers in five patrol cars arrived shortly afterwards
Ms Campbell, who founded the sanctuary at the farm, which was also her home, had to comfort her daughter at one stage as she burst into tears.
She said: “We were going through the property for a walk on a public footpath.
“I am really concerned about the animals up there. We are fighting back and we are not walking away from this quietly."
There had been concerns that security staff had stopped people from using the public right of way.
One of the walkers with Ms Campbell, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I came down to walk my dogs on the public right of way twice on Saturday.
“I was stopped but I said you don’t touch me and carried on walking.”
PC Simon Schofield, of Willington Community Beat, who attended Milkup Bank Farm, said: “The police are here to check that there is no breach of the peace.
“If they keep to the footpath and don’t interfere with the animals then we won’t interfere.”
The fundraising Save the Animals of Rainbow Ark campaign set up by Ms Campbell’s friend Rachel Sharp has so collected £40,708.
Ms Campbell said: “People have donated to help the animals at the sanctuary and one hundred per cent of the money raised will go towards helping the animals.”
She refuted claims from the RSPCA that the animal charity could have done more to help if it had known of the problems in advance.
Ms Campbell said: “I don’t think that it’s a valid point. I have put appeals out over the years and the RSPCA has not stepped up to the mark to help out.”
No-one from the firm providing the staff staying at the farm presently was available to comment.