HUNT saboteurs trying to gather evidence of alleged illegal fox hunting had the car they were in smashed up by masked quad bike riders.

Members of North East Hunt Saboteurs were at the Middleton Hunt, east of York, when their vehicle was surrounded by the masked attackers, who used spades to smash a rear window, and the windscreen, as the female driver and her passenger tried to get away.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed they are investigating the incident and said: "We received a call on Sunday, March 20 reporting criminal damage to a Vauxhall Zafira which occurred at Scrayingham, York.

"Police are conducting inquiries to determine the events around the incident."

The male passenger in the car, who did not want to be named, but lives near Durham, said: "We took two vehicles down with about eight sabs (sabateurs).

"The other car, with a female driver, was surrounded by masked men on quad bikes at one point but she managed to get away."

He said that they went to retrieve some of their members from woods when a quad bike began following them and three people appeared and began trying the doors of the car and shouting.

"They opened a box on the back of a quad which contained spades, and one of them took the spade out, came to the passenger side and smashed the window with a spade," he said.

"Then they put the windscreen through with the spade.

"I think the driver's manoeuvring saved our lives. We don't go to attack anyone, we try to gather evidence and also to try to stop the hounds getting the scent of any foxes.

Lee Moon, spokesman for the national Hunt Saboteurs Association, called the attack "cowardly" and said: “These are dark days in the British countryside.

"Fortunately hunt sabs are a tough bunch who know they are supported by the majority of the population and we become even more determined.”

No-one from the Middleton Hunt could be contacted for comment.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or who has information which could assist the investigation is asked to contact North Yorkshire Force Control Room on 101 and quote reference 12160048548.