A top British vaulter has told H&H of the terror she experienced when her horsebox was attacked by migrants as she was returning from France this week.
A group of men blocked a road leading to Calais before surrounding the lorry and smashing a window as they tried to get inside.
Lucy Phillips, who is fifth on the FEI rankings list, was returning from the world championships in Le Mans, France (18-21 August), in which she had finished 11th.
She was approaching the port in a 7.5t horsebox at about 1.15am on Monday (22 August) when her father Bill, who was driving, saw the road was blocked by felled trees.
“As we stopped, between seven and 10 men appeared out of the bushes,” said Lucy.
“They were carrying big pieces of wood and what looked like bats. They surrounded the lorry and started hitting the sides, and smacking the windows with their bats.”
Lucy went into the back of the lorry to check her horse Pitucelli, and grabbed the groom’s door to prevent the migrants gaining access.
“They were trying to open the groom’s door as I was holding on to it, trying to fight them off, and trying to break the windows,” she said.
“My dad was blowing the horn, trying to get the police’s attention, then I heard a smash. They’d put a branch through the passenger window of the cab and my mum and dad were covered in glass.
“Mum’s face was bleeding, so was Dad’s arm; it felt like for ever until the police came.”
The French police “chased the migrants away” and escorted the family away from the area, taking a statement from them.
“But then they left us and we had to drive back through Calais on our own,” said Solihull-based Lucy, who works for the British Equestrian Federation’s world class programme.
“It was full of groups of young men, all dressed in dark clothing. They were just milling around, not really doing anything, but it was terrifying because of course we had no passenger window.”
Lucy said Pitucelli was alarmed when the migrants were banging the sides of the lorry, but “he’s quite old and well-travelled so he settled down”.
Lucy added that she has previously seen migrants running alongside lorries heading to the port but “never blocking the road or being that violent”.
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“It seems that in the last couple of months, the violence has got horrendous,” she said.
“You see the news and think it’s just the big trucks, but they don’t seem to care [who they attack] any more.”
Lucy wants to raise awareness of the issue.
“I don’t want to scare people,” she said. “But anyone going out there needs to be so careful on the way back. We’ve vowed never to travel back at night again.”