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Bailiffs remove HS2 tunnel ringleader from under Euston

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A geography lecturer who spent nearly four weeks underground as part of the Euston Five protests against HS2 finally left the tunnel today after bailiffs confiscated his food and belongings. 

Dr Larch Maxey announced he was going to leave the tunnel this morning and was seen in another video above ground. He was checked by medics and said he was ‘feeling fine’ but would go to hospital for checks to ‘err on the side of caution’. 

Earlier today the 48-year-old posted a video message announcing his decision to leave. 

He said: ‘I have been evicted – I’ve met my match, they’ve come for me and rinsed me completely, they’ve got all my stuff and got me backed into a corner so at that point I said ”that’s it, I’m coming out”.

‘I’ve had a cup of tea and am sorting my stuff out. I’ve got a deal that I can get some messages to people so I’ll be out in the next hour.’   

His exit this morning leaves just two of the original Euston Five remain underground – veteran eco-warrior Swampy and Blue, the daughter of island-owning Scottish laird Roc Sandford. 

Dr Larch Maxey posted a video today announcing that he was going to leave the tunnel after bailiffs took his food and possessions

Dr Larch Maxey posted a video today announcing that he was going to leave the tunnel after bailiffs took his food and possessions 

Dr Maxey is an Extinction Rebellion activist and was a full-time volunteer for the radical group in 2019 and helped organise hunger strike occupations that year. 

In an interview with the Guardian, the long-time climate activist said he had a PhD in sustainability and was a geography lecturer and post-doctoral researcher for 17 years.

However, he said he had no income and described himself as a ‘relaxed freegan’ – someone who only eats food that would be going to waste.

The Bristol-based activist has said: ‘I work about 14 hours, six days a week with Extinction Rebellion. My role involves helping develop and implement our strategy and ideas for actions, and linking up with international groups.

‘This is my life’s purpose, and I couldn’t be happier and more fulfilled. I’m happy to spend every waking moment bringing this change about.’ 

It comes just days after part of the underground tunnel collapsed on a bailiff in the site workers’ latest eviction attempt.

The protesters, who have been underground for more than three weeks, are trying to stop HS2’s plans to replace the green space outside the central London station with a temporary taxi rank.

Hiding in the tunnel, which they dug out beneath Euston Square Gardens, has prevented HS2 from evicting them.

But on Friday it emerged the bailiffs were getting closer to the protesters’ tunnel and the 100-foot passage was starting to crumble, according to the demonstrators. 

It came as HS2 won an injunction against environmental campaigners occupying the site, with the company saying it meant they should leave the underground complex ‘immediately’ or potentially face a fine, up to two years in prison or both. 

Enforcement officers at Euston Square Gardens, London, on February 17 after a HS2 protestor left the 100ft tunnel where he had been protesting

Enforcement officers at Euston Square Gardens, London, on February 17 after a HS2 protestor left the 100ft tunnel where he had been protesting

HS2 confirmed to MailOnline that none of the team working on site were injured in the collapse. 

Footage showed bailiffs working to clear the area, while Dr Maxey declared: ‘They won’t get me out today.’ 

He said in a video posted on Friday: ‘There’s been a collapse on one of the bailiffs and so I’ve got two uninvited guests in my home this morning.

‘I’m in the middle of being evicted from my chamber, but they won’t get me out today. They broke in using saws and power tools.

‘It’s really concerning, I’m about to go and talk to them about it.’

He can also be heard saying: ‘We just had a major collapse. I think you should stop this operation because its clearly not planned or safe. We’ve had enough accidents, let’s not have any more.’

Dr Maxey was seen in another video above ground. He was checked by medics and said he was 'feeling fine' but would go to hospital for checks to 'err on the side of caution'

Dr Maxey was seen in another video above ground. He was checked by medics and said he was ‘feeling fine’ but would go to hospital for checks to ‘err on the side of caution’

Meanwhile, a HS2 Ltd spokesman announced: ‘HS2 has today successfully sought injunctions which apply to the remaining illegal trespassers in crudely constructed tunnels under Euston Square Gardens.

‘Mr Justice Mann recognised that the activists have put themselves and those working to extract them, in ‘grave danger’.  

Why is HS2 so controversial? 

 

The Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, calls HS2 ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’.

But HS2 says only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase. HS2 says it will reduce journey times between London and northern England and add capacity to Britain’s crowded rail network.

Critics question whether HS2 is worth its ballooning price tag – now reported more than £100billion – especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people’s travel habits.

The first phase linking London and Birmingham is due to open between 2029 and 2033, according to HS2 Ltd. 

In September Boris Johnson joined the front line to see work begin on HS2, as shovels hit the ground in Solihull. 

He said the ‘incredible’ scheme, launched in 2009, would deliver not just ‘22,000 jobs now, but tens of thousands more high-skilled jobs in the decades ahead’. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs last year the first trains may not be up and running until 2031. The project has been shrouded in controversy since its birth, with campaigners warning it is ‘decimating countryside and creating a huge financial burden’.

In April wildlife presenter Chris Packham lost a High Court bid to stop ancient woodlands being dug up for the project.

There was also uproar when HS2’s annual report revealed each person working on it was costing the taxpayer almost £100,000 on average. 

It also revealed chief executive Mark Thurston was paid £659,416 last year – four times as much as the PM. More than £3.3million was spent on ‘travel and subsistence’ and £802,000 on recruitment fees.

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‘The injunctions sought by HS2 state that the activists illegally occupying the tunnels are forbidden from entering or remaining on the land at Euston Square Gardens.’

A 100ft network of tunnels was discovered on January 26.

It was dug in secret by protesters who object to the redevelopment of Euston Square Gardens as part of the high speed railway line.

Under the ruling the protesters must stop any further tunnelling and also tell HS2, the Health and Safety Executive, London Fire Brigade and the police how many people are in the tunnels, according to HS2.

They must also give details of how many of those who are underground are children and information about the layout, size and engineering used for the tunnels should be handed over, HS2 said.

The campaigners are also being called on to cooperate so they can safely leave the site. 

The HS2 rail project, which is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and rebalance the UK’s economy, has been called ‘expensive, wasteful and destructive’ by environmentalists.

Anti-HS2 protesters claimed the line will destroy or irreparably damage 108 ancient woodlands and 693 wildlife sites, and that Euston Square Gardens will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers.

They added that ‘tree protectors’ were prepared to occupy the tunnels, dug ‘in secret’ over the last few months, and would stay underground ‘for as long as it takes to stop HS2’.

A HS2 spokesman earlier said: ‘We urge the occupants of the tunnel to comply with the court order and remove themselves from the tunnel immediately – for their safety, the safety of the other activists and HS2 staff and agents tasked with removing them from the danger in which they have placed themselves.’ 

It follows Swampy’s 16-year-old son, Rory Hooper, being carried out of the anti-HS2 protest tunnels on a stretcher after living in the underground network for 22 days.

When he came out of the tunnel he was pictured being carried away to safety on a stretcher.

The teenager said: ‘After almost three weeks underground I am coming up. This means there will be more food for the others so they can resist for longer. Dad is staying in the tunnel and will hold out for as long as he can. I am looking forward to seeing mum.

‘I have loved digging and being underground and I will continue to protest, HS2 needs to be stopped. Young people like me have to take action to stop the ecocide being committed by projects like HS2 because we’re in an ecological emergency and our future is at stake.

‘Digging a tunnel may seem extreme but maybe it is the only way.’ 

Swampy – real name Daniel Hooper – had come under fire for allowing him to be in the tunnels, which have suffered a number of collapses prior to today’s.  

An undated handout issued by HS2 Rebellion of the construction of part of the 100ft tunnel network dug under Euston Square Gardens in central London

An undated handout issued by HS2 Rebellion of the construction of part of the 100ft tunnel network dug under Euston Square Gardens in central London

When Rory Hooper, 16, came out of the tunnel he was put on a stretcher and carried away to safety (pictured)

When Rory Hooper, 16, came out of the tunnel he was put on a stretcher and carried away to safety (pictured)

A rescue expert had warned that heavy rain and sleet could cause tunnels beneath Euston in London to collapse and endanger HS2 activists living in the underground passages. 

The HS2 Rebellion group are protesting at Euston Square Gardens as they believe the small green space will be levelled to make way for a temporary taxi rank before being sold to developers. 

As well as staying in tunnels, other campaigners were using trees to protest, although cherry pickers arrived at the weekend to dismantle the structures. 

Bailiffs began evicting anti-HS2 protesters on January 27. The group claimed an ‘illegal eviction’ began shortly before 5am when enforcement officers ‘entered the camp under cover of darkness’.

Construction work started in September on Phase 1 of HS2 from London to Birmingham. Phase 2a is planned to run from Birmingham to Crewe, and Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and from Birmingham to Leeds.

The Government-commissioned Oakervee Review considered a cost estimate for the project by an external consultant that put its final bill at £106.6 billion in fourth quarter of 2015 prices.

The review commissioned a comparative analysis of this estimate and those by HS2 Ltd and said characteristics of major rail infrastructure cost plans, according to evidence from Network Rail, were ‘not evident’ in the external estimate. 

The review said it seemed amounts allocated towards major construction works were too low, and amounts allocated towards rail systems seemed too high.

Despite it running tens of billions of pounds over budget and several years behind schedule, Boris Johnson gave the green light for the railway in February 2020.

Protester Blue Sandford, 18, who said she was prepared to stay in tunnels under Euston Square Gardens 'for weeks,' despite warnings that diggers' lives are at risk

Protester Blue Sandford, 18, who said she was prepared to stay in tunnels under Euston Square Gardens ‘for weeks,’ despite warnings that diggers’ lives are at risk

Who are the Euston Five? Swampy’s band of burrowers include wealthy Laird’s teenage eco-warrior children, geography lecturer, 48, and ex-drug runner who escaped from open prison

By Dan Sales for MailOnline

The gang of at least five activists who have halted the £98billion HS2 project with a series of secret tunnels include a geography teacher and an ex-drug runner prison fugitive. 

Their efforts have so far infuriated bailiffs trying to remove them from underneath gardens near Euston Station.

And coming from such a wide spectrum of backgrounds, each bring a different set of skills to the protest.

But the authorities warned last night they could be putting their own lives at risk if they did not crawl out of the tunnels.

The National Eviction Team said: ‘The unlawful activists appear to have put themselves in danger of a further tunnel collapse, and potentially of intercepting nearby gas and water pipes, leading to risks of suffocation, flooding and drowning.’

 Here MailOnline takes a closer look at the five behind the tunnels: 

Dr Maxey protest against trees from being cut down to make way for a housing development

Dr Maxey protest against trees from being cut down to make way for a housing development

Geography teacher: Dr Larch Maxey, 48

Dr Larch Maxey is an Extinction Rebellion activist who was a full-time volunteer for the radical group in 2019 and helped organise hunger strike occupations that year.

In an interview with the Guardian, the long-time climate activist said he had a PhD in sustainability and was a geography lecturer and post-doctoral researcher for 17 years.

However, he said he had no income and described himself as a ‘relaxed freegan’ – someone who only eats food that would be going to waste.

The Bristol-based activist has said: ‘I work about 14 hours, six days a week with Extinction Rebellion. My role involves helping develop and implement our strategy and ideas for actions, and linking up with international groups.

‘This is my life’s purpose, and I couldn’t be happier and more fulfilled. I’m happy to spend every waking moment bringing this change about.’ 

Environmentalist Daniel "Swampy" Hooper seen at the tunnel entrance at Euston

Environmentalist Daniel “Swampy” Hooper seen at the tunnel entrance at Euston

Swampy in his heyday in the 1990s when he would build tunnels to support his protests

Swampy in his heyday in the 1990s when he would build tunnels to support his protests

Professional protester: Daniel Hooper, 48, AKA Swampy

Swampy, whose real name is Daniel Marc Hooper, became a household name in the 1990s during a variety of environmental protests.

He is best known for spending a week in a complex series of tunnels dug in the path of the expansion of the A30 road in Fairmile, Devon in 1996.

Resisting attempts at eviction by police, Swampy was eventually removed from the network of man-made tunnels.

In 1997, Swampy took part in another tunnel protest against the building of a second runway at Manchester Airport, and has also been involved with the Trident nuclear submarine protest camp at Faslane, Scotland.

In 2019, Swampy took part in an Extinction Rebellion protest by attaching himself to a concrete block at the entrance to the Valero Energy fuel refinery in Pembrokeshire.

Last October, he was arrested at Jones Hill Wood in Buckinghamshire, having occupied a treehouse to prevent trees being chopped down on the route of HS2.

Breen - known as Scotty and Digger Down - was seen inside the HS2 tunnel last night

Breen – known as Scotty and Digger Down – was seen inside the HS2 tunnel last night

Iain Oliver, Scott Breen and Mark Keir pictured together outside Uxbridge Magistrates' Court

Iain Oliver, Scott Breen and Mark Keir pictured together outside Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court

Reformed drugs runner: Scott Breen, 47, AKA Digger Down

Scotty Breen had been sent to prison for his role in a courier in a heroin deal but absconded in 2007.

He moved in with his girlfriend at Faslane peace camp, getting her pregnant, but was caught after six months on the run.

Little is known about his background, but has moved in political circles and was pictured once with former Green Party candidate Mark Keir.

Since his brush with law he has turned his life around and become a key part of the Extinction Rebellion movement.

He and Keir protested against HS2 back in 2019 locking themselves together with a concrete tube blocking a Hillingdon site.

Lazer, believed to be 20, has filmed video from the tunnel as he protests against HS2

Lazer, believed to be 20, has filmed video from the tunnel as he protests against HS2

Lazer is understood to be Lachlan Blaze Sandford, brother of another protester Blue Sandford

Lazer is understood to be Lachlan Blaze Sandford, brother of another protester Blue Sandford

Juggler: Understood to be called Lachlan Blaze Sandford, 20, AKA Lazer

Lazer is believed to be the brother of Blue Sandford and from the super-wealthy Sandford family.

He is pictured in images alongside his Laird father Roc Sandford, who refers to him as ‘his kids’ in a video of their actions at a precious Extinction Rebellion protest.

He is filmed juggling on a number of occasions on a sparse social media presence but is frequently seen alongside Blue and her sister.

Lazer is understood to have take part in the Jones Hill Wood sitting protests back in March 2020.

He said from the tunnel today of the bailiffs: ‘They have kept us constantly awake via loud noises once they have been dropping dirt on us continuously so we haven’t had a chance to sleep.’

Ms Sandford was dubbed Britain's Greta Thunberg and said she wanted to rewild London

Ms Sandford was dubbed Britain’s Greta Thunberg and said she wanted to rewild London

Writer: Blue Sandford, 18, AKA The British Greta Thunberg

The teenager last year brought out her ‘manifesto’ called Challenge Everything: An Extinction Rebellion Youth guide to saving the planet.

And she revealed in an interview promoting the book she had been arrested in September as part of the controversial protest group’s fortnight of action in London.

She said she spent the start of her 17th birthday in a custody cell and a month later was  charged with obstruction of the highway. It is not clear what happened with the case. 

Ms Sandford, whose real name is Isla, was dubbed Britain’s Greta Thunberg by The Times after doing an interview with them, but later told euronews she did not appreciate the comparison. 

In the same chat she said she wanted to ‘rewilding cities like London’ and advocated ‘guerrilla gardening’ to make wild spaces. 

 The family live part time on the island of Gometra in the Inner Hebrides. 

Their aristocratic father gave both Lachlan and Isla presents made from rubbish at Christmas.     

DailyMail Online


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