A HANDBALL coach suffered a “terrifying ordeal” when she was attacked by a child at a traveller encampment in Poole.

Liz Roberts, vice-chairman of Poole Phoenix Handball Club, had a ball thrown in her face, suffered verbal abuse and had £2,000 worth of damage done to her car.

The incident was brought to light during Borough of Poole’s place overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday night.

Members were discussing recommendations for the council’s gypsy and traveller strategy across the borough.

Poole Phoenix Handball Club chairman John Pearce told the meeting about the terrifying ordeal his vice-chairman had experienced when she entered the traveller encampment at Beach Road car park at the beginning of last month.

He explained to members that the handball club was holding an event at Branksome Chine Beach on the evening of Wednesday, July 5.

“A group of children not involved with the club had come onto the beach and stolen some of our equipment,” said Mr Pearce.

“Some of our club members went after them to try and get it back, but it quickly became clear that the situation had escalated.

“Eventually the vice-chairman Liz Roberts drove up to the Beach Road car park, which is where the children were believed to have run off to.”

Ms Roberts confronted the young boy who had stolen the items, including a ball, and asked for them back. But in response, he threw the ball hard in her face and verbally abused her, explained Mr Pearce.

“She then got into her car to drive away, which is when this boy jumped onto the roof of her car and started jumping on it,” he added.

“As she tried to leave the car park, the boy ran up to the car with a broomstick and smashed the back of the car causing around £2,000 worth of damage.”

Dorset Police were called to the scene round 7.50pm and carried out a search of the area for the boy involved.

However Mr Pearce told the committee that when adults at the encampment were questioned, they said they hadn’t seen anything and that they didn’t know the boy or where he was.

“No action was taken and no arrests have been made. But my vice-chairman suffered a terrifying ordeal and the psychological damage has been very severe,” he said.

Mr Pearce called on the police and the council to step up their efforts when dealing with violence or anti-social behaviour that arise from some traveller encampments.

Cllr Xena Dion told the committee the Beach Road encampment last month was the “worst” she had ever seen. She added: “I was shocked and quite sickened by what I saw.”

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