Eviction with conviction as abseiling special forces veterans eject squatters

Scenes reminiscent of an action movie as team members block windows while bailiffs storm central London mansion

The special forces veterans abseil down the front of the building as the squatters are evicted Credit: James Linsell-Clark/SWNS

Squatters were evicted from a central London mansion with the help of special forces veterans, who abseiled down the front of the building in scenes reminiscent of an action movie.

The abseiling team, from Specialist Group International (SGI), could be seen moving down the front of a Grade II listed building in Bloomsbury Way, Holborn.

They were needed to help block the windows in order to stop squatters from jumping out as bailiffs stormed the property.

Made up of former special forces, fire service, police and military veterans, SGI is contracted by the police to recover evidence in difficult situations and evict protesters safely. Kitted out with £3 million worth of equipment, including two dogs, vans and even a helicopter, the group has previously removed protesters from oil rigs and even from underground.

Hired by bailiffs Veritas, the team executed an early morning raid on Thursday by descending down on zip-lines from the roof at 4.30am.

Peter Faulding, SGI group leader, said the operation went “safely”, but added that the house had been “trashed” by the squatters in the building.

The operation by special forces veterans went according to plan Credit: James Linsell-Clark/SWNS

The five-storey property, built in 1887, is listed online as an office rental space by Realla, the commercial property search engine. It currently costs about £28.95 per square foot to rent.

It is a short walk from Holborn Underground station, can hold up to 47 people and, until last year, held a valid wedding licence.

Mr Faulding, a former Parachute Regiment veteran from Sussex, said: "We've always built a good relationship with protesters, in all the incidents we've dealt with we've never had an accident or aggression.

"These people in this building were squatters, so it was a different approach, but despite it being a 'raid' we try to be kind and respectful.

"We were brought in by the bailiffs because we're the group that deals with situations other people can't deal with.

"This incident was a private removal, so not a police matter, but I've dealt with every major protest since the Newbury bypass protests in 1995.

"We're the only specialist protester removal team in the UK."

The special forces veterans block the squatters from getting out of the windows Credit: James Linsell-Clark/SWNS

SGI’s leader, who is known as the “human mole” for his ability to crawl through any space to get anywhere, added that the best approach is to offer squatters coffee and to always be compassionate.

"You just have to be caring and treat everyone the same, give them a smile and help them safely get out. We've never had any problems as a result," he said.

Mr Faulding added that although "it probably looked a bit like the siege”, the raid was “all about safety”.

He said: "This wasn't about going in hard - it was about making sure people didn't get injured, that's what we are about.

"The main reason for that strategy is to prevent them getting onto the roof or balconies of the property.

“Once they are on there bailiffs operations always fail because it becomes too unsafe to try and remove them. They could fall or get hurt.

"We have a 100 per cent safety record though, so we were contracted a few weeks ago to launch the operation and rehearsed the plan beforehand in similar conditions.”

While the incident looked like a 'siege', Peter Faulding said it was 'all about safety' Credit: James Linsell-Clark/SWNS

Specialist Group International is also trained in evidence recovery, firefighting and rescue operations.