I’m sitting with ‘Dave’ (not his real name), a seasoned refuse collector who witnessed last night’s appalling scenes. His voice trembles as he tells me what happened.
“They came out of nowhere, we didn’t stand a chance. I was in the cab, that’s how I escaped the worst of it. That Orinoco’s a right bastard. He slashed Eric with an old-fashioned cut-throat razor, God knows where he found that. Then he head-butted Steve before picking up an empty crisp packet and saying ‘this could come in handy’. All I can remember is Bulgaria’s laughter over the Common. It’s all a big joke to them”.
Tensions have been high between the Womble community and Wimbledon’s refuse collectors since the summer, when the two clashed over a wheelie bin at the edge of Wimbledon Common, which has been part of Womble territory since the late 70s. Members of the Wombles use geographical features as their gang names and are highly skilled in improvising weapons from “things that you everyday folk leave behind”.
I met with one of the Wombles behind a nightclub in Wimbledon. Wombles control the doors of most of Wimbledon’s late-night venues, using extreme violence and fear as their weapons. Their catchphrase is “we take out the trash, and then we do something useful with it”, which is on record as the longest and least-threatening gang slogan currently in use. The Womble can not be named for legal reasons. And because he’d batter me.
“Those f*ck*ng binmen think they own the place. Yeah, they’ve got big wagons, but what do they do with the stuff they collect? I’ll tell you – they throw it all in the f*ck*ng ground! Landfill! It’s a bleedin liberty, that’s what it is. They think we’re soft cos of that Mike Batt song. Mike Batt comes round here we’ll make good use of him, you mark my words”.
Mike Batt was not available for comment, though a close friend said he was “shitting himself” and hadn’t been near Wimbledon in years “for reasons of personal safety”.