... but trav­ellers de­fend de­ci­sion

South Wales Echo - - News - THOMAS DEA­CON Re­porter thomas.dea­con@waleson­line.co.uk

PEO­PLE from the Welsh Ro­many Gypsy com­mu­nity have fiercely de­fended the funeral that brought traf­fic chaos to Cardiff.

On Thurs­day hun­dreds of mourn­ers from across the UK at­tended the funeral of Wes­ley Sykes.

Their cars were parked on Rover Way overnight on Wed­nes­day and forced po­lice to shut the road for more than 18 hours caus­ing ma­jor dis­rup­tion for busi­nesses and driv­ers .

Father-of-four Mr Sykes, 34, died in “ex­cep­tion­ally tragic cir­cum­stances” while on hol­i­day in Turkey.

Now one of Mr Sykes’ rel­a­tives has come out to de­fend the funeral.

Henry Price, the un­cle of Mr Sykes’ widow, said: “I un­der­stand there was a lot of peo­ple who were up­set.

“It was not a de­lib­er­ate thing to bring it to a halt, it was a be­reave­ment to a young life lost.

“That was very im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity and there­fore we are en­ti­tled to have the same type of funeral and [for] how long we need to do do what we do in our cul­ture.”

Mr Price, 45, a dad-of-six who lives in Castle­ton near Old St Mel­lons, said that Wes­ley Sykes was much loved.

He said: “He was a lovely, hon­est, gen­uine guy. A fam­ily man who loved his kids and wife very much.”

He said that peo­ple had come from as far as Dover, the north-east and other parts of the world to at­tend the funeral.

He said they at­tended on Wed­nes­day night for the wake ahead of the funeral on Thurs­day at St Mar­garet’s Church and then Pant­mawr Ceme­tery in Rhi­w­bina.

Parts of the city were brought to grid­lock be­cause of the block­age on Rover Way. But Mr Price was adamant that the com­mu­nity should have the right to block roads.

He said: “Why should we or they or any other hu­man be­ing be told what to do in their own cul­ture?

“I would not let any­one tell me what to do. If roads must be blocked off, roads must be blocked off, whether the po­lice block them off or we block them off our­selves.”

Among the most vo­cal crit­ics of the funeral was South Wales Cen­tral AM An­drew RT Davies.

He said: “This un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour is bring­ing the roads in our city to a grind­ing halt and it’s dis­grace­ful that law-abid­ing cit­i­zens are ex­pected to have to en­dure se­vere dis­rup­tion for what could go on for as long as 24 hours.

“If I were to cause a sim­i­lar ob­struc­tion on the A48 with a trac­tor or two, they’d be towed away within hours.”

He added that “no lee­way or ex­cuses” should be ap­plied.

In re­sponse Mr Price said the AM should “show more re­spect”.

He said: “He said that we should not be al­lowed to do that and bring the Welsh roads to a close, but then how many times does it hap­pen with other peo­ple’s fu­ner­als and foot­ball and rugby matches?”

Mr Price said the Trav­eller and Gypsy com­mu­nity face dis­crim­i­na­tion on a daily ba­sis.

He said: “We are hu­man be­ings, not an­i­mals. Be­fore it was ac­cept­able to call black peo­ple or Ir­ish peo­ple cer­tain words and you can’t now, which is right. But the only peo­ple they can com­ment about like that is the gyp­sies.”

Cardiff coun­cil leader Huw Thomas said: “It is un­der­stood that the cir­cum­stances re­lat­ing to the young per­son who passed away were ex­cep­tion­ally tragic and mem­bers of the trav­el­ling com­mu­nity have trav­elled far and wide to at­tend.”

Rover Way com­pletely re-opened just be­fore 1.30pm on Thurs­day.

South Wales Po­lice said they had been told about the funeral but that it was larger than ex­pected.

A spokesman said that the de­ci­sion to close Rover Way was taken for “pub­lic safety rea­sons”.

The road was closed at just af­ter 5pm on Wed­nes­day.

The Chief Con­sta­ble of South Wales Po­lice said that of­fi­cers faced more than 50 ve­hi­cles ob­struct­ing Rover Way and that they put pub­lic safety first.

Mo­torists re­ported that short jour­neys took them more than two hours af­ter the main road be­tween the east of Cardiff and Cardiff Bay was closed on Wed­nes­day evening and Thurs­day morn­ing. Some busi­nesses say they lost thou­sands or pounds due to the clo­sure of Rover Way.

RICHARD WIL­LIAMS

Henry Price, of Went­loog

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