BASILDON council leader Tony Ball has revealed for the first time the level of intense hatred he faced during the eviction.

Mr Ball was targeted with hate mail, including a letter sent to his Wickford home containing a graphic picture of Colonel Gaddafi's dead body.

It stated this was how he would end up. The Tory leader said: "There were some extremely unpleasant letters and emails.

One contained the picture of Colonel Gaddafi's corpse.

They had cut out letters from pages and spelt out "Sewer rat" "this should be you". "I have not spoken about that individual letter until now."

Other mailings likened Mr Ball and the council's policy to Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Mr Ball accepts as a borough council leader he is unlikely ever again to face a more stressful and challenging time with so much media focus.

He said: "We knew it was going to be a challenge and of interest to the media, but no one expected the extent it actually was."

By September 19 the bailiffs and police were outside the site all day waiting to go in, but an 11th-hour court appeal by the travellers saw them stopped in their tracks.

It led to another month of court hearings, with Mr Ball faced with microphones and notepads most days, until the go ahead was finally given and the eviction proper began on October 19.

He recalled: "The most stressful period was sitting through the court cases. “There was the concern that if we had not got everything right, if we just got one thing wrong, we would be back to square one.

But in the end we didn't get anything wrong. This was when they were looking for Colonel Gadaffi, and I did say that during the court cases I wish they would find Gadaffi to take the media focus off us! Soon after the eviction they did and within days the media just left the area."

Ironically, it was the capture and gruesome killing of Gadaffi that allowed the poison pen letter writer to send Mr Ball the threatening letter.

Police have investigated but a culprit has never been found. But alongside the hate mail, there were more messages of support.

He said: "People wrote to thank me from as far away as India and Australia. “There were even travellers who said we were right to do it as the community at Dale Farm had given them a bad name.

The post card from India was from a Romany organisation." So in hindsight did he regret the cost, ongoing problems and attention the eviction brought?

He said: "I would much rather have not spent the money or stood in field in the middle of October with hundreds of police in riot gear, I would rather not have been in that position, but I am absolutely clear we had no choice we have to apply planning law consistently.

There is still work to do, but the object was to clear all the illegal development and that has been achieved. “I have no doubt a year on the state of the land is not ideal, but it is temporary and the court decision was to restore it to green belt and that will be done."