31 October 2005

31 October 2005

Local people, businesses and partner organisations received special achievement awards for their outstanding efforts in this year’s Lewisham in Bloom campaign.

Councillor Andrew Brown, Cabinet Member for the Environment, who presented the awards at a ceremony held in the Town Hall, Catford, paid tribute to everyone who took part. He said: “This year’s efforts were bigger and better than ever before. The sheer number of people participating this year and the quality of their work really helped show the London in Bloom judges that Lewisham is going from strength to strength.”

Lewisham scooped a Silver Gilt award at this year’s prestigious London in Bloom ceremony – only three other boroughs, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond and Bromley received this award. Community involvement is an important part of the judging process.

Andrew added: “Let’s not get complacent though. We want to do even better next year!”

Judging for Lewisham In Bloom took place in the first two weeks of July – the judging panels praised the high standard of all the entries.

The winners of the first prizes in each of the Lewisham in Bloom categories are:

Large residential front gardens:
Mr T Minter, Sydenham, SE26
Small residential front gardens:
Mr J Golding, Forest Hill, SE23 2RN
Mr J Hodgson, Downham, BR1 5PR
Our Lady of Lourdes, Lewisham SE13 5DZ
Cinderford Way, Downham, BR1 5BR (communal area)
Allotment site:
Chinbrook Meadows
The overall winner of the Frank Mason Lewisham in Bloom Cup was Mr T Minter, Sydenham, SE26.

A special award was presented to Ms C Cleary and family of Catford, SE6, in celebration of her father’s outstanding contribution to Lewisham in Bloom over the years. Mr M Cleary, who won first prize in the large front garden category many times, sadly passed away earlier in the year.

29 October 2005

29 October 2005

Net closes in on court fugitives

CORNERED and nowhere to hide, a woman struggles with cops as she is hand-cuffed and taken away from her flat.

Officers made more than 70 similar arrests in one morning, targeting fugitives with outstanding warrants.

The Met says its dawn blitz sent a clear message to those on the run from the law, "Hand yourselves in or we'll come and find you".

Operation Action Day saw cops raid the homes of villains in 14 London boroughs including Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham and Wandsworth.

More than 700 uniformed officers swooped at around 6am yesterday - breaking down doors when occupants refused to answer.

Those arrested had failed to appear in court for a range of crimes including robbery, assault, public disorder and traffic offences.

Commander Alf Hitchcock, who headed Operation Action Day, said: "Our message to those who have not been arrested in today's operation is give yourself up now - as we will continue to search out those who are wanted."

Action Day was part of an ongoing Met initiative to root out those on the run from the courts.

Operation Halifax was launched on September 19, and officers have already picked up 2,500.

Cmdr Hitchcock said: "This operation is about targeting people who fail to appear at court and are trying to evade justice.

"We are determined to see that they are arrested and the victims of their crimes have the satisfaction of seeing them dealt with by the courts."

Of the 78 arrests in the capital, Lambeth was the second highest borough with 10. There were five in Southwark and Wandsworth, and two in Lewisham.

'My baby died after docs ignored me'

A FURIOUS father told an inquest his baby died in hospital after doctors ignored his pleas for help.

Felix Agyemang-Amponsah phoned for an ambulance after five-month-old Richard began vomiting and developed diarrhoea.

The worried dad went with his son and wife Vida to the casualty department of Lewisham Hospital.

He told Southwark Coroner's Court on Wednesday he begged medics to do more but they ignored him and Richard died later, on August 4.

Mr Agyemang-Amponsah, of Eddystone Tower, Oxestalls Road, Deptford, told the inquest: "We were there seven hours and no one attended to him.

"I told them, 'This baby's very critical'. "The doctors came and they looked at him but they did nothing and went away.

"Then, at a quarter to nine, I noticed that his head was sinking in.

"I said, 'Please get the doctor, my baby is dying' . "About five of them came and they rushed to Richard and unfortunately he didn't make it."

But Dr Rebecca Rub, a consultant paediatrician at Lewisham Hospital, said the baby was monitored regularly through the day. She said Richard even seemed to be improving until around 7pm, when his temperature went up. He was pronounced dead at 10.40pm.

Richard was born two months early on February 23.

During his short life he had endured two operations for a bowel defect.

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

School dinner courses 'to be cut'

A course set up to train catering staff as part of a drive to improve school meal standards is under threat because of college funding cuts in England.
A one-day course developed after Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve school meals will not be funded under new government priorities.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly announced in the summer there would be new training for school kitchen staff.

But ministers now say such short courses are of "limited value".

The City and Guilds course teaches basic requirements of a balanced diet, and how to prepare fresh food.

TV chef Jamie Oliver filmed school dinner staff in Greenwich as part of his series Jamie's School Dinners, which raised concerns about school meal standards.

Lewisham College trains Jamie Oliver's apprentices at his Fifteen restaurant, and already trains school dinner staff in Greenwich, where the series Jamie's School Dinners was filmed.

The college said it had been finalising the content of the course, and wanted to offer it in the near future.

But Nick Linford, head of planning, funding and projects, said it wondered whether it would be worthwhile to deliver the course if funding were withdrawn from next year.

"I wonder whether the government's priorities have been thought through," he said.

"Perhaps there will be some exceptions to the new priorities, and I hope the course will be saved, but the government position is clear.

"We very much support the government's agenda on vocationalism, but there could be unintended consequences of these funding changes."

He said schools would be obliged to pay for the course.

Wanted in connection with kidnapping

DETECTIVES are still chasing a man they want to question in connection with a violent kidnapping.

Police want to speak to Dwayne Callender about the incident in September, when a 25-year-old man was held hostage for 48 hours.

The victim was dragged from his car in Musgrove Road, New Cross, in the early hours of September 1.

He was blindfolded and gagged before being taken to an unknown car park, where he was tortured and subjected to repeated threats and beatings.

His two-day ordeal ended when he was dumped at an address in Brockley on September 3.

Callender, who is from Brockley but also known to visit St Mary Cray regularly, is black, around 5ft 9ins tall and has a distinctive gold tooth.

Anyone who knows where he is should call 020 8284 8433 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

28 October 2005

28 October 2005

Funds for shelter

A GROUP of Christian artists organised a fundraising concert at the weekend to help the victims of the Pakistan earthquake.

More than 20 people turned up at Lee Green House, Lampmead Road, Lee, to donate money towards providing shelter for the survivors of the quake.

The disaster is estimated to have killed 53,000 people and destroyed villages and towns in Pakistan leaving millions homeless.

The concert organised by Christian Missionary Artists on Saturday evening, raised £350 towards supplying tents, blankets and clothes to the victims.

Organiser Alain Yvorra said: "It was an excellent evening. We were also given six big tents.

"We have connections on the ground who will be able to give our aid directly to people who need it."

Dangerous mental patient on the run

A "dangerous" mental patient who has escaped from a specialist unit was being hunted today.

Police warned the public not to approach 30-year-old Bruce Wacha who absconded from The Cygnet Wing in Blackheath, south east London.

Wacha, who was being detained under the Mental Health Act, has not been seen at the unit since Monday night. However he has been spotted subsequently in the nearby Southwark area.

He is described as black, of thin to medium build, about 6ft tall, with brown eyes and cropped hair.

Police are appealing for information as to his whereabouts.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean Wanless, of Lewisham CID, said: "We are asking members of the public who see Mr Wacha not to approach him, but to call police.

"Wacha left a specialist unit where he was being detained under the Mental Health Act.

"We understand that Wacha is required to take daily medication which he does not have with him.

"We are advised he may be a danger to himself and the public.

"Wacha was last seen by staff on Monday October 24 at approximately 7.10pm.

"He was not seen again until 11.30pm on Tuesday night when he visited two addresses in the Borough of Southwark.

"We believe that Wacha may visit the Southwark, Lambeth and Hackney areas of London.

"On the day he went missing he was dressed in dark clothing and was wearing a black baseball cap."

Anyone who may know of his whereabouts or who may have seen him is asked to call Lewisham Police Station on 020 8297 1212 or, to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111

Hero Remembered

The Honor Oak and Brockley branch of the Royal British Legion will be holding a commemorative service for First World War hero Commander Archibald Walter Buckle at Brockley Cemetery, Brockley Grove, on Sunday. For more information on the service, call 020 8291 3548.

Fraudsters that cost taxpayers £40m

In 1987 Steve Pigott co-wrote Living in a Box, a pop-funk song that reached No 5 in the singles charts. "Woke up this morning, closed in on both sides," he wrote. "Life goes in circles, around and around."

This morning Pigott will have plenty of time to contemplate the irony of those lyrics as he sits in a box of sorts, in HMP Elmley, a category C prison on the Isle of Sheppey. He has years of imprisonment ahead, during which he will have little to do but reflect on the way his life, or at least his crimes, went around and around.

Until a few months ago Pigott's reputation revolved around his successful career as a musician. He had worked with the likes of Rod Stewart, Mike and the Mechanics and Celine Dion, and had a string of song-writing awards to his name.
Then he was drawn into a new genre of deception, committing a fraud on a breathtaking scale with his gang of accomplices. It is a scam in which the victim is UK plc. And the practice of it has become so widespread it is distorting the balance of trade figures.

Pigott became a carousel fraudster: a simple crime which involves moving products around and around to swindle the taxman. Under the scam, Revenue & Customs are tricked into sending VAT refunds to companies that are not entitled to them. The fraudsters buy and sell small but expensive goods, such as mobile phones or computer chips, passing them between a series of companies around the EU which they secretly control. Each time one of the companies buys the goods, they claim back the 17.5% VAT. Each time they sell the goods they charge the value of the goods plus 17.5%, but then fail to pay the VAT they owe.

The goods often move in a circle, hence the name carousel fraud. And the rewards can be enormous. With just one consignment worth £500,000, a gang controlling a dozen companies could pocket more than £1m with each turn of the carousel. By the time the authorities realise what is happening, the fraudsters have vanished.

This practice is said to rob the British taxpayer of up to £1.7bn a year - and it is not confined to Britain. There is evidence that carousel fraud has financed drug trafficking, arms deals, even terrorism. Last year the European Federation of Accountants warned that the fraud cost EU countries around £70bn a year - "effectively the VAT take for France".

Pigott's swindle was just one small example. He was joined by three others with CVs just as distinguished as his own. Stacey Hofberg was a highly regarded former judge from New York, living with her English husband and their three young children in Liphook, Hampshire. Joanne Harris was a personal fitness trainer whose south London clients were prepared to pay £80 an hour for her time. Theresa Igbanugo was a pioneering music entrepreneur, talent-spotting young acts.

In just one fraud, Pigott and co conned Revenue & Customs into handing over more than £40m before the Duty Men came knocking in February last year. Last month they were found guilty of cheating the public revenue with intent to defraud as well as money laundering. Hofberg, 43, was jailed for six years while Harris, 36, and Igbanugo, 40, each got 3½ years. Pigott, 42, pleaded guilty to both charges and was jailed for eight years.

The judge told them their crimes had been "audacious and outrageous", and that all four had "displayed at times dishonesty which was quite shameless".

It was music, rather than crime, that brought the four together. On emigrating to England six years ago, Hofberg had found work with an entertainment law firm whose clients included an associate of Pigott - a keyboard player, who, in turn, had dealings with a record label set up by Igbanugo and Harris. Despite his previous successes, Pigott was finding work, and money, difficult to come by.

Over the next two years they discovered the ease with which organised criminals can bleed vast amounts from the country's coffers. Their fraud was imprinted with several classic carousel hallmarks. One was the use of false identities. Employing a trick lifted from the Frederick Forsyth novel The Day of the Jackal, Pigott got a passport in the name of David Roy Chapman after finding the name on a child's gravestone in a churchyard near his birthplace in Yorkshire. The child, a copy of whose birth certificate he obtained, would have been Pigott's age had he lived. Then there was the high living: as they flew around the world, some members stayed in the best hotels, supped the finest wines and dressed impeccably. Several top-of-the-range cars were parked outside their homes.

In a brazen piece of chutzpah, they used clones of legitimate firms, flying to Hong Kong where they set up a dozen companies, each with names and letter-heads identical to British firms dealing legitimately in telephones and computer chips. The carousel was whirling.

A final feature, one seen in many carousel cases, was that the suspected Mr Big behind the fraud got away scot free.

This person was John Andrew Shaw, 52, a businessman and father of two from Sheffield. Revenue & Customs has compiled a 67-page dossier on him, in which he is given the codename Z111. Another codename, Mauve 111, is given to his former home, a converted farmhouse in a South Yorkshire village. The dossier outlines a series of suspicious transactions via banks in Dublin, Hong Kong, Ghana and the Isle of Man, which investigators believe show traces of profit laundering.

Pigott refused to identify Shaw, saying the fraud had been organised by a man he knew as Matt, whom he had "met in a bar". When he tried to withdraw from the fraud, he said, "Matt" threatened his children. Pigott's wife, Helene, says she too was menaced near their home in Sheffield by a man who told her to make sure her husband did "the right thing".

In court, the prosecution said neither Pigott nor his co-defendants had dreamed up the carousel fraud, and that others had pocketed most of the proceeds. Pigott's counsel said that the musician "was clearly under the direction of Shaw and clearly taking instructions from Shaw". Hofberg's QC said that she too had "named Shaw as the person that was directing others". The court also heard that the four defendants may have formed only one of a number of teams being directed by the carousel masterminds.

The court heard that Shaw was under investigation, but that they had been unable to arrest him. He is said to be living in Dubai, which shows no interest in extraditing carousel fraudsters.

Meanwhile, in Sydenham, south London, the luxury cars have gone from outside the house Harris and Igbanugo once rented. In Liphook, Hofberg's ex-husband David talks about how their marriage collapsed under the strain. Their home, Robin Cottage, may now be seized.

In Sheffield, Helene Pigott says she is waiting for the day she and her daughters, six and 12, may be forced to leave their Victorian mansion. She asks that you keep your voice down, because her children do not know the full details of what their father did. When the conversation is interrupted by the ringing of the phone, it is usually a call from somebody chasing her husband's credit card debts. "I tell them to join the queue," she says.

27 October 2005

27 October 2005

A fair-weather insurance firm

A FED-UP financial advisor whose house was damaged by "freak weather" has hit back at an insurance giant which refused his claim.

Trevor Speid, 43, returned from holiday to find his lounge ceiling and floor damaged by water after his roof leaked.

Neighbours reported torrential rain and an "intense downpour" and golf ball-sized hailstones caused the damage.

But Mr Speid's insurer, Halifax St Andrews, is refusing to pay because weather experts at the Met Office could not confirm the freak storm had happened.

Mr Speid, of Allerford Road, Catford, fears he will have to pay thousands of pounds to remove poisonous asbestos uncovered by the water.

Mr Speid, who is married to Beata, 43, and has a three-year-old daughter Ania, said: "I'm really angry. I returned from holiday on August 28 to find my house had been damaged.

"My neighbours, who are keen gardeners, keep a close eye on the weather and they can both confirm the storm and hail took place.

"But what am I supposed to do if the Met Office can't confirm it? It now looks like the insurers are able to escape paying up, using this absurd loophole.

"If Halifax doesn't pay up, I'm going to have to pay around £5,000 myself."

Halifax does offer an "unlimited sum" to cover full rebuild costs in the event of storm damage to a house.

But the firm will not pay up because the Met Office cannot confirm there were wind gusts of at least 40mph nor that there had been rainfall in excess of 50mm in a 24-hour period.

A Met Office spokesman says that it is impossible to detect every localised weather event. He added convectional storms can produce a lot of rain and hail in a short space of time.

A Halifax spokesman said: "In this instance the damage caused to Mr Speid's property was not covered under his buildings policy as it was due to wear and tear'."

Mr Speid is not the first to have his claim declined following freak weather. In August, the Birmingham Mail reported a lecturer from the University of Birmingham, Dr Kenneth Wardle, initially had his claim declined by Halifax insurance for damaged caused to his house roof by the 120mph tornado.

At the time, Halifax's senior claims manager Martyn Foulds admitted the system used by Halifax did not account for freak weather. The report said the insurer eventually paid up.

Teacher expelled

PARENTS are backing their headteacher, pushed out after her school failed an Ofsted inspection.

Linda Horsfield's 22 years at Athelney Primary School came to an end when Government inspectors visited last month and put it into special measures.

Special measures are required when a school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education.

It also means its management team has not demonstrated it can improve the school and as a result Mrs Horsfield was told she would have to leave the 334-pupil school before the half-term break.

But the move sparked outrage among parents, who gathered outside the school in Athelney Street on Friday to pay tribute to Mrs Horsfield, who they say has done a good job as headteacher.

Parent governor Brian Tollom said: "If she can't turn the school around after 22 years who else can?

"She should have been given the opportunity.

"Lewisham education department has torn the heart out of this school."

In a letter to parents, Mrs Horsfield said: "It is no secret I do not want to leave.

"It is going to be an enormous wrench on Friday. I am going to miss you all so much.

"But together with the staff you now need to look to the future for the sake of the children."

Parent Michelle Cordina, 33, of Ravensbourne Road, Bromley, said: "We are livid. How can they remove a teacher and not tell us why?

"The children are going to be deeply affected and the school is going to fall apart."

Another parent, Andrew Miles, said: "We think she's doing a great job. She should have been given the chance to turn it around."

Despite passing an Ofsted inspection in 1999, inspectors criticised the school for failing to identify potential weaknesses early enough.

These weaknesses included lack of guidance for teachers as well as support for high-achieving pupils.

A report to governors last week from Chris Threlfall, the council's head of school effectiveness, stated "the persons responsible for leading the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvements in the school".

Lewisham Council says Mrs Horsfield has not been sacked but confirmed Irene Cleaver, a former acting headteacher from Hither Green Primary, will be taking over after half-term.

A spokesman said: "Continuing the education of the children at Athelney School is our priority.

"We are confident together with the support of parents we will be able to raise standards in the school."

Centenary event for popular library

A HOST of literary figures joined bookworms to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a popular library.

Novelist turned scriptwriter Catherine Johnson visited Crofton Park Library, Brockley Road, Brockley, to mark its centenary.

Mrs Johnson spoke to pupils from Crofton Park School about her work, before the children settled down to hear some entertaining yarns from storyteller Sandra Agard.

The library has also joined forces with nearby schools to donate hundreds of books to schools in Grenada, which were badly hit by last year's hurricane.

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock, who attended the celebrations on Friday, paid tribute to the library, saying it has "enriched countless lives" during its hundred years.

Hooligans facing further charges

THREE hooligans banned from football grounds across the country have been arrested after they were allegedly caught watching an England game.

Nicky Harcourt, of Bramdean Crescent, Lee; Terry Turner, of Finland Road, Brockley, and Dean Brooks, of Broad Walk, Kidbrooke, were charged with breaching their football banning orders.

The trio allegedly ignored their bans to attend the England versus Northern Ireland World Cup qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast, on September 7.

They were arrested after a series of swoops across south London last week by the Met Police's football intelligence unit Operation Gallium.

Harcourt, aged 19, and Turner, aged 20, will appear at Greenwich Magistrates' Court on Friday.

Brooks, aged 25, appeared before Woolwich magistrates yesterday.

Two thousand sign against school

NEARLY two thousand people have lodged objections to a new school being built on Ladywell Leisure Centre.

Their signatures were collected by Save Ladywell Pool protesters and the New School Campaign in just five days over the summer.

They were submitted to Lewisham council by campaign leaders - Max Calo and John Hamilton - last Wednesday.

The new school in Lewisham High Street would cater for 600 pupils aged 11 to 16. It is scheduled to open in September 2009.

Campaigners from the New School Campaign want a school in the far north of the borough where they believe need is greatest. In their objections they said there was no groundswell of support for a new school in central Lewisham but in the north there was.

They said parents in the east of the borough - among those served by the new Ladywell school - were often happy to send their children to Greenwich schools.

The New School Campaign's objections also stated: "The Local Education Authority has not published any race or social impact assessment to support the decision."

Campaigners believe a new school in the far north of the borough would widen access for black children to good quality education.

A council spokeswoman said: "We have taken into account the needs of all children, as well as our ability to deliver a high quality school that will serve the needs of a diverse community.

"Every alternative site has been considered at length. Ladywell, with its transport routes, location and current ownership, is the best."

The objections will be passed to the school organisation committee, which is due to make a final decision in the next three months.

Art news: botany illustration course

AN ARTIST and qualified botanist is inviting people to join a botanical illustration course which starts next week.

Students are taught to explore a range of styles and will also learn about botany. All the plants and drawing materials are provided.

Artist Alison Day who runs the course said: "We will study the form and composition of native and local species.

"This is a good opportunity to build a portfolio, produce drawings for other art disciplines as well as explore a new art form."

She says the 10-week course helps build up abilities and experience but people are also welcome to attend one-off sessions as a taster.

The course starts on October 31, 1.30pm to 3.30pm, at the Lewisham Arthouse, Lewisham Way, New Cross, 10-week course £80/£70 concs, call for single session prices, 020 8694 9011.

26 October 2005

26 October 2005

More on the new Young Mayor

A RUGBY-LOVING schoolboy celebrated his birthday in style by becoming Lewisham's new young mayor.

Wilf Petherbridge, who turned 15 on Saturday, fought off 32 rivals to win the race to become the borough's second youth leader.

The Forest Hill Boys School pupil will now be given a £25,000 budget, his own mini-cabinet and the power to influence the lives of young people across the borough.

Wilf, who polled 1,229 votes 426 more than his nearest competitor says he has a simple political philosophy.

He said: "I feel like an adult and have a responsibility but we are only kids and we are there to have fun.

"Politicians in Parliament make decisions which affect young people's lives but they really have no idea about us."

The new young mayor says he will now tour schools and youth centres across Lewisham, to get a greater understanding of the task he faces.

He added: "I'm keen to get out and meet people. I want young people to talk to me and tell me their concerns and problems."

Catford resident Wilf, who has been elected to serve for a year, takes over from Lewisham's first young mayor Manny Hawks.

Like the previous mayor, Wilf has a passion for music and sport, particularly rugby.

He says these two areas will be his "main drives" for the next year as he gets set to spend his £25,000 treasure chest.

All 11 to 18-year-olds in education in the borough had the chance to vote for their young mayor.

The turnout this year was 46.9 per cent, up two per cent on last year's election.

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock, who crowned the winner when the results were announced at the town hall last week, hailed those involved.

He said: "I hope we are creating a generation of young people who regard voting as something which can make a real difference."

Job loss fears as town hall fights to save £10m

MILLIONS of pounds are set to be slashed off a town hall's budget, prompting fears of widespread job losses and service cuts.

Lewisham council needs to find savings of £10million in the 2006/7 financial year.

The cuts are necessary to fit in with the councils financial strategy and prevent council tax from rising above 4.9 per cent.

On Wednesday Mayor Steve Bullock agreed cuts of £5.3million, with the remaining cash yet to be found.

He dismissed a number of suggestions from officers, including the closure of Sydenham library, the cancellation of the Blackheath fireworks dis-play and Lewisham in Bloom, and the loss of a sports development manager.

Up to 40 council staff could be facing redundancy and another 40 vacant posts will not be filled. Wavelengths library is to shut on Sundays and money may be found from Lewisham library through economies such as replacing the coffee shop on the ground floor with vending machines.

The council has classified some of the agreed cuts as "high risk", including the deletion of an occupational therapist's job. The role, which involves looking after vulnerable adults, is currently vacant. The loss of a talking book service for blind people has also been classified as high risk.

A figure of £50,000 is to be saved from the street lighting budget by using cash from 3G mobile phone companies. They are to be charged to sponsor lighting columns while using them as locations for phone masts.

Mr Bullock said: "We need to do some more work. Can I ask officers to come back with more proposals?"

The next round of cuts will be considered this year.

Ron shows off his own hallowe'en monster

PUMPKIN soup, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake are all on the menu this Hallowe'en for Ron Angliss.

The retired lorry driver and electrical engineer grew three giant pumpkins on his allotment and is looking forward to tasting the fruits of his labour.

He said: "I will be trying pumpkin soup for the first time. My neighbour is cooking for us because when I heard how long it takes to make pumpkin pie I thought I would never be able to do that.

"I didn't eat many greens until I started on my allotment five years ago because the fruit and vegetables you buy from the supermarket have no flavour.

"But home-grown ones taste fantastic."

This is only the second year Mr Angliss, of Thakeham Close, Sydenham, has grown pumpkins.

The largest fruit tipped the scales at just over five stone and the others weighed three-and-a-half-stone and two-anda-half-stone.

He said: "I had 15 but unfortunately slugs ate the others. "Last year, I grew some large pumpkins, but they were not as heavy."

Large as Mr Angliss's pumpkin is, it is still some way light of the UK record, which was grown in Lancashire in 2004 and weighed in at more than 65 stone.

The world's largest pumpkin is recorded as being from the US and grew to a massive 100 stone.

Mr Angliss and his wife, Valerie, 64, a retired carer, plan to throw a party on Hallowe'en.

The guest of honour will be their four-year-old granddaughter, Chelsea Pollard, who lives a few doors down the road.

Mr Angliss said: "Chelsea loves having a party at Hallowe'en. We will cut the flesh out of the pumpkins and put lanterns in them.

"I will keep the seeds to plant next year."

Private eye case may be reviewed

The investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the unsolved murder of a Welsh private detective in 1987 could be subjected to an independent probe.
Daniel Morgan's mother, from Powys, claims the 37-year-old was killed with an axe in London after unearthing evidence of police corruption.

The former Police Complaints Authority did not support the allegations.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) will be asked to back the review on Thursday.

No one has ever been prosecuted for the murder despite a number of investigations by police during the last 18 years.

If given the go-ahead, the MPA review will examine the decisions of the police and prosecuting authorities.

Under the plans, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair could be asked to produce a report about the case by January next year. This would be shared with the Morgan family.

A barrister would then be appointed to review the murder case's papers and all subsequent investigations.

A report to be presented to the MPA says: "It is the chair's view that although this murder took place some 18 years ago, there are a number of unanswered questions which must continue to cast doubt on the integrity of the police service.

"He considers that an independent review, with a focussed brief, would be a constructive and necessary way forward."

Mr Morgan, from Islington, north London, but originally from Llanfrechfa, Monmouthshire, was found in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London, in 1987 with an axe embedded in his head.

He had been the co-owner of a firm called Southern Investigations, which employed off-duty police officers.

His mother, Isobel Hulsmann, 77, from Hay-on-Wye, visited the crime scene for the first time on 10 March, the anniversary of his death.

A second request for a public inquiry was turned down in December 2004.

Mrs Hulsmann, and her other son, Alastair Morgan, 56, from north London, have been campaigning for years for an indepedent review of the case.

They had their first request for a public inquiry turned down in July 2004.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears met the family in October last year, and agreed to investigate their allegations.

Although she declined to launch a public inquiry two months later, in a letter to the Morgans' solicitor, Mrs Blears said the first investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the murder has been "less than satisfactory in a number of respects".

Flytippers to count cost of their crime

FLYTIPPERS are to be hit hard by new Government plans to make them pay for their crimes.

Recent data shows flytipping is costing councils across London nearly £1m a month to clear up.

Now authorities and the Environment Agency have the power to recover these costs from offenders thanks to the Government's latest raft of measures.

Environment minister Ben Bradshaw made the announcement at Brockley Grove Depot last week, where bags of rubbish, TVs and old tyres were piled high.

The site was chosen as the backdrop to unveil the new measures because of Lewisham Council's success in tackling enviro-crime thanks to a scheme using mobile phone technology.

The Love Lewisham project allows anyone living in the borough to take a photo of flytipping or graffiti with their camera phone and send it to the council's website.

The new measures within the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act give councils and the Environment Agency increased powers to catch flytippers and the ability to remove abandoned cars from the street.

Cabinet member for the environment Councillor Andrew Brown said: "We really welcome these measures as they will act as a disincentive for people using our streets as a dumping ground.

"We already prosecute 100 people a year for environmental crime and 400 fixed-penalty notices were given out last year."

He added: "Our mobile scheme has allowed us to deal with the problem of flytipping much more quickly."

Mr Bradshaw said: "What you can see behind me shows just one tenth of what one London borough has to deal with at the council tax payer's expense.

"Residents don't want this outside their front door, spoiling their streets. These flytippers are cowardly."

He added: "The new powers will allow the authorities, police and Environment Agency to recover costs from offenders and make the whole process of prosecuting people in court much easier.

"Maximum fines have increased from £20,000 to £50,000 and flytipping is now an arrestable offence."

Five escape house blaze thanks to smoke alarm

FIVE people caught up in a house fire had their lives saved by a smoke alarm.

Four adults and a child escaped a blazing house in Francemary Road, Lewisham, after they were woken up by their alarm.

The five escaped to safety before around 20 firefighters arrived to put out the blaze, which took place in the early hours of October 19.

Lewisham fire station officer Bill Sollis said: "This incident highlights how important having a working smoke alarm is.

"If there had not been an alarm we would have been rescuing those five people instead of them escaping before we arrived."

The London Fire Brigade carries out regular home fire safety checks. For more information, call 0800 024 4824.

Campaigners’ show of solidarity to council

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Ladywell Leisure Centre have handed 1,700 letters of objection to the council.

The centre in Lewisham High Street is due to be demolished in 2007 to make way for a new secondary school.

But centre users have campaigned vigorously against the plans and set up the Save Ladywell Pool group.

The New School Campaign group also opposes the plans, saying a new school should be built in the north of the borough.

The letters were handed into Lewisham Council offices at Laurence House, Catford, on Monday, by campaign secretary John Hamilton and Max Calo from the Save Ladywell Pool group.

Mr Hamilton said: "We are hoping the council will see just how many people are opposed to this plan.

"The new school is too small and will see a decent pool destroyed."

Man sought over alleged torture

Police have named a man they want to question about the kidnap at gunpoint of a man in south-east London.
A 25-year-old man has been left with serious injuries after apparently being beaten and tortured for two days.

He was held after men surrounded his car, smashed their way in and bundled him into the back seat in New Cross, in the early hours of 1 September.

Police want to speak to Dwayne Callender, from Brockley, south-east London, about the alleged attack.

The victim was leaving work at 0130 BST that Thursday when he was allegedly kidnapped in his own car in Musgrove Road and threatened with a gun.

Long-term medical treatment

Blindfolded and gagged he was held at an unknown address - thought to be near a main road with metal bars or red grills on the window - until the early hours of 3 September.

While there he has claimed he was threatened, beaten and tortured. A police spokesman said: "He received very serious injuries and will require long-term medical treatment to make a full recovery."

He was then moved to another address, where he was found by someone visiting the property.

Mr Callender is described as black, 5ft 9", of an athletic build with a distinctive gold tooth.

Although he is from Brockley, he is known to visit Camberwell, south London, and St Mary Cray, Bromley, regularly.

Police say he should not be approached and people should contact them if they see him.

25 October 2005

25 October 2005

Lewisham College Open Evening

Lewisham College is hosting an Open Evening on 3 November 2005 from 5.30pm – 8.30pm
at the Lewisham Way Campus.

Whether you dream of running your own construction business, returning to work after a career break, or getting into university – Lewisham College is the place to start.

During our Open Evening you can:

- have a look round the College and its facilities
- have a chat with existing students
- get some advice on course and career options
- get information on financial support

Just come along – for more information call 0800 834 545.

Blackheath fireworks 2005

Blackheath fireworks return on Saturday 5 November and will be the most spectacular display to date. This year is the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawke’s gunpowder plot and Blackheath promises to be one of the largest free firework displays in London.

The show starts at 8pm. Please arrive early and use public transport or walk. Please note there is no parking on the heath or surrounding areas.

Bus services will run to Lee, Lewisham and Greenwich.
Train services to Blackheath, Lewisham and Maze Hill stations – please check for train times. It is approximately a 10 minute walk to the heath from Lewisham station.

Please do not bring fireworks or sparklers.

Road closure information
In order to manage visitors and traffic in the lead up to the event, some temporary road closures and traffic movement restrictions will be in place during the evening. The following roads around the heath and event site will be closed to traffic from 6.30pm–9.30pm on Saturday 5 November:

Blackheath Village will be closed to traffic from 6.30pm.

Other road closures:

Charlton Way between Maze Hill and Shooters Hill Road
Duke Humphrey Road between Shooters Hill Road and Tranquil Vale
Long Pond Road
Prince Charles Road
Talbot Place
Prince of Wales Road
Tranquil Vale between Duke Humphrey Road and Royal Parade
Montpellier Row from Prince Charles Road to Royal Parade
Royal Parade
Maze Hill between Shooters Hill Road and Charlton Way.
Should you need further information, including details on facilities for people with disabilities please call the Blackheath Fireworks information line on 0871 700 0685.

Please note that traders are not permitted to sell goods or food/drink without prior authorisation and a trading licence obtained from Glendale (telephone 020 8318-3986 for further information).

For information on transport please phone Transport for London 020 7941 4500.

24 October 2005

24 October 2005

Thief ordered to pay money back

A THIEF who befriended her elderly neighbour before stealing £60 has been ordered to pay the money back.

Louise Dyer got to know her 75-year-old neighbour in Burnt Ash Hill, Grove Park, when she moved into a flat in Lewisham last year.

Dyer, aged 22, regularly asked to borrow milk and sugar.

And she twice borrowed money which she did not repay.

Then on October 26 last year, the woman noticed £60 missing from her purse after Dyer and a male friend had visited her.

Dyer, now of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to theft.

She was sentenced to 200 hours' community service at Woolwich Crown Court.

Dyer was also told to pay the £60 she had stolen back to her victim.

Mayor safeguards services

Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, has saved Blackheath Fireworks and the Sydenham Library.

The Mayor stepped in to secure the future of two of the borough's most valued institutions at Wednesday's Mayor and Cabinet meeting.

The Mayor decided against departmental efficiency proposals that would have put an end to London's largest free fireworks display and meant the closure of Sydenham Library.

Steve said: “Sydenham Library is too valuable a community resource to lose. In addition to being an important service for local people and school children, it offers a valuable free internet access point."

“What's more, the Blackheath Fireworks offers Lewisham a safe and spectacular community event that is enjoyed by a huge number of people."

The Mayor and Cabinet meeting, which took place on 19 October, considered a range of possible saving opportunities drawn up by council departments.

Meet the new Young Mayor

Forest Hill student Wilf Petherbridge was last night announced as Lewisham’s new Young Mayor.

As the excitement built around the announcement, Wilf was visibly stunned when his name was called. He said: “It was an incredible shock - and I’m still in shock! The countdown was nerve-racking. When it got to the end and I heard my name, I couldn’t believe it!”.

Wilf was amongst a field of 33 candidates standing for election, proving that young people really do want the chance to participate in politics. His deputy, who came second in the election, will be Deptford Green student Dami Benbow. He will also be assisted by advisors Yasmin Ali and Dawit Demissie-Kuma, who made it to the final four candidates.

The Young Mayor will have a £25,000 budget to spend on services for young people in the borough, as well as advise the elected Mayor for Lewisham, Steve Bullock, on issues relating to young people.

When asked what he most wanted to achieve as Young Mayor, Wilf said: “There is a massive music scene in Lewisham. I want to create a space for people in bands, in the theatre, dancers and for artists to rehearse in, perform and display their talents.”

Steve Bullock praised the commitment of the young people involved: “Wilf showed great energy, both in the workshops and in canvassing for votes, and I am looking forward to working with him on issues facing young people in Lewisham.

All the candidates showed enormous enthusiasm and commitment throughout the campaign and I want to thank each of them.“

23 October 2005

23 October 2005

All bricked up and nowhere to go

When a developer was allowed to build a metre from their home, the Abbies could do nothing. Lynne Wallis reports

When Andrew and Lorna Abbie moved into their dream home, Lynchgate, in 1991, they were reassured by solicitors for the developers who sold them the property that any further building in the immediate vicinity was unlikely, as anything too close to their house wouldn't get planning permission.

Fourteen years later, the property developers/hoteliers they purchased their home from, brothers Patrick and Michael O'Donnell, are halfway through building another house behind their hotel, the back wall of which is just over a metre away from the Abbies' home.

The new, half-built house blocks the light to the Abbies' ground-floor hallway, and overlooks their gardens and conservatory. "The first thing you see when you come through the front door is a brick wall, and it's very dark without lights on," says Lorna. "It's not exactly a welcoming sight for a potential purchaser."

The Abbies paid £240,000 for Lynchgate, a modern, four-bedroom house in the leafy conservation area of Lynch Close in Blackheath, south-east London. It was worth £850,000 last year, before the development next door began. Valuers say £700,000 would now be more realistic.

Lorna is so furious with what she regards as a totally unjust situation that she spends a minimum of two hours every day outside the Clarendon Hotel, the establishment on the heath owned by the O'Donnells, with a placard explaining her plight: "Would you like to face a brick wall?" She stands out in conservative Blackheath, an area not famed for radical demonstrations or banner- waving of any kind.

She has gathered more than 1,000 signatures for her petition against Lewisham Council's decision to grant permission and a response is being prepared. Two local newspapers claimed the Abbies' legal advisers had conducted an investigation into the local authority's procedures which found its conduct perfectly reasonable - the following week they were forced to run retractions. The investigation had been the council's own, not one carried out by Abbies' solicitors.

One house has already been built and completed near Lynchgate, in May last year. Architect Suzanne Brewer bought a plot of land to the rear of 17 Montpelier Vale in 2002, right next to the site of the half-built house that is blocking light from Lynchgate, known as "the rear of 17a Montpelier Vale".

Michael O'Donnell initially objected to Ms Brewer's plans on the basis that he thought them "entirely inappropriate", withdrawing his objection three months later. Ms Brewer later designed a property for him at the rear of l7a.

Planning notices for building a part single-/part two-storey house at the rear of l7a went out in September 2003, and a meeting of all concerned parties was held in November. Lorna attended as an objector, but planning officers mistakenly listed the proposals for 17, not 17a.

A second planning meeting was arranged for December 16, to comply with council protocol. Lorna was advised by the head of planning, Louise Holland, that it was up to her whether she attended. (Lorna had a work engagement she was reluctant to cancel.) The next day, letters went out advising all parties that permission had been granted to build next to Lynchgate.

Lorna says: "We never complained on the basis that we were protecting a view - that's not relevant anyway. It was our home being seriously overlooked, and the loss of light issue, which planners told us could not be safeguarded. We have no right of appeal as objectors, no recourse whatsoever - there have to be three objectors and we had three, us and a neighbour, but the council counted Andrew and me as one.

"Our solicitor said we could go for judicial review, but we can't afford to. It would cost a minimum of £35,000, and judges won't intervene in planning decisions unless it's for exceptional circumstances, even though our home has been ruined."

So what do they want? Lorna says: "I want an investigation into what they have done. Allowing building which will overlook our home in such a serious way is a breach of our human rights to enjoy our home and family life. The people of Lewisham should be worried because this means anything can be built on any old bit of land for an infill development."

Lorna began her heathside campaign three months ago when the superstructure for the rear of l7a began, and the nightmare of a brick wall one metre away blocking the light within Lynchgate became reality. She says: "Most interested passers-by want to come and see it before they sign, and they can't believe it. We've had a lot of support and sympathy."

Michael O'Donnell has declined to comment. While planners at Lewisham Council are reluctant to speak directly about "such a sensitive case", the press office says that the council is obliged to comply with central government regulations on planning issues.

The nearest thing Lorna has got to an apology came when Mr O'Donnell stopped his car as he drove out of The Clarendon recently and, she claims, told her: "We didn't want to build so close to you, but when the other landowner sold his land to Suzanne Brewer, it limited our options for building to the plot next to your house." Abbie replied that there are always choices, always alternatives.

Mr O'Donnell allegedly then made a reference to the amount of money he would have lost if building hadn't gone ahead.

Lorna admitted to once becoming so frustrated at her plight she stood in her garden and screamed.

The Abbies' legal bill reached £7,000 before they decided against a judicial review, partly for financial reasons but also because of the ill health of a family member.

Brendan O'Connor, the assistant director of practice at the Royal Institute of British Architects, believes it is wrong that the Abbies have no right of appeal, and the RIBA is putting her case forward at its next meeting for discussion.

Meanwhile, Lorna continues to attract interest and support for her one-woman heathside campaign. "Even if we go to the Ombudsman, I know we won't get building stopped," she concludes.

"We'd like some compensation for the loss to the value of our property. Under the circumstances, that's the least the council could offer."

Young designers enjoy play area

PLAYFUL schoolchildren have seen their vision become a reality.

Children at Sandhurst Junior School, Catford, entered a competition which encouraged pupils to come up with a new design for their school playground.

Now the Minard Road school has a new play area after competition organiser Creative Partnerships chose to develop their design.

The new playground, which was formally opened by culture minister David Lammy, has a larger play space, new climbing frames and a basketball court.

Headteacher Val Hughes said: "The children love the new equipment and it is such an improvement.

"So many of them want to play on it we have had to set up a rota so they can take it in turns."

Creative Partnerships was set up by the Arts Council to encourage more creative learning in schools.

Community service for benefit fraud student

Yes, it's next door but it is a slow news day ;)

A BENEFIT fraudster who illegally claimed more than £16,000 has been ordered to do 240 hours' community service.

Justin Emmanuel, of Charlton Road, Blackheath, claimed the housing and council tax benefit between July 2001 and October last year.

But the 35-year-old failed to declare he was a student who received more than £15,000 in loans and student grants.

Emmanuel pleaded guilty to six charges of benefit fraud at Woolwich Crown Court.

Greenwich Council leader Councillor Chris Roberts says he hopes the punishment "serves as a warning" to other would-be benefit fraudsters.

He added: "People who do this are stealing money from taxpayers which could be spent on vital services.

"We take this issue very seriously and will continue to target those who cheat the system."

Kids kicking racism into touch

YOUNGSTERS played at a primary school football tournament in support of National Anti-Racism Week.

Sydenham Soccer Clinic and Sydenham School invited five schools from across the borough to battle for the Kick it Out trophy.

Kick it Out is a campaign set up in 1993 to tackle racism in football.

The fourth annual competition took place at the Dartmouth Road school and involved more than 100 children from Stillness, Kelvin Grove, Eliot Bank, Dalmain and Kilmorie junior schools.

The Kelvin Grove Junior School team won the trophy after finishing top of the league.

Sydenham Soccer Clinic coach Dave King said: "The tournament was a great success in celebrating anti-racism in football.

"Children learn it is a team game where people have to learn how to respect each other."

For more information on the Kick Racism Out of Football Campaign, visit kickitout.org

22 October 2005

22 October 2005

Drug-dealing granny is jailed

A GRANNY who peddled crack and heroin has been jailed for two and a half years.

Norma Griffiths, 48, sold the drugs four times to undercover police officers in Camden Market, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

The mother-of-four was dealing to fund her own crack habit, which she claimed started after a family tragedy so terrible it could not be disclosed.

At court last Thursday, Judge Patrick O'Mahony said: "I accept a dreadful thing happened to your family and this may be the case why you started taking drugs.

"If you had offended by stealing even on a substantial scale your position would be so much better. You already knew what misery addiction to class A drugs cause when you started dealing."

Griffiths, of Lewisham, pleaded guilty to nine counts of supplying a class A drug and possession of a class A drug with intent on April 26 and May 25.

Soccer ace Wright cleared of litter lout rap

Former football star Ian Wright has been cleared of a litter lout charge.

The ex-England and Arsenal striker was due to face a £5,000-a-day trial next week, accused of throwing a paper cup out of the window of his posh Bentley.

However the charge, which Wright denied, has been dropped after someone else stepped forward earlier this week to admit the offence and paid up the £50 fine.

The storm in a paper cup blew up when a Lewisham council environmental health officer spotted someone flinging the cup from Wright's car in south east London on May 18 last year.

Wright and his estranged wife Deborah were charged under Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 following the alleged offence in Ladywell Road, Lewisham. The maximum sentence for littering under the 1990 Environment Protection Act is a £2,500 fine.

Deborah described the decision to put the couple through the courts as "ridiculous" and a waste of money.

A spokeswoman for the Labour-run council confirmed the court action has now been dropped.

She said: "The original fine was sent through the post to the car owner, but he denied being the litter bug.

"The crux of the matter in this case was that the car owner denied it was them, but when they didn't bring forward the culprit the trial date was set.

"Subsequently at Greenwich Magistrates Court earlier this week someone came forward and said they were responsible and paid the £50 fine. The car owner has therefore been cleared of any wrong-doing."

Wright, 42, was capped 33 times by England and was Arsenal's all-time record scorer until Thierry Henry surpassed his total earlier this week.

Since the father-of-five retired from football in 2000, he has become a regular analyst on BBC1's Match Of The Day and hosted his own chat show, Friday Night's All Wright on ITV1. He was awarded the MBE in 2000 for services to football.

Catford homes raided in police drug operation

Police yesterday raided four properties in Birmingham as part of a nationwide crackdown on drug dealers and thieves.

The four properties were among more than 50 homes across the country to be targeted by more than 600 officers and staff.

The dawn swoops, which were part of an operation codenamed Phoenix, was headed by Hampshire Police.

A spokeswoman said 48 properties in Southampton were entered and 31 arrests made for drug and theft offences. Armed police were used in some of the raids. There were no arrests in Birmingham, or in a dawn raid that occurred simultaneously in London.

A Hampshire Police spokeswoman said: "The arrests so far have been for a variety of suspected drug, theft and other offences. Those detained have been taken into custody at police stations across Hampshire.

" Simultaneous to the Hampshire raids, four search warrants were executed at addresses in Birmingham, two in the Handsworth area. No one was arrested.

"A further search warrant was conducted at an address in the Catford area of London. The search related to a property used by a man from that area who was arrested at an earlier date in Southampton in connection with the same investigation.

"As well as the arrests, a significant amount of drugs and cash has been recovered, plus substantial quantities of suspected stolen goods."

Killer Howard moved to English jail

Convicted killer Robert Howard was transferred from a prison in Northern Ireland to a jail in Durham today.

The 61-year-old, who is serving life for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Hannah Williams from Deptford, in south London, had been interned in Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland.

In June he was acquitted of the murder of Arlene Arkinson by a jury in Belfast.

Last month a reporting restriction, imposed during Howard`s trial for the murder of the Castlederg teenager, was lifted, revealing his past convictions for rape, murder and child abuse.

A statement from the Northern Ireland Prison Service said he was handed over this afternoon and transferred to Frankland Prison in Durham.

He had been held in Maghaberry after being transferred from Belmarsh Prison to Northern Ireland for the Arkinson trial.

Since his acquittal for the murder of Arlene Arkinson, there have been reports that police in the Irish Republic have applied for permission to interview Howard about a number of missing person cases.

Detectives are eager to question him about his movements in the 1980s and 1990s when he is believed to have been travelling around Ireland and had at least 12 addresses.

It is understood one of the cases Gardai have reopened is that of 21-year-old Jo Jo Dullard, who disappeared in November 1995 while hitching a lift to her home in County Kilkenny.

They are also investigating the disappearance of 26-year-old American national Annie McCarrick who lived in Dublin and vanished while walking in County Wicklow in March 1993.

Originally from Wolfhill in County Laois in the Irish Republic, Robert Howard was found guilty in 2003 of murdering Hannah Williams whose body was discovered at a cement works in Northfleet, Kent, in March 2002.

He was cleared on a majority verdict in June of murdering Ms Arkinson in 1994.

She disappeared near her home in Castlederg, County Tyrone, in Northern Ireland after attending a disco across the border in Bundoran, County Donegal with friends in August 1994.

21 October 2005

21 October 2005

Flat murder victim identity appeal

ONE POSSIBLE identity of a murdered man has been ruled out after someone sharing his name was found alive and well.

A mystery was sparked when the 30-year-old was found shot dead in his flat in Lucas Court, Bell Green Lane, Sydenham, on September 19.

Police could not identify him and he is known to have gone by two different aliases, Donaghue Dennis and Biggs.

Officers have now managed to trace the real Donaghue Dennis living close by and have confirmed he is not the victim.

Detectives suspect the murdered man had been living under a false identity prior to his death and after issuing a picture of him in a bid to name him are still appealing for information.

Detective Inspector Julian Wyard said: "We believe the victim was known as both Donaghue Dennis and Biggs, however, neither of these are his real name. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who may know the victim's true identity to please contact me at the incident room.

"Maybe you know something about the murder? Did you know the victim perhaps? Were you in the area at the time? Did you see or hear anything? I would urge anyone with information to please call me on: 020 8721 4960, or anonymously call Crimestoppers on: 0800 555 111.

Search called off for origin of Legionnaire’s disease

Investigations into an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that may have originated in Wandsworth have ended after no new cases were reported for the past five weeks.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has now called off the investigation after a series of meetings with Wandsworth environmental health officers but it is still monitoring for any reports of new cases.

The outbreak has affected 13 people, all of whom are from or have travelled through Lewisham, Bexley, Wandsworth and Southwark.

HPA workers were in touch with all the relevant councils.

Postal worker Eric Brittle was worst affected and is now in a stable condition at Lewisham Hospital.

An HPA spokesperson said: "It looks like the infection site has gone away, we never find some sources. It may have been treated but obviously part of the job is to keep on monitoring because there is a possibility of a return."

Letters have been issued to businesses advising them about the waterborne disease.

Businesses in Wandsworth were advised to keep industrial cooling towers, taps and air-conditioning systems maintained up to Government standards.

Police appeal on fatal crash

POLICE are appealing for information after a fatal road traffic collision.

A Rover 620 knocked down a husband and wife in Bromley Road, Catford, just past midnight on October 15.

Les Ennis, 45, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Lewisham Hospital and his wife, Jackie, 43, still remains in a seriously-ill condition.

The occupants of the Rover were two men, aged 27 and 28, who were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

They were bailed to return to a south London police station on December 13.

Officers from the Collision Investigation Unit at Catford Traffic Garage are investigating and urging witnesses to come forward.

Sergeant Simon Seeley said: "Even if you think it is something insignificant, it might not be to our investigation."

Anyone with further information should call 020 8285 1574.

Homes driven by wind power

A GROUNDBREAKING energy-saving scheme means 12 homes will soon be powered by the wind.

The homes, on the Sanford estate, New Cross, are getting their very own wind turbines to power everything from their lighting to their television sets.

The scheme, believed to be the first of its kind in an urban residential setting, will reduce carbon emissions from the houses by 60 per cent.

The Sanford estate was built in 1971, is co-operative run and largely funded by its 150 residents.

Lewisham Council has already given planning permission for the 1.75m-diameter turbines, to be attached to the side of the buildings.

The turbines, which cost around £1,500 each, will save around 5kg of CO2 from being produced every hour enough to fill nearly 60,000 balloons a week.

They are being funded by the council and a £100,000 grant from the Energy Saving Trust.

A larger turbine is also being planned next to the railway line in New Cross to generate 6kw of electricity an hour.

Resident Mark Roper, 36, has welcomed the move towards renewable energy.

He said: "I think this is a really great idea.

"We have modelled the whole co-operative on the idea we should be self-sufficient and this is just another example of that.

"In this day and age, particularly with what is going on elsewhere in the world at the moment, we need to be more conservative with our energy use."

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock announced the plans at the Sustainability Energy Beacon conference at Lewisham Town Hall on Friday.

Mr Bullock said: "It is frightening when you consider the impact CO2 is having on our climate and the potentially-devastating consequences this will have on our environment.

"It is no good to sit around waiting for each other to do something or thinking we will worry about it in 20 years' time. We have to act now."

MUSICAL MESSAGE: A free music concert is being held to highlight the dangers of taking cannabis.

The concert, on November 18, from 4pm, at The Albany Theatre, Douglas Way, Deptford, will launch a two-week campaign to promote awareness of the perils of using cannabis and alcohol to combat depression.

SWITCHING WARDS: Lewisham Labour group chairman Councillor Madeliene Long will stand in Deptford at the council elections next year after 22 years representing Lee Green ward. She joins Labour councillors Paul Maslin and Stephen Padmore, who are also standing in Deptford.

WARDEN HONOURED: Former college warden Dr Richard Hoggart visited Goldsmiths College, New Cross, on October 11 to celebrate the re-naming of the main college building in his honour. Dr Hoggart unveiled a plaque which marks his service to the college between 1976 and 1984.

DROP IN: Lewisham Association for Dyslexia Support holds a drop-in session on the first Tuesday of the month, from 6.45pm to 7.45pm, at Lewisham Library in Lewisham High Street. Call 020 8692 8611.

OVER 55S: U3A South London runs a host of courses and meeting groups for people aged 55 and over at Goldsmiths College, New Cross. Call 020 7919 7171.

20 October 2005

Forest Hill consultation meeting

Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, wants everybody with views about Forest Hill Pools to attend the second public consultation meeting and have their say on its future.

The meeting will be held at Sydenham Girls’ School on October 27 from 7.30pm.

Steve said: "The last public meeting was really well attended and I hope this one will be even more so. It is vital I have the chance to meet face-to-face with everyone so I can properly gauge public opinion."

20 October 2005

I’ll put it behind me

A BLACK officer who was offended by a warrant card with an ape on it wants to "put matters behind" him and get on with his career.

Detective Sergeant Jimi Tele was distressed when the warrant card featuring a gorilla's head was placed on the notice board in front of his desk by colleagues while working at Lewisham homicide office.

He made an official complaint to the Metropolitan Police, claiming the incident was racially-motivated and was planning to take the force to an employment tribunal.

But his solicitor, Binder Bansel is still accusing the force of failing to address institutional racism, despite recommendations made in the Macpherson Report which followed the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The 39-year-old also claims he was excluded from job opportunities while working at Lewisham homicide office.

Mr Bansel said: "He was systematically held back from courses which could have advanced his career."

He added: "Despite the events of recent years my client's case demonstrates the Met isn't sufficiently aware of the effect certain treatment can have on black officers.

"Such a stance can do little to encourage non-white officers to join the Met."

Mr Tele, who is currently based at East London's Specialist Crime Unit, said: "I was distressed by my treatment at Lewisham.

"However I hope that I can put these matters behind me and I aim to progress my career as a Met officer."

Scotland Yard apologised in writing to Mr Tele just days before the tribunal was due to start and acknowledged the distress caused to him.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman says the tribunal was settled without admitting liability, adding: "We expressed regret for any distress he may have suffered in relation to the warrant card incident.

"The letter acknowledged the incident was capable of causing offence for reasons relating to the claimant's race."

The police officer who made the warrant card was reprimanded for damaging police property.

See you in court, mast protesters tell Orange

CAMPAIGNERS are considering legal action again a mobile phone operator because its masts are just 6m from their homes.

Members of the Vanbrugh Park Residents' Association (VPERA) believe the Orange mobile phone station on top of a lift shaft at Westcombe Court, Blackheath, is flouting its operator's safety rules.

After 10 years, Orange is applying to Greenwich council to renew its lease for the base station, which includes six masts, three dishes and related electrical equipment Spokesman Jonathan Bond, from VPERA's "The future's green, not Orange campaign", said: "VPERA is in discussion with legal advisors.

"We hope to instigate court action against Orange for negligence and against Greenwich council for its failure to consult with residents and to allow this disgraceful situation to continue for so long.

"Our priority is to obtain a court injunction to have the base station turned off to protect those residents within 6m of the mast."

Mr Bond claimed VPERA had a statement made by Orange's legal department ruling there must be a "safety zone" of at least 10m around such stations to comply with International Commission on NonIonising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines.

An Orange spokeswoman said: "The 10m zone refers to the signal, which is based on the antenna direction rather than the physical location of the equipment."

She added a survey in December 2004 revealed emissions from the site were well below the ICNIRP guidelines.

A council spokesman said the authority had commissioned the report on radio emissions following concerns and is satisfied the masts are within the agreed health and safety and legal requirements.

Catford - more Del Boy than David Sylvian?

David Sylvian, born in the year of the Dog, is now 20 years away from his most famous image - the bleach and the make-up - and is writing on a laptop from his bedroom.

It's an old meditation room in a converted Ashram on the side of a mountain somewhere in New England, USA.

It's his last week there. His 13-year marriage has ended and he is moving on, basing himself in New York and London.

It seems he's spent a lifetime on the move. But then again, its unimaginable to imagine him having found a home in his place of origin; South London's Catford, a place better suited to the likes of Del Boy than David Sylvian.

The new album is called Snow Borne Sorrow and its glacial and expansively detailed soundscapes - as detailed as a snowflake and just as pure - seem a literal lifetime away from his glam soul boy origins.

"I was never at 'home' in my hometown," says David. "Maybe that's part of why I experienced the world as a hostile place, although much of it was due to my own psychology. Sure, the location was virtually devoid of any redeeming features but it was the village-like mentality of the suburbs that was suffocating."

Sylvian's first and still most famous band, Japan, started young. Signed to Hansa Records via Pop manager legend Simon Napier Bell, the average age of the group was 17 when they began touring and recording. It was these means, this gang that allowed Sylvian to escape the utterly unsympathetic environment he was born into.


19 October 2005

19 October 2005

Budget shortfall leaves event needing sponsor

A NEW sponsor for the Blackheath Fireworks Display is being sought after budget problems at Lewisham and Greenwich councils.

In a draft budget report for 2006/7 officers at Lewisham Council outlined a shortfall of £45,000 between the two councils.

And unless a private sponsor is found for the event they will both continue to overspend on their budgets.

Lewisham Council currently has a £17,000 budget shortfall and Greenwich has a deficit of £28,000.

A Lewisham council report proposes saving £12,528 by stopping its contribution towards the fireworks.

But it recommends using £17,000 to pay for a manager to search for a private sponsor.

Savings made from the budget cuts would be channelled into other major events such as People's Day and Black History Month.

A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: "This is a well-established event, displaying some of the best free fireworks in London.

"We are keen to ensure people can continue to enjoy it."

He added: "We will continue to seek private sponsorship for the event to reduce the council's contribution."

A decision on Lewisham's funding will be made at tonight's mayor and cabinet meeting.

Hundreds gather in tribute to Ruth

MORE than 700 mourners packed a church to pay tribute to tragic Ruth Okechukwu, whose young life was senselessly snatched away by cowardly killers.

Friends and family queued to get into St Peter's Church, Wickham Road, Brockley, on Saturday to grieve for the lively Peckham 18-year-old who stood up for others and "always had a smile".

When the pews were full they stood at the sides and back - a hush falling as pall-bearers, including Ruth's brother Gabriel, 25, carried in her pure white coffin.

Her father, Pastor Ben Okechukwu, sat with mum Pauline and older sister Beatrice, 30, who stood to pay tribute.

She said: "I will always remember Ruth's relentless determination to do what she wanted to do.

"She had a special ability to go out of her way for you and stand by what she believed."

Tributes from Ruth's fellow PE students at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College were also read out.

One said: "They say the good die young. You're in a better place now."

The congregation sang Abide With Me as they passed the open casket to look upon Ruth one last time.

Men glanced then turned away, their cheeks streaked with tears, while women sobbed on each other's shoulders.

Later, at Camberwell Old Cemetery, a flock of white doves was released at the graveside. They soared into the blue morning sky, turning as one to circle over the crowd before flying away over the trees.

Ruth was stabbed to death in Boundary Lane, Walworth at 5.30pm on September 11.

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with murder and is due to appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court on Friday. Another youth is on police bail.

Sydenham Library to close

A COMMUNITY library is facing closure as part of a series of budget cuts.

Only a year ago Sydenham Library was celebrating its 100th anniversary but its closure could be given the green light at tonight's meeting of the mayor and cabinet.

The plans for the library in Sydenham Road, ranked by officers as the worst in the borough, was put to the public accounts select committee on September 27 as part of a £10m money-saving package.

Reports from Lewisham Council show the library's closure could save up to £165,000 during 2006/7.

It claims the library, which was founded in 1904, is "poorly sited" and has limited potential to increase usage.

Council officers have also recommended it be moved into the main shopping area of Sydenham.

They have also warned its closure could mean the council fails to meet its obligations under the Public Libraries Standard, which says all households must be within a mile of a library.

The news has come as a shock to residents and schools in the area, which regularly use the library.

Sydenham Society chairman Pat Trembath said: "I'm angry. It is a much-used library in a highly residential area.

"The people taking decisions in high places don't know how the community use this library."

Haseltine and Our Lady and St Philip Neri primaries are two of the schools in the area which visit the library.

Haseltine's deputy headteacher Ellie Whilby said: "It's outrageous.

"Children go there every day it is open.

"It is a really important experience for children as many parents don't take them there."

She added: "I would be really disappointed. The children get a lot out of it and I hope it won't be shut down."

Chris Best, ward councillor and cabinet member for social inclusion, said: "I will be speaking tonight and will advise the mayor not to close the library as it is a valuable community resource."

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock will accept or reject the budget cuts tonight.

Downham Project work is under way

BUILDING work has started on the long-awaited Downham Lifestyles Project.

Construction firm Alfred McAlpine Ltd, who are carrying out the work on behalf of Lewisham Council, started construction of the £16m centre last week.

A deal to fund the development was agreed by the council and private firm Leisure Connection, in September, after a number of delays.

The centre, which should be fully open to the public by April 2007, will have leisure facilities including a 25m swimming pool, a fitness gym and dance studios.

It will also provide the community with a cafe, a library, a community hall and two GP surgeries.

'Goodbye my sweet angel'

THE heartbroken mum of butchered teenager Rochelle Holness said a moving goodbye to her "precious, sweet angel".

Choking back tears, devastated Jennifer revealed the depths of her torment for the first time at a packed memorial service.

"Rochelle was a loving, sweet girl," she told hundreds of mourners.

"She was a sister, a daughter and auntie-to-be.

"When her friends were in need she was always there for them.

"She was my angel, she was full of life, my ray of sunshine and my precious child.

"Now she is in the arms of the creator. I wish with all my heart that those arms were mine."

Fifteen-year-old Rochelle was found chopped to pieces and stuffed in bin bags in the Milford Estate in Catford on September 25.

Her friends and loved-ones, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of the teenager, packed the Hither Green Baptist Church in Theodore Road for Friday's emotionally-charged service.

They listened with heads bowed as dad Denroy Holness, weeping uncontrollably, read a poem penned by the schoolgirl and found in her bedroom after her death.

Teenage pals then sang along to Rochelle's favourite pop songs, some breaking into tears as they reached the chorus to Ms Dynamite's You Don't Have To Cry No More.

Tributes were also paid by Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock and Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock.

The Rev Richard Blythe told the service: "Fourteen years ago we gathered at this church to bless Rochelle.

"None of us could have guessed we would be here today in these circumstances.

"We all have many different emotions, from anger to shock and disbelief.

"We give thanks for Rochelle's life, 15 years, too short."

The dull grey expanse of concrete outside the Milton Towers flat where Rochelle was allegedly abducted and murdered has since been transformed into a colourful shrine, with flowers, candles and posters.

Jobless John McGrady, 47, a Milford Towers resident, is in custody charged with her murder. :

18 October 2005

18 October 2005

Two arrests after man killed, woman critical

A man was killed and and a woman was left fighting for her life after a car ploughed into them as they walked home earlier today.

The couple, both believed to be in their 40's, were mowed down as they walked through Catford in south east London shortly after midnight.

Police say the pedestrians, who have not been named, were in Bromley Road when they were hit by a Rover 620.

An ambulance took them to a south London hospital where the man died shortly after arrival and the woman remains in a "critical" condition.

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

They are being questioned at a south London police station.

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "At approximately 12.05am a Rover 620 vehicle was in collision with two pedestrians in Bromley Road, Catford.

"London Ambulance Service attended and the two pedestrians - a man and a woman, both believed in their 40's - were taken to a south London hospital. The male was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The condition of the female is described as critical.

"Officers from the Collision Investigation Unit at Catford Traffic Garage are investigating.

"It appears at this stage that the Rover left the Shell petrol station on Bromley Hill and travelled north in Bromley Road.

"Two men have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. They are in custody at a south London police station."

Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 020 8285 1574

South London's 'most wanted'

Lewisham police have issued photographs and details of the four men they want to speak to in connection with a violent abduction, two sex attacks and supplying drugs.

Top of their list is Dwayne Callender, wanted in connection with the alleged kidnap and torture of a 25-year-old man.

The victim was grabbed in Musgrove Road, New Cross, on September 1 and taken to an unknown location.

There he was allegedly beaten and tortured for four-and-a-half days.

Mr Callender, from Brockley, is a dark-skinned black man, 5ft 9in tall, with an athletic build and a distinctive gold tooth.

Detectives are also seeking Dwaine St Michael Israel in connection with the supply of class-A drugs in Lewisham.

He is heavily scarred, 5ft 9in tall and of medium build.

Mr Israel should not be approached.

The two other wanted men are Fatah Debeoussi and Hua Yin He.

Police want to quiz Algerian Debeoussi, 32, also known as Nabal Yagoubi, over an alleged rape in Lewisham High Street on April 9.

The 18-year-old victim was waiting for a bus when two men dragged her into an alley next to the Watchtower pub and took turns to assault her.

Algerian Debeoussi is slim, 5ft 8in tall with short brown hair.

He has a scar above his right eye and a tattoo of a red bird and a black eagle on his right arm.

Hua Yin He, 32, Chinese and with dyed blond hair, is wanted in connection with the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman in Brockley on April 9.

Information on either sex attack inquiry to 020 8284 8300, or on the alleged kidnapping to 020 8284 8433.

Leads on Mr Israel's whereabouts to 020 8284 5101.

Mystery of Flat Death Gun Victim

POLICE have released a picture of a man found dead in his flat who still has not been identified.

They are desperately appealing for help in identifying the 30-year-old who is known by at least two different names.

His body was found with gun shot wounds at 10pm on Monday, September 19 after police were called to the flat in Lucas Court in Bell Green Lane, Sydenham.

Detective Inspector Julian Wyard from the Met's Serious Crime Directorate is leading the investigation. He said: 'We believe the victim was known as both Donaghue Dennis and Biggs, however, neither of these are his real name.

"I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who may know the victim's true identity to please contact me at the incident room."

If you have any information call police on 020 8721 4960 or Crimestoppers anonymously on: 0800 555 111.


THE race to become the next Young Mayor of Lewisham is entering its final stages.

With nominations now closed, 33 youngsters have spent the past two weeks campaigning to succeed Manny Hawks, who is standing down after a year in office.

The Young Mayor will be given a £25,000 budget to spend on youth projects and can also appoint their own mini-cabinet.

The 33 candidates will face their public on Wednesday, with votes being cast at schools across the borough.

All 11 to 17-year-olds in the borough are eligible to vote, either at their school or college or through a postal vote.

Voting will take place on Wednesday and the winner will be announced on Thursday.

For an interview with the new Young Mayor see next week's News Shopper.

For more information, visit the website youngmayor4lewisham.co.uk



WHEN Keith Suttle wanted to expand his real estate business he found the answer was staring him in the face.

Keith, director of Acorn Estate Agents in Brockley, south east London, 42, says: "It suddenly struck me that the dilapidated toilets right opposite us were the perfect property.

"It took a lot of persuasion, but in the end the council sold it to us six years ago for £12,000. Now we've had it refurbished and it's worth £110,000."



DOCTOR Who fans posed with a Dalek at a bookshop's birthday celebrations.

The Dalek invaded Kirkdale Bookshop, Kirkdale, Sydenham, on Saturday.

The idea came to owner Geraldine Cox, 58, when the bookshop had a recent Harry Potter evening.

She said: "We just thought it would be a bit of fun and it seems to have captured everyone's imagination."

Ms Cox opened the shop in 1966 with her father Alec.

They decided to open in Sydenham because there was no bookshop in the area at the time.


17 October 2005

Lewisham News Blog

Lewisham News Blog - the details.

Why a Lewisham News blog?

Because lots happens in Lewisham. When I was leaving I wanted to keep up to date with the news - the blog allows me to share the news I read with others.

So, you don't live or work in Lewisham?!

Correct! But I spent the first thirty years of my life in or around the place. Even though I lived on the Greenwich side of the border early on I socialised, went to school and spent my time in Lewisham as opposed to Greenwich. Then I moved to the borough and lived there for nine years as well as working in and for the borough at different times.

Do you earn money from the site?

No. We generate no income - there is no advertising and it's worth pointing out that it doesn't cost me either. The only thing I spend is my time. If you want to send money to me I'd prefer you sent it to a Lewisham based charity instead.

I clicked a link you have listed and it took me to a site about South Mongolian Cheese farmers. Whatthehell?

I'm sorry. I try to keep my links up to date but the blog world evolves quickly. Please let me know about any changes and I'll fix them. Is there Mongolian chedder?

Aren't you just stealing news items?

Borrowing. Actually, it's something I thought about for a long time. Originally I was posting whole articles which is a liberty. So I decided to take the start of a story and provide a link to the article - that way if someone is interested in the story I can hopefully give the source some hits they might not have otherwise received. The reader can scan the "tease" of the story and then decide if they want to click the link for the full story. My intention is not to take readers away from the newspapers or websites - we love those guys!

My dog was kidnapped from Lee Green! You didn't feature the story!

My apologies - I try my best to cover a wide range of stories and sometimes a story gets missed or forgotten. I'm more than happy to have people email me or use the comments to draw my attention to stories I've missed. ps. I hope you get your dog back.

So who is Lewisham News for?

Anyone who has a passing interest in Lewisham current affairs I guess. Check the tracker on the main page and you'll see that we have visitors from around the world. If I'm honest it's primarily for me to keep in touch with the place, but beyond that it's for anyone and everyone. I hope it proves useful or mildly entertaining to the people that read it. Suggestions and feedback are always welcome.