04 November 2005

04 November 2005

Remember Rochelle

THE mother of murdered schoolgirl Rochelle Holness hopes to see her daughter remembered in a parkland memorial.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the 15-year-old's body was found, Jennifer Bennett says her life has become a "living hell".

The last time she saw Rochelle was on September 25 after she left her home in Nelgarde Road, Catford, to make a phone call to her boyfriend.

Four days later her daughter's remains were found dumped in four bags near rubbish chutes on the Milford Towers estate in Catford.

Now the former social services worker has admitted she is hurt her daughter has been ignored by the media, which gave so much coverage to Croydon model Sally-Ann Bowman, who was murdered in the same week as the Sedgehill School pupil.

The 38-year-old mother-of-three said: "My daughter is somebody too and deserved just as much recognition and publicity. We as a family felt completely shut off."

She added: "If I didn't have my boys, Michael and Richard, I don't know what I would do. They are keeping me strong and my friends around me."

But through her grief Ms Bennett is planning something extraordinary in her daughter's memory.

Her family and close friends have organised a public march for November 13.

They plan to walk through the streets of Lewisham and Greenwich campaigning for better protection for young people in the borough and to raise awareness of the lack of support for youngsters within the community.

Mrs Bennett added: "I fear for the coming generations. Kids have a right to be able to go to the shops without the fear of being lured away.

"We need to do something before the situation gets worse. We are living in hell at the moment."

Mrs Bennett also wants council help to build a memorial garden for Rochelle in Ladywell Park.

She added: "We want to put a chair in memory of Rochelle and create an area where people can come and plant flowers and think of her."

Family friend Fiona James, 40, added: "Rochelle was a wonderful being. I was absolutely devastated by her death.

"She was a bright and intelligent young woman who had a heart for young people."

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock said: "As a community we must make sure Rochelle is remembered not for her tragic death but for the positive difference she made to her family and friends during her short life.

"If I can help achieve this in any way, I will."

The march will start from Tesco, Catford, at noon on November 13.

John Joseph McGrady, aged 47, of Milford Towers, Catford, has been charged with Rochelle's murder and is expected to appear at the Old Bailey in January.

Avoid roads around heath

MOTORISTS are being warned to avoid Blackheath on Saturday night as its annual fireworks display takes place.

Blackheath Village will be closed to traffic from 6.30pm, along with other surrounding roads including Charlton Way, Maze Hill and Montpellier Row.

Visitors to the fireworks display are advised to use public transport or walk as no parking will be provided on roads around the heath.

The Blackheath display, which this year marks the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot, is free and starts at 8pm.

For further information on the display and road closures, call the Blackheath Fireworks Information Line on 0871 700 0685.

Yob is jailed for racist attack

A VIOLENT trio has been punished for an unprovoked racist attack on a Chinese couple.

Pamela Lawson, aged 18, and Sophie Atkinson, aged 17, repeatedly kicked and punched Jessica Cao in Lewisham High Street on November 30 last year.

A court heard how the pair kicked Miss Coa's head "like a football" as a third yob, 22-year-old Neil Atkinson, attacked her boyfriend Michael Zheng.

The attack took place after the two girls repeatedly shouted racial abuse at the couple.

Neil Atkinson, of St Germains Road, Forest Hill, admitted racially-aggravated assault.

He was jailed for 18 months at Blackfrairs Crown Court on October 27.

His sister Sophie, of the same address, pleaded guilty to racially-aggravated assault and was handed a six-month detention and training order.

Lawton, of Waters Road, Catford, also admitted the same charge.

She was given an 18-month rehabilitation order and told to observe a curfew between 7pm and 7am.

Out to clean up town

OFFICE workers took time away from their desks to help keep their town tidy.

Council officers, business people, councillors and street wardens mucked in during the first-ever Catford clean-up.

Volunteers helped clear litter, abandoned trolleys and graffiti from streets in and around the town centre.

The clean-up was organised to coincide with the appointment of Catford's new town centre manager, Petra Smith.

She said: "There is obviously a lot of hard work to do but judging by the amount of support I've had from the community I'm really excited by the town centre's potential."

Cabinet member Councillor Andrew Brown, who also took part in the clean-up, said: "I'm really impressed with the enthusiasm people are showing. We can only make a true difference to the environment with a team effort."

Loss of paperwork is not acceptable

COUNCIL bosses admit they have lost key documents used as a basis for the decision to close Ladywell Pool.

Lewisham Council says it no longer has access to a selection of papers relating to a public consultation carried out five years ago on the future of the centre.

It has already claimed it used the missing consultation results to decide the Ladywell Leisure Centre should be moved into Lewisham town centre.

The Save Ladywell Pool group has accused the council of failing to justify its decision to close the pool.

In October last year, the council said it had decided to relocate the Ladywell centre following a consultation in late 1999 or 2000.

Save Ladywell Pool campaign chairman Max Calo asked it to provide him with papers relating to the consultation through the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Calo received some documents but was told "some of the papers requested" were no longer in the public domain.

And in a written response to last Wednesday's council meeting, he was informed the council has supplied all of the papers in its possession.

Mr Calo said: "It is completely unacceptable they cannot find these papers to back up their answers.

"One of the key activities of a council is to supply people with information to justify decisions it makes. It is misleading people. It seems like it has based its decision on papers it could not have even seen."

The date of the consultation has also been called into question.

In October last year the council said a public meeting took place in late 1999 but in last Wednesday's answer, it said the meeting was held on March 13, 2000.

Mr Calo says he has not received any documents which provide a record of what happened at this meeting.

He claims to have only been sent papers from later meetings held in 2002 and 2003, after the consultation was finished.

A council spokesman said: "The consultation report provides a summary of information gained from the questionnaire.

"As it is the function of this type of report to summarise the information gained during a consultation, the report on the Ladywell Leisure Centre was one of the tools used in deciding the type of centre to be built when moving the pool to a new site."

Ladywell Leisure Centre, in Lewisham High Street, is due to be demolished in 2007 to make way for a new secondary school.


obifromsouthlondon said...

that attack made no sense at all. my sister lives on the same floor where the remains were found. she's been at my place ever since. there is a strong case for security on that estate. and lewisham need to stop using milford as a dumping ground for junkies and the like. yes it has improved (the car park, lighting etc) but as Rochelle's case showed it's not enough.

Moe have a good weekend.

(moe) said...

Totally agree - it makes it worse for me that it's like the centre of Catford with a supermarket and shopping centre below - we're not talking about the back streets.

As for a memorial park in Ladywell Park = that's not the safest place from what I've heard :(

Mr Bullock's words are a little empty until something is actually done to improve the safety of residents.

Best wishes to your sis.

Blog World said...

Faith is spiritualized imagination.
Henry Ward Beecher- Posters.