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Essex Chronicle stories feed from registered users of the site and Northcliffe Media editorial

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    The price of fuel has fallen to its lowest level since December 2010 with prices in Chelmsford being reported as low as 120.9p for a litre of unleaded.

    Asda was first to announce a cut, and it has taken 2p off a litre of petrol and diesel.

    Sainsbury's in Springfield are currently selling at 120.9p a litre on Monday it was selling it at 122.9p

    Tesco and Morrisons have now also announced a cut of up to 2p per litre on both fuels.

    AA head of roads policy Paul Watters said: "These latest price moves are a timely boost for UK families as they see fuel consumption go up with the start of winter driving and the heating being switched on at home."

    The latest prices for a litre of unleaded as quoted by were as follows (with dates)

    BP Baddow Road 121.9p on October 24

    Co-op Chelmstar Baddow Road 121.9p on October 24

    Tesco Chelmsford Princes Road 123.9 p on October 27

    Esso Princes Road, Chelmsford 123.9p on October 27

    BP Broomfield Road 123.9p on October 26

    Tesco Chelmsford Princes Road 123.9p on October 27

    Cost of petrol slashed in pump price war

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    Pumpkins are aplenty in supermarkets at the moment, but once you've taken it home, how do you do it justice in the Hallowe'en stakes

    You might be inspired by the entries to our Hallowe'en carving competition, but don't know how to take it that one step further.

    Never fear, we've collected a step by step guide to creating the perfect festive creation.

    1. Choose a pumpkin with an irregular shape– a funny looking pumpkin has some Halloween character – and a pumpkin with a thick and dark-orange and or colourful skin.

    Thumping the outside gives a clue to how thick the skin is. You want something that feels and sounds solid. More colour also tends to indicate a greater thickness.

    And like any piece of fruit, freshness is of utmost importance.

    2. Set up the carving area.

    You need plenty of newspaper to line your table with, a few bowls of various sizes for storing things like guts, seeds, and cut-outs and a few different knives.

    You are best with a small chef's knife for cutting out the top, and a couple of sturdy, sharp-tipped paring knives.

    You also need a waterproof pen for drawing the design on the surface before you begin carving.

    3. Cut the lid making sure to cut it wide enough to give you room to scrape out the inside easily later.

    If you plan on using a candle cut out a chimney hole to allow smoke to escape.

    4. Scrape the seeds out by making a scraping the seeds and soft flesh with your bare hands, and later scrape out the inside of the pumpkin with a spoon until there is about an inch or two of flesh remaining (the more complex your design, the thinner you'll want the flesh to be).

    5. Use a waterproof pen to mark out your design on the skin. Remember, the design can only be as fine as the size of your knife and straight lines are much easier to carve than curves, so be aware of that as you plan your carving.

    6. Start carving. Carve by plunging the knife tip into the lines and work from the centre outward.

    7.Secure a normal candle inside and light it only when it your pumpkin is outside your house, and see your family and friends gawp in wonder at your skills

    Hallowe'en 2014: 7 steps to carving the perfect pumpkin

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    Repairs costing £500,000 being carried out on Shire Hall in Chelmsford are set to be completed in the next few weeks.

    Scaffolding on the front of the grade 2 listed building will be removed in the coming days and scaffolding on the west side will be taken down by the middle of November.

    The works on the Georgian building, which started in April, were subject to a detailed review and consultation process, including obtaining listed building consent from English Heritage.

    Essex County Council cabinet member and ward councillor, Cllr Dick Madden, said: "I welcome the news this essential maintenance work at Shire Hall to address the deterioration of its outer fabric is virtually complete and on schedule.

    "This is a much-loved building and we have used the best contractors and craftsmen to make sure the work is of the highest quality to preserve and enhance the character of this wonderful building."

    The priority works on the building that is situated next to Chelmsford cathedral included conservation stone repairs, cleaning stone surfaces, an overhaul of the metal and timber windows and general maintenance work.

    Work on Chelmsford Shire Hall nears completion

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    A murder inquiry is underway after a holidaymaker from Colchester was found dead outside a hotel in France.

    The man, who is understood be 50-year-old John Napoletani, left the Formula 1 hotel in Dole, near to the Swiss border, late on Saturday (October 25) after drinking wine with his wife and other guests at tables outside the front door 

    Reports suggest he was found in a pool of blood early the next day

    "I am devastated," his wife, Evelyn Napoletani, told The Daily Telegraph. 

    "It's like a nightmare. I keep thinking I am going to wake up and it's all been a bad dream."

    The couple had been driving back home from a holiday in Italy and had just stopped off at the hotel for the night, it is reported

    Holidaymaker from Colchester found dead outside hotel in France

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    Police are treating the discovery of the remains of a woman, missing since November last year, as murder.

    Angela Millington's bones were found washed up in a salt marsh area on Foulness Island on June 21 by a group of ramblers as they walked on the island. The alarm was raised and a full search of the island also took place and further skeletal bones were located.

    It is not known when the 33-year-old died, or how she ended up there, but experts believe she was either taken there or washed up by the tide.

    Angela lived in the Southend area. She was last seen when she visited a housing officer in Westcliff on November 21

    Detectives have since been supporting her family and speaking to people who knew her to try and find out how and when she died.

    DCI Simon Werrett, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, is leading the investigation.

    He said: "Money was also drawn out of her bank account on November 21.

    "Her mobile phone has not been used since the end of November and we have not found any of her clothing or belongings. Angela was known to associate with street drinkers and local homeless people.

    "There was a sighting of her by a police officer in the Porters Grange area of Southend on January 6 but we have no definite details of her movements since November 21.

    "The expert reports indicate that she did not die on Foulness but was either taken there or the body was carried there in the tide."

    He added: "We have launched a murder investigation as we don't know what happened to Angela. We are keeping all lines of enquiry open.

    Anybody with any information is asked to contact the dedicated incident room on 01702 470173 during office hours or 101 outside of those times.

    Murder investigation launched after discovery of human bones of Angela Millington in Southend

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    ALAN KIMBLE has declared 'it's time for changes' at Maldon & Tiptree as he looks to stamp his mark on the football club.

    Almost a month into his time at the Jammers and Kimble has assessed his squad and decided it is time for an overhaul of at least "50 per cent" of his players.

    "It's time for changes," he said. "I'm looking for new players all over the squad. Every position needs strengthening. It's a results-based business and I've been brought in to sort things out."

    He added: "It's about time people took notice of Maldon & Tiptree Football Club because we're only going to go one way – up."

    Maldon have lost their last nine league games and Kimble, who has mostly overseen cup matches during the early weeks of his tenure, has been using them to decide who stays and who goes from his team.

    "The buck has to stop with the manager and I'm sure people looking in are seeing another defeat, but I've inherited this team from the previous manager," he explained.

    Kimble has already strengthened the spine of his team by bringing in central defender Youcef Bouamrame on loan from Vanarama South Ebbsfleet United, central midfielder Simon Glover from Thamesmead Town and striker Joshua Oxinsan from Met Police. And he expects to bring in another two players.

    All three started as Maldon beat Coggeshall Town 6-0 in the D'Arcy Memorial Cup on Tuesday night, with a hat-trick from Tunde Adewunni, plus strikes from Max Lette-Jallow, Nathan Korentang and Jack Stevenson.

    Kimble added: "My phone hasn't stopped ringing this week. I need men and leaders, I can't take second best.

    "I'm not after players looking for money. I need experienced players and the odd rough diamond."

    This Saturday sees Kimble's former side Aveley come to Park Drive. Aveley sit in mid-table, while the Jammers lie second from bottom in Ryman North, albeit with games in hand on some of those around them.

    Kimble only spent a couple of months at Aveley before leaving the club for personal reasons. "I had family issues at the time and I couldn't fully concentrate on the job," he admitted. "It's just another game for me though."

    Kimble rings  the changes at Maldon

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    29th October saw the birth of what we now call the Internet.   Given the thing's importance, I think ten questions are appropriate.
    Q1)29th October saw the first computers linked up in the Internet's predecessor: the ARPANET.   ARPANET is a contraction of Advanced Research Projects Agency … what … ?
    Q2)In which year of the 1960s was this … ?
    Q3)The ARPANET was funded by which US government department: the Department of Defense, Treasury or Education … ?
    Q4)The name, 'Internet' is short for what … ?
    Q5)ARPANET's funders paid for the software that lets thing on the Internet talk to everything else on the 'Net: it's called TCP/IP.   What do either of the P's stand for … ?
    Q6)Many of us on the 'Net, make use of the World Wide … what … ?
    Q7)Many internet addresses start with the letters 'http'.   What does the 'h' stand for in 'http': hyper, hypo or happy … ?
    Q8)Those addresses are called URIs: or Uniform Resource whats … ?
    Q9)Many of us use tablets and smart phones to surf the 'Net.   Most of which connect to the 'Net through what: the mobile phone network, an ethernet cable, or carrier pigeon?
    Q10)Finally … most of us will connect — wirelessly or otherwise — to the internet through a what: Router, Grouter or Gromit?
    Here's last week's questions and answers … 

    Q1)22nd September saw The Supremes become the first girl band to have a Number One hit album.   In which year of the 1960s?
    Q2)Was this in the US, the UK or the Ukraine … ?
    Q3)The album was called 'The Supremes A' go go'.   The phrase, 'A' go go', comes from which European language: French, German or Hungarian … ?
    Q4)The album was on the Motown label.   Who was the famous boss, owner and manager of Motown … ?
    Q5)Motown's owner co-wrote a song on 'The Supremes A' go go'.   Which song: 'You Can't Hurry Love,' 'Money,' or 'Get Ready'?
    Q6)The Supremes consisted of three singers.   Diana Ross was one.   Name either of the other two.
    Q7)The Supremes were the USA's most successful vocal group.   How many Number Ones did they have: eleven, twelve or thirteen?
    Q8)Those Number Ones were on the Billboard — or US — charts.   Which British band is the most successful band to feature on the Billboard charts?
    Q9)Which British Girl band held the record for most chart entries: Bananarama, The Spice Girls or The Saturdays?
    Q10)Finally … What was The Supremes' biggest hit, with their original line-up: 'You Can't Hurry Love,' 'You Keep Me Hanging On' or 'The Happening' … ?
    A2)The US.
    A3)French.   (Used, here, to mean 'in abundance' or 'plenty'.   There was also a famous Parisian nightclub called 'Whisky A' go go'.)
    A4)Berry Gordy, Junior.
    A5)'Money'.   (Or 'Money (That's What I Want)'.   'You Can't Hurry Love' was by Holland-Dozier-Holland, whilst 'Get Ready' was written by Smokey Robinson.)
    A6)Mary Wilson or Florence Ballard.   Mary Wilson is still alive today: Florence Ballard died of a heart attack, in 1976, at the age of 32.
    A7)Twelve.   (They tied with Madonna.)
    A8)The Beatles.   They managed a grand total of 20 Number Ones.
    A10)'The Happening'.
    If you'd like a frequent challenge, you can visit Nik Nak's Old Peculiar, and try the Daily Teaser: today's is at the top.If you need quiz questions in a hurry, you're also welcome: you'll find the free Friday Questions Sets — covered by the Creative Commons License* — very handy.Movie fans are welcome, too: as are Dr Who fans.   I tend to write about them, too.   If you enjoy what I do, and wish to contribute, feel free to click the PayPal Donate button in the Old Peculiar's sidebar.   Every penny is gratefully received.

    Enjoy the week, folks.

    *        All that means is that you're free to copy, use, alter and build on each of my quizzes: including the Teasers, Gazette Teasers and the Friday Question Sets.   All I ask in return is that you give me an original authors credit on your event's flyers or posters, or on the night: and, if you republish them, give me an original authors credit AND republish under the same license.   A link back to the site — and to the Gazette's, if that's where you've found these — would be appreciated: as would pressing my donate button, here.   Every penny is gratefully received.

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    A young couple are planning their dream, no expense-spared, wedding after winning more than £240,000 in the Euromillions, after playing it on a whim.

    Billy Baldrey matched the five main numbers and a Lucky Star during the draw on Tuesday (October 21). He played the game online while partner Sarah, who has already taken his surname, was out for the evening with their two boys, aged two and seven months.

    The 23-year-old was prompted to play the Lucky Dip after chatting about the gigantic £120m jackpot with his work colleagues. The next day he was emailed about a win but wasn't able to access his account.

    But he learned of his £241,508.90 win after meeting Sarah at her mother's house the next day and managed to successfully log on to his account.

    Billy said: "As soon as I saw the size of the win on the screen I let out the biggest yell and then couldn't stop leaping about the room and whooping with joy.

    "In fact I was screaming so loudly both boys burst into tears, I told Sarah what had happened but she didn't believe me and calmly took the boys upstairs for their bedtime bath.

    "We've been through some tough times so I think it was Sarah's way of coping. In fact, she wouldn't believe it really was true until the winners advisor visited us and finally confirmed we were £241,508.90 richer."

    Billy also revealed how the win will be life changing for the pair of them.

    He said: "Although I work full time money has often been tight and there hasn't always been enough to cover the monthly expenses let alone a wedding.

    "We got engaged just before we found out Sarah was pregnant with our first son. Since then every time we started planning the wedding some other expense came up and it went on the back burner. At last I will be able to give Sarah the wedding she has always wanted."

    He added: "Of course the wedding will be amazing but the thought that we will then be coming home to our own house, in our own car, knowing that there is money in the bank for the boys future is the stuff of magic.

    It means I will no longer have to work silly hours and we can really enjoy being a family rather than just getting by. I never dreamt for one moment that our life could be like that."

    Couple's joy after scooping share of £125m Euromillions jackpot

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    It may not have been the question David Cameron wanted to hear so soon after the nail-biting finale to the vote in Scotland - but now he is being asked about devolution for Essex too.

    Bob Russell - MP for Colchester - put it to the PM at the House of Commons today: "More people live in Essex than voted yes in the Scottish referendum. With fairness needed for citizens in all parts of the UK, would the prime minister agree than what Scotland gets so should the people of Essex and East Anglia."

    Perhaps he has some of the TOWIE cast members in mind for some top jobs in a new independent Essex.

    For good measure Mr Cameron made it clear that all parts of England should benefit from any powers being granted favourably to MPs there.

    He said: "If we are, and I believe we should, keep our promises to the people of Scotland in terms of additional powers to the Scottish parliament, including powers over tax raising powers, then we must make sure than MPs for Essex or indeed other counties and towns in England have the ability to vote on these issues as they effect England in this house."

    The only way is Essex devolution - PM told

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  • 10/28/14--14:36: Gray and Sons to Riverside
  • Gray and Sons

    Stone Bridge, Chelmsford
    Chelmsford Museum
    Market Road
    Great Baddow
    Saracens Head Hotel
    Chelmsford and Essex Hospital

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    Barnet 4, Chelmsford City 1

    (FA Cup, fourth round qualifying replay)

    CHELMSFORD will not be hosting Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup first round proper after being stung by an early blitz of Barnet goals at The Hive on Tuesday night.

    The Clarets were 2-0 down to their Vanarama Conference Premier hosts after just 10 minutes. John Akinde used his strength to muscle his way on to a loose ball and slot home before David Stephens tucked in from close range when a corner fell his way.

    Dazzling footwork by Luke Gambin gave him space to set up Barnet skipper Curtis Weston for the third on 29 minutes.

    Joe Ward struck one back for the lower league visitors ten minutes into the second half with a clinical low shot.

    City had a big shout for a handball in the Barnet box by home substitute Jon Nurse during a decent spell from the visitors, only for Luisma Villa's deflected effort to loop into the City net on 78 minutes to seal the result.

    City boss Mark Hawkes stuck with the team that drew 0-0 with the Bees at Melbourne Park on Saturday. Barnet manager Martin Allen made just one change, bringing in Gambin with Sam Hoskins having gone on loan to Yeovil Town.

    The Clarets didn't seem to be overawed by the surroundings of The Hive in the early exchanges, but the power of Akinde, which proved troublesome on Saturday proved lethal three days later.

    The warning signs were there on three minutes when he wriggled through on goal, but was denied by the quick reflexes of Clarets goalkeeper Tony Thompson.

    Then a header back from the City midfield three minutes later gave Mark Haines a problem as Akinde brushed him aside before powering on to slot past Thompson.

    On 10 minutes, the lead was doubled as a corner bounced at the feet of Stephens to stab home from close range.

    The pressure was all coming from the Vanarama Premier hosts and Bondz N'Gala sent a header from a corner just over the angle of crossbar and right post.

    Moments later Barnet right-back Andy Yiadom showed great control to take a ball down and motor into the box before testing Thompson with a low shot that the keeper parried and the ball was cleared to safety.

    It didn't stay out of his net for long though as on 29 minutes, Gambin shuffled the ball from one foot to another to jink into the box and pull the ball back for Weston to fire in a fierce shot. Thompson got a hand to it, but could only help it on its way into the top left corner.

    Both managers made substitutions on 32 minutes. For the visitors, Haines, who came off injured in the first game, was replaced by Marvin Ekpiteta, and for Barnet Jack Saville was brought on for N'Gala.

    Six minutes later, Akinde saw his header from a deep Gambin cross from the left fall on to the roof of the Clarets' net.

    City's only chance of the first half came when Christian Smith's in-swinging free-kick from the right was cleared off his goal line by Barnet goalkeeper Graham Stack, with City defender Yado Mambo getting the faintest of touches on the way.

    Striker Michael Cheek did not reappear on the pitch for the second half, replaced by Luke Callander.

    The Clarets held their own in the half's opening stages as Barnet stepped down a gear and were Hawkes' men were rewarded by Ward's superb strike on 55 minutes.

    He stole on to a bouncing ball, drove into the right-hand side of the penalty area and unleashed a low drive just inside the left post of Stack's goal.

    That had the Claret Army, boasting 403 away fans, behind the Bees' goal singing 'We're going to win 4-3' and their players weren't about to rest on their solitary goal.

    Ekpiteta headed on a corner to the back post, but Smith could not hook the ball in from a very tight angle, finding the gloves of Stack instead.

    Barnet's attacks were becoming less frequent and when Ward sliced a shot back across the box from a Callander cross from the left, the ball struck the arm of Nurse, prompting a big penalty claim from the City players and fans, but the referee Colin Lymer was unmoved.

    The injustice burned even more brightly when Villa's shot from outside the box deflected up and over Thompson's despairing dive and into the net with 12 minutes to go.

    Neither goalkeepers were troubled for the remaining time and now Chelmsford must forget about the FA Cup and turn their minds back to league action with a visit to Basingstoke Town on Saturday.

    CHELMSFORD: Thompson, Girdlestone, Redwood, Haines (Ekpiteta 32), Mambo, Sawyer, Ward, Gordon, Cheek (Callander 45), Smith (Kouassi 73). Subs not used: Freund, Morgan, Nicolau, Barham. Att: 1294.

    No Wycombe Wanderers tie for Chelmsford City after Barnet FA Cup defeat

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    BRAINTREE Town sealed their place in the FA Cup first round and a potential televised home clash against League One Chesterfield, after battling to a 5-3 win over Weymouth at Cressing Road tonight (Tuesday).

    The Iron surrendered a 3-1 lead in the fourth round qualifying replay, with the Southern League Premier Division side netting twice in three minutes to send the game to extra-time.

    But after battling back so well the Terras simply ran out of steam in the extra 30 minutes and Braintree's superior fitness told.

    Manager Alan Devonshire was able to name an unchanged side from the one that drew 0-0 on the south coast on Saturday, though admitted afterwards that only one of his seven substitutes was fully fit.

    The Iron started the brighter of the two teams and Dan Walker was the first test the Terras' player-manager Jason Matthews with a 25 yard shot that the keeper was right behind.

    Braintree won several corners which the visitors coped with and James Mulley had two shots blocked before Weymouth got their first shot on goal on 14 minutes through striker Stewart Yetton.

    Walker again kept Matthews keen and Chris Sheppard's weak shot was easily saved by Iron keeper Nick Hamann before the visitors gave the home side a scare on 25 minutes.

    Adam Kelly, Weymouth's standout player on the night, curled a beautiful shot from 20 yards which had Hamann beaten, but it hit the far post before right-back Jamie West blazed over the rebound from the right side of the box.

    Walker forced a smart low save from Matthews and striker partner Jordon Cox sent a loping header over the bar, before the latter opened the scoring three minutes before the break.

    A ball over the top was chased by Cox and Matthews came out to clear but could only blast the ball straight at the striker. It rolled towards the Weymouth goal and Cox ran on to neatly slide the ball in from a tight angle close to the byline.

    In fairness it was nothing more than what the Iron had deserved having had the lion's share of the chances and a minutes later they almost made it two as Walker got in and forced a good save from Matthews, before Mulley had his follow-up blocked by a defender.

    The Iron continued in the same vein after the break with Akinola cutting in from left and curling a shot at goal through a host of players that Matthew managed to turn around the post.

    However, He didn't have to wait long for his first Iron goal, as on 51 minutes he robbed West of the ball on the left and skipped past the challenges before finding the net with a well-struck shot from the edge of the box.

    The Iron were looking comfortable with the visitors offering little until a goal came out of nowher on the hour mark.

    Chris Sheppard made a great run into the box and was denied by Alan Massey, but Braintree could only half clear and Kelly curled in a fantastic shot from the edge of the box to haul the Terras back into the contest.

    On 72 minutes Braintree restored their two-goal cushion with the first of three goals in an explosive four minutes.

    A fantastic ball from Akinola in the left channel over to Walker on the right, saw the front man run at the Weymouth defence, cut inside, and blast into the far corner for 3-1.

    But a minute later Weymouth pulled a goal back as Yetton found space on the right of the Braintree box and his cross-cum-shot was turned in at the back post by a sliding Kelly.

    The Iron were rocking and twominutes later the visitors equalised. Kelly made a great run in from the left and when challenged the ball fell to Yetton, six yards out, who blasted home.

    With ten minutes to go the visitors were edging the tie and Braintree were looking weary. Akinola's deflected shot was held by Matthews and the Iron won a series of corners as they tried to search for a winner, but after four minutes of added time, another 30 would be needed.

    The break seemed to revitalise the home side, while the visitors were never in it as their tiredness began to tell.

    Three minutes in Braintree regained the lead as Sam Habergham got away down the left and delivered a fantastic cross that Akinola headed in from eight yards out.

    Akinola stung Matthews' palms and the keeper had to be alert again as he came out and stopped Walker from netting his second with a fine block.

    Two minutes into the second half of extra-time the game was over. A tired Weymouth pass was picked up by Walker just inside the visitors' half. He ran at the defence and then from the edge of the box, fired into the left corner of the goal.

    This time there was to be no fine fightback from the Terras, they had used up their energy the first time.

    Braintree threatened to add more gloss as Akinola went close with a fierce drive. However, he was denied his shot at a hat-trick when he was replaced by Charlie Strutton, making only his second appearance for the Iron having come on as a substitute in the original tie.

    The front man, who has been out injured since pre-season, immediately got in the thick of things, firstly rolling his man in the left channel and running at goal before blasting right across the face of goal.

    Then Matthews blocked his shot after Ryan Peters' pass, following a burst across the penalty area, had found the front man in space in the box, but it five would prove to be enough.

    Braintree: Hamann, Peters, Brundle, Massey, Habergham; Mulley, Isaac, Paine, Akinola (Strutton 112; Cox (Sparkes 109), Walker. Unused subs: Case, Pentney, Maybanks, Davis, Sowunmi.

    Braintree Town set up FA Cup clash with Chesterfield after Weymouth win

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    The A127 Prince Avenue, Southend on sea is seeing heavy traffic westbound from Nestuda Way to Kent Elms Corner

    The M11 Londonbound is seeing heavy traffic from J6 (M25) to J4 (A406 North Circular Road)

    In Great Wigborough, Peldon Road is partially blocked by an accident and fallen cables between Wigborough Road and Maldon Road.

    The A13 Londonbound is seeing slow traffic from the Stifford Interchange to the M25 at J30.

    And on the trains a generally good service is running on all routes in and out of Liverpool Street with no line problems to report at present. 

    ESSEX TRAVEL: Wednesday October 29

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    JAMES Graham's mother Paula has revealed how one of the mothers from Stereo Kicks turned on outspoken reality TV star Katie Hopkins after she said they looked like they were "waiting at an STI clinic".

    Former The Apprentice candidate Katie Hopkins was giving her opinions on the acts during the "The Xtra Factor" which is aired after the X Factor.

    She described the eight boys as looking like they were "waiting for a bus", and added: "They look like teenage boys waiting at an STI clinic to find out some really bad news.

    "Oh my God, what have I caught, who have I slept with, what have I caught?".

    "I understand what she's about," said Paula Graham. "But I must say I felt she crossed the line with her comments.

    "Some of these boys are only 14 and for her to say stuff like that was incredibly rude. And the boys were sitting right there – it was unnecessary."

    One of the mums was reported to have called Katie "Horse Face" but Paula said "it certainly was not me – I wouldn't bring Essex into disrepute." 

    X Factor James Graham's mum denies Katie Hopkins 'horse face' jibe

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    Birds of a Feather star Linda Robson and ex-Bolton and Arsenal footballer Fabrice Muamba will be among the celebrities being taught to sing by choirmaster Gareth Malone for this year's official Children in Need song.

    Malone, famed for transforming ordinary members of the public into veritable singers, has this time given himself the unenviable task of doing the same to a group of celebrities in All Star Choir.

    But he faces a tricky time of it with these well known names. As well as Essex girl Linda, the wannabe singers include Bake Off's Mel Giedroyc, actors Larry Lamb and Alison Steadman, and comedian Jo Brand.

    Countryfile's John Craven, Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, EastEnders actor Nitin Ganatra and actor Radzi Chinyanganya make up the rest of the volunteers.

    But the pressure starts to tell on Malone once it dawns on him what he's taken on. 

    After their first public performance, he reiterates: "I don't want this to fail, I don't want this to fall flat, it's got to be right."

    Gareth's All Star Choir is on BBC One tonight at 9pm

    Gareth's All Star Choir on BBC One: Former Arsenal midfielder to sing for Children in Need

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    A Colchester fireworks firm helped a former Royal Marine give his wife the perfect send off, by launching her ashes into the sky.

    Annette Maunder died from cancer in September aged 55, and discussed the idea of placing them into a firework with husband Gary. The pair then went to Heavenly Stars Fireworks with their plan. 

    The two minute display, featuring gold tails, 'green peonies', 'crackling dragon eggs' and 'red and blue chrysanthemum bursts', cost more than £250, and took almost a fortnight to create.

    Shortly before it took place, Gary, 55, from Pennycomequick in Plymouth told the Plymouth Herald: "She would have loved it. It's a good way to send her off.

    "Our 13 years of marriage was the best 13 years of my life.

    "We won the battle but lost the war. She was a keeper."

    The unique display lasted for two minutes.

    Gary was comforted by family members during the display.

    Hayley Pell, the funeral arranger at Cooperative's Albert Road branch, told The Herald before the event: "In many cultures the funeral is an occasion that brings the whole community together in a grand celebration of a person's life.

    "Gary has decided to do just that and, with the help of myself, Annette's ashes have been interred into a firework.

    "This is a fitting tribute and a great final farewell to Annette."

    Sparkling tribute: Woman's ashes blasted into the sky by Heavenly Stars Fireworks

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    The Maldon Tandoori reckons its "passion for cooking" is the reason Essex Chronicle readers voted it as the best Indian restaurant in the county.

    The popular curry house attracted 49 per cent of the votes in a survey of our online voters during National Curry Week last month.

    Manager Jhual Ahmed said: "It's fantastic news, I am very happy the restaurant has been voted Essex's favourite Indian restaurant.

    "It's all about having a passion for cooking.

    "We offer more choice and variety than other restaurants normally would, it's all about leaving your own mark."

    The restaurant fought off close competition from the nine other restaurants shortlisted. These included Chelmsford mainstays The Shahjan, which came second with 10 per cent of the vote, while Indian Night came third with seven per cent. 

    The Sitar, Bilash, Balti King, The Gulshan and Everest Gurkha, Omar's Tandoori in Hatfield Peverel, and Curry Nights in Maldon made up the rest of the list.

    Mr Ahmed added: "My brother, who is the restaurant's head chef, creates new dishes all the time.

    "He's important as he gets the right products and spices, the key to any good Indian dish."

    You vote Maldon Tandoori the best Indian restaurant in Essex

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    A gay escort from Chelmsford jailed for killing his 54-year-old client has seen his murder charge overturned.

    Michael Brennan, 24, of The Green, Melbourne, was sentenced to a minimum 22 years in jail last December for stabbing and battering antiques dealer Paul Simons, of Bushey in Hertfordshire, to death in a Moulsham Street flat.

    Yet on Friday (October 31) judges at the Court of Appeal in London ruled his conviction should be reduced to a manslaughter charge due to his diagnosed mental illnesses.

    "All three members of this court have come to the view that this conviction for murder cannot stand," said Lord Justice Davis, sitting alongside Mr Justice King and Judge Michael Stokes QC.

    During Brennan's two-week trial last year at Chelmsford Crown Court, the prosecution alleged the Broomfield Hospital cleaner lured Mr Simons to his death via a series of text messages on Friday, May 3, 2013.

    Brennan, an ex-Rainsford High School pupil, had obtained a key to his boyfriend's flat in Moulsham Street while the latter was holidaying in Paris.

    'Cold and calculated'

    That night he stabbed a naked Mr Simons in the chest, hit him on the head with a hammer and carved ritualistic lines on his back with a knife.

    He left Mr Simons' body in the flat, and notes which detailed plans to kill him and run away, but handed himself in at Chelmsford police station in New Street at about 11pm.

    Essex Police described it as a "cold and calculated" murder.

    During the trial his defence lawyer Sarah Forshaw QC argued he could not possibly be guilty of murder, and instead manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, because of his mental health history.

    He had been admitted to a Linden Centre mental health unit in Chelmsford and defence witness Dr Gillian Mezey diagnosed him with "schizotypal personality disorder" and "emotionally unstable personality disorder".

    Brennan's mother Angela also told jurors how he was the victim of physical abuse and homosexual bullying as a child and that he planned to live in the forest and "eat bats".


    Brennan did not give evidence at the trial and remained impassive throughout.

    "This defendant was suffering from a mental illness," said Ms Forshaw on Friday.

    "He wasn't in a position to explain the rationale behind what he did and his state had improved significantly since he was in prison.

    "It would have been potentially misleading for the jury to see the defendant in his improved state and to, in some way, use that amelioration in his condition to question the diagnosis of an expert who had said he has a mental illness.

    "The defendant was, on the face of it, remarkably normal.

    "This was not a man rocking in the dock or waving his arms about or coming out with expletives in a gratuitous fashion.

    "To all ends and purposes, he was a perfectly mild-mannered 22-year-old boy."

    The judges said they would give reasons for their verdict at a later date.

    It will be several months before he is re-sentenced.

    'Mentally ill' Chelmsford gay escort Michael Brennan's murder conviction is overturned

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    DESPITE BRAINTREE Town's winless run in the Conference Premier extending to eight games after Saturday's 0-0 draw with Woking, boss Alan Devonshire was pleased with what he saw from his side.

    The Iron have struggle massively with injuries at the beginning of this season and put in a solid second half display to repel a high-flying Cards at Cressing Road.

    Devonshire said: "I thought we were really good as the second half we bossed it and thought that we were the only team that were going to win the game. They had a couple of chances in the first half but we finished the game strongly so I was pleased with that.

    "It was a decent game with two decent teams but I think it was a fair result in the end. I don't really want to pick anyone out as I thought defensively we were a little shaky in the first half as their strikers got behind us. But we got things sorted and our shape was much better, all that was missing was a goal.

    "Woking are a good side and Garry (Hill, Woking manager) has done a really good job. He has kept many of what he had last year together and added. They are a good side."

    The Iron are still 15th in the table and host Grimsby Town on Tuesday night who are currently on a run of five league games unbeaten. 

    Braintree boss Alan Devonshire

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    A FORMER Chelmsford soldier helped to launch a £1 million fundraising target for Essex, as part of the nationwide Poppy Appeal.

    Ex-lance corporal Ben Roberts, formerly of the Royal Anglian Regiment, met pupils at Mayflower High School in Billericay last week to kick start the appeal in memory of servicemen and women killed in conflicts, and to support surviving veterans.

    The event, organised by the Royal British Legion, was held to coincide with the centenary of the breakout of the First World War.

    Mr Roberts, 33, himself a beneficiary of the charity, said: "The Legion has helped me so much over the past few years and has given me the confidence to get on with my life.

    "I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and sometimes day-to-day life is a struggle.

    "But I have benefited from not only a friendly face from the Legion, but I have been sent on a Poppy Break, my first proper holiday in years.

    "It has given me money and debt advice, helped me with a rent deposit and helped me to furnish my home to make it a safe and warm place to live.

    "I owe it so much and feel very privileged to help them launch this year's Poppy Appeal in such a special anniversary year."

    At Thursday's event, students, dressed in red polo tops and dark blazers to depict a human poppy, circled around the honoured guest, Mr Roberts, to signify the 'Live On' motto of the Royal British Legion.

    The poppy is recognised as a universal symbol of remembrance and hope, and has been seen as such since it was first used 100 years ago to represent the fallen.

    Head teacher of Mayflower High School, Lee Brumby, added that he was deeply honoured to be a part of the county's Poppy Appeal launch.

    He said: "We are proud that we have been chosen to help the Royal British Legion launch its annual Poppy Appeal in Essex, in such a memorable year – 100 years after the outbreak of World War I."

    Each year, in early November, around 30,000 Legion volunteers take to the streets with poppies and collecting boxes, raising millions of pounds for the Poppy Appeal.

    As of the start of June 2014, Essex alone has raised £1,087,050.33 for the 2013/2014 Poppy Appeal.

    People who wish to donate can do so by phoning 0845 845 1945 for more information.

    Alternative ways to donate are outlined at uk/get-involved/how-to-give

    Let's make it a million: Launch of the Poppy Appeal in Essex

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