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

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    Braintree's Miss East Anglia made her second appearance on ITV1 dating show Take Me Out on Saturday night.

    Sophie Whitaker first joined the other 29 single girls on the popular programme on January 31, after one contestant left the group to go to the fictitious holiday destination of Fernandos, better known as Cyprus, with her chosen date.

    Following from her initial introduction, host Paddy McGuinness asked the 20-year-old some questions about herself.

    Later she came out from behind her podium to hug a Canadian constant who then played the bagpipes whilst wearing a kilt.

    Lettings manager Sophie then received a series of supportive tweets.

    To follow her progress on the show and her posts visit @sophiewhitaker

    Braintree's Miss East Anglia appears on ITV1's Take Me Out

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    CASES heard by Colchester and Chelmsford magistrates from Tuesday, January 6 to Thursday, January 8.

    Sent to prison

    WAYNE HUNTER, 39, of HMP Chelmsford, was given a one month prison sentence, consecutive to an existing sentence, for stealing four Xbox games worth £173 from Tesco at Pitsea on March 20. He was ordered to have a foil lined bag destroyed and must pay an £80 victim surcharge. He was also given one month concurrent for stealing a pair of sunglasses to the value of £800 from Sunglass Hut at Lakeside on April 8.


    JORGE RITCHIE BENAUD HAMMOND, 20, of High Street, Maldon, was committed to detention in a young offenders institution for four months. He had assaulted another person by beating her at Chelmsford on December 1; between November 1 and 23; and between November 23 and 30. They were serious offences against the same victim, and involved punching and spitting.

    Suspended sentence

    BRANDON ALAN RIDGEWELL, 20, of Highridge, Great Braxted, was given a 26 week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months for assaulting another person by beating her at Colchester on July 7. The defendant was also given 26 weeks' concurrent for breaching a non molestation order made on March 7 by using violence towards his victim on June 24 and a further 26 weeks' concurrent for assaulting her. He was ordered to participate in Thinking Skills programme for 19 days, attend supervised appointments with a responsible officer, and carry out 40 hours of unpaid, supervised work within the next 12 months. He must pay £100 compensation, an £80 victim surcharge and pay £100 costs to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

    Crime & Disorder

    GARY DAVID HANDLEY, 40, of Old Challis Rise, Rayne, was fined £350 for causing harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that was racially aggravated towards another person at Braintree on November 8. He must pay £75 compensation plus a £35 victim surcharge and must pay £85 costs to the CPS.

    Criminal damage

    PAUL BELLMAN MORENO, 42, of Murchison Close, Chelmsford, was given a conditional discharge for 12 months for damaging a front door to the value of £250 belonging to another person at Chelmsford on December 27. He must pay £250 compensation plus a £15 victim surcharge and £35 costs to the CPS. The defendant also pleaded guilty to using abusive words or disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

    Criminal justice – assault

    FRASER GRAY, 42, of Galleywood Road, Chelmsford, was given a 12 month conditional discharge for assaulting another person by beating him at Chelmsford on December 24. He must pay a £15 victim surcharge.

    Criminal justice – breach

    PETER MARTIN, 45, of Savernake Road, Chelmsford, was ordered to participate in an Education, Training and Employment programme for ten days in addition to the original requirements of a community order imposed on September 16. The defendant had failed to attend three appointments in November and December. He must pay £50 costs.

    Firearms possession

    LEE ANDRE BRAZIER, 41, of Imperial Avenue, Mayland, was given a community order for possessing a taser without the authority of the Secretary of State at Mayland on December 9. The defendant must carry out 100 hours of unpaid, supervised work within the next 12 months, pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS. The taser must be forfeited under section 52(1) of the Firearms Act 1968 and destroyed.

    Public order offences

    KAI BEECHINOR, 21, of Galleywood Road, Chelmsford, was given a community order for using threatening, abusive or insulting words of behaviour likely to provoke the use of unlawful violence at Chelmsford on November 27. The defendant must carry out 100 hours of unpaid, supervised work within the next 12 months, pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS.

    DARREN JOHN PAUL EATON, 21, of Woodhall Road, Chelmsford, was given a community order for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to provoke unlawful violence being used at Chelmsford on November 27. He must carry out 100 hours of unpaid, supervised work within the next 12 months, pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS.

    Social security offences

    LYNNE WHITE, of Faber Road, Witham, was given a community order for failing to notify Braintree District Council of a change of circumstances that would have affected her entitlement to housing benefit between August 2, 2010 and June 30 last year. She must carry out 40 hours of unpaid, supervised work within the next 12 months, pay a £60 victim surcharge and £400 costs.

    Theft – shoplifting

    COLIN TREVOR HARDING, 30, of Warrenside, Braintree, was given a community order for stealing a blu ray box set and four Wii games to the value of £134 from Tesco at Braintree on December 23. He was ordered to participate in an accredited programme for 25 days and attend supervised appointments with a responsible officer. He was fined £75 plus a £60 victim surcharge and must pay £25 costs to the CPS.

    OLIVER JEE SWAINSON, 28, of Guys Farm Road, South Woodham Ferrers, was given a nine month conditional discharge for stealing consumables to the value of £10 from One Stop Stores in Chelmsford on November 12 and £12 worth of consumables on September 5. He must pay compensation of £22, a £15 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS.

    Theft – other

    SIMON BLAKE, 44, of Manor Street, Braintree, was fined £450 for stealing a drill breaker, hedge cutter and strimmer to the value of £1,700 from another person at Colchester on September 5. He must pay a £45 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS.

    Willful obstruction

    LUIGI ROMANO, 28, of Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, was fined £300 for willfully obstructing a Police Constable in the execution of his duty at Southend on December 24. He must pay £50 compensation, a £30 victim surcharge and £90 costs to the CPS.

    Careless driving

    LESLIE WILLIAM SKEGGS, 41, of Wood Grove, Silver End, was given three penalty points for riding a motorcycle along the A131 at Great Notley on April 12 without due care and attention. The defendant had ridden around a roundabout at excessive speed and with excessive lean angle, with his right knee scraping on the ground in the manner of a motorcycle racer. He was fined £83 and must pay a £20 victim surcharge and £90 costs.

    CLIVE FARRANT, 61, of Hawthorn Walk, South Woodham Ferrers, was given eight points on his driving licence for driving without due care and attention at South Woodham Ferrers on March 23. He had approached Ferrers Road roundabout at the junction with the B1012 at speed while using a mobile phone. He did not account for a police motorcycle already completing a manoeuvre, forcing the motor cyclist to take evasive action to avoid a collision. He was fined £600 and must pay a £60 victim surcharge and £90 costs.


    JOHN ALEXANDER BROOKE, 37, of New London Road, Chelmsford, was banned from driving for two years and given a community order for driving along Princes Road, Chelmsford on December 22 after he had been drinking. His breath contained 95 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, more than two and a half times over the limit. The defendant must carry out 120 hours of unpaid, supervised work within the next 12 months, pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS.

    JESSICA FAYE BEARD, 28, of Armours Lane, Chelmsford, was banned from driving for 12 months for driving along the B1008 at Barnston on December 14 after she had been drinking. Her breath contained 67 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, just under double the limit. She was fined £300 and must pay a £30 victim surcharge and pay £85 costs to the CPS.

    Traffic offences

    GARY STUART BROWN, 31, of Deerhurst Chase, Bicknacre, was disqualified from driving for six months due to repeat offending. He had failed to provide information relating to the identification of the driver of a vehicle alleged to have been guilty of an offence on April 30. He was fined £600 and must pay a £60 victim surcharge and costs of £90 to the CPS.

    CHIN ENG GAN, 38, of Yeldham Lock, Chelmsford, was disqualified from driving for 17 months for failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis at Basildon on December 28. He was fined £160 and must pay a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs to the CPS.

    Named and shamed: a round up of cases heard by Essex magistrates

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    An elite marathon runner dubbed the "Queen of Extreme" has begun her toughest task yet – seven marathons, on seven continents in seven days – all whilst dressed in a cow suit.

    Fiona Oakes, 43, who is owner of the Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary in Asheldham, on the Dengie Peninsula, and began her epic feat in Melbourne on Sunday, February 8.

    Today she travels to Abu Dhabi to complete the next leg before mooving on to Tunis, Paris, New York and Punta Arenas in Chile before boarding a private jet to Antarctica to complete the challenge.

    Fiona will take on the 777 challenge aiming to raise money for her animal sanctuary, and raise awareness against animal cruelty.

    Fiona, who is an Ambassador of The Vegan Society, is attempting this remarkable feat to raise awareness of veganism. "I want to show non-vegans what can be done on a vegan diet, that's my objective. I'll be wearing the cow suit to highlight all animal cruelty, including that of the dairy industry," she said

    But despite embarking on what could be her biggest challenge yet, Fiona is not preparing any differently.
    "Over Christmas I was running a lot but I don't think anything other than experience can prepare you for a run like this," said Fiona.

    "This may be my toughest thing I've ever done, but I have a lifetime's worth of endurance training in me and that will pull me through.

    "It's the tight timings and logistics between the races that can make this difficult."

    Fiona wakes at 3.30am every day to feed and care for the 400 animals in her care before pulling on her running shoes at the end of her working day to train

    And in February last year, Fiona set the world record for completing a marathon on every continent over the shortest elapsed time, and in the quickest aggregate time, finishing in Antarctica.

    She then broke the female elapsed time record for completing the Seven Continent and Polar Ice Cap Challenge, which stood at 324 days. She completed it in 225.

    Elite marathon runner begins her quest to complete seven marathons, on seven continents in seven days – in a cow suit.

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    Anglia Ruskin University researchers have part written a report proposing dedicated sexual violence courts are set up.

    The researchers, along with those from the University of Bath, propose a widespread overhaul of the current provisions in place for rape victims to radically change how the legal system in England and Wales responds to such cases.

    This includes new sexual violence courts which would provide alternative entrances for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

    Co-author Dr Tina Skinner, of the University of Bath, said: "Although the difficulties with rape trials are complex, establishing a specialist court which uses best practice is key to improving responses to victims and witnesses.

    "Having specialised legal professionals who are aware of the key research in this area can go a long way to challenging misunderstandings about rape. It would also help address misunderstandings about legal rules and court practice, which are all too often a barrier to using the helpful policies already in place."

    The report, otherwise known as the latest University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) Policy Brief, also suggests routinely emptying the public gallery when witnesses enter or exit the court.

    The authors also raise serious questions over how common misconceptions about rape persist in the courtroom and how these are being used by defence barristers to mislead a jury and advance their case.

    This might include raising questions about a witness' credibility based on so called 'irrational actions', such as delayed reporting of an assault, or the fact that victims may not have physically resisted an assault.

    Other studies have shown how both these 'irrational actions' are very common and indeed very normal among victims.

    Lead author Dr Olivia Smith, Lecturer in Criminology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "From many studies we know that certain actions such as delayed reporting of rape or not resisting an attack, are widely misunderstood as suspicious despite being common among rape victims.

    "Yet, in spite of greater awareness in the Bar, we found that defence barristers are still drawing heavily on misconceptions about rape to appeal to a jury and advance their case."

    The new IPR policy brief is based on research conducted by observing adult rape and sexual assault trials at a large English crown court.

    The observations took place over a 10-month period in 2012, after a 3-month pilot study in 2010.

    The findings were discussed with barristers and victim support workers.

    Anglia Ruskin University researchers recommend new sexual violence courts

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    Sky One's new reality television show Quiz Nights debuted on Friday night in the first of an eight-part series which features Chelmsford's very own Rose and Crown pub.

    Including egg heads from Manchester, Liverpool and London, the first show aired on Friday, February 6 at 10pm but the Essex contingent features in the second episode this week.

    Landlord of the Writtle watering hole, Barry Long, told The Chronicle how the regulars enjoyed their new-found fame: "The punters all loved it and people from all around the area came to watch.

    "We publicised it on Facebook and on our website, but the cameramen focused more on our local teams.

    "It was a great experience, they had big bright lights and we had to take certain advertisements off the walls. The director would then shout action and everyone really enjoyed themselves."

    We published our own tavern test on Friday, so let us know how you did via our Facebook page, or on Twitter @EssexChronicle.

    Quiz Nights: Writtle pub debuts on Sky One show this week

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    While the couples of Essex are planning romantic dinners for two this Saturday, the singletons out there may be looking for a Valentine's date.

    So if you're a lonely heart, forget tinder, my single friend, or dating columns, the Chronicle is here to solve your romantic woes with some big-hitting chat-up lines to help you find a date for the weekend.

    Here's our top 16 chat-up lines to take you from zero to hero:

    I'm not Fred Flintstone but I can certainly make your bedrock

    You must be tired; you've been running through my mind all day

    I've lost my phone number, can I have yours

    Get your coat, you've pulled

    Someone pass the tartar sauce, because you're quite a catch

    I'll cook you dinner if you cook me breakfast

    Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk past again?

    Is it hot in here or is it just you?

    I like your face

    If I could re-write the alphabet, I'd put U and I together

    Do you have a plaster? I just scraped my knee falling for you

    Are you a parking ticket, because you've got fine written all over you?

    I'm Mr Right, someone said you were looking for me

    There's something wrong with my phone – it doesn't have your number in it

    Are you google? Because you have everything I'm searching for

    Did you hear the one about the polar bear? He broke the ice

    16 chat-up lines for Valentine's Day

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    TOWIE is back on our screens this month and this time there's a big twist in store. The girls are flying out to Tenerife to start filming the first episode of series 14 - without the boys. Naturally Bobby Norris and Vas Morgan are allowed on the girls-only trip though. Fans of the lads needn't worry, the TOWIE lads will still star in the opener but they'll be doing their own thing back in Essex. The girls started tweeting on Monday to reveal they were all catching flights to Tenerife as filming starts in the next few days. New mum Billie Faiers tweeted: "On our way to the airport with @fernemccann , mother and of course my little nelly noo." Danielle Armstrong added: "Can't remember the last time I was up this early On route to Gatwick #EssexComesToTenerife." The banter seemed to have started already as Gemma Collins tweeted: "On the plane woo hoo tenerife baby here we come #TOWIE." But her best pal Bobby Norris replied: "@missgemcollins babe your on the wrong plane girl.. We're waiting for you in Jamie's x." Some of the ladies, including Danielle, Chloe Sims, Jessica Wright, Lydia Bright and Lauren Pope have also been pictured filming the trailer and promotional shots for the latest series. Danielle and Chloe have been sharing a cheeky snap on twitter and teasing their followers about what's to come. The first episode of the show will be an hour long, compared to the usual 45 minutes, and will give fans a glimpse of what the girls have been up to abroad, and what the guys have been doing while the cats are away… After a break from the show at the end of series 14, Charlie Sims will be back too after he posted a pic of him sitting next to best buddy Mario, with the caption: "Guess who's back.. #Towie series 14." The new series of Towie will be back on ITVBe in late February.

    Female TOWIE stars jet off to Tenerife to film new series - with a twist

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    A GOAL five minutes from time condemned Witham Town to a second successive defeat.

    Town were beaten 3-2 at home to Leatherhead and are now two points from safety in the Ryman Premier, having not won in their last eight matches.

    In this game they dominated the early stages with Jamie Guy just grazing the bar in the first minute and forcing many corners. However, against the run of play Vasieleious Karragiannis put the Tanners ahead on 12 minutes.

    Soon afterwards Luke Callander hit the crossbar for Witham but two minutes later, on 23 minutes, he scored when he converted a free-kick by Ryan Blackman.

    The visitors were on top for most of the second half and went back in the lead on 57 minutes as Adam Green fired a free-kick past Witham keeper Niklas Freund.

    Witham again equalised ten minutes later when Guy struck a penalty home expertly but yet again a late goal beat Town when Kiernan Hughes-Mason shot under Freund in the 85th minute as the home side regretted all those missed early chances. 

    Witham Town now winless in eight after defeat to Leatherhead

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    A conman who intimidated and confused betting shop cashiers into believing he had won bets has been jailed today (February 9).

    Snaresbrook Crown Court heard how John O'Connor, 33 years old  of St Mary's Road, Ealing, conned staff at Chelmsford branch of Ladbrokes, along with 13 other branches in the UK over around 18 months, from July 2012, out of about £10,000.

    O'Connor used a number of what the betting industry refers to as "slow count fraud" tactics, fooling them into believing he had won bets when, in some cases, he had not even paid his stake.

    His tactics included placing a bet but then distracting the cashier - sometimes with the help of friends - by asking questions, becoming rowdy or placing a series of small, obscure bets at the same time. This would allow him time to see if his runner was likely to win.

    If it won, he would hand over his stake and claim the profit, or else pretend he had already paid and ask only for his winnings. He would then place the non-existent stake on another bet.

    If he lost, he would leave without paying the stake.

    As well as Chelmsford, O'Connor carried out his crimes at branches in Hillingdon, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Westminster, Clevedon in Somerset, Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottingham, Chester in Cheshire, Standish in Greater Manchester, Sandy in Bedfordshire  and Weston-super-Mare in Somerset.

    Ladbrokes reported the offences to the Metropolitan Police Service in April 2013, after he carried out the con at a branch on Oxford Street, Westminster. Detectives circulated CCTV images of him to police services around the country, and Hertfordshire police officers arrested him in July 2014.

    O'Connor was charged with 15 counts of a fraud by misrepresentation, to which he pleaded guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 24 November.

    While on bail, awaiting sentence, he carried out the same offence at William Hill on Tyburn Road, Edington, Birmingham on 28 December 2014.

    It is believed that he may have carried out the scam on many more occasions.

    Today, he was sentenced to 18 months' jail, suspended for two years for 16 counts of fraud by misrepresentation.

    He was also given a 12-month supervision order and a four-month alcohol treatment order.

    Chelmsford Ladbrokes conman John O'Connor jailed for £10,000 fraud

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    Chelmsford's cityscape is developing seriously fast, but some eyesore 1960s buildings are being left behind.

    Here we've listed nine buildings in Chelmsford which should really be demolished, or given a drastic revamp.

    Did we miss one? Write your suggestions in the comment box below.

    • 1. Rivers House

    After Kings Tower opposite Chelmsford railway station and the Melbourne flats, Rivers House is the tallest building in the city. But it's by no means the brightest. Developers are currently revamping the interior to convert it from offices to residential flats.

    • 2. Cater House

    Another 1960s building, made up of residential flats, which Friends of Chelmsford Museum member Jose King once described as "the ugly grey concrete finger stuck right in the middle".

    • 3. Chelmsford police station

    Obviously it's pretty paramount to have a police station in the centre of town, but does it have to look so horrid?

    • 4. Miami Hotel

    This dingy building belongs in a barren industrial estate in the middle of the desert in some southern US state. Although the hotel does a lot of work for the city council, giving a lot of rooms to people on the housing register.

    • 5. Marrable House

    Weston Business Centres is trying to convert this redundant block of 1960s offices into 57 residential flats. Reportedly branded "one of the worst examples of town and country planning in the country" when it was built.

    • 6. Threadneedle House

    LaSalle Investment Management wants this eyesore building turned from empty offices into flats.

    • 7. High Chelmer multi-storey car park

    The council spent about £1.6 million repairing the 1,012-space car park in 2011 after CCTV operators spotted lumps of concrete falling from the 1970s building. Should any more money be spent on, say, on demolishing it?

    • 8. Salvation Army

    The charity's modern building, in Baddow Road parallel to Parkway, isn't necessarily an eyesore, it just looks out of place in Chelmsford.

    • 9. Our old headquarters

    The Essex Chronicle moved from the 21,000sqft building in Westway, near the old Britvic factory and the Robjohns Road industrial estate, in 2012. Not much has happened to it since.

    9 of the ugliest buildings in Chelmsford

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    1. BEAR HUG: VALENTINE'S SPECIAL AT COLCHESTER ZOO, Colchester Zoo, Maldon Road, Stanway, Colchester, CO3 0SL.Saturday, February 14 and Sunday, February 15. The zoo opens at 9.30am. Tickets: Special offer – 2 adult entries and a free souvenir guide for £35. You must book online at least 24 hours in advance. If you're looking for something a bit different, then what about a date at Colchester Zoo? This couple's event allows you to wander around the zoo and hear all about the quirkier side of animals in love from the keepers. There are plenty of happy couples in the zoo ranging from monkeys, bears, giraffes and komodo dragons. While you're there, you could also earn yourself brownie points by booking your partner a keeper for the day experience, where you can enjoy 15% off if you take the experience before March 27.


    2. SNOWDROP SUNDAYS AT HEDINGHAM CASTLE, Hedingham Castle, Castle Hedingham, Halstead, Essex, CO9 3DJ. Sunday, February 15. 10am-4pm. Admission: Adult £8.50, children £6, families £22.50. What could be more romantic than taking a gentle stroll along the snowdrop-covered slopes of Hedingham Castle? The castle's winter gardens have been called the most romantic in the East of England with 13 varieties of snowdrops covering the slopes of the motte and bailey, near the trees and lakes. If it gets chilly, be sure to cuddle up close while you enjoy a mulled wine in the Café in the Keep. There will also be entertainment from Lavenham falconry and Graeme the Medieval Archer.


    3. HEART AND SOUL VALENTINE'S BALL, WIVENHOE HOUSE HOTEL, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ. Saturday, February 14. 7pm. Tickets: 3 course dinner £39.95 per person, 3 course dinner with overnight stay and breakfast £199 from per couple, 3 course dinner with 2-night stay and breakfast from £298 per couple.

    Celebrate in style at the beautiful Wivenhoe House Hotel. Start your evening with a glass of bubbly in the main house, followed by a three course meal. As you enjoy your food and each other's company, there will be love music from Mjsoul. Your first two courses (with vegetarian options) will be followed by a romantic dessert for two to share.


    4. VALENTINES NIGHT AT THE FOOD COMPANY, 86 London Road, Marks Tey, Colchester, CO6 1ED. Saturday, February 14. 6-11pm (last food orders 9.30pm).. £34.95 per person. Booking essential.

    If the way to your heart is through your stomach, then you mustn't miss this Valentine's night out at The Food Company. Each couple will be treated to a delicious, three course meal with added extras including chocolate hearts and a rose for every lady.


    5. MIND, BODY & SOUL FAIR AT VALENTINES MANSION AND GARDENS, Emerson Road, Ilford, IG1 4XA,UK. Sunday, February 15. 11am – 3pm. Free entry but various charges apply for services. Everyone deserves to relax and unwind on Valentine's weekend. There are many treatments and services on offer to help you feel calm including massage, manicure, pedicure, holistic treatments, psychic and tarot readings. A 30 minute reading is £10 and most therapies are £7.50 for 15 minutes. There will also be a selection of stalls so you can take your favourite products home with you. Prepare to float home after leaving the mansion.


    6. VALENTINE'S DINNER AT THURROCK THAMESIDE NATURE PARK, Stanford-Le-Hope, SS17 0RN. Saturday, February 14, 7-11pm. Cost: £60 donation per couple. Enjoy a welcoming drink and three course, romantic dinner by the twinkling lights of the Thames Estuary. After your meal you can go for a lovely, candlelit stroll. Menu to be chosen in advance. Book on 01376 643342 or


    7. FOOD OF LOVE: WEST MERSEA OYSTER BAR , West Mersea Oyster Bar, Coast Road, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8LT. Open every day. Food served on Saturdays 12-8.30pm, on Sundays food served 12-3.30pm. • Prices start from £3 for 3 World Famous Colchester Natives (No 3s), or from £2.75 for 3 Mersea island Rocks. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach so why not make that food one of the worlds' most renowned aphrodisiacs? Oysters are said to contain zinc and amino acids which trigger the production sex hormones and are said to boost love and fertility. The West Mersea Oyster Bar has been serving top quality seafood since 2006.


    8. THE WARM & TOASTY CLUB, COLCHESTER ARTS CENTRE, Church Street, Colchester, CO1 1NF Sunday, February 15, 1.30pm for 2pm start. Tickets: £5. If you're looking for a heart-warming event this Valentine's Day then this is the one for you. Come along to enjoy a lovely live variety show which will include sweet acoustic music, personal stories, interviews and comedy chat – all in front of an open fire. And there's always tea, biscuits and hot buttered toast. Visit

    9. VALENTINE'S DANCE, QUEEN ELIZABETH II VILLAGE HALL, New Cut, Layer de la Haye, Colchester, Essex, CO2 0EG. Saturday, February 14, 8-11.30pm. Tickets £10 including fish and chip supper. Tickets must be bought in advance. A wonderful, romantic evening giving you the chance to dance the night away with your loved ones. There will be music with hits ranging from 1960s classics to the present day by live band Double Dee. Guests can wear red or pink if they can. Contact Liz or Cliff Appleby at the hall.

    10. ICE CREAM DREAM: SHARE A ROSSIS ON SOUTHEND SEAFRONT, Southend. All Valentine's weekend. Cost: A few pounds. For a taste of proper old fashioned romance, (and to keep the cost down), what could be more sweet than sharing an ice cream by the seaside? A Rossi's at Southend is a true Essex tradition and one that any couple can enjoy. After your ice creams, you can go for a romantic stroll along the pier or cuddle up in a café with a hot chocolate. Lovely.


    Top 10 romantic things to do in Essex this Valentine's weekend

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    Five people were arrested on suspicion of drug offences after a drug raid in Kelvedon at the weekend.

    The investigations, known as Op Society 2, was led by volunteer Special Constables and involved regular officers who raided a house in Docwra Road, Kelvedon, at 2.20pm on Saturday, February 7.

    Four of the arrested men were suspected of possessing Class A drugs, believed to be mephedrone, also known as dolly or meow meow.

    They included, a 30-year-old man from Kelvedon, a 21-year-old woman from Colchester, a 23-year-old woman from Witham, all arrested on suspicion of possession of what is thought to be mephedrone.

    A 32-year-old man from Coggeshall was arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis and mephedrone.

    A 54-year-old woman from Kelvedon, was also arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis.

    Acting Sergeant Tom Bastendorff said: "Without the specials this wouldn't have been possible, they helped detain the suspects and seize the evidence so they're really valuable members of the team."

    Five people were arrested as part of the operation on suspicion of drug offences have been bailed until April 21.

    Five arrested with suspected

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    W HEN German soldier Eberhard Wendler was captured in Normandy on July 26, 1944, he claims he didn't even know what a Nazi was.

    He only found out during his years at a prisoner of war camp in High Garrett near Braintree, and by the time he was freed on September 23, 1947, he no longer considered himself German.

    After news of Hitler's defeat spread across the Channel and British soldiers began filtering home, he remembers very distinctly the moment which changed the rest of his life.

    "An English Army unit marched into the camp soon after the war had ended and herded all the Germans into one of the big huts," he said.

    "They forced us to watch a film which showed all the horrendous things the Germans did in the concentration camps. I couldn't believe it and not one of us spoke a word after it ended."

    Nearly 60 years later, and with a British passport to his name, the Saxony-born Braintree pensioner revealed to the Chronicle why he decided to stay in Essex as a 21-year-old.

    He said: "I just thought to myself, 'if that's what my people did, I don't want to belong to them'. Those stupid people wanted me to lay down my life for them; I felt ashamed to be German."

    The news came at a time when all Eberhard had been longing for was a return to his home town of Werda in East Germany, and he knew it spelled the end of a quick reunion with his family.

    He remembers how there were some talented painters in the camp, with drawings of imaginary German villages offering a welcome escape from the depressing daily monotony.

    He said: "Up until I watched the videos it had been my dream to go running into my mother's arms. But suddenly the thought of Germany made my blood boil."

    In fact, the only contact Eberhard shared with his mother before he returned to Germany for a two-week visit in 1955 was a photo he posted to her of him and his fellow soldiers in High Garrett.

    He said the picture broke her heart as none of the ten prisoners in the shot were smiling. All she could do was will her son back home from more than 700 miles away.

    In the intervening years until Eberhard was eventually released, his days were spent performing backbreaking hard labour harvesting sugar beet plants.

    He would work solidly from Monday to Saturday; enduring most of the day hunched over and covered in mud as the British winters showed no mercy.

    Prisoners were expected to be present for morning and evening roll call without fail, and it is a discipline which has remained with the keen motorcyclist throughout his life.

    He said: "We would march out in groups of ten and if we overslept or were on the toilet or anything like that, we would automatically get 28 days of solitary confinement.

    "So I made sure I was never late. Even now, if I have a doctor's appointment, I make sure I get there half an hour early."

    Now 88, Eberhard also recalls how life in the camp could be brutal; infighting was not uncommon and he would always know better than to question the quality and quantity of food he was given.

    "Our food would just get slopped in; it was mainly mushy vegetables. The whole country was still on rations, so I suppose people didn't care for feeding prisoners too much either.

    "I remember a young chap accused one of the bigger guys of eating more food than everyone else.

    "He didn't make a scene in the dining room, but when we got back to our hut he beat him black and blue.

    "We never had any rest either; we were always caked in mud and soaked right through during winter. Our woollen gloves would get soaked in no time.

    "The lorry would take us straight from our accommodation to the fields so we didn't have any contact with English people."

    There were about 800 soldiers imprisoned in the camp, but Eberhard was in the minority when he decided to shun a return to Germany after he was freed from captivity.

    German soldiers were only allowed to stay in the country on the proviso they helped kick-start the agricultural industry, and the former precision instrument maker did just that until the early 1950s.

    But despite finding work on a farm belonging to Charles Marshall in Bocking after his release, Eberhard still had a tough time settling in to Essex life.

    Without being able to speak any English, he picked up the language solely from his colleagues at the farm and from his visits to Bocking Church each Sunday.

    His early hardships were epitomised when the introvert was left no choice but to find another congregation after overhearing his minister say the only good German was a dead one.

    "I didn't like that very much," he admits, with a grimace. "So I started going to a church in Witham and that is where I met my wife Kathleen in 1962. It's a funny business how things turn out."

    The unlikely couple married at the town's Guithavon Valley Evangelical Church in 1963, enjoying their first date in Chelmsford High Street the year before.

    But even this union was shrouded in tragedy as Eberhard recalls the day he was supposed to meet Kathleen's father for the first time.

    He said: "We had been going to the same church for some time, but the same day she invited me to tea to meet her family, her father died.

    "Even though I saw him in church I never actually spoke to him, but he seemed to approve. We lived in a council house with Kathleen's mother for three years before we could afford our own place."

    The newlyweds duly saved up until they had enough money to move into their own home in Brandon Road, Braintree, in 1966.

    Kathleen, now 83, worked at Hoffmann ball-bearing factory in Chelmsford until it closed in 1989.

    Eberhard was employed as a metal worker for 15 years before joining Crompton in Chelmsford for more than two decades until he retired in 1991.

    The former prisoner of war was keen to join Marconi, but the union workers would not allow Germans to join their ranks.

    The pair made an official visit to meet Eberhard's family in the mid-1960s as they drove across Europe in their Ford Anglia, but it was a far less traumatic experience than the 88-year-old's first return home in 1955.

    After he was released, he wrote to the authorities in East Germany for a visa as his family was desperate to see him, but they rejected his application as he had decided to stay in England.

    So he rode his Triumph Speed Twin motorbike across Europe until he reached his uncle in north-west Germany.

    He was able to sneak him a German identity card to make the trip across to the Russian-controlled east.

    He said: "When I arrived in Werda in 1955, I didn't recognise my brother and he didn't recognise me. I had been away from home for 11 years.

    "When I left for war he was just a boy and he had grown into a man and was married with children. It was actually his wife, who I had never met before, who recognised me from pictures.

    "My mother wouldn't stop crying when she saw me, I felt terrible that I hadn't been to see them sooner. They were over the moon. My mother went around telling the whole town, but I didn't want her to tell too many people as I wasn't supposed to be there.

    "But when I returned again with Kathleen in the 60s I was a British citizen and we didn't have to be so secretive. They all loved Kathleen.

    "My mother, Erna, my father, Walter and my brother, Gert, have all since passed away but I still have three nieces in Germany. I send them birthday cards and Christmas cards every year."

    The Braintree resident revealed that he now considers himself an Englishman and, although he misses German sausages, his favourite dish is beef with Yorkshire pudding.

    But despite having claimed British citizenship by the 1966 World Cup final, it would seem it wasn't as easy as he makes out to cut all ties with his motherland as he was happy to see either team win.

    Eberhard's story makes up part of the book, Hitler's Last Army: German POWs In Britain by Robin Quinn

    Jailed in Essex, but German Prisoner of War, now 88, has made Braintree his home

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    SELFLESS students have put their lunch cards to good use by using any leftover credits to feed the homeless.

    Writtle College provides students with £160 each month to use in campus food outlets as part of their accommodation fees, but veterinary physiotherapy student Lauren Titcomb, 24, said she was often left with credit at the end of the month, and that it was wiped off if it wasn't used.

    So the altruistic student decided to use her remaining credit to buy food and drinks for Chelmsford homeless charity CHESS, which runs a rough sleepers' shelter, and asked friends on her Facebook page to do the same.

    "I got the idea when I went home for Christmas. I had £20 left on my card and just thought it was such a waste of money, as the card gets wiped every month," said Lauren.

    "When I spoke to a few other people, I realised they had the same problem and thought if we all got together, we could use our credit to buy some food for the homeless shelter."

    Students Tom Johnson, 21, Hannah Sillitoe, 18, and Rebecca Middlemast, 22, joined Lauren to drop off the first donation of food for the shelter on Thursday last week.

    "I probably had about ten or 15 people say they were interested in donating their leftover credit," said Lauren.

    "I think we spent about £500 in two days buying food for the shelter. If every student just donated a sandwich, just think about the amount we would have."

    The students have said they intend to make the donations a weekly occurrence, much to the delight of Jacqui Parker, client support senior manager for CHESS, who said she was touched by their generosity.

    "When I read the e-mail they sent offering to donate their food, I just thought what a selfless and thoughtful thing to do," she said. "They've chosen very nutritious food, which is great for our guys. It's just so wonderful.

    "What's good is that some of our residents can't cook, although we do try to teach them about nutrition. This food is prepared for them and it's here for them to eat. It's amazing.

    "I'm so chuffed. People have a lot of negative things to say about youngsters, and they just need to see what a great thing these people have done."

    As well as the four who dropped food off, students Sophie Bennett, Jack McKenna, Hannah Dury, Charlotte Glaze and Belle Wain also contributed food from their lunch cards.

    Kind-hearted Writtle College students donate college food credits to Chess homeless shelter in Chelmsford

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    Stansted Airport has played cupid for the nation's romantics as 200 tonnes of flowers arrived last week ahead of Valentine's Day.

    Cargo flights have flown in tens of thousands of roses of every colour and variety from countries such as Kenya and Colombia, to the shores of Britain.

    Graeme Ferguson, cargo director at Manchester Airport Group, which owns Stansted, said: "Most people think an airport is just for holidays or business, but the arrival of thousands of roses shows that air travel plays an important role in so many aspects of everyday life.

    "The airport is a key port of entry for time sensitive goods such as fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers from the major exporting nations in South America and Africa on scheduled freighter services operated by carriers including Martinair, Cargolux, Panalpina and ANAAirline Management.

    "The demand for many different goods and products in the winter months cannot always be met by UK producers alone so supply has to be supplemented by foreign imports. Stansted is the UK gateway for that traffic with the airport becoming especially busy around Valentine's Day with the increased demand for red roses in particular," said Graeme.

    Around 230,000 tonnes of freight is shipped annually through Stansted on 11,000 cargo flights to and from 200 countries including textiles, fruit and vegetables, flowers, electronics, pharmaceuticals, mail, race-horses and Formula One equipment.

    Leading carriers operating freight services at Stansted include Asiana, FedEx, Martinair, Cargolux, Panalpina, Qatar, Royal Mail, Silk Way,ANAAirline Management, Titan, TNT, UPS and West Atlantic.

    Stansted Airport ships 200 tonnes of flowers for  Valentine's Day

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    Wannabe Romeos beware, today is the day you're most likely to be dumped, according to a new survey from a dating website..

    February 10, along with January 6, is a notorious day for break-ups, as people tend to "spring clean" their love lives in the first half of the year, and all that romantic pressure proves too much for some.

    According to a poll of 3,000 people by UK dating website, one in five people have broken things off with a partner in the week before Valentine's Day, with a particularly sharp increase four days before the big day.

    "There are many different reasons people make such a drastic decision so close to Valentine's Day," psychologist Lucy Redford explained.

    "Some people realise how much they don't love someone with the romanticism in the air; some buckle under the pressure of committing; others think they can probably do better if they're not happy and because Valentine's Day is a national celebration, it's hard to ignore."

    But is the week before a national celebration of romance the best time to break things off? According to the dating site, it doesn't all have to be doom and gloom – with many singles seeking out new dates and new possibilities before the week is up.

    "It might seem quite cruel but it's very emotionally damaging for a person to be in a relationship that's not giving them anything positive. Staying when it's not working can be a lot more toxic in the long run than going your separate ways," Ms Redford added.

    Today is biggest day for breakups, dating site says

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    Four men have now been charged in connection with the seizure of 1.3 tonnes of cannabis resin in Mayland with an estimated street value of £6.6 million.

    On Wednesday, January 28, police found drugs at an address in Grange Avenue and subsequently three men were charged and appeared before Basildon Magistrates.

    But yesterday, Monday, February 9, Daniel Brazier, 38, of Gadwell Close in London, became the fourth man charged with being concerned in the supply of cannabis.

    He has been remanded in police custody to appear before magistrates in Southend later this morning.

    The trio originally arrested, Danny Sharland, 41 of Highwood Close, Brentwood, Danny Williams, 41, of no fixed address, and Peter Tough, 53, of Leslie Road, Newham, East London appeared before magistrates in Basildon on Friday, January 29.

    They have been remanded in police custody and will appear for a plea and case management hearing on April 29.

    A fifth man, a 35-year-old man from Brentwood, who was also arrested, has been released on police bail pending further enquiries until May 5.

    ​Police charge fourth man after discovery of 1.3 tonnes cannabis haul

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    A model from Braintree has made his first appearance in a new reality TV show set in New York.

    Jamie Jewitt, 24, moved to the Big Apple when he was 18 and now Brooklyn with fellow Brit Danny and Australian male model, Ben.

    For seven years the Essex boy has been trying to make it bid state-side as a model and will now feature alongside 11 other cast members, 10 of which originate from Great-Britain.

    The reality show charts the group's lives and loves, ups and downs as they battle to conquer the American Dream.

    Jamie, who is also an aspiring film director, sets his stall out as the E4 show's heart-breaker in the first episode last night (Monday, January 9).

    Some of the other cast include Brighton twins Amy and Megan, Georgina from Orpington, Kent, Danny from Ealing, London and Sophie from London.

    Taking New York is on Mondays at 9pm on E4.

    Braintree model stars in new reality TV show set in New York

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    The number of dedicated roads police officers in Essex has dropped by nearly three quarters, according to new figures.

    The report released in repose to a question in Parliament showed across Wales and England the number of dedicated staff went down by 23 per cent from 5,635 in 2010 to 4,356 in March last year.

    Some of the county's biggest losses included Essex, which saw a 71 per cent drop in traffic officer numbers, Nottinghamshire with a drop of 68 per cent and Wiltshire by 47 per cent.

    Pete Williams, RAC's head of external affairs, said: "These figures make a mockery of motoring law. If there are not enough police on the road, we can introduce all the new rules we want, but those breaking them just will not get caught.

    "While cameras are good at catching speeders and drivers who go through red lights, offences that relate to general poor behaviour at the wheel still rely on a police officer to enforce them.

    "The majority of motorists in England and Wales claim to obey the law of the road and would therefore like to think the minority of drivers that flout the rules stand more chance of getting caught and properly punished than they seem to at the moment.

    "Our research shows that millions of motorists are frustrated with the cut in traffic police numbers and believe the chances of drivers being pulled up for breaking the law are now minimal."

    But Essex Police defended the decision saying those officers now patrolling the roads are now dedicated solely to that role rather than being taken away for other duties.

    Chief Supt Andy Prophet said: "Essex Police has a total of 191 officers and staff working in dedicated roads policing roles. These vary from traditional roads policing patrols, to specialist accident investigation and longer term casualty reduction and driver awareness training.

    "Last summer the force carefully reviewed the demand for roads policing and in September 2014 re-established dedicated roads policing teams across the county.

    "This review reduced the number of roads policing patrol officers from 140 to 80. However, prior to the review, the 140 officers were not dedicated to roads policing and spent half their time on other policing duties.

    "Now the 80 officers are now dedicated to policing the roads work and continue to be supported by another 111 officers and staff in other specialist road policing functions.

    "Roads in Essex are safer now than they have ever been. However, we continue to strive to drive down the number of people who are injured or killed on our roads."

    Figures from Essex police have shown that the number of incidents in which someone was killed or seriously injured incident has fallen steadily since 2006 when there were 1174. Last year there were 677.

    Essex traffic police numbers fall by over 70 per cent in four years

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    Put your green fingers and horticultural skills to good use and help make Chelmsford Parks the best they can by becoming a Central Park Volunteer.  As part of the rejuvenation of Central Park we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help tend the new and existing garden areas.

    Lead by our expert garden staff, there will be the opportunity to develop your horticultural knowledge and have the chance to undertake a wide variety of tasks. Projects range from planting out our extensive bedding schemes to tending the new contemporary garden which we are developing by Cake at The Lake.

    You will be part of a dedicated team working towards developing this historical city centre park, enjoyed by thousands every year.

    Cabinet Member for Parks & Leisure, Councillor Ray Ride said, "Becoming a parks volunteer is a great opportunity to make new friends and keep fit and active.  We are so grateful to all of our volunteers who help us look after our parks and green spaces.  We support all of our volunteers and are pleased that they can gain new skills whilst doing something they enjoy and that benefits everyone in Chelmsford."

    The scheme operates from March to November, 10am to 1pm, and we are currently recruiting for people who can volunteer on Wednesdays.

    If you would like to find out more on the scheme please visit

    Chelmsford Council recruiting for Central Park Gardening Volunteers

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