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Kent Messenger Review of the Year: Part 2

By Kent Messenger reporter

We continue to look at what stories made the papers for the second half of 2017.


Joshua Stimpson

Joshua Stimpson, from Wouldham, made his first court appearance charged with the savage murder of his ex-girlfriend Molly McLaren who had her throat slit as she sat in her car at a Medway shopping centre. He denies murder, but intends to plead guilty to manslaughter.

Maidstone came together in Whatman Park for Mela, the county town’s annual celebration of cultural diversity. This year organisers took the opportunity to “stick two fingers up” at terrorism.

Fremlin Walk shopping centre became the most expensive place to park in Kent, when it proposed rates starting at £3.50 for half-an-hour. It made a swift U-turn following a public backlash.

Ghostly goings on were reported at Maidstone Museum where staff and customers at the St Faith’s Street site’s cafe said they heard a voice repeating the name of a Civil War-era spirit named Pyewacket.


Teston Bridge was struck by a drink driver leaving it badly damaged.

A drunk-driver caused thousands of pounds in damage to medieval Teston Bridge when he crashed into it. There were fears the stonework could collapse. Ben Emery was banned from driving after he admitted getting behind the wheel at nearly twice the legal limit. The bridge was closed to traffic and re-opened in October after repairs.

A Lithuanian people-trafficker was jailed after a police raid discovered a brothel operating yards from South Borough school in Maidstone. Romas Druilia admitted exploiting vulnerable people and forcing them into prostitution. He was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Britain First’s attempt to stir up opposition to a redeveloped Maidstone Mosque hit a brick wall after The Anti Racist Network decided to donate £10 to the project for each member of the far right movement who turned up.

Tributes were paid to Suzanne Maclachlan, a much-loved wife and mum, who lost her life in a crash on the A228 Malling Road in Mereworth.

Suzanne Maclachlan


Scenes at the Holborough Lakes fire in September

The month was dominated by a devastating fire at a block of flats in Snodland. Thankfully there were no fatalities in the huge blaze at Holborough Lakes, but 43 people had to be re-housed as the community rallied together to help those affected.

Pensioner Frank Gore was found dead in woodland near Leybourne Lakes, with an inquest subsequently revealing he slipped and drowned in a stream.

Adam and Amy Pryor, from Maidstone, became millionaires thanks to the National Lottery. They pledged the money would help their daughter who has significant health problems.

Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-setting Bluebird K3 hydroplane took to Bewl Water and hit speeds of 50 mph.


Wayne Chester, 50, was allegedly murdered with a single punch outside McDonald's in Week Street

The death of “huge character” Wayne Chester, killed after an alleged single punch outside a Maidstone McDonald’s, started the month off on a sombre note. A 16-year-old boy is accused of his murder.

Father and daughter Valentino and Liv Coleman were killed as they stood by the side of their car. Mr Coleman, known as Tino, was the owner of One Hairdressing in Market Buildings, Maidstone.

Mr Coleman and his eldest daughter Liv Coleman, were killed when they were hit by a van while at the side of the A299 Hengist Way, Minster, Thanet.

Staplehurst shopkeeper Rajendra Parekh decided to ban under 18s from buying energy drinks from his shop, warning: “They are worse than smoking.”

Nelson, a red stag who had escaped his Biddenden enclosure in June, was
found 27 miles away in Blean, near Canterbury.


Yalding Parish Council chairman Geraldine Brown was nominated and later won a Local Hero award for her work assisting her village during the floods of 2000 and 2013.

Murder suspect William Smith was pointing a shotgun at two officers when he was fatally shot, an inquest heard. Mr Smith was linked to the murder of 73-year-old Roy Blackman at his Biddenden home in March 2016.

The mutilated body of a cat found in Snodland added to fears a serial cat killer was on the loose, with police revealing that 360 similar corpses had been reported in the past two years.

On a lighter note Kent Police officers donned cat suits and dancing shoes for a Police Do Strictly competition in aid of the sign language charity More Than Words.


Lily-Mae Leadsham 5, just returned from hospital after spinal surgery to help her walk, also pictured with her mum Kerry at their home in Ringlestone, Maidstone.

The month saw a number of lives devastatingly cut short through road accidents. Madalin-Constantin Lungoci, 22, sadly died on the A229 at Linton Hill. John Stewart was hit by a car and killed on Seven Mile Lane in Mereworth. A woman died just one week later following a crash on the same stretch of the A228.

Another man died when he fell into the River Medway. Kent Search and Rescue also launched night-time river patrols to try to prevent drowning deaths where people had been on Christmas nights out.

A five-year-old girl with cerebral palsy is on her way to being able to walk thanks to a fundraising campaign which generated thousands for specialist surgery.

Lily-Mae Leadsham is now having physiotherapy after the operation. She was deemed too young for an NHS-funded trial.

Donations poured in for our annual You Can Help campaign to ensure the homeless and those facing financial struggles could enjoy Christmas.

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