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Metal raid on Dreamland amusement park in Margate will cost £30k to fix as Canterbury pair Michael Nelson and Richard Champion sentenced

By Paul Hooper

Two men caught with metal stolen from Dreamland left behind wreckage that will cost £30,000 to replace.

A heritage development official reported a "significant" amount of damage had been caused to brickwork and pipework in the women's toilets in the Margate complex.

Brass balustrade items, which had a low resale value, were in fact the original 1930s fittings and will cost more than £30,000 to replace, a court heard.

Dreamland on Margate seafront
Dreamland on Margate seafront

Michael Nelson, 22, of Whitstable Road, Canterbury, received a 20-month jail sentence - suspended for two years - after admitting burglary.

He was also put under partial house arrest for six months and is unable to leave his home between 7pm and 7am.

Richard Champion, 21, of Stodmarsh Road, Canterbury, sobbed after being given a two-year jail sentence for handling stolen goods, possessing an offensive weapon and being in breach of a suspended sentence.

Judge Heather Norton told the two men: "These premises are well-known to everyone in Kent.

"It is also well known how often these premises are often targeted by thieves.

"It is in some respects an iconic location and one in which the people of Margate deserve to have money spent on, in order to restore it to its former glory. They don't deserve to have it wrecked."

Richard Champion, from Canterbury, has been jailed after a raid on Dreamland
Richard Champion, from Canterbury, has been jailed after a raid on Dreamland

Prosecutor John O'Higgins said there had been other break-ins at Dreamland since it was closed down and the total figure of £30,000 "can't be put at the door of just these two".

He told Canterbury Crown Court how on July 6 last year three men were seen acting suspiciously near the complex.

"One man was inside Dreamland and metal was being passed to two others who were on the outside and placed into two containers," said Mr O'Higgins.

"The police were called and when they arrived the three were seen standing next to a metal bin container with ornamental fixings inside and a blue barrel containing other metal."

Mr O'Higgins said the three ran away and Nelson crawled underneath a lorry, but when one of the officers went up to the vehicle, Nelson came out and "casually tried to walk away".

He added: "Unfortunately he was covered in dirt and was arrested. He later told police: 'I didn't do nothing.'"

The scenic railway at Dreamland amusement park in Margate
The scenic railway at Dreamland amusement park in Margate

Champion was arrested after police found a letter in Nelson's home indicating the pair were known to each other.

He was questioned and admitted the two had been together and had walked from Margate station, when they were approached by other men.

"Neither men were admitting taking the items, but Champion's fingerprint was found on metal and footprints inside the park matched Nelson's trainers," added Mr O'Higgins.

Dreamland was opened in 1870 as Hall-by-the-Sea, before changing its name 50 years later.

It is the oldest amusement park in Britain an is also home to the Grade II listed Scenic Railway – the oldest rollercoaster in the country.

Last month, a visitor centre opened on the seafront site and will be there for the next year while restoration work is carried out.

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