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Review of 2019 in Maidstone, Malling, Weald, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells: July-December

After reflecting on the big stories in west Kent from January to June yesterday, today we take a look back at the second half of 2019.

July

Yazmina Howard was remembered by her grandparents as "beautiful, inside and out"
Yazmina Howard was remembered by her grandparents as "beautiful, inside and out"
  • Sadness struck at the start of July after an inquest found 18-year-old Yazmina Howard - who jumped from a motorway bridge a decade and a half after miraculously surviving a seven-storey fall in her mother's arms - was three months pregnant when she died.
  • Tributes poured in for Sammy Draper, the grandfather described as having "a heart of gold", whose body was found near the Sainsbury's supermarket in Romney Place, Maidstone. An inquest found the 43-year-old's death was due to suicide.
  • In happier news, a popular befriending service was saved from being axed in July. There were fears West Kent Befriending Service would be cut after its only two paid members of staff were told they faced redundancy by Age UK Maidstone. Luckily Inspired Villages stepped in and agreed to fund the service for the next year.
  • At the end of the month, two amateur body builders who deliberately hid syringes in supermarket food made headlines. Matthew Keam, from Maidstone, and Bradley Scott, from Gillingham, put syringes into a cereal box, orange juice and Christmas decorations at Sainsbury's in Aylesford. They were jailed for a year.

August

Residents in Barming were fed up of flying golf balls
Residents in Barming were fed up of flying golf balls
  • A quirky story kicked off August when a road was terrorised by a mystery golf ball attacker. Residents of Trellyn Close, Barming were up in arms after a number of balls hit cars and people. Police did their best to investigate but a culprit was never found.
  • Ten people were injured after a mass brawl at The Farmhouse pub in West Malling. In the aftermath of the scuffle, there were calls for the venue to make changes to better tackle crime and disorder, and a licensing panel hearing later in the year found it should have its alcohol-serving hours cut.
  • Controversial news also came in the middle of the month when 400 homes were earmarked for Maidstone. The huge development could be built on land where the old mail sorting office is. Despite being in the early stages The KM exclusively revealed it will include homes along with 60,000 sq ft of office space, a health centre and shops.
  • The County Town was shaken to its core after the death of Andre Bent, who was killed following a huge brawl which poured into Jubilee Square, after a performance from rapper MoStack at the Gallery, which has since had its licensing agreement changed. A 16 year-old boy has denied murder and is due to go on trial at the Old Bailey in February.

September

Police in Maidstone after the fatal stabbing of Andre Bent. Picture: Jim Bennett
Police in Maidstone after the fatal stabbing of Andre Bent. Picture: Jim Bennett
  • The KM launched its Maidstone Vision which involved making the most of the river with floating restaurants and market stalls. The proposal also suggested creating a ‘super judicial centre’, including the town’s crown and magistrates court, as well as the police and coroner’s service all under one roof.
  • Dozens of people campaigned in the town centre waving ‘No Blood on our Streets’ placards, calling for an end to knife crime after the fatal stabbing of Andre Bent in August. Meanwhile, DJ Ben Ny, and his girlfriend, Claire, organised a Choose Lives Not Knives event at Source Bar to raise money for the 21-year-old’s funeral.
  • In a bid to seek justice, the family of Andrew Jenkins, who was shot dead by his wife’s ex-squaddie lover, took the father’s ashes into court while Mills was acquitted of murder and manslaughter. The killer, from Shepway, claimed self-defence because he feared for his life after Mr Jenkins stormed into his home with a kitchen knife.
  • Following months of secret talks, Maidstone Borough Council revealed the desired location for more than 5,000 homes was Lenham Heath. The KM gained access to exclusive documents detailing the garden village proposals, including a new railway stations, with High Speed connections, a motorway junction and a primary and secondary school.

October

Tina and Lauren-Lucy Jenkins outside court, holding the ashes of father, Andrew
Tina and Lauren-Lucy Jenkins outside court, holding the ashes of father, Andrew
  • Schools and businesses were forced to close down while police and a bomb disposal team assessed an unearthed Second World War bomb at a building site in Kings Hill. Army teams worked overnight to detonate the 50kg German device in a controlled explosion by covering it in 300 tonnes of sand.
  • A family were delighted to find out their much-loved cat, which had been missing for two years, had in fact been living at motorway services. Cobweb, who had been feasting on leftover scraps at Clacket Lane, off the M25, had doubled in size when she was returned home to Westerham.
  • Shaun May, from Aylesford, was jailed for 13-and-a-half years for the attempted murder of his wife, Laura. In a bizarre ritual, the now 34-year-old made his partner lie on the bed and put a tea towel over her face, promising she would receive a gift. Instead, he plunged a knife into her neck and shoulder.
  • The Wheatsheaf pub, on Loose Road, shut its doors for the final time in October. Kent County Council purchased the iconic Maidstone landmark, which stood there since 1830, as part of its plans for a £2.5million roundabout to ease congestion, which will see the building bulldozed. Work on the new road layout is planned for next summer.

November

Her Majesty The Queen visits Appleton Lodge at Royal British Legion Industries in Aylesford to officially open the building. Picture: Andy Jones
Her Majesty The Queen visits Appleton Lodge at Royal British Legion Industries in Aylesford to officially open the building. Picture: Andy Jones
  • The streets of Aylesford were awash with flags as schoolchildren, veterans and supporters turned out to greet Her Majesty the Queen at Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI). Arriving in a Bentley, the monarch was in town to open Appleton Lodge, a care facility for ex-servicemen and women.
  • Just hours after Her Majesty's visit, a major incident was declared when a suspected leak of poisonous gas - believed to have been caused by apples - caused more than 50 workers to fall ill at a fruit packing shed in Langley. Hospitals were put on standby and more than 40 firefighters were also drafted in.
  • Tributes poured in for former Valley Invicta pupil Tommy Thwaites, who took his own life, after years of battling his demons, prompting a family vow to improve mental health services. The 25-year-old had dreamed of working on a cruise ship but his mental health began to deteriorate after he was stabbed in a nightclub.
  • Also in the news, a store reversed its drastic decision to place pictures of alleged shoplifters in their window for all to see. Bosses at Londis in Heath Road, Coxheath, said its ‘name and shame’ policy had yield positive results, but a decision was later taken to remove the printouts of the CCTV stills

December

Floods at Yalding. Little Venice Caravan Park. Picture: Matthew Walker
Floods at Yalding. Little Venice Caravan Park. Picture: Matthew Walker
  • A sad story kicked off the month as a replica postbox filled with letters for Father Christmas was stolen from a pub. The pillar box was taken from The White Horse, in Bearsted, where younger visitors had written their names and a note to St. Nick, which they posted in the box.
  • Maidstone United players paid tribute to a superfan who died aged just 16. A match against Chippenham Town saw fans break out in applause during the 16th minute for Alfie Weedon, whose mum described him as a boy who "lived life to the full and was always smiling".
  • A teenage boy with autism from Maidstone created a charity Christmas lights display. Callum Dunne was inspired by his favourite film, Deck the Halls, to transform his family home. Every day the 13-year-old performed his own button pushing ceremony to help raise money for the Maidstone Day Centre.
  • The year ended with a downpour, leading to flooding just before Christmas. Dozens of people had to be evacuated from their homes in Yalding. Wateringbury, Tonbridge, East Farleigh and Maidstone town centre were also affected.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Read more: All the latest news from Malling


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