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Chatham pensioner, 85, charged after allegedly abusing Muslims outside Gillingham mosque in wake of Woolwich terror murder

A high-profile police presence at Gillingham Mosque in the wake of the Woolwich murder
A high-profile police presence at Gillingham Mosque in the wake of the Woolwich murder

An 85-year-old woman arrested outside Gillingham Mosque after allegedly hurling abuse at Muslims has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

The pensioner, from Chatham, was handcuffed and taken away in a van by officers after trouble flared as worshippers left Friday prayers.

She was held by officers outside the Canterbury Street mosque as Kent Police vowed to take a hard line against reprisal attacks following the terrorist murder of a soldier.

The woman has now been released on police bail ahead of an appearance at Medway Magistrates' Court at a date to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, a 27-year-old man has also been charged with a public order offence and threats to commit criminal damage in a separate incident in Gillingham.

Police were called to a disturbance outside shop in the High Street at about 5pm on Thursday.

The charges comes after a man appeared in court yesterday afternoon to deny raiding Gillingham Mosque just hours after 25-year-old Drummer Lee Rigby was hacked to death by suspected Islamist extremists in Woolwich, south east London.

Police cars outside Gillingham Mosque as worshippers arrive
Police cars outside Gillingham Mosque as worshippers arrive

The elderly woman was arrested outside Gillingham Mosque at just before 2pm yesterday.

She and her husband had been enjoying a KFC lunch at a nearby restaurant before the couple waiting at a bus stop opposite the religious building.

Trouble flared as worshippers began to leave the mosque and police arrested the woman.

Her husband had started wandering off down the road, but managed to get back to the van before his wife was taken to the police station.

Video: Heavy police presence outside Gillingham Mosque this afternoon

Before the incident, many Muslims turning up for Friday prayers were pleased to see a police presence of three vehicles outside.

One young worshipper, who did not want to be named, said: "I'm part of this community and I feel safe anyway, but it is nice to see the police presence here today."

Damage inside a Gillingham mosque hours after Lee Rigby's death
Damage inside a Gillingham mosque hours after Lee Rigby's death

Yesterday, Andrew Grindlay - of Granville Road, Gillingham - appeared at Medway Magistrates' Court to deny an attack at Gillingham Mosque on Wednesday night.

The 45-year-old pleaded not guilty to religiously aggravated criminal damage and burglary.

He was released on bail after a 40-minute hearing and will next appear at the same court on Monday, July 22 when his case will be send to Crown court.

The mosque in Canterbury Street was damaged in an attack in which windows were smashed and bookcases containing copies of the Koran damaged.

A door frame, lock and carpet were damaged, three windows broken, two shelves pulled off the wall and a copy of the Koran damaged.

Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in a terrorist murder
Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in a terrorist murder

Kent Police said officers will continue to provide a high-visibility presence across the county this weekend to prevent potential reprisal attacks at Kent mosques.

The heightened patrols come as police promised a "zero tolerance" approach to anyone who targets the county's Muslim community.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge

Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge said: "We have good working relationships with a number of community groups all over the county and we are working with these, and are attending community events and places of worship regularly.

"I would again reiterate that there is no intelligence to suggest any direct threat to anyone in Kent. We will continue to patrol potentially vulnerable locations to ensure the safety of everyone in Kent.

"If anyone has any concerns I would encourage them to contact us by calling 101 or 999 if an emergency."

Barry Coppock, chairman of the Strategic Independent Advisory Group, said: "I am liaising and attending meetings with Kent Police on a regular basis and I, in turn, have actively engaged with many representatives and leaders in the community to ensure that people know what is happening, why police are present around the county and how officers are working with us to ensure our safety.

"The feedback from people has been really positive, they are pleased with the police approach and their commitment to keep us all safe."

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