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Sittingbourne's Santa back in his sleigh after drunk attack


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Santa and his helpers are back on the road after being attacked by a drunken yob.

Danielle Hoynes, who organises the sleigh rides through Sittingbourne to the delight of youngsters, said: "Santa was back on his sleigh on Wednesday and has been waving to children every night."

Santa and his sleigh team - without the sleigh - in Sittingbourne
Santa and his sleigh team - without the sleigh - in Sittingbourne

Alas, his plan to visit Bell Road on Monday hit a dead end when the volunteer driver needed to tow the sleigh failed to arrive.

Danielle, 44, said: "We were sorry to disappoint Santa's fans but we will reschedule."

The ride-pasts were temporarily halted last week after a drunken man clambered aboard the sleigh and threatened to punch Father Christmas. He then grabbed an identity badge from Danielle's chest.

She said: "It wasn't very nice. Unfortunately, I didn't think at the time and grabbed it back. I was so angry. In hindsight, it was a stupid thing to do. He could have been armed with a knife. The incident really shook us all up."

She said two men and a woman had been following the sleigh last Monday when they pounced near the East Street traffic lights.

Organiser Danielle Hoynes and two friends from Cats Protection Swale at the Sittingbourne Christmas lights switch-on
Organiser Danielle Hoynes and two friends from Cats Protection Swale at the Sittingbourne Christmas lights switch-on

"They all seemed quite drunk. One of the men then clambered onto the sleigh and sat on the edge of the seat next to Santa penning him in.

"He wanted to know if Santa had a present for him. When he was told 'no' he threatened to punch Santa twice and refused to get off.

"I got into the sleigh and put myself between him and Santa. The man was ranting about not having a present and as he got off he ripped off my permit badge."

A while later the man and woman stepped out from behind a white van and said: "Hello, Santa."

Danielle said: "That's when we decided to abandon that night's trip. It was sad. Children love waving to Santa as he goes on his rounds. We quite often have people in tears of joy as they see the reaction in children's faces.

Santa and his helpers on the Sittingbourne Christmas Lights Association sleigh. Stock photo
Santa and his helpers on the Sittingbourne Christmas Lights Association sleigh. Stock photo

"It is important an incident like that doesn't stop one of the town's best traditions. I just feel sorry for the people who did this. They must have very sad lives."

She said the attackers were in aged between 30 and 40.

Police were called and have since viewed CCTV footage from Swale council's security cameras. A police spokesman said yesterday: "Our enquiries are ongoing."

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