Local News

Chancellor Defends Benefit Changes In Sittingbourne

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made a high profile visit to the Morrison's Distribution Centre in Kemsley earlier today (Tuesday 2nd April).

During the visit, followed by all major UK news organisations, he defended the benefits and tax changes that came in to effect yesterday, accusing critics of peddling "headline-seeking nonsense". The chancellor claimed that nine out of ten working households would actually be better off. Yesterday's shake-up included cuts to housing benefit, for some social housing tenants with a spare room, and alterations to council tax.

Mr Osborne argued that the government had had to "take difficult decisions to cut the deficit" as the current benefits system was "fundamentally broken".

Changes, introduced from the 1st April include:

  • The introduction of a  new £26,000 cap on the amount of benefits any one household can receive
  • A cut to housing benefit for working-age social housing tenants whose property is deemed to be larger than they need
  • Disability living allowance replaced by personal independence payment
  • Working-age benefits and tax credits to rise by 1% - a below-inflation cap

The Chancellor told workers "for too long, we've had a system where people who did the right thing - who get up in the morning and work hard - felt penalised for it, while people who did the wrong thing got rewarded for it. That's wrong. So this month we [The Coalition Government] are going to put things right. This month we will make work pay."

Listeners to 106.9 SFM will be able to discuss the Chancellor's visit, and his comments, with local MP Gordon Henderson on his LIVE On Air Surgery on Friday 12th April, on Tony Weaver's "In The Bourne" Programme between 1 and 2pm.


Distraction Theft In Sittingbourne

Distraction Theft In Sittingbourne

Kent Police are appealing for witnesses after an elderly woman had her purse stolen during a distraction theft in Sittingbourne.

The 85-year-old victim visited a bank in the High Street on Wednesday (27th March) at approximately 2.30pm and withdrew £50 from a cashpoint. She then returned to her car, parked by a supermarket on the Avenue of Remembrance, when a man came up to her and asked for directions to France.

The victim, who is local to the area, put her handbag in the passenger seat of her car and began writing down directions on a piece on paper handed to her by the man. As she did so, she became aware the man had moved to her side. He took the paper off her and left, at which point she noticed another man standing nearby and grinning.

The woman later noticed her purse had been taken from her handbag. It contained the £50 she had withdrawn and several bank cards - two of which were then used to withdraw £250 each.

The men are described as white, with one in his 30s with dark brown hair. He was well dressed in navy trousers and jacket. The other was around 60 years old, with a heavy build and a khaki overcoat.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Karen Caulfield, told SFM's Roger Wrapson "this was an underhanded theft of a vulnerable victim. I'm eager to hear from anybody who may have noticed either of these men. I'd like to remind people to take extra care when withdrawing money at public cashpoints - you never know who could be watching you enter your PIN. Often thieves will try to distract you while they or an accomplice steal your belongings. If you are in any way suspicious of somebody, call Kent Police immediately".

Anybody with any information is asked to call Kent Police's non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference XY/9419/13, or they can contact Kent Crimestoppers free (from any landline) and anonymously on 0800 555111.



CCTV Released After Sittingbourne Purse Theft

CCTV Released After Sittingbourne Purse Theft

Kent Police have released an image of two people they would like to speak to in connection with a stolen purse in Sittingbourne.

The black purse, which contained £250 cash, a number of cards and photographs of the victim's children, was taken from a shop in the High Street on 7th February. The victim had left the bag on top of some catalogues in the store and accidentally left without it.

It is believed a young couple then entered the shop and the man is seen to have spotted the purse and picked it up before the pair walked out.

The man is described as white with a stocky build, aged between 18 and 22 and wearing a dark jumper with white collar, a dark hooded coat, dark bottoms, dark trainers and white socks.

The woman is described as white with a slim build and long dark straight hair, between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall. She was wearing dark rimmed glasses, slim build, between 5ft5 and 5ft7, white puffer body warmer with fur-edged hood, black sleeves, black leggings and Ugg-style boots.

Officers investigating the theft are now looking to trace the man and woman shown in this image, as they believed they may have information that could help them with their enquiries.

Anybody who can identify the man or woman, or who may have information that could assist police, is asked to call Kent Police's non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference XY/4136/13, or they can contact Kent Crimestoppers free (from any landline) and anonymously on 0800 555111.


Local Man Jailed For Part In £1.9m Computer Chip Theft

Local Man Sentenced For Part In £1.9m Comp Chip Theft

Three men have been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for stealing high-value computer chips worth almost £2million.

The trio were arrested on 13th September 2012 by officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate following the theft that day of computer chips valued at £1.9m. The chips were part of a larger consignment (£4.5m) which were being transported via lorry trailer from Ireland via the UK to Holland. The men were disturbed during the theft, therefore preventing the theft of the whole load. The men were all charged on 14th September 2012.

Adrian Gowers, 48, of Langdale Close in Gillingham, Desmond Schwartz, 39, of Corton Close in Stevenage and Darren Tyrrell, 24, of Thomas Road, Murston, Sittingbourne all pleaded guilty on 20th December 2012 at Maidstone Crown Court. The men travelled in two vehicles, a stolen Fiat Ducato and a Vauxhall Vectra which was owned by Schwartz from Lordswood in Kent to the Bedfont area of West London just south of Heathrow, with the intention of stealing computer chips from the transport company. They spent several hours in Bedfont awaiting the load's arrival. Once it did arrive and was unloaded, the offenders drove into the yard and loaded some of the pallets into the stolen Ducato and then drove off.

They were arrested shortly after the theft by Kent Police officers who had been investigating the stolen vehicle. The Ducato had been stolen in Kent on 10 September and fitted with cloned number plates. Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate conducted a thorough investigation, confiscating six mobile phones and establishing that Adrian Gowers first visited the Bedfont area on 25th August 2012. On 10th September, the white Fiat Ducato van was stolen from Borden in Sittingbourne. On 13th September, the two vehicles left the Lordswood, area in convoy at around 9.20am. Both vehicles arrived at an area just south of Heathrow at just after 11am. The men then spent several hours in the area. Both vehicles were then driven to Parkland Road in Ashford, Middlesex where the Vauxhall Vectra was then left.

The number plates were again changed on the Fiat Ducato before Gowers, Schwartz and Tyrrell approached the lorry park at around 5.10pm and parked next to a stacked pallet load of computer chips, which were awaiting collection to be transported to Holland. Whilst one remained in the driving seat, two men exited the vehicle and were seen to try and load the pallet in its entirety into the Ducato. When this failed, they slashed the wrappings of the pallet to unload individual boxes. They were then disturbed and challenged by an employee of the yard and they left at speed in the Ducato. The Ducato was abandoned in Feltham, having had its number plate changed again, and Gowers, Schwartz and Tyrrell walked to Parkland Road where they got into the parked Vauxhall Vectra. Schwartz then drove them away from the area.

The Vauxhall Vectra, now being followed by police, was forcibly stopped by Kent & Essex Serious Crime Directorate officers on the A30 at the junction with Blacknest Road in Surrey. The men were arrested and taken into custody at Medway Police Station. A car key was recovered from the back seat of the Vectra which was then used by officers to unlock the abandoned Fiat Ducato. Boxes of computer chips were recovered from the rear of the Ducato and established to be worth around £1.9m.

Today (Monday 18th March), Gowers was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, while Schwartz and Tyrell were each given custodial sentences of three years and nine months.


The Duke Of York Visits Sittingbourne

The Duke Of York Visits Sittingbourne

Prince Andrew, The Duke Of York, visited The Swale Skills Centre on Bonham Drive here in Sittingbourne earlier today (Thursday 14th March).

He was here to promote UK Apprenticeships and spoke to staff and apprentices at the centre. He also spoke to participants in the Caterham Car Project developed by the Rotary Club Of Sittingbourne Invicta and supported by 106.9 SFM.

He was here for approximately an hour before being helicoptered off to' The KentChoices 4 U' event at the Kent County Show Ground in Detling. 

Mike Whiting, the KCC Cabinet Member for Education, Learning & Skills, told SFM News "we want to support young people in making choices in their education and careers. It is important for them individually, Kent and the economy in general".

Tune in to Sam Gillham's Drivetime, from 3pm today, on 106.9 SFM for further information.


Two Men Charged In Connection With Jewellers Theft

Two Men Charged In Connection With Jewellers Theft

Two men appeared before Maidstone Magistrates' Court (via Videolink) today (Friday 6th March) after being charged with theft from a jewellery shop in Sittingbourne.

Kent Police were called at 11.00am yesterday (Thursday 7th March) after it was reported that some high value items had been stolen from Battrum & Sons jewellers on the High Street.

A vehicle was stopped nearly an hour later in Central Park, Dartford and two men arrested.

Harry Dunham, 26, of Maiden Lane, Crayford, and Jimmy Marney, 28, of Station Road, Crayford, have both been charged with theft and have been remanded in custody. 

'Stranger Danger' Alert At Local Primary School

'Stranger Danger' Alert At Local Primary School

Parents of local school children are being warned to be on their guard after a man tried to entice a Westlands Primary School pupil into his car earlier today (Thursday 28th February).

It is believed that at around 8.35am a young man, in a brightly-coloured car, pulled up alongside the girl, who was walking to school, wound down the passenger side window and told her to get in. When she didn't respond to the comment and continued walking the man was said to have repeated the line with more force in his voice. The schoolgirl then ran into the school and reported it to staff who immediately called Kent Police and the girl's parents. 

Officers arrived at the school, in Homewood Avenue, at aproximately 8.55am and took a statement from the girl and looked through the school's CCTV recordings. The girl's parents are said to have taken her home shortly afterwards.

Head Teacher Lynne Pearson told SFM News: "We sent a note home with all pupils to give to their parents at the end of the day, saying that there had been an issue with a child trying to be enticed into a car by a man and encouraged them to report anything that they felt was unusual, to either the school or the police directly. We also put a message on Twitter and informed our sister school Regis Manor (which is now also part of the Swale Academies' Trust) about the incident, so they could alert their parents too. We discuss 'Stranger Danger' a lot in our assemblies but we have also reminded parents of discussing this with their children at home too."

Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to call Sittingbourne Police directly on the non-emergency number 101 or they can call CrimeStoppers free (from any landline) and anonimously on 0800 555 111.


CCTV Released After Attack On Railway Inspector

CCTV Released After Attack On Railway Inspector

British Transport Police (BTP) detectives have launched an investigation after a member of rail staff was punched in the face on the 2.53pm Victoria to Ramsgate service on Monday 18th February.

Investigators have released CCTV images of a man they would like to speak to after the incident, which took place around 4.30pm.

Detective Constable Bob Gee, leading the investigation,told SFM News: "A man got on at Faversham station and approached the ticket inspector to purchase a ticket to Herne Bay.
"The man became irate after his card was declined at the first attempt to take payment. When the payment went through on the second try, unprovoked, the man suddenly became violent, and punched the ticket inspector in the face, leaving him with a cracked cheekbone. I'd like to appeal to the passengers who witnessed the incident to come forward as they may have information crucial to our investigation."

Officers are currently conducting an in-dept investigation into the incident in a bid to catch the man responsible. This has included viewing CCTV from the station working through forensic opportunities and speaking with witnesses. Images have also been circulated to other forces and on police intelligence systems.

DC Gee continued, "This was an unprovoked attack on a man who was simply trying to do his job. As a result of being punched, he is currently receiving treatment, including facial surgery, for his injuries. If you recognise the man pictured, if you saw the incident take place, or if you are the man himself, we urge you to come forward and speak to us."

Anyone with any informationon this incident is asked to call the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference B2/LS of 28/2/13. Alternatively, they can contact Crimestoppers free (from any landline) and anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Teynham Man Jailed Following Fatal Hit-And-Run

Teynham Man Jailed Following Kyle Hit-And-Run

A 24-year-old man from Teynham has been sentenced to six months in prison after admitting he was involved in a fatal road traffic collision in which a teenager died.

Robert Lawrence, 24, of Barrow Green in the village, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday (27th February) after having pleaded guilty to charges of failing to stop after an accident and perverting the course of justice. He was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.

The court had heard that 14-year-old Kyle Coen (pictured above) had been cycling to meet his girlfriend on Monday 30th July last year, when he was struck by Lawrence's car on the A2 London Road, near Bapchild Cricket Club. The teenager, from Sittingbourne, died at the scene.

Lawrence failed to stop at the scene and later called 999 to inform police that his Fiat Brava had been stolen on the A2. He told the operator that he had managed to follow the stolen vehicle and that it had been damaged. Officers were suspicious of his account and Lawrence was subsequently arrested soon after the collision.

Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Paul Fewtrell, told SFM News: "Offences of failure to stop following a collision are serious, but leaving the scene where a teenager sustained injuries that resulted in his death was shocking to all involved in this investigation. This was compounded by the phone call to police by Lawrence reporting his vehicle had been stolen. The damage to his vehicle would clearly have shown to him the extent of the injury caused, yet he tried to deflect the blame at the earliest opportunity."

Detective Sergeant Scott Lynch, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, told SFM News: "I would like to thank those members of the public who did stop and try to resuscitate Kyle for their efforts.
'The message here is you must always stop after a collision. If you do not, you will face consequences which include going to prison."

Sittingbourne Woman Jailed For Work Fraud

Sittingbourne Woman Jailed For Work Fraud

A Sittingbourne woman has been jailed for 18 months after admitting stealing almost £200,000 from her employers over five years.

Karen Tracey Knowles, of Ferry Road in Iwade, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday 13th February after pleading guilty to fraud by misrepresentation.

The court heard how Knowles, 45, systematically stole from two separate local leisure companies whilst working in their finance departments as an administrator. She made payments to her own account in the guise of making approved payments to contractors hired out by the companies. Her deception was uncovered during a routine audit of finances at one company, reported to Kent Police in June 2012. Following an extensive investigation, officers uncovered more examples of Knowles' fraudulent takings and she was charged in November of last year.

Following the sentencing, investigating officer, Detective Constable Wendy Spain of Swale Police, told SFM News that "this conviction came about as a result of painstaking work by officers in our fraud teams. Knowles committed her crimes for a number of years but this should serve a message to other people who think they can get away with stealing from their employers - sooner or later it will catch up on you and Kent Police will not hesitate to bring you to justice. Stealing, theft and fraud will not be tolerated."


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