WOKING is an example to the rest of the country of interfaith understanding and the integration of Islam in the community, the Minister for Faith has said.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth was speaking during a tour of the Shah Jahan Mosque three days after 50 people were shot dead at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Minister for Faith Lord Bourne, left, speaking with Head Imam Hafiz Hashmi, middle, and his wife Kauser Akhtar

The visit had been planned months before the tragedy and is part of a tour by the minister to places of worship around the country to promote interfaith understanding.

“As long as I live, I won’t understand what prompts somebody to do what happened in Christchurch. It has been condemned by people around the globe, and rightly so,” he said. “We must ask what we can do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen.”

He was shown around the first purpose-built mosque in Britain by Hafiz Hashmi, the Head Iman, and his wife Kauser Akhtar, who is chairwoman of the South East England Faiths Forum and faith links adviser for Surrey Faith Links, run by the Diocese of Guildford.

Lord Bourne said the strong interfaith links in Woking “is where we want everybody to be”, paying tribute to the leadership of the Imam and Kauser, describing it as “very powerful in the world in which we are living”.

They told the minister about the mosque’s involvement in the community, from the annual Armistice Day parade in Woking Town Centre and helping the homeless, as well as working with people of all faiths and hosting regular visits from schools. They also explained that, along with formal open days at the mosque, it is open for anyone to visit and the Imam is available to answer questions about Islam.

“These are things that are very close to the government’s heart,” said Lord Bourne. “We want to demystify religion. A lot of Christians are wary of mosques, but not so much as they used to be. People are more familiar with their local mosques because of examples of things such as that happening in Woking.”

“We should be shouting about what is happening in Woking,” said Lord Bourne. “It should be happening elsewhere.”

A prayer and peace vigil for the victims and families of the New Zealand shootings is being held at the Shah Jahan Mosque on Saturday 23 March, starting at 2pm. All members of the community are invited to attend, to show solidarity and unity against such terror attacks.

For the full story get the 21 March edition of the News & Mail

WOKING is to host the launch of the Surrey Straw Switch, leading the way on local sustainability with a campaign that aims to make Surrey the first county in Great Britain to go completely plastic straw free.

Paper Straws Group sales and Marketing consultant Jemma Moreau with a sample of the company’s plastic free product

The campaign is the brainchild of local family business, Paper Straw Group, which is part of Woking-based Optichrome, the only printers in the county to produce 100% plastic-free straws that are recyclable, compostable and biodegradable.

Managing director Natalie Stephens said she was spurred into action after watching the TV series Blue Planet 2 and being shocked to see what plastic is doing to the local environment.

“I soon realised we could use our printing expertise to make paper straws,” she said. “As I researched more into the problem I was surprised and disappointed to find out that the majority of paper straws in use in Surrey and the UK are imported from places like China and many have traces of micro plastics in their glue.”

The Big Switch Day will be hosted between 11am and 3pm at Café Rouge in Woking on 28 March. Local businesses are being invited to visit and receive a free starter packer, including 250 free straws, an eco-straw dispenser, and a business information pack.

For the full story get today’s (21 March) News & Mail

A WOMAN in her 80s was ran over by a mobility scooter, which knocked her to the pavement and then landed on top of her near Woking town centre.

Passers-by, including motorists, ran to the aid of Gloria Barber, freeing her and taking her to the nearby NHS walk-in centre.

Mrs Barber, 85, told the News & Mail that she was getting on to the pavement after crossing the road near the police station when she was hit in the back by the vehicle.

“I had quite a heavy shopping trolley and was manoeuvring it on to the pavement when I felt a ‘whoosh’ in my back and I went down. Then the buggy was on my feet and legs,” she said.

Passers-by lifted the buggy off Mrs Barber’s legs and a couple who had been driving nearby took her to the walk-in centre.

“Both legs have tissue damage and swelling. They X-rayed my feet and couldn’t see a break and sent me home,” Mrs Barber said.

“I am gradually recovering; the swelling is going down.”

Mrs Barber is expected to make a full recovery and is resting at home.

For more on this story get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

SURREY Police are increasing reassurance patrols around Woking’s mosque following the terrorist attack in New Zealand.

Neighbourhood officers are visiting the Shah Jahan Mosque as well as mosques in Camberley, Reigate and Redhill, and will be providing reassurance and advice to communities.

The Shah Jahan Mosque will see extra police patrols after anti-Islamic terrorist attack in New Zealand

Chief Superintendent Neil Honnor, Head of the Surrey and Sussex Joint Operations Command said: “We stand together with our Muslim communities and all those shocked and horrified by this terrorist attack in New Zealand.

“Today in Surrey and Sussex we are stepping up reassurance patrols around mosques and increasing engagement with communities of all faiths, giving advice on how people and places can protect themselves.

“Places of worship can also use our online training package ‘ACT Awareness eLearning’ for advice on Protective Security and how to react should the worst happen. It can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/act-awareness-elearning.

“We also encourage everyone to be aware of our Run, Hide, Tell advice.

“We take all forms of extremism seriously and anyone with concerns about someone becoming radicalised can get advice and support through the PREVENT programme at www.TLAI.info.”

“We advise the public to remain vigilant. If you see or hear something suspicious, trust your instincts and ACT. Report it to police in confidence via gov.uk/ACT and to report any suspicious behaviour or activity to police, in confidence via gov.uk/ACT or 0800 789 321. In an emergency the public should always call 999. If you get caught up in the event of a weapons attack we urge you to follow the Run, Hide, Tell advice.”

For more on this story see the 21 March edition on the News & Mail

YOUNG people who carry weapons have been warned they are putting themselves at risk of serious harm, during a national week of action to tackle knife crime.

Surrey Police say that while knife crime remains low locally, much of what does take place is related to drugs and gang activity, some of which spills over the border from London. The force says it is working hard to tackle and prevent the threat of “county lines” gangs who are using young people in local towns to spread their supply network.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro

“We must continue to raise awareness, particularly amongst young people, that carrying a blade can have fatal consequences. The message to those who carry a knife, or are thinking of carrying one, is that a knife does not protect you. It will make you more vulnerable placing you in danger of serious harm,” said the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, David Munro.

“We must ensure that education, social care and public health are all factored into our plans to work together to combat the underlying root causes which is why I am looking forward to seeing the county’s knife crime strategy in the next few weeks.”

Superintendent Peter Fulton, force lead for Violent Crime, said: “As part of our #OpSceptre campaign, we are giving people the opportunity to surrender their knives or weapons without fear of prosecution or questions being asked for one week only.

“Knife bins are located at police stations in Woking and Guildford until 17 March, to enable people to give up their weapons safely. Last year in Surrey there were two amnesties which resulted in a total of 166 weapons being handed in.”

Anyone with information on knife crime should call 101 or report online. In an emergency always dial 999.

For the full story get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

RAIN, hail and blustering wind made running difficult, but more than 3,500 people completed the Mercer Surrey Half Marathon on Sunday.

Woking Mayoress Hannah Thompson congratulates first woman home Emma Davis, second Lesley Locks, far right, and third Lucie Custance, far left

They streamed for over three hours from Woking Park to Jacobs Well and back, in another successful staging of the largest event of its kind in the county.

Serious club runners out to set a record or a new personal best, joggers raising money for charity and children enjoying the kids’ races braved some awful weather in the day’s three events.

There was an overall total of 4,385 finishers, in the half marathon and the five and two-kilometre races.

“The runners and organisers faced some challenging conditions, especially when we were packing up,” said Hollie Light, the Surrey Half marketing manager. “But there were some excellent performances, especially from some of the teams taking part.”

Two participants – Richard Moffat and Evie Read – are waiting for confirmation that they have broken the Guinness World Record for pushing a disabled children’s buggy in a half marathon.

With Evie being pushed by Richard around the course, they took three minutes off the current world record of one hour 35 minutes.

Teenager Evie, from Headley Down, near Haslemere, has ataxia-telangiectasia (AT), a rare genetic disease. She and friend Richard, from Ascot, were raising money for the Action for A-T charity.

An innovation for entrants this year was a pre-race meditation session in Woking Leisure Centre.

“A lot of runners get anxious before a race and this helped them relax and prepare themselves in a quiet place,” said Hollie. “There were also massage and yoga sessions for runners after the race.”

For the full story and picture feature get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

A MAN from Sheerwater who bound and gagged an elderly woman before robbing her of jewellery worth around £50,000 has been jailed.

Adrian Kosmider, 25 of Dartmouth Avenue, Sheerwater, broke into a property on Fordbridge Road, Sunbury-on-Thames in the early hours of 16 December 2018 while the victim, aged 82 was sleeping. He pleaded guilty to the offence at Guildford Crown Court on 7 February and was sentenced to eight years in prison on 28 February.

Adrian Kosmider has been jailed for eight years for robbery

He bound and gagged his victim using her own clothes before warning her not to move or make a sound otherwise she would be killed.

The offence had a profound effect on the victim, who feels she has lost her independence.

The victim said in a statement in January: “I feel that since the incident I have physically slowed down significantly.  I feel cold at different times and don’t have the confidence I used to have.”

Investigating officer PC Charlotte Irwin said: “This was a truly harrowing experience for the victim and she is still suffering in the aftermath of the attack.

“People have been in her home and her bedroom at night and those places are sacred for anyone. 

“I am delighted that he has pleaded guilty to this offence and spared her the anxiety of a full trial.”

The police are still looking for a second person who may have been involved in the robbery.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the police on 101 (999 in an emergency) or report it online via http://surrey.police.uk/TellUsMore quoting reference PR/45180133422.

You can also give information, 100% anonymously, to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111; or through their anonymous online form: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/

For more advice on how to keep your property safe, visit:www.surrey.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/residential-burglary/

For the full story get the 7 March edition of the News & Mail

Woking FC manager Alan Dowson will be just one of the thousands of runners taking part in the Surrey Half-Marathon this Sunday, the community-minded ‘Dowse’ taking on the challenge to raise money for Woking & Sam Beare Hospices.

Dowse and Ian Dyer in training for the Surrey Half Marathon

Motorists should be prepared for potential traffic delays, as Surrey’s largest half-marathon returns to Woking Leisure Centre for its sixth year on Sunday.

The mass-participation community event for people entering the half-marathon, 5km or 2km distances will mean a number of temporary road closures between Woking and Guildford from 7.30am.

Residents are advised to plan any essential journeys in advance and allow extra time to reach destinations. Organisers have been working with local authorities throughout the year to ensure they can facilitate regular journeys made by care providers and other emergency vehicles throughout race day.

For more information about affected roads or the event, visit www.surreyhalfmarathon.co.uk.

PROPOSED cuts in fire service cover will make Surrey less safe, says the county’s firefighters’ union.

It is alarmed at plans outlined in a public consultation document called Making Surrey Safer, which include reducing Woking to having just one fire engine available at night instead of two around the clock.

A Surrey firefighter tackles a housefire

“It’s a known fact, and particularly in Surrey, that an overwhelming majority of fire deaths occur between the hours of 6pm and 9am,” the secretary of the county’s Fire Brigades Union, Lee Belsten, told the News & Mail.

“Previous reports produced by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service have shown these fire deaths occur in the areas where the pumps are proposed to be removed – Elmbridge, Guildford, Woking and Spelthorne.”

In Chobham, the village’s part-time crew is similarly alarmed by the proposal, which will see their single engine on call only during evenings, nights and weekends.

If implemented, it would mean that at least four of Chobham Fire Station’s firefighters would be made redundant and the station’s fire engine would be available only from 7pm to 7am on weekdays and 24 hours at weekends.

“What is being planned cannot possibly make people safer,” a Chobham firefighter told the News & Mail.

As it faces more cuts to its budget, the fire service is consulting the public on its plan to have fewer fire engines available from 2020.

The public has until May 29 to comment on the proposals, which are set out in a document called Making Surrey Safer. It can be viewed and downloaded from www.surrey-fire.gov.uk.

For the full story get the 7 March edition of the News & Mail

A FORMER Woking teacher has found a second career as a catwalk model, travelling the world and appearing at London Fashion Week.

Michelle Ball, who worked at The Hermitage, Sythwood Primary and Horsell Junior, was spotted by a photographer two years ago and has returned to a modelling career she started at the age of 14.

Michelle strikes a pose

After first being discovered at Guildford railway station, Michelle spent two years as a model before she left to focus on her education and eventually moved into teaching.

Now aged 37, Michelle travels to countries such as Austria and Belgium and recently took part in  the week-long fashion highlight in London.

“When I was younger I did a few catwalks and really enjoyed it but had to put modelling to one side,” Michelle said.

“Then the opportunity came again and I didn’t want to be one of those people who looks back and thinks, ‘what if?’”

Michelle has a four-year-old son, Josh, who sometimes goes with her to shoots.

Michelle modelling for Sebastian Cartier

“Josh is the main reason I left teaching, as my work-life balance wasn’t very good due to the ever increasing amount of paperwork and admin I had to take home with me. I am now lucky enough to be able to choose how often, where and when I work; I fit my modelling around my son and I now have a great balance, especially when my son gets to join me on set.”

Michelle is thoroughly enjoying her new life but in many ways misses her time as a teacher.

“It’s something I’d always wanted to do since the age of about 5, and I miss the children terribly,” she said.

For the full interview and pictures get the 28 February edition of the News & Mail