A MAN has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of an elderly Woking woman who died days after he robbed her in her home.

The robbery was one of a spree of thefts, burglaries and robberies committed by Johnny Brazil at homes occupied mostly by lone elderly women in the Kingfield/Westfield area and also in Epsom over two weekends last summer.

Johnny Brazil has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 84 year old Joyce Burgess

The 26-year-old was caught by forensic evidence from a cigarette butt he threw away in the street, CCTV footage and witness testimony.

On 7 July last year, during the heatwave, Brazil knocked on the door of 84-year-old Joyce Burgess’s home in Loop Road, asking for a glass of water. As Mrs Burgess went to her kitchen, Brazil entered and picked up her handbag. Mrs Burgess struggled with Brazil and suffered significant arm injuries and bruises to her face. She died in hospital on July 10.

Brazil pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter, three of burglary, two of robbery and one of attempted burglary when he appeared at Guildford Crown Court on Friday, June 21.

Joyce Burgess died in hospital after struggling with Brazil

Investigating officer Detective Constable Alexis Batty said: “Johnny Brazil is now rightfully behind bars for what he did, having caused the death of Joyce Burgess following his callous robbery and attack on her in her home.

“Having been admitted to hospital following the attack, she showed positive signs of recovery before tragically suffering a heart attack two days later brought on by what had happened.

“Brazil is simply an opportunistic thief who showed no moral boundaries whatsoever in preying on clearly vulnerable victims and in Mrs Burgess’ case leaving her with significant injuries. It is heart-breaking that it was all for the sake of her handbag containing personal items and a small amount of cash.”

Brazil will be sentenced on August 9.

For the full story, get the 27 June edition of the News & Mail

THE couple who founded the Ambassador Theatre Group joined a veteran fireman who has worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross for half a century in being given the Freedom of the Borough by Woking council.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, presents Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire with velum scrolls marking them being given Freedom of the Borough

Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire, who live in West Byfleet, built ATG into the world’s number one live-theatre company with almost 50 venues in Britain, the US and Europe.

They topped The Stage 100 most influential people in UK theatre every year between 2010 and 2016 and were first in the Evening Standard “Power 1,000” in theatre in 2013.

In 2005, Dame Rosemary became only the second female president of the Society of London Theatre in its 100 year history.

She said: “To be bestowed the Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Woking Borough Council is a true honour. Woking Borough is not only our home but also the home to our businesses having spent more than two decades running Ambassador Theatre Group here.”

Mick Bullen, who has volunteered with the Red Cross for more than 50 years

The honour was also given to Mick Bullen who joined the Fire Brigade in 1961, serving at Woking, Chertsey and Painshill in senior positions and working as an instructor at Reigate. Mick retired from the fire service in 1989.

His work with the Red Cross began in 1965 driving ambulances and in 2016 he became county vice- president.

“When I first volunteered for the Red Cross all those years ago, who’d have thought I’d be still going over 50 years later. It is moments like this that make you proud to be part of this community,” he said.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, presented all three with the Freeman’s Badge, ceremonial velum scroll and certificate marking the occasion. Their names will be inscribed on the Roll of Freemen of the Borough, which hangs in the council chamber.

For the full story get the 20 June edition of the News & Mail

WOKING Mind, this year celebrating its 40th anniversary, has elected former Mayor of Woking Will Forster as its new president

His new role was formerly confirmed at Woking Mind’s annual general meeting on 12 June when Will attended along with the new Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, who both joined some of the trustees and service members to cut a birthday cake for the local branch of the mental health charity.

Chair of trustees Pauline Rogers, new president Will Forster, Woking Mayor Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, along with service members Val and Angela, and treasurer John Ennett

Will takes over from David Rye, who was thanked for his passion and commitment to Woking Mind over his many years of service to the charity, in which he was also a former chairman of trustees.

Talking about his new role, Will Forster said: “Mental health services suffer from underfunding and lag behind in comparison to treatment for physical health problems, yet one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year. Mental health is sadly the Cinderella service of our NHS, which is why the work that Woking Mind does is vital to support residents and top-up NHS services.”

Woking Mind delivers an extensive range of groups, courses and drop-in provision to help prevent mental health problems from escalating where possible and supporting recovery for their members. The charity also provides mental health training across Surrey to raise awareness and help break down stigma and prejudice around ill mental health through education.

For the full story get the 20 June edition of the News & Mail

A WOKING man is raising money for a poverty charity by living off the rations available to the average refugee in camps around the world.

Jonathan Smith, who lives in Horsell, is taking part in the Ration Challenge, with a meagre amount of food.

Jonathan Smith with his week’s worth of rations

Money raised will go to the charity Concern Worldwide, which has organised the fundraising challenge with participants around the world.

Jonathan, who works in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Team at Surrey County Council, has been taking on various challenges every year, including cycling 100 miles, half marathons and rowing 2,021 km in the gym.

“I wanted this year to support a charity that works further afield and to do a challenge over a longer amount of time that would really push me,” he said.

He said Concern Worldwide have been showing participants footage of some of the deprivation in refugee camps, which puts the week-long challenge into perspective.

“The refugee crisis has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years and it truly is a crisis. These people have been forced to leave their homes because of war and have no choice but to live off barely anything.

“Reading more and more about it really wakes you up to the fact that a refugee eats for a week on what we spend every day on a meal deal or a takeaway coffee.”

SPONSORSHIP can be made via https://my.rationchallenge.org.uk/jonathansmith. For more information, visit https://www.rationchallenge.org.uk/about/where-the-money-goes/

For the full story get the 20 June edition of the News & Mail

A COMMUNITY crowdfunding campaign has raised over £1,280 to fund a British citizenship application for Rajendra Chhetri, a 73-year old Knaphill resident for almost 50 years, who is renown for his civic work.

The online campaign had exceeded its funding target in less than a month, enabling Chhetri’s to start his application for British citizenship, following an outpouring of local sympathy for a man who has voluntarily contributed to the community in Woking and the wider Surrey area for almost 50 years.

Destined to be here: Community hero Rajendra Chhetri

Initiated by David Faulkner, minister of Knaphill Methodist Church, the fundraising saw an immediate response to Chhetri’s plight. His Nepalese passport renewal application was rejected by his native Nepal due to a change in policy, which had the potential to render him stateless, as he has been living in the UK on an indefinite leave to remain as a non-British passport holder.

Rajendra came to the UK in 1969 and went on to work as a mental health nurse for the NHS for 44 years. He says this also involved safeguarding the interests of patients and their carers even after they were discharged from the hospital, which made him more involved in the community. 

Meanwhile, he became heavily involved in work for the community and was the organiser, chairperson and host for Woking One World from 2000-2011, which involved participation by residents from a variety of different countries in the form of dances, stalls and art exhibition. The event was the forunner to Woking’s Party in the Park.

Even today, there’s no stopping Chhetri as he continues to volunteer for at least six organisations including Action for Carers and Farnborough Alzheimer Café.

For the full story get the 17 June edition of the News & Mail

PLANS to widen the Guildford Road in Woking town centre to a dual carriageway moved closer with the announcement of a £90 million government investment.

The money will come from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, with the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government saying on Tuesday this week that the project will “unlock plans” for up to 4,500 new homes in Woking.

Plans include the widening of Victoria Arch over the A320

The widening of Victoria Arch over the A320 to accommodate the wider road could also lead to improved rail links through the town, including a possible extra line and expanded railway station.

Kit Malthouse, the Housing Minister, said: “For decades, governments of all stripes and types have not built enough new homes, and we need to see urgent action to turn that around.

“This £95 million investment in Woking town centre will mean the town is ready to support thousands of much-needed new homes.
“We are making money available in Surrey so we can build more, better, faster and meet our ambition to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

Last year, Woking Borough Council announced that it was working in partnership with the county council on plans that would include widening the road and arch to relieve town centre traffic congestion and make journeys quicker and more reliable.

Although funding is now in place, there are several hurdles to cross, including the work receiving planning permission and possible attempts to block it by residents and businesses.

It was estimated that the work could start towards the end of this year, but the timescale seems very tight.

For the full story get the 13 June edition of the News & Mail

AN invitation to Woking MP Jonathan Lord from an 18-year-old West Byfleet constituent will see him taking a rickshaw ride to meet campaigners from across the UK for a mass climate lobby in Westminster.

Emma Gallagher, a Durham University student whose home is in West Byfleet, sent the offer to Mr Lord as a volunteer with CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development).

CAFOD climate champion Emma Gallagher

Mr Lord told the News & Mail this week that he has accepted the invitation.

More than 10,000 people from almost every constituency in the UK are expected to travel to Westminster on 26 June and Mr Lord will be among the MPs being taken by rickshaw to the rally to meet constituents urging politicians to back their call to halt UK climate change emissions and to support action to protect the environment.

Emma, who is attending with other local CAFOD supporters – from sixth form pupils to grandparents – said: “As a champion we want to show in general how important it is for young people to get on board with the campaign. I wrote to Jonathan Lord because we want MPs to know this is something that we want them to get involved with.”

A member of Our Lady Help Of Christians Church, Emma had been following her own research into climate change when she said: “It dawned on me how important it was in relation to my faith to do something to stop climate change. So as I wanted to get involved and so I became a champion for CAFOD.

“I hope the mass lobby prompts action and shows that we have the capability to do something. The political state of the UK right now may be uncertain, but climate change is a brute certainty we have to awake to.”

She said spaces are still available on coaches departing from towns across the UK to the rally and more information is available at https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Climate/Climate-lobby  .

For the full story get the 13 June edition of the News & Mail

LOCAL runner Rob Starbuck took part in the 65-mile Run to Pegasus event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, reliving a run he took part in 10 years ago – his first experience of long distance running.

Rob, 58,  who lives in St John’s runs a company called Global Media Direct and is responsible for Woking News and Mail Recruitment & Classified Advertising Sales, first took part in a sponsored run at the 2009 D-Day anniversary to raise funds to build a lasting memorial at Pegasus Bridge, Normandy, under the name Project 65.

Rob and his fellow runners take off on their 65 mile run

On 4 June this year he once again ran the 65 miles from Tarrant Rushton, Dorset to Portsmouth then took a ferry to Caen to walk onto Pegasus Bridge at 16 minutes past midnight, 75 years to the second after the first glider landed to take the strategic bridge.

The run was organised by the Veterans’ Charity, founded in March 2008 to support UK Veterans of all generations. It pays tribute to the action on 5 June 1944 by a force of 181 men led by Major John Howard. They took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton, Dorset in six Horsa gliders to capture Pegasus Bridge, and also “Horsa Bridge”, a few hundred yards to the east, over the Orne River in Normandy. The aim was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridges and attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach.

“Throughout this challenge I have represented Private Fred Weaver, as I did 10 years ago,” said Rob.

“As luck would have it I now know more about Pte Weaver through a relative contacting us via social media. One of the saddest things I found out was that 10 years earlier on the 65th Anniversary he was still alive, but we knew nothing about him as he rarely spoke of his incredible experiences to even his closest relatives. But it was nice 75 years later to honour his memory fully.”

Rob added: “The 2009 run was the start of my long distance running, but more than that it was a chance to remember and commemorate the bravery shown undertaking this mission and support The Veterans Charity.

Rob’s fundraising page is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/robrunspegasus2019

For the full story get today’s (13 June ) edition of the News & Mail

NOTHING could dampen the excitement – not even the rain – at RHS Garden Wisley on Monday when Britain’s best-loved gardener, RHS Ambassador and Vice-President Alan Titchmarsh, opened a new multi-million pound building with a promise to get Greening Great Britain.

The nation’s favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, braves the rain at the opening of the new welcome building at the RHS Wisley Gardens.

To celebrate the opening of the welcome building, Alan hung his ‘Greening Great Britain Promise’ on a cherry tree in front of the new centre. His pledge to continue his support for specialist British nurseries and encourage the nation’s 27 million gardeners to do the same was in support of the RHS-led campaign.

He was helped by three-year-old RHS life member Rosie O’Hare, who was born at the garden in 2016, and was wearing a floral crown as she helped Alan to hang his promise on the tree joining hundreds of others who have already given their promise to “Greening Great Britain”

Alan said: “Millions visit Wisley every year to be inspired by the horticulture on display and now the RHS flagship site will be a permanent showcase to celebrate specialist UK growers, just as it does at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and its other world-famous events. These plant specialists lovingly grow the rarest, most unusual and beautiful varieties in the world, which thrive in UK gardens because they’re so used to our climate.”

The new state-of-the-art welcome building includes a bigger Plant Centre covering 5000sqm, will be selling Britains biggest variety of rare and unusual plants as part of the its stock and will show tens of thousands of plants and feature displays by specialist UK growers all year round.

The centre also contains improved visitor facilities including a spacious arrivals hall, a 100-seater restaurant, a bigger selection of gardening and artisan products and a larger café.

For the full story get the 13 June edition of the News & Mail

THE Woking Town Wharf has been officially opened, providing residents and visitors a base from which to explore the Bastingstoke Canal.

Councillor Colin Kemp, Woking Deputy Mayor Cllr Saj Hussain and his daughter Faaria Sahi with Basingstoke Canal Society Chairman Philip Riley

The wharf was created last year funded by Woking Borough Council and Surrey County Council with a contribution from Basingstoke Canal Society.

The facility is intended to attract visiting boaters to stop off in Woking as well as create an attractive area for all to enjoy by the canal side.

It also provides a base for the Woking trip boat Kitty and accessible trip boat Maggie G, which have provided a new visitor attraction in the centre of Woking enabling all visitors and residents to have an opportunity to explore their local waterway by boat.

For more details and pictures get the 6 June edition of the News & Mail