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This week in history - 20, 40 and 60 years ago.

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1953

Teenage cyclist David Dennis was killed after a fire engine overturned in Hornchurch.

The crash, which took place at the foot of Grey Towers Hill, also injured the five firefighters inside the engine – though none seriously.

Witnesses said the vehicle spun across the carriageway before flipping over, showering the road in burning petrol.

The impact also burst a 500-gallon water tank and quickly gave rise to lengthy traffic jams.

A motorcycling ambulance worker, Harry Skellett, was injured after his bike collided with a bus caught up in the queue. Mr Skellett, head driver at Hornchurch Ambulance Station, suffered a broken collarbone.

The original fire engine had been heading to a chimney fire in Lyndhurst Drive.

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A builder admitted to embezzling money intended for a kids’ coronation party.

The 29-year-old, of Dartfields, Harold Hill, had collected £3 10s from householders around the Farringdon Avenue area while working for the D. D. D. Coronation Party Club.

The man was given a conditional discharge and told by the magistrates’ chairman that he was a “mug”.

In a statement, he told the court he had been off work sick and had paid his wife the money in housekeeping charges. He “expressed regret” for his actions.

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Fare dodging proved costly for a Hornchurch man.

Dedicated bus conductor Edward Matthews alighted the number 175 in pursuit of the passenger – but when Mr Matthews caught up him, he was “struck behind the ear” and sworn at.

The defendant, of Hayburn Way, Hornchurch, maintained he “did not know what the conductor was going to do so he pushed him away”.

He was fined £4 for assault.

1973

Ernest Purvis’s dream holiday was wrecked when a heart attack abroad landed him a £1,400 bill.

The 65-year-old collapsed on board a flight to New Zealand, forcing the pilot to make an about-turn and head for the Imperial Hospital, Los Angeles.

But Mr Purvis and his wife had spent their life savings on the trip, which was to reunite them with a daughter they hadn’t seen for 16 years.

Now the Elm Park resident’s insurance company had refused to cover the costs of his treatment because his heart attack was the recurrence of an earlier illness.

“I nearly had another heart attack when I heard what I owed,” said the sorry pensioner, of Laburnum Walk.

“Only a miracle will pay it.”

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A row erupted over plans to change the name of Laurie Square, Romford, to Ludwigshafen Place.

The proposal was sparked by Havering’s twinning with the German city.

But the borough’s Jewish community said it was too soon after the Second World War to forge such public links with Germany.

Romford Rabbi Rev Saul Beck said: “Those who are under 40 may not remember the last war but for me, at least, it is too early to forget.”

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Nine-year-old Adrian Singleton had murmured his first word in a month – the name of his sister, Anne.

The St Joseph’s pupil, of Hornminster Glen, Upminster, had been in a week-long coma after a road accident near his home, and had spent the next three weeks paralysed and mute.

But now his relieved parents were planning his homecoming – and doctors hoped he would make a full recovery.

1993

A face-to-face confrontation between Havering Council chiefs and a panel of Recorder readers ended in tragedy – when one of the Recorder team collapsed and died.

Ian Petre, 76, was one of a group assembled by the newspaper to debate library plans in the town hall.

Tragically, after calling for market research to be carried out, Mr Petre, of Mashiter’s Way, slumped in the chair beside his wife Iris, abruptly halting the meeting as first aid was performed.

But ambulance paramedics could not revive him and he was pronounced dead at Oldchurch Hospital.

The debate had been about council plans to move services from Romford Central Library to the Dolphin centre.

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Subsidies for school meals faced the chop as Havering Council was told to make £11m of savings.

Primary school headteachers had made it clear they would rather see subsidised meals go than lose basic education services.

Free school dinners for families on income support would continue – but the cost of meals for those who had to pay would increase.

But opposition councillors were unhappy with the priorities of the Labour administration, which would see funding cuts for music tuition and child psychology.

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Havering Council was considering taking the government to court for “shifting the goalposts” during controversial education reforms.

The last-minute changes – which involved budget changes for schools under local authority control – would cost the council £600,000.

Three schools in the borough were due to break free of Havering’s control and become “grant maintained schools” – and the government had announced that they would be given extra money to be taken directly out of the education coffers.

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