Flashback: Missing boy, railway vandals and a shortage of ambulances

20 years ago.

20 years ago. - Credit: Romford Library

A look back at the stories making the news in Havering 60, 40 and 20 years ago

20 years ago.

20 years ago. - Credit: Romford Library

1959 Late into the night, Romford police were still searching for a happy, bright-eyed boy who disappeared from his Harold Hill home four days after his 11th birthday.

The youngster asked his mum if he could call for a school friend.

He put a green jacket over his grey trousers and, proudly wearing his birthday watch, left home to cut through the woods to meet his friend at Bedale Road but had not been seen since.

Unaware of their parents' sorrow, the family's four younger children played happily around the Whitchurch Road home.

20 years ago.

20 years ago. - Credit: Romford Library

In the larder was a part-eaten birthday cake and his 29-year-old mum spoke of the helpful, considerate son who was missing.

She said: "It's so unlike him to go away.

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"He would never go out unless he had somewhere special to go."

1979 Havering train drivers feared a major rail disaster following a plague of deadly vandalism on the tracks.

Lumps of concrete were found dumped on the Upminster to Romford pull-pull line.

It was the latest in a string of incidents.

A squad of British Transport Police were drafted in to scour the area.

A spokesman said the line was one of the worst for hooliganism.

Upminster Police said the vandals used "anything they can lay their hands on" to block the track.

British Rail feared the wreckers would cause a fatal train crash and launched a campaign to stamp them out.

The blackspot was between Emerson Park Halt and Wingletye Lane bridge on the push-pull line.

1999 A woman who dialled 999 because she thought her mum was having a heart attack was told that the London Ambulance Service didn't have an ambulance to send.

Upminster widow Elsie Clifford, 59, was left "a shaking wreck" after an operator told her there was no vehicle available to help her sick mum Lilly Johnson.

When an ambulance finally became available, it arrived almost 50 minutes after the first call - about four times longer than the target response time.

Mrs Johnson, 89, who suffered from serious angina, collapsed at Mrs Clifford's home in Corbets Tey Road.

Mrs Clifford was advised to pick up her unconscious mum from the floor and drive her to Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, for treatment.

She said: "I told them I was sure my mum was having a heart attack.

"I kept saying there was no way I could pick her up and take her to casualty as she was a dead weight.

"But the operator was adamant that there were no ambulances available for us."