Flashback: A bleak Christmas, a clothing shop armed raid and meningitis at a school
PUBLISHED: 15:00 05 January 2020
Stories that made the news 60, 40 and 20 years ago
Christmas 1959 had been a black holiday for Romford as police dealt with a series of tragedies including gas poisoning, home accidents, and car crashes.
Sixteen deaths were reported to Romford police for further investigation. Two concerned babies, one a few days old, the other under a month.
On the roads accident tolls rose sharply. Twenty-two people were injured in 18 crashes over the four day period. There was also a colossal number of minor accidents causing damage but no injury.
A parked car was flung into the air and landed on its bonnet when another collided with it in St Neots Road, Harold Hill, on Christmas Eve.
Colchester Road was blocked by a road accident outside a garage at Harold Park on Boxing Day.
Two cars were involved.
Shop staff were locked in a store room for 20 minutes while armed raiders cleared out their till.
The store manager and assistant finally kicked the door open but the three men, one wielding a shotgun, had already fled.
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Later, the manager of the shop, Foster Brothers, Corbets Tey Road, Upminster, spoke of the ordeal.
He asked not to be named but said: "It was really frightening at the time.
"We just did what we were told, it didn't hit me until afterwards.
"I don't know whether they would have used the gun, but one of them seemed nervous."
The shop's New Year sale was in full swing when one of the robbers came in pretending to want to buy trousers. He said he would return later.
They threatened the two staff and swore at them.
After the manager opened the till, containing £135, he and the assistant were bundled and locked into a bathroom.
Teams of health officials went to a Harold Hill school after a second outbreak of meningitis in less than a month.
Six cases of the disease had been reported in the Havering and Barking area in the past six weeks. The latest incidents involved three youngsters, one from Brookside Junior School, in Dagnam Park Drive, another at the nursery unit at Mead School, in Amersham, Harold Hill, and a one-year-old. They were all rushed to Oldchurch Hospital, Romford over the Christmas period.
They were then moved to a specialist unit at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, and treated for different strains of meningitis septicaemia.
The outbreak came just one month after a four-year-old from Brookside Infant School was diagnosed. Health officials refuse to reveal where the other two cases were.
Health teams were preparing to distribute 500 doses of antibiotics at Brookside Infant and adjoining Brookside Junior Schools to children and teachers.