Flashback: A mushroom-growing major, a hypnotist left red-faced and a terrifying carjacking

Mushrooms. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mushrooms. Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Credit: Archant

A look at the biggest local stories from this week 60, 40 and 20 years ago.

1957: A retired army officer who was planning to launch a mushroom growing business from his back garden told a council inquiry into the matter that it was actually “more of a hobby”.

Maj Albert Ernest Barker, of Bracken Drive, Chigwell, was appealing against Chigwell Council’s refusal to allow him to build a number of mushroom sheds in his back garden.

Previously, Maj Barker had estimated he could grow 500lbs of mushrooms a year, which he could then sell at London’s Covent Garden market.

The council rejected his appeal.

1977: A notorious hypnotist was left wide-eyed when a stunt that saw him attempt to drive blindfolded through Ilford town centre ended up with him driving into the back of a police car.

Romark staged the publicity stunt to promote an upcoming show at the Ilford Playhouse, but only drove 20 yards down the road before the accident happened.

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He ploughed into the back of a police transit van and, to make matters worse the police filed an official complaint as they had not been informed the event was taking place.

Romark, whose actual name was Ronald Markham, said: “I wasn’t expecting a police van to be in the way.

“If it had been any other car I would not have hit it.”

1997: Three teenagers went through a terrifying ordeal when they were forced at knifepoint from Ilford to Barking after being carjacked.

The friends were approached as they sat in a car in Ilford Lane, waiting to use a phonebox.

But before it became available a gang hauled open the car’s doors and jumped inside.

One pulled out a knife and threatened the driver, ordering him to drive to Barking.

Once there, the car pulled into a garage and the terrified three were forced to hand over all of their cash and jewellery.

The thugs also stole the owner’s car keys before finally allowing their victims to run away.