Flashback: Two fire-starting teens, a bike-riding burglar and the top of the shops

Preston Drive, Wanstead, was the scene of an unusual escape by a burglar this week 40 years ago. Pho

Preston Drive, Wanstead, was the scene of an unusual escape by a burglar this week 40 years ago. Photo: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

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

1957: Two teenage boys admitted starting a fire which caused £3,000 of damage at a factory in Hainault.

The boys, aged 13 and 14, had broken into the Messrs P Shanira ladies underwear factory in Fowler Road to steal two bottles of orange squash but had, during the course of their raid, also set two bales of cotton wool on fire.

This fire then caught on racks of nylon and cotton stored in a cupboard, which led to the blaze growing quickly in size.

When they triggered burglar alarms police quickly rushed to the scene and were able to bring the fire under control.

They also caught one boy still inside the burning building, and a quick search of the grounds soon led to the apprehension of the other.

Both boys were remanded in custody for two weeks, had they been adults they would have faced lengthy prison sentences.

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1977: A bike-riding burglar was forced to think twice about making a getaway on foot when he was surprised by a Wanstead house wife.

As Pauline Jeakins returned to her Preston Drive home one afternoon she spotted a man disappearing over a back fence.

But as she rushed inside to phone the police the thief made his way to her front garden and stole a bike he then pedalled off in.

The raider escaped with jewellry and a roll of cine film, but left behind a frozen chicken and six eggs he had removed from Mrs Jeakins fridge.

Mrs Jeakins said: “I don’t know why he took the film – it only shows my sister’s wedding!”

1997: A mystery shopper visit led to one Ilford High Road travel agent being named the best in the business.

The Travel Weekly Magazine sent a secret judge to visit several Redbridge estate agents and pose as a tricky customer.

The undercover expert was most impressed by Kathy Brady at Lunn Poly, who listened to his vague description of a perfect holiday before talking him through several different packages.