The Recorder's review of 2019: News we brought you from across Redbridge this year
PUBLISHED: 07:30 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:04 31 December 2019
As 2019 draws to a close, the Recorder takes a look back at some of the biggest stories to have come out of Redbridge this year.
The Recorder revealed the existence of a secret bunker deep under Redbridge Town Hall.
We checked it out and found the entrance was via a cupboard under the stairs and depending on which tunnel you took you either came out in a secret vault or an escape hatch the other side of Ilford High Road.
Civil defence drawings dating back to the 1960s detail the layout but councillors only became aware of the bunker when a survey was carried out ahead of work on the new food market planned for the car park site.
Plans were revealed to make Ilford town centre smoke-free. Redbridge Council wanted to ban lit cigarettes near shops.
The first snow of 2019 settled over large parts of the borough on January 22 and readers were quick to send in their pictures to the Recorder.
More than 3,800 children in Redbridge did not have a permanent home, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
It was revealed that developer Weston Homes wanted to build up to 1,400 homes and a primary school on the site of Tesco at Goodmayes.
There was considerable opposition to the scheme, which would mean six medium-rise buildings and three low-rise blocks, including a primary school, and tree-lined pedestrian walkways. A new supermarket would be built in what is currently the car park.
In an online poll by the Recorder, 74 per cent of people were against the proposal.
Redbridge's MPs put their political differences aside and were locked up in a cell for a day to raise money for Woodford Green adventure playground Elhap.
Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Iain Duncan Smith were joined by Redbridge mayor Cllr Debbie Kaur-Thiara and raised more than £5,000.
The Duchess of Cornwall visited Barnardo's Wellbeing Hub in Granville Road, Ilford. She cut a ribbon to formally open the hub's new sensory and music rooms.
Kenneth More Theatre audiences were left heartbroken at the news the Redbridge Theatre Company could not afford to keep it going.
The company announced it would be moving out of the council-owned building in July.
Angela Banner, general secretary of Redbridge Pensioners Forum, said: "It is a tragedy for Ilford and Redbridge generally."
But council leader Jas Athwal promised: "There will always be a functioning theatre in Ilford town centre."
The council withdrew its plan to build 30 units of temporary accommodation on green space in Brocket Way, Hainault after opposition from residents.
Transport for London officers visited the notorious Green Gate "death trap junction" on the A12 in Newbury Park almost two years after residents presented a petition demanding urgent safety improvements.
Alexandra Peters-Day, TfL's government relations adviser, told the crowd who gathered for their visit: "We absolutely recognise that changes should have been made sooner. In the coming months we will look at this and see what we can do."
The council announced a scheme to close roads leading to two Ilford primary schools to traffic at the start and end of the school day.
Anyone who drives into a closed street outside SS Peter and Paul's or Gordon Primary during the peak times will be identified by automatic number plate recognition cameras and issue with a fine.
The aim was to make the journey to and from school a lot healthier.
The year-long Redbridge Together campaign to help rough sleepers ended, having raised £21,000 in donations and a £600,0000 council funding boost. The campaign was to help people off the street and to rebuild their lives and to create a temporary hostel in Chadwick Road, Ilford.
Beal High School's popular principal Terese Wilmot left after 21 years, saying she was taking semi-retirement. She had overseen the school's rise to the top of the borough's rankings table.
She joined the school as the director of sixth form in 1998 when the school had "the worst results in the borough".
The body of a gifted artist who had slept rough in Ilford was found in a freezer in a Custom House flat.
Henriett Szucs' body was found with that of another woman in the freezer.
Ilford homelessness charity the Welcome Centre said: "She was a beautiful, loving and trusting person who doesn't deserve this."
The number of emergency supplies handed out by food banks in the borough had soared over the past year, according to data released by the Trussell Trust.
It showed 6,011 three-day food supplies were handed out in the year.
A piece of the largest grapevine in the world came to Valentines Mansion, Ilford.
A cutting of the 250-year-old Great Vine of Hampton Court Palace - which was originally grown at the mansion - was brought back.
And 90-year-old Sheila, of Barkingside, revealed she had taken a cutting of the vine at Valentines in the 1960s and it is still going strong in her garden.
Redbridge Council officially announced the borough was in a state of climate emergency.
Wanstead Village councillor Paul Donovan said: "We need to realise that as human beings we are killing ourselves and the planet."
Targets would be created for tree planting, carbon-free building and travelling.
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Joni Cunningham, the principal of Redbridge Institute, was made an OBE in the Queen's birthday honours list for services to adult community learning.
The institute had recently been judged Outstanding by Ofsted - the first adult learning provider to achieve that grade for three years.
"Controlling and coercive" Muhammad Javed was found guilty of killing his wife with a hammer and machete.
He murdered Saeeda Hussain after he set up CCTV cameras around their home in Staines Road, Ilford, wrongly suspecting she was having an affair.
Campaigners stepped up their fight in a bid to stop 1,360 flats and a school being built on the Goodmayes Tesco site.
The former Bodgers shop was to be replaced with a 42-storey block of flats it was confirmed - making it the "biggest building this side of Canary Wharf".
The plan was approved by the narrowest of margins at a Redbridge Council committee - five votes to four.
Before the meeting, Cllr Paul Canal said: "I am aware if we were to commission the 26th tallest building in London - and I believe a building taller than any in Paris or Frankfurt - we are potentially giving a green light to other developers who come in with equally high things."
A man who had previously been convicted for his role in the £53m Securitas heist in 2006 was gunned down outside a house in Malvern Drive, Woodford Green.
The 41-year-old was shot six times, suffering injuries to his neck and chest. The house was owned and rented out by comedian Russell Kane.
Ilford County High School teachers went on strike citing "intolerable workloads", larger class sizes and funding cuts.
Campaigners fighting to stop Redbridge Council building 60 temporary houses for homeless families on a park near Manford Way, Hainault, lost their legal battle.
Ashley Papworth said: "I know I am not alone when I say I am deeply upset, angry and in shock that we cannot get the result that the Hainault community deserves."
High winds caused a 60ft tree to crash down into a Hainault workshop, missing Neil Johns by inches.
The steel fabrication worker was at Premier Security & Fire in Roebuck Road when the poplar came crashing down.
He said: "I was standing in the service road outside our power-coating area when I heard a loud crack. Then the tree started to fall. Luckily for me, the workshop door was already open and I darted in pretty rapidly."
The tree keeled over on the exact spot where he had been standing.
A popular shoe repair shop was evicted to make way for a revamp of Ilford station.
Kristi's Shoe Repairs had traded in Cranbrook Road for more than 24 years but owner Jimmy Papi was forced to move out after Transport for London took possession of the unit.
Two firefighters on holiday saved a man's life after he suffered a heart attack on a beach in Cornwall.
Kel Watson-Finch and his wife Laura - who are based at Hainault and Romford fire stations - were on holiday with their children when they noticed a man was seriously ill and had collapsed in shallow water.
They used the first aid skills learned with the London Fire Brigade, doing CPR.
The war memorial at St Paul's, Goodmayes, was rededicated by the Bishop of Barking after a refurbishment. The restoration project in Barley Lane was funded by a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
"Love can conquer all" was the message of a peaceful march against knife crime in Barkingside. It was organised by Save Our Legacies, a campaign group founded by parents in the area.
The first successful prosecution by Redbridge Council for attempting to buy sex from a prostitute resulted in a man being fined £300 for breaching the borough's Public Space Protection Order.
The man, from West Sussex, was caught trying to buy sexual services in Ilford Lane.
Meanwhile, police and Redbridge Council officers raided five suspected brothels and discovered two in operation in south Ilford. They were closed down and 15 women were taken away to safety.
An Ilford Uber driver said he was forced to drive 220 miles for nearly nine hours by three passengers carrying out drug deals across east London and Essex. He said he was forced to make more than 20 stops and was afraid to upset them in case they hurt him.
Firefighters from Ilford rescued dachshund Linus after he climbed to the top of a 20ft tree in Wanstead Park after a squirrel and then was unable to get down.
Three murder investigations were launched. The body of former professional ice hockey player Vlad Radionovs was found in a country lane off Oaks Lane, Aldborough Hatch. He had suffered a serious head injury. Mohammed Usman Mirza, 19, was stabbed to death outside Owen Waters House, Fullwell Avenue, Clayhall. And Akeem Dylon Barnes, 24, was stabbed to death during a fight outside a party in Telegraph Mews, Seven Kings.
Plans to demolish the former Valentine pub in Perth Road, Gants Hill, and replace it with a 10-storey modular block of student accommodation were given the go-ahead by Redbridge Council.
The borough came together at several poignant ceremonies to mark Remembrance Day and to pay tribute to those who have died in the service of their country.
Ilford's new art gallery, Space, opened in part of Redbridge Town Hall.
The venue is free and also offers 37 affordable studios for artists and creatives.
Shetland pony Jasmine, who went missing from Foxburrows Farm Zoo in Hainault Forest Country Park, returned after 11 days.
Jasmine, two peafowl and a rabbit, went missing after the zoo was broken into. Fears mounted for the pony the longer she remained in the wild but the story ended happily when she was found and reunited with her mother Bella.
A man who shot his heavily pregnant ex-wife with a crossbow, killing her, was jailed for 33 years.
The Old Bailey heard Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo burst into Sana Muhammad's home in Applegarth Drive, Newbury, and fired an arrow into her stomach as she fled upstairs. He claimed it was an accident but a jury found him guilty of murder.
Her unborn son was successfully delivered by Caesarean section.