Sunday, July 02, 2017

Nitrous Oxide.

It has been reported to me by a long time Maggot Sandwich reader that there is a serious drugs problem in the area in and around the former Bexley Mencap site in Lesney Park Road, Erith. The site, and the old house adjacent to it are shortly to be redeveloped for additional housing, with eighteen terraced houses and the third of the land  that the Council is retaining will have twelve supported living units for adults with learning difficulties built on it. In the meantime the old buildings are occupied by property guardians - individuals who get to live in the property at a very reduced rent, in return for caring for the building until such time as it is readied for redevelopment. The idea is not new, but it does have attractions - the building owner avoids their property being vandalised or squatted, with the attendant costs that this would involve, and people get the chance to legally live somewhere at a rent that is far below the norm for the area; the system should be a win / win for all involved. In this case it would appear to not be the outcome that had been anticipated. It is strongly suspected by local residents that one or more of the guardians occupying the old Mencap unit and the house next door to it are involved in the sale and consumption of illegal drugs, including Nitrous Oxide, as you can see in the photograph above - click on it for a larger version - the photo was taken by another concerned local resident. The situation was initially reported back in April, but it would appear that little has happened in the meantime to resolve it. The purchase, sale, storage or consumption of Nitrous Oxide as a stimulant has been a criminal offence since the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 came into effect on the 27th May 2016. One worried local resident initially wrote to the Council and said:- "There were dozens of the little silver capsules in the gutter, which I am told are in connection with drug taking.  This is not the first time there have been dozens of these capsules littered outside the premises.   A neighbour in Lesney Park Road has even seen a car parked nearby, and he watched the driver put on blue surgical gloves, sorted through some boxes (drugs presumably) and then drove a few yards up Lesney Park Road to the old Bexley Mencap site and carried on some business with the occupants.  I have also seen people coming out of the premises, late morning, in clothes similar to pyjamas and going to their car for something and then going back in.  So they are obviously being used as residential premises. Who owns these premises? Are the occupants being housed there at local rate payers' expense? This is totally unacceptable. These premises are just a few yards across the road from Christ Church Primary School. The children are surely at risk. Apart from the drug paraphernalia, there is often other debris outside, broken glass, old furniture etc.  The whole frontage is an absolute eye-sore.  The occupants are showing no respect at all for the surroundings, and are taking advantage. Lesney Park Road used to be one of the nicest roads in Erith. It is in a conservation area. What is happening now is a disgrace and very unfair on the local rate-paying residents.  Can the Council and the local Police please look into the goings on at the site and take control of the situation?" I hope to make further reports on this issue in the weeks to come; if you have any information to add, please contact me at the usual address.

As a follow-up on the broad daylight plant theft from The Cross Keys Centre reported on the Maggot Sandwich update published on the 4th of June,  thefts of more potted plants have come to light in the centre of Erith, including one splendid ornamental basket hanging from the Stone Court retirement home, an act also caught on CCTV.  Neighbours have reported seeing people not known to live in the immediate area looking at some of these items on display, but in every case except one it has been simply to admire these lovely additions to the streetscape, not to walk off with them. One person the plant owners would like to trace is shown in the pictures above - the upper one from CCTV recorded from The Cross Keys Centre, and the lower photo which was taken covertly in the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre, when the suspect was seen walking through it some time after the theft took place. His description matches that of a person seen carrying a large stolen oleander along the High Street on May 26th. The witness was struck by the odd behaviour of someone of strong stocky build, in a very distinctive polo shirt, walking very quickly along the street carrying an oversized plant. If you can identify the individual above, please contact me so that even if he is entirely innocent, he can be eliminated from Police enquiries. Email me in complete confidence at

I don't normally comment on stories that have been covered by the mainstream press, but I am making a notable exception in this case, as the popular press have in general only reported on about half of the real story. Google has said it will no longer scan the content of Gmail messages to sell targeted adverts to users of the free service. Google made the announcement in a blog post on Friday touting the success of its G Suite, the cloud applications service for business. G Suite is advertising free and does not scan content – for the obvious reason that businesses wouldn't be very keen on that – and now Google says it will make the free Gmail service scanning-free too. In an interview in the Register website, a Google representative said:- "G Suite's Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalisation, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service,  Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalise ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users' settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalisation." The Gmail scanning system was highly controversial ever since it was introduced in 2004, but the advantages of the service were clear. At the time, most webmail accounts offered pitiful amounts of storage – 2MB for Hotmail, for example – while Google was offering a gigabyte and promised to increase that later. While people weren't particularly enamoured with the idea of having their emails automatically scanned, they certainly liked the storage enough to continue using it. Nevertheless, Microsoft's advertising department used the practice as a stick to beat Google with – albeit to very limited effect. Many Gmail users do not receive targetted advertising anyway; if you have any kind of paid relationship with Google, such as having extended paid for cloud cased storage, you do not get adverts in Gmail, also, if like me, you were one of the first 500 people in the UK to set up a Gmail account, then you too see no targetted adverts. Google are very conscious that of the 3 billion people on Earth who have access to a computer or mobile phone, around 1.2 billion of them have a Gmail account. Whilst not all of those accounts will be in active use, that is still an absolutely staggering figure, and Google are acutely aware that they are in a contest with Microsoft in respect of cloud based office computing - Microsoft have Office 365, and Google have G Suite. If a large number of users are familiar with the Gmail user interface, they will find the G Suite very easy to use, as it is based on a very similar look and feel. Ironically this is how Microsoft locked users into Microsoft Office for years; once a user had become comfortable with MS Office they were strongly disinclined to switch to another product which would require a fresh learning curve. Microsoft came quite late to the cloud, and it is now playing catch up with Google, who are now kings of that particular hill. Nowadays for a vast majority of computer users, their web browser is by far the most used and most important piece of software on their computer or mobile device.

Local convicted multiple murderer Arthur Simpson - Kent lost his appeal against his whole life tariff when he appeared in court on Tuesday last week. Arthur Kent’s lawyers failed to persuade Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and two other leading judges at the Court of Appeal in London that the term should be reduced. He killed his partner, the former EastEnders actress Sian Blake, 43, and their sons, Zachary, eight, and four-year-old Amon, after the actress, who was terminally-ill with motor neurone disease, planned to leave him and take the boys with her. Once he had killed the three, he buried their bodies in the garden of their rented bungalow in Pembroke Road, Erith. The bodies were not discovered by the Police for three weeks. They had been repeatedly beaten and stabbed in a series of frenzied attacks. Simpson-Kent, who admitted three counts of murder, was sentenced at the Old Bailey last October by a judge who said he had been left in "no doubt'' he should receive the most severe punishment available for his ''truly horrific'' crimes. He was thus awarded the very rare sentence of a Whole Life Tariff – which means the only way he will ever be let out of prison is on the written orders of the Home Secretary, something that has rarely if ever happened. In his case, life really does mean life in prison, with no chance of parole. I used to see Sian Blake with her children occasionally walking around Erith Riverside Shopping Centre, and every so often in Morrison’s. I did not know she was an actress, or had been in EastEnders at one time (I am not a soap watcher).  I had not seen them for some considerable time before their untimely demise, I guess as her Motor Neurone Disease got worse, and she was forced to limit her mobility; the whole case is tragic. As far as I am aware their former bungalow in Pembroke Road is still empty – see the photo above. When the case first broke, I used Google Maps / Google Street View to locate the property; when I did, the image that the Google Street View camera car had captured of the house showed one of the little boys standing in the left hand window, looking out into the street. It had obviously been taken some time prior to the tragic events. I immediately decided that I would not publish or make reference to the image out of respect to the deceased and their surviving family and friends. I might have well not have bothered, as a couple of days later, the Sun newspaper published the image of the “ghostly” child in the window. I felt that this was in the very poorest of taste, but then the Sun is not exactly known for letting propriety or good taste get in the way of a good story.

Riverdale Road, Erith based country and Western singer songwriter Wayne Jacobs has been nominated for another three music gongs in the 2017 UK Country Music Awards. One of the nominations is for Best UK Country Artist of the year. I also understand that Wayne Jacobs has also written a song dedicated to Donald Trump. Personally I think this is pretty unnecessary, as President Trump already has an ideal signature song - "If I only had a brain" from the Wizard of Oz.

It would seem that the riot in Northumberland Heath last September has resulted in a long term legacy of fear and intimidation. A large number of local residents met with representatives from Bexley Police last Thursday in the Northumberland Heath Social Club. An officer has been assigned as overall lead for keeping the peace in Northumberland Heath; his name is Inspector Darren Murphy; he is leading a crackdown on anti-social behaviour, which is now regarded as the priority policing issue in the area. It seems that a majority of the youths / school children that engaged in the riot and subsequent fights and anti-social behaviour in Northumberland Heath are not from the area at all – they have mostly come from Woolwich and Plumstead. During an interview with the Bexley Times, Inspector Murphy said:- "I want to develop the use of Section 60 stop and searches, so if we hear of any problems our officers can stop and search anyone in the area without grounds, we’ve come away from that recently but following an increase in violence and knife crime it’s come to a point where we need to do it. We’ve identified a number of the youths and have established most of them aren’t from here, for whatever reason there coming in from surrounding areas such as Woolwich and are doing what they do, we’ve upped resources here, you can imagine how difficult that’s been during the events in London, but we still manage to have a safer neighbourhood team as well as the two officers working later in the night. We’re working with businesses such as Tesco to cut down on theft and loitering as well as with TfL to get Oyster cards taken away so these youths can’t make their way into the area. Our intelligence is improving, three months ago I couldn’t have told residents when there were going to be problems, but now we’re getting calls from parents, neighbours and schools telling us what is going on, Once we know what’s happening we can put dispersal orders in place to stop it, and we need that support to continue by ensuring that concerned residents contact their local safer neighbourhood police team” It seems that what seems like a quiet and friendly place is actually blighted by a culture of violence and intimidation mostly led by school children from outside of the area. Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association recently published the following report on the public meeting and the outcome from it:-"The Northumberland Heath Safer Neighbourhood Team along with Acting Chief Inspector Peter Bodley, Inspector Darren Murphy, The Bexley Council Neighbourhood Services and local Councillors held a meeting at the Social Club in Mill Road last Thursday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the ongoing anti-social behaviour in and around Northumberland Heath. Although it was a sweltering evening, the meeting was well attended with approximately seventy local residents and business owners in attendance. Each attendee was asked to fill in a questionnaire and a question and answer session took place. The senior Management Team from Bexleyheath Police Station explained the locations of where the main issues are and what we are trying to do to resolve them. Several individuals have been issued with a Community Protection Warning Letter with conditions asking them not to congregate in groups in and around Northumberland Heath or act in a manner which local residents may find intimidating. The Warning Letter if not adhered to will then result in a Community Protection Notice issue and court proceedings to follow. One youth has already broken his agreement and has been spoken to along with his parents to highlight the seriousness of his actions. The Team have been working very hard to collate evidence against individuals who are choosing to break these agreements. Street Pastors conducted trial patrols last week to try to engage with local youths, we are hoping that we will receive positive feedback from this experiment with a view to further patrols and engagement. A cannabis Warning form was issued to a male found in possession of cannabis behind an alleyway in Bexley Road. On a happier note, there has been very little in the way of crime reported to us this week, with no burglaries or vehicle crime. The next drop in Surgery will be held in the Library at Mill Road on Friday July 7th at 2pm". If you have experienced any issues in Northumberland Heath relating to anti-social behaviour, please get in touch with me in complete confidence; you can Email me at

There has been another incident of a person in the River Thames off Erith; on Sunday evening last week, emergency services were notified that a man was in the river next to a couple of moored tugs. He was reported clinging to the side of a tug, but unable to get out of the water at approximately half past seven in the evening. The inshore lifeboat came from Gravesend to rescue the individual, but by the time it had arrived the man had been in the water for nearly an hour; if this had happened in the winter, the man would have died from exposure in that time. I once again call for the creation of an RNLI sub station at Erith to serve the area of the Thames between Woolwich and Dartford, plugging what appears to be a gap in the current lifeboat coverage. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Some worrying news has emerged over the last week or so; the main encryption system used in online banking, web based shops like eBay and Amazon, “Smart” payment cards and a host of other vital services has been cracked – in the laboratory at least. The crack is currently only experimental, and to the best of current knowledge it has not been employed in the real world, but as with any of these things, it is only a matter of time before crooks find a way to “weaponise” the discovery. The most common, and indeed until now the most effective form of data encryption is a system known as AES 256. AES stands for Advanced Encryption System. This advanced encryption algorithm is unclassified and is "capable of protecting sensitive government information well into the next century," according to an announcement by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) and is the most trusted process the for development of an advanced encryption standard algorithm. It  is easy to implement in hardware and software, as well as in restricted environments (for example, in a smart card) and offer good defences against various attack techniques. In June 2003, the U.S. government announced that AES could be used to protect classified information, and it soon became the default encryption algorithm for protecting classified information as well as the first publicly accessible and open cipher approved by the NSA for top-secret information. The NSA chose AES as one of the cryptographic algorithms to be used by its Information Assurance Directorate to protect U.S national security systems. Its successful use by the U.S. government led to widespread use in the private sector, leading AES to become the most popular algorithm used in symmetric key cryptography internationally. The transparent selection process helped create a high level of confidence in AES among security and cryptography experts. AES is more secure than its predecessors - DES and 3DES - as the algorithm is stronger and uses longer key lengths. Until very recently AES encryption was considered to be pretty much bullet proof; that is, until information leaked online about a rather unusual method of trying to break it. Researchers at Fox‑IT have managed to wirelessly extract secret AES-256 encryption keys from a distance of one metre – using £200 worth of parts obtained from a standard electronics store – just by measuring electromagnetic radiation. At that distance sniffing the keys over the air took five minutes, but if an attacker got within 30 centimetres of a device, the extraction time is cut down to just 50 seconds. The research team used a simple loop antenna, attached it to an external amplifier and bandpass filters bought online, and then plugged it into a software defined radio USB stick they bought for £20. The entire cost of the setup was less than £200 and the device could be hidden in a jacket or laptop case. The researchers used this kit to record the radio signals generated by the power consumption of the target system running an ARM powered chip. By measuring the leakage between the processor and the data bus, the data showed the peaks and troughs of consumption as the encryption process was carried out. By running a different encryption run on a test rig, the researchers mapped out how the power consumption related to individual bytes of information. That allowed them to take guesses at the 256 possible values of a single byte and the correct choice showed the highest power spike. "Using this approach only requires us to spend a few seconds guessing the correct value for each byte in turn (256 options per byte, for 32 bytes – so a total of 8,192 guesses), In contrast, a direct brute-force attack on AES‑256 would require 2256 guesses and would not complete before the end of the universe." The electromagnetic signals drop off rapidly the farther away you are from the target, but the researchers still managed the extraction from a distance of one metre, even though it took much longer to do so. Spending more on the equipment, however, would increase the range and speed of the attack. There are, of course, some caveats. The tests took place under laboratory conditions, rather than in a busy office or server room where other signals might interfere with the data collection. Nevertheless it is an interesting example of how an attack previously thought of as unfeasible due to cost and distance has been made easier by smarter and cheaper technology.

A road tanker dropped a large volume of Rapeseed Oil on the roads of Erith on the evening of the 26th June. The oil spill closed Lower Road, Bronze Age Way, Queens Road, South Road and North End Road from around 6.30pm. The Fire Brigade put sand on the large spill, which trailed all of the way back to the ADM Oil processing facility in Church Manor Way, which employs nearly 1,200 local people. The company originally started up in 1908, when it was known as Erith Oil Works – the business then was similar to now; they crush and process all kinds of seeds, to extract their natural oils, which are used in foodstuffs, cooking oils and animal feeds. The seeds, then as now are brought upriver in large bulk freighter ships. The distinctive huge concrete silos that are still present on the ADM Oil site were constructed in 1916, where they were some of the earliest surviving examples of reinforced concrete construction in the UK. They were constructed by Danish structural engineering company Christiani and Nielsen, who invented reinforced concrete construction techniques. ADM oils have in the past been guilty of causing the terrible smells that we have experienced in the local area. The reason for this was that the filters on the oil seed boiler chimneys used to not be changed as often as they were supposed to be. Lately ADM's plant engineers seem to have been a lot more conscientious in this respect, and the sickly smell has now been largely absent, thankfully.

The end video this week shows a factory that has been very important to many people in the area over the last seventy years or so, but over the last couple of decades has seemingly gone very quiet. It is the huge Ford vehicle plant at Dagenham, just across the River Thames. Due to automation the plant does not employ nearly as many people as it did in the past, and it no longer produces complete vehicles; instead it produces a vast number of engines and transmissions for both private and commercial use throughout Ford production facilities in and around Europe.  Do give the short video a watch, and please feel free to comment below, or Email me at

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