Sunday, May 08, 2022


I took the photos above - click either for a larger view, on Friday evening at the Bexley Beer Festival, which was held at the Dartfordians Rugby Club in old Bexley. Because of COVID lockdowns the event has not been held for two years, so it was a welcome return for the 15th Bexley Beer Festival. There were over eighty different real ales available and about twenty different ciders and perries. The weather was excellent, for a change and the event was well attended, although I did not think that the level of attendance was as high as it has been prior to the pandemic, but it still was a good showing. As well as the large beer attempt, there were several hundred people enjoying the mild evening outside. I bumped into several people whom I had not seen since the last beer festival in 2020, and I think that a good time was had by all.

Visitors to Bluewater shopping centre will notice that a landmark store that opened fairly recently has just closed very suddenly. The Amazon store has closed after opening only last October. Amazon have confirmed that its other store located in Westfield shopping centre in London is also about to close as well as 66 shops located in America. The Bluewater  store was described as a mini department store. It'sold goods such as books, technology and toys, all of which were rated at four stars or higher on the Amazon website. Amazon says that it is closing these shops to allow it to focus on expanding its physical Amazon fresh and Amazon Go stores alongside its Whole Foods market chain. Amazon fresh is the grocery arm of the technology giant or Amazon Go is its convenience store concept. There are currently 16 Amazon fresh doors in the UK, The first of which opened in march of 2021. These stores are described as check out free as they use special count technology to track what customers are buying. Critics of the Amazon store at Bluewater said that they felt that the operators of the outlet did not really know what they wanted it to be, the stock seemed to chop and change almost by the week, which did not make for a pleasurable shopping experience The loss of the Amazon store at Bluewater will be another blow for the shopping centre, which has lost numerous retail outlets, mainly due to the Covid lockdowns. One only has to look at the situation in Bexleyheath, where the once thriving shopping centre has around a third of its retail units empty, and with little prospect of them being occupied at any time in the near future. There is a similar occupancy issue at the Erith Riverside shopping centre, which struggles to find occupants for some of its retail units. Not long ago both Barclays Bank and Argos, who were two of the largest organisations to have space within the centre have left, leaving empty units which have not been re let at the time of writing. I wonder if the shopping centre will be sustainable in the long term, bearing in mind how much of the retail market has now migrated online? Is the large municipal shopping centre a relic - a thing of the past? What do you think? Email me at

The extremely dangerous Giant Hogweed plant is set for a comeback in Britain thanks to the warm weather, and contact with the plant could lead to blindness, extreme skin burns and severe blistering. Giant Hogweed plants are said to kill off rival native plants by growing so fast that it blocks out the sunlight other plants need. The dangerous Giant Hogweed plant can often be found along rivers and canals  including areas such as both the Belvedere and Slade Green Marshes, with the plants containing toxic chemicals known as photosensitising furanocoumarins, which react when light contacts the skin. The sap of the Giant Hogweed is phototoxic and causes phytophotodermatitis in humans, resulting in blisters and scars. Blistering can begin within fifteen minutes of brushing past the Giant Hogweed. The plant is native to the western Caucasus region of Eurasia. It was introduced to Britain as an ornamental plant in the 19th century, and has also spread to other areas in Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. Its close relatives, Sosnowsky's hogweed and Persian hogweed, have similarly spread to other parts of Europe. Giant Hogweed was first described in scientific literature in 1895 but by that time more than a dozen European countries had already imported the plant as an “ornamental curiosity”. The introduction of Giant Hogweed was first recorded in Great Britain in 1817 when it was put on the seed list at the Kew Botanic Gardens in London. By 1828, the first natural population was recorded, growing wild in Cambridgeshire. The spread of Giant Hogweed throughout Europe continued unabated until the middle of the 20th century, at which time the dangers of Giant Hogweed had become more widely known. Despite the warnings, however, the plant continued to be used by gardeners, beekeepers, and farmers (for cattle fodder) for another 50 years. Giant Hogweed was finally de-listed by the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain in 2002. Authorities advise that all humans (especially children) should stay away from Giant Hogweed. Protective clothing, including eye protection, should be worn when handling the plant. Parts of the body that come into contact with the sap of giant hogweed should be immediately washed with soap and cold water, and further exposure to sunlight should be avoided for at least 48 hours. Because of its phototoxicity and invasive nature, Giant Hogweed is often actively removed. The European Union funded the Giant Alien project to combat the plant. On August 2, 2017, it added the species to its List of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern, thus placing restrictions on keeping, importing, selling, breeding and growing it and requiring governments to detect and eradicate it throughout the EU. In the United Kingdom, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to plant or cause Giant Hogweed to grow in the wild

Last year I wrote at some length about serial killer Robert Napper - “The Plumstead Ripper” - a man whose horrendous crimes caused a national outcry. I was of the opinion that Robert Napper would have been a local one - off. An aberration not to be seen again; unfortunately I was incorrect. The local area has spawned another killer - one whose crimes may actually exceed that of Robert Napper, although this may never be fully proved. The crimes of this other murderer predate Robert Napper by over a decade. Patrick Mackay was born at Park Royal Hospital, now known as Central Middlesex Hospital in London. He grew up with his parents and sisters in Dartford. His parents were Harold Mackay, a Scottish accountant, and Marion Mackay, a woman of creole descent from Guyana. His two sisters were born later in 1954 and 1957. As a child, Mackay was a frequent victim of physical abuse at the hands of his father. Mackay would perform poorly on his academic grades, bully his younger classmates and frequently have tantrums. A classmate would later describe Mackay as "like a little terrorist" who physically attacked other pupils. He also engaged in cruelty to animals and often tore the wings off birds. When Mackay was ten years old, Harold died from a heart attack on his way to work – the result of complications of alcoholism and a weak heart. His last words to his son were, "Remember to be good". Mackay was supposedly unable to come to terms with the loss of his father, telling people Harold was still alive and keeping a photograph of him on his person. He did not go to the funeral in Scotland based on his mother's recommendation. Later, he assumed the role of 'father figure' within the family, beating his mother and sisters. Mackay's mother eventually moved the family to Gravesend from Dartford, but family life did not improve and the police were called to the home as frequently as four times a week. He was prone to extreme tantrums and fits of anger, beating his mother and sister. He also attempted to kill a boy younger than himself, and later said he would have succeeded had he not been restrained.  At 15, Mackay was diagnosed as a psychopath by a psychiatrist, Dr Leonard Carr, who predicted he would grow up to become a "cold, psychopathic killer." He was removed from his family home on eighteen occasions between the ages of 12 and 22 and put into various specialist schools, institutions and prisons. One of his teachers at a specialist school described him as "a potential murderer of women".  In October 1968, Mackay was committed to Moss Side Hospital, Liverpool, as a diagnosed psychopath.  He was released in 1972. As he entered adulthood, Mackay developed a fascination with Nazism, calling himself "Franklin Bollvolt the First" and filling his flat with Nazi memorabilia. He lived in London and frequently abused drugs and alcohol. Following Mackay's release in 1972, the affluent London areas of Chelsea and Knightsbridge were engulfed by a wave of petty crimes. Known for being home to the wealthiest London residents and full of luxury shops and high-end restaurants, the areas suddenly saw a massive, unexplained rise in muggings, robberies and handbag snatchings. The attacks specifically targeted elderly ladies, and the unidentified attacker would befriend these women and gain access to their homes before committing their crimes. It would later be found that Patrick Mackay was behind these crimes. On 14 February 1974, 84-year-old Isabella Griffith was psychically assaulted, strangled and stabbed in her home in Chelsea by Mackay. Police was unable to identify him as the perpetrator and the muggings and petty thefts continued in the area. 13 months later, on 10 March 1975, elderly Adele Price was also murdered in her Chelsea home by Mackay who had entered her property asking for a glass of water. Her granddaughter was coming home from at the time and, without knowing, passed the killer as he left the premises after attacking the woman. Police were concerned the crime spree and the murders of the two women were linked. Some miles away on 21 March 1975, priest Father Anthony Crean was brutally murdered in his home in Shorne, Kent, near to the home of Mackay's mother. Crean had been attacked with an axe in a frenzied attack, with the weapon being found at the scene. Mackay had been seen in the area of the murder by multiple witnesses. An investigating police officer remembered an incident that had occurred some months earlier involving the young Patrick Mackay, who had befriended the priest only to break into his home and steal a cheque for £30. Although Crean tried to persuade the police not to do so, Mackay was arrested and prosecuted at the time. He was subsequently ordered to pay compensation but never did. The incident caused a rift between Mackay and Crean, and the former had returned to London.  After the incident was recalled by the officer, police arrested Mackay, who quickly admitted the murder. After his arrest for the murder of Father Crean, Mackay's fingerprints were taken, which were found to match those found at the scene of Adele Price's murder. Jewellery and silver fountain pens were found in Mackay's home which had come from robberies he had committed in the Chelsea and Belgravia areas. Mackay took detectives to an area of Clapham where he said he had thrown a knife he used in his murders.The Metropolitan Police began to investigate Mackay and he was found to have committed many other of the unsolved murders and crimes in the London area. Having willingly confessed to Crean's murder, Mackay then unexpectedly confessed to a series of unsolved murders to police, confessing to thirteen in total. Most of these murders came from his own word of mouth and were previously unknown to the interviewing officers, but investigators checked his descriptions of the killings and found they indeed matched to unsolved murders which had occurred in and around London. Mackay stated in interviews that his first murder had been of 17-year-old German au pair Heidi Mnilk, who was murdered on 9 July 1973. Mackay had stabbed her on a train before opening the door and throwing her out near Catford. He further stated that he had killed a drunken homeless man by throwing him off a bridge into the Thames in January 1974.  Mackay also confessed to the murders of 57-year-old Stephanie Britton and her 4-year-old grandson Christopher Martin on 12 January 1974, saying he had only killed the child as he had been a witness.  He confessed also to the murder of Frank Goodman on 13 June 1974, who had been kicked to death over a pack of cigarettes. He went on to confess to the murder of 92-year-old Sarah Rodmell in her flat in Hackney on 23 December 1974, saying that he had nailed the back door shut and put her stockings in her mouth, and that "killing her was as easy as washing my socks". He also confessed to the murder of 48-year old CafĂ© owner Ivy Davies in Southend in February 1975, saying he killed her by beating her with a tent peg.  The three other murders he confessed to were the 1973 murder of Mary Hynes in Kentish Town and the murders of Isabella Griffith and Adele Price in 1974 and 1975 respectively. Investigators concluded that Mackay had been the perpetrator of the mugging and theft spree in Chelsea and Kensington, crimes which were previously unsolved.  Mackay later retracted his confessions to all but four of the murders (Griffith, Price, Crean and the homeless man he said he had thrown from a bridge in January 1974). This meant that there was insufficient evidence to charge him for more than five murders. Police were unable to identify the homeless victim Mackay said he had killed in January 1974. At his trial in November 1975, Mackay was convicted of the killings of Adele Price, Isabella Griffith and Father Anthony Crean after pleading guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Due to insufficient evidence he was not convicted of the murders of Goodman or Hynes, but the cases were left to lie on file. Police later found evidence which proved he had killed Frank Goodman. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years. Mackay's defence team had pleaded insanity, but medical experts instead concluded that he was a psychopath (a personality disorder and not a mental disorder). In 1989, he appeared briefly in a BBC documentary "Forty Minutes" episode titled "Danger Men" aired in February 1990. Mackay spent time in Hull Prison, where a special unit was set up to deal with one of the "most dangerous and difficult prisoners" in the country. As Mackay is asked if he considers himself a psychopath, he replies: "There is never any suggestion in my mind that I was ever a psychopath". Mackay's minimum tariff was 20 years, meaning that he became eligible for release in 1995. Despite this, he has been repeatedly denied full release by the parole board. In 2017, however, he was permitted to move to an open prison with day release provisions. In 2019 Dartford MP Gareth Johnson voiced concern at the potential release of Mackay, raising the issue in parliament and writing to the Secretary of State for Justice. In June 2020 it was again reported that Mackay, who had now changed his name to 'David Groves', was being considered for release. However, the hearing of the Parole Board was postponed amidst a fresh investigation into Mackay's involvement in the murders to which he had previously confessed to, and which he was still suspected of having committed (nobody else has ever been arrested or charged for these murders since). In May 2021 the Parole Board announced he would not be eligible for release but could remain in open prison conditions. Mackay is Britain's longest serving prisoner, having been imprisoned for 47 years as of 2022.

As has been reported in the mainstream press, convenience store company McColl's went into administration on Friday of last week. Things have not been going well for the company for quite some time; their local store in Slade Green closed for good some weeks ago. The photo above was taken not long after the Slade Green store opened in 2016 - which was the 1000th McColl's store in the UK. Accountancy firm PwC has been appointed as administrators and will look for a buyer "as soon as possible". Whether the Slade Green store will reopen under new ownership is currently unclear. Have you been affected by the collapse of the company? Email me in confidence to

A local resident sent me his thoughts on the situation with the former Homeleigh residential care home, which Bexley Council said it would use to house homeless people for around a year - that was back in 2015, and the building is still in use today. The local resident writes:- "I sit here now listening to the nuisance that is the residents of Holmleigh Care Home. When the original 'temporary' permit was given back in 2015, yes 2015 Avenue Road residents were less than happy (I should add the councillor had a few, lets say less than Disney comments to say about me. Oh all on film). Despite being given assurances the change would not impact local residents we had drunkards on the roof of the property playing absurdly loud music. It's no surprise we now receive various 'delivery drivers' who come and go at night. Despite increases in council tax, the former care home looks derelict, it drags down the entire area. Erith should not be a dumping ground for those you find intolerable". 

It would appear that the identity of the mystery attackers of the swans in Southmere Lake, Thamesmead may now have been solved. Over the past year or so, there have been multiple reports of attacks against the swans that live in and around the lake, and several birds have been injured or killed in the process. The Metropolitan Police have launched an appeal for information after a gang of boys were photographed apparently terrorising a group of animals in Southmere Lake. At around 4pm last Monday (May the 2nd) a group of youths reportedly used catapults to attack a group of swans in Southmere Lake. On its Facebook page, Bexley Police wrote: “ #Appeal #Share Names please. At approximately 4pm on 2nd May 2022 these individuals were caught in the act attacking swans with catapults at Lakeside complex, Southmere. Anyone with information please email” The upper picture shows a group of five boys, who appear to be young teenagers milling around a fenced-off part of a park. One of the boys is wearing a matching grey tracksuit, a black puffer jacket, and a DSquare2 hat. In the lower picture, he also appears to stretch a green catapult as if to position it before firing. Another of the boys is seen in a matching, slim-fitted, hoodless Nike tracksuit. A third member is also wearing a grey-tracksuit, although the branding cannot be identified as his back is turned to the camera. A fourth is also wearing a grey tracksuit, with the branding concealed, although you can see a blue t-shirt poking out the bottom of his hoodie. The fifth alleged attacker is pictured wearing grey and black Nike Tech tracksuit bottoms, with a grey and black Nike zip-up hoodie.

The end video this week is by transport expert and well known YouTuber Geoff Marshall. He presents a questions and answers video on the Elizabeth Line, which is scheduled to open very shortly. As always, comments and feedback to me at

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