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Croydon Advertiser stories feed from registered users of the site and Northcliffe Media editorial

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    WARLINGHAM captain Zack King was livid with the performance of his men as they fell to a home defeat by Aylesford Bulls on Saturday, but said it was only because he knows the dominant brand of rugby they are capable of playing.

    Wars currently sit mid-table in London Two South East following a strange start to the campaign crammed with surprise results.

    With five wins and three losses, including a domination of the then league leaders Crowborough, Wars will have endured worse starts to a league campaign, but King has been left frustrated as he believes they are capable of pushing for the top two positions.

    "There isn't one team running away with it like last year [when East Grinstead romped home to the league title and promotion to London One South]," he said.

    "Part of the reason it was more disappointing than the Deal result, where we were appalling, was that we were in the game and if we want to be top two or three they are the matches we need to start winning. We are a young side but that's no excuse.

    "If we can get to Christmas in the top five, then we can re-evaluate. I'm certain though, whatever happens, we will dust ourselves down and play a lot better on Saturday [away at Heathfield and Waldron].

    "The reason I'm so disappointed is because I know how good we have been and there's no reason we can't lift ourselves to that level.

    "In fairness we had this result coming though. We were bad last week against Thanet, and they are pretty poor.

    "I can't really put my finger on it – there's not enough support, it was getting very messy up front, at times players were completely isolated. But then we have been so dominant in other games. We need to take responsibility, take stock of what's happened, and move forwards because I know we can do well in this league."

    Warlingham travel to face Heathfield and Waldron on Saturday, with their opponents currently languishing towards the foot of the table with three wins from their opening eight matches.

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    DAMIEN DELANEY has signed a new deal with Crystal Palace that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2014 season.
    The 31-year-old Irishman has impressed since joining the Eagles on a short term deal from Ipswich Town on transfer deadline day, linking up well with Peter Ramage at the heart of the defence.
    Delaney made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday on September 1 and his 14 appearances for the club have coincided with the Eagles' current 14-match unbeaten run, during which time they have kept five clean sheets, scored 31 goals and conceded just 14.
    The defender has scored three goals in those 14 games, with his first coming in the seven-goal thriller against Burnley at Selhurst Park, followed by strikes against south London rivals Millwall and the then league leaders, Leicester City.
    His goal at the King Power Stadium was undoubtedly his best when he gave the Eagles the lead with a thunderous shot through a crowd of players following a corner.
    The new deal will see the Republic of Ireland international remain with the club until the end of the 2014 season.

    Damien Delaney signs new deal with Crystal Palace

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    CRYSTAL Palace defender Damien Delaney has signed a new contract with the Eagles until 2014, the club announced this afternoon.

    The Irishman has been a revelation at the back since making his debut against Sheffield Wednesday on September 1, which coincides with the club's current 14-match unbeaten run.

    He had been offered a short-term deal until January and there were rumours he had been lined up to make the switch across the Atlantic to play in the MLS League.

    The 31-year-old had been deemed surplus to requirements at former club Ipswich Town under previous manager Paul Jewell, and when he faced the Tractor Boys recently in Palace's 5-0 win, new boss Mick McCarthy was surprised they'd let him go.

    Not only has he sprung a number of attacks going forward with his mobile frame, he's chipped in with three goals as well.

    The first came in the seven-goal thriller at Selhurst Park in the 4-3 win against Burnley at the start of October with a fantastic finish inside the box, while he popped up in the next game at home to Millwall to score the second Palace goal with a header.

    But his best, undoubtedly, came at Leicester City a week later when he gave the Eagles the lead with a thunderous shot through a crowd of players following a corner.

    And the left-footed stopper was then called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for a friendly match.

    Since his arrival in SE25, Palace have scored 31 goals, conceded 13 times and kept five clean sheets.

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    X FACTOR star Joe McElderry performed an intimate gig to Brit School students on Monday.

    The 21-year-old sang in front of excited students at the school, in Selhurst, to launch a fundraising initiative.

    This week, the Teenage Cancer Trust was named the Brit School's chosen charity.

    And Joe – who won the X Factor in 2009, beating Olly Murs – is a supporter of the charity.

    There were cheers as he performed material from his own album and a cover version of the Katy Perry song Part Of Me.

    But the biggest scream came when he announced he would be singing The Climb – the song he reached number one in the UK charts with.

    He explained to the audience: "It's the first song I released in the music industry and I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights at this point in my career."

    He explained how attending a venue like the Brit School might have helped him cope.

    Mobile phones were used to film his performance and pupils were on their feet dancing and singing.

    Speaking afterwards, Joe told the Advertiser: "It was great but I always get nervous performing to people the same age as me.

    "It's like performing in front of your school friends.

    "But they were well into it. It's great to be here on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust."

    The Teenage Cancer Trust is devoted to supporting teenagers and young adults with cancer.

    As part of its pioneering educational programme, it has been delivering annual talks to Year 10s at the UK's leading free performing arts school for many years.

    A former student of the school, Rosanna Connelly, is now also a Teenage Cancer Trust Ambassador after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

    The performance of Joe McElderry came just a month after X Factor judge Gary Barlow visited the Brit School.

    The visit of the Take That star coincided with the decision to give him a Music Industry Trusts Award for his services to British music and charity.

    It was presented earlier this month at an annual fundraising event in London, which helps raise money for the Brit School.

    Joe McElderry performs at BRIT School to start Teenage Cancer Trust initiative

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    A DEAF man has hit out at Fitness First for refusing to fund a sign language interpreter for personal trainer sessions in "violation" of his rights.

    James Clarke, who was born deaf, says he is "hurt" by Fitness First's refusal to pay for a translator so he can properly grapple with the equipment and claims that it violates the spirit of equalities legislation.

    However, a spokesman for the corporation's Purley branch insists it is acting within the law because the cost of a translator for a handful of sessions "outweighs the membership fee".

    Mr Clarke, of Sanderstead, who shot to local fame for being a Torchbearer in the run-up to London 2012, was refused the interpreter after joining the gym earlier this year.

    Communicating via e-mail, he said: "I came to Fitness First and met a staff member about joining the gym membership. We communicated using pen and paper and I eventually paid the full gym membership fee. It included two free sessions with a personal trainer (PT).

    "I attended the PT sessions. We communicated using pen and paper and each session lasted 45 minutes, which is the standard.

    "But after two sessions, I was not satisfied because I learnt very little because of not being able to communicate properly, so I decided to request an interpreter to start the PT sessions all over again. I also cannot lip-read."

    Mr Clarke then quit from the Brighton Road gym two months later after receiving no sessions with an interpreter.

    The 35-year-old, who is also visually impaired, then decided to try to join up again to train for a marathon, but only with an agreement an interpreter would be present for his PT sessions .

    However, after six months of exchanging e-mails, the gym still refused to supply an interpreter.

    Mr Clarke added: "People with disabilities will be treated the same as those without disabilities, only if the disabled people have full support. This is the human right.

    "They see my disability as my problem. I felt hurt by their lacklustre attitude and frustrated. I don't understand how they can ignore equality law. My membership money has not been refunded."

    After being contacted by the Advertiser, Fitness First pledged to refund Mr Clarke's membership fee, but said it is not required to supply an interpreter.

    A spokesman said: "Fitness First has taken a lot of time to look into James's inquiry.

    "In keeping with equality code of practice we can provide a service – where the cost is reasonable – to ensure disabled members are not disadvantaged. However, in James's situation, unfortunately the cost of the service in question outweighs the membership fee and so we're unable to provide this additional service."

    Fitness First had not revealed the cost of Mr Clarke's membership compared with the cost of an interpreter by the time the Advertiser went to press.

    The law says that Mr Clarke's predicament comes down to a battle between two competing sets of rights under statutory guidance issued by the European Commission under the Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice. On the one hand, it requires providers such as Fitness First are required to take 'reasonable steps' to make facilities accessible for disabled people. It requires providers to: "Where a provision, criterion or practice puts disabled members, associates or guests at a substantial disadvantage compared with those who are not disabled, to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage." However, Fitness First claims this is trumped by further guidance issued, which states: "The duty to make reasonable adjustments places service providers under a responsibility to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, to have to take in order to make adjustments. "What is a reasonable step for a particular service provider to have to take depends on all the circumstances of the case." Under this, the 'financial and other costs of making the adjustment' must be considered when deciding what may be reasonable.

    Fitness First criticised for failing to provide sign language interpreter

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    THE drug driver who killed Lillian Groves has been found guilty of threatening a 13-year-old girl.

    John Page, 37, shouted as he rode past the teenager's house in New Addington on a bicycle before menacingly running his finger across his throat as she looked out of the window.

    Page, who knocked down 14-year-old Lillian in 2010 while driving after smoking cannabis, appeared at Croydon Magistrates' Court on Monday charged with a public order offence.

    He was found to have caused the 13-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, "harassment, alarm and distress".

    Page, who lives with his mother, Maria Page, in Underwood, New Addington, claimed he was at home watching television at the time.

    The case was adjourned after Ms Page did not attend court but when it resumed on Wednesday she refused to give evidence in front of our reporter, claiming that she felt "persecuted" by the Advertiser's coverage of her son's conviction for causing Lillian's death by careless driving in June 2010.

    Incredibly, what had seemed a straightforward case then became a debate over the fundamental freedoms of the press after Page's defence counsel, Thalia Maragh, applied to have our journalist barred from the court while Maria Page gave evidence.

    After four hours of deliberation, involving magistrates, a district judge and a submission from our reporter, the application was thrown out. As a result, Page's mother refused to give evidence.

    Joseph McKenna, prosecuting, told the court how Page cycled past the girl's house with his nephew and shouted "Oi!" at 8.45pm on August 3.

    The girl, who gave evidence behind a screen, said: "When I stood by the window he was looking up at me. He pointed his right arm at me then he did a cutting motion across his throat. It made me feel scared."

    Mr McKenna asked: "Were you able to make out who it was? Was it John Page?"

    "Yes it was," she replied.

    After Page cycled away, the girl ran into her bathroom where her mother was taking a shower.

    "Her face was bright red and she was shaking from head to foot," her mother said.

    "All she kept saying was 'John, John, John'. It took me ten minutes to calm her down enough to tell me what had happened. I've never seen her like that before.

    "It takes a big man to threaten a 13-year-old girl. It's disgusting."

    The court heard how the threat stemmed from a "feud" between the two families.

    Page claimed he had not ridden a bicycle since he was a child and that he was at home that evening.

    He said: "I was indoors watching television going about my usual day. I don't come out of my house very often at all."

    Clearly referring to running down Lillian, he added: "I was involved in an accident a couple of years ago and since then I have suffered with going out in public and sleeping.

    "I have post traumatic distress. When I go outside I feel nervous and frightened a little bit. I feel people are looking at me and making comments."

    Page called the allegations "total lies" but District Judge Robert Hunter said he was satisfied the 13-year-old was a "truthful" witness.

    He added: "The fact that she identified Mr Page's nephew substantially reduces the chance of a mistake. I am satisfied she is not mistaken and I find this case proved."

    Page, who was not present in court for the verdict, will be sentenced on November 28.

    Man who killed Lillian Groves convicted of threatening teenage girl

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    THE consultation on plans for a 58-bedroom hotel planned in Portland Road, South Norwood, ends tomorrow (Saturday).

    Revised plans have been submitted by the developer for the site of the former Queen's Arms pub.

    Charles Moran, the agent for the planning application, told the Advertiser in May that the hotel would "not be a dosshouse".

    He explained that the Biznest hotel will be aimed at business types on short-term contracts, such as airline staff and conference delegates.

    But objectors think that the proposed three/four-storey building is too much.

    Linda Hickman, of Albert Road, South Norwood, said: "The main issue in terms of planning is the size.

    "The pub is set back from the pavement line and always has been historically.

    "They [the developer] are building right to the pavement line."

    There were concerns that comments made before the revised plans were submitted by the developer would not be counted.

    But a spokesman for Croydon Council said: "If people made comments on elements of the scheme that have not changed then these will be taken into account.

    "Additional comments are only needed on new elements of the scheme."

    South Norwood hotel consultation to end

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    THIS menacing picture of a makeshift bayonet – posted on the internet alongside a threat to plunge it into a Croydon schoolboy – has sparked a police investigation.

    The image, uploaded on an account whose owner claims to be affiliated with the notorious Croydon-based Don't Say Nothin' (DSN) gang, was posted on Monday, before several apparent death threats were made directly to the boy after the two exchanged a series of confrontational tweets.

    News of the police probe comes as one knife crime charity says online threats by gangs and bullies is on the increase.

    The Advertiser has chosen to asterisk-out Twitter usernames.

    Alongside the near 1ft-long knife attached to a long handle was a post warning: "**** will feel the wrath of my sword.

    "I have to enforce justice. Because without justice. We are savages. – Jesus".

    Further threats made to the student, who other users said attends a Croydon school, included:

    "Im beginning to scare myself. I actually might kill this child. Like in all seriousness"

    "now that i know I'm definitely going to jail regardless. i may aswell kill you? right?"

    "do you know how much everybody hates you? Nobody is defending you. Don't you have any older brothers or family to help you out?"

    "im gonna make you dance round Croydon naked and all your friends will laugh at you. Go out like a man. Battle me"

    "I'm actually gonna snap you in half. like I'm actually going to break you"

    The purported gang affiliate, who has thousands of followers and an open profile, also asked his victim to "visualise" him having sex with his mother.

    The majority of threats were made directly by using the @ function.

    In response the schoolboy tweeted: "fair enough if you're annoyed by me but what have I done to you honestly? Are you gonna hunt and kill a schoolboy over twitter?"

    He added: "I would advise to delete the pictures of weapons you tweeted because I swear if I see you outside my school, it is jailtime 4 u"

    A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "We have been made aware of some tweets and officers are carrying out further checks on these. Enquiries continue."

    Monique Rebeiro, director of Lives Not Knives, a Croydon anti-knife campaign group, said social media is increasingly being used by bullies to make threats.

    She said: "With the rise in people using Twitter compared to say a year ago, you're getting a rise in the number of people using it in this way."

    The charity's founder, Eliza Rebeiro, 19, said: "It's disgusting to see the way Twitter is being used by certain people. We have heard lots of stories recently, in the press as well, about cyber-bullying and online threats.

    "The person who sent this knife should be questioned about his actions. The boy who received that message may be very scared.

    "This type of online activity needs to be taken more seriously, and more needs to be done to find ways of stopping people posting this kind of material online."

    Even more worrying, said Miss Rebeiro, was the number of other users who appeared to encourage the person making the threats.

    One user posted: "I strongly urge u lots to follow this guy, he will guarantee u banter!" Another said of the exchange: "I don't even know what's going on but you guys should just blade battle it out."

    A report into last year's riots published by the Metropolitan Police in March this year – 4 Days In August – found the force needed to expand its understanding of social media in order to prevent organised crime.

    'DSN associate' threatens Croydon schoolboy with homemade weapon on Twitter

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    THE candidates' policies were scrutinised on Tuesday at the Advertiser's hustings for the Croydon North seat, as Gareth Davies reports RESPECT candidate Lee Jasper and Labour's Steve Reed clashed during a lively public debate organised by the Advertiser but it was arguably the "Green Knight" who impressed the most.

    Shasha Khan, who earned the nickname for his campaigning on environmental issues, led the way on a number of topics including plans for an incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border.

    His rivals nodded approvingly at many of his points and, at times, "I agree with Shasha" became the unofficial slogan of Croydon North Decides, our debate ahead of the by-election on November 29.

    Mr Khan appealed to the audience to "maximise" their vote when they head to the polls on Thursday.

    He said: "You have the chance to do something different. We already have a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, you're not going to change that. If you vote Labour you're not going to return a Labour government. Why not choose me?"

    Each of the six candidates involved in the debate had their strong moments.

    You re-read the live coverage of the Croydon Advertiser debate here Conservative Andy Stranack came across as genuine and Mr Reed spoke forcefully about unemployment and evoked Malcolm Wicks, whose death in October has led to the by-election, as he attacked Respect for saying it would target black and Muslim voters.

    He said: "One of the really powerful things about Malcolm was the way he really valued the diversity of this community. He saw that as our greatest asset, as I do.

    "Unlike some parties which want to divide us on race grounds, he understood the community is at its strongest when we are at our most together."

    But Mr Jasper said there was a lack of political engagement with Croydon North's ethnic groups.

    He added: "I'm not going to take lightly any accusation of seeking to divide communities. I think that disenfranchised communities who are discriminated on the base of their ethnicity or any other characteristics should be supported.

    "When you look at the lack of engagement of black or ethnic minority communities, it is right to focus on them because they are not fully represented by the democratic institutions."

    Questions were submitted to the panel by Advertiser readers before the debate, at Gonville Academy, Thornton Heath, on Tuesday night.

    Eileen Gale, of Silverleigh Road, Thornton Heath asked the candidates for their views on the proposed incinerator in Beddington Lane, Sutton.

    Mr Khan, who founded the Stop the Incinerator group, said: "Since I have been involved in the campaign I have learned about the hypocrisy of the main parties on this issue. There are Lib Dem campaigns to try and stop incinerators while Sutton Council supports this plan.

    "Equally, Steve Reed says there's no need for this incinerator but a Labour council, just a couple of miles away, is in favour of it. The Conservatives across the border in Sutton are opposing it, yet it is backed by our Tory council."

    UKIP's Winston McKenzie said Mr Khan had "obviously really studied the issue – he's the Green man. At the end of the day, I'd go with the green man. He's got the right idea".

    Mr Stranack said: "There's always going to be some rubbish we can recycle so it seems sensible that we look at all kinds of solutions.

    "I'm not opposed to an incinerator per se but I will listen to what the scientists say.

    "We need a public meeting on this to discuss the issues but at the moment I'm not going to oppose it because we have Lanfranc School which was built on a landfill site. We can't go on like that."

    Ryan Earl, 16, asked the panel what they would do to tackle youth unemployment.

    Mr Jasper said it was "clearly a critical issue with profound social consequences" and that every contract awarded by Croydon Council should have a local labour clause.

    His Labour rival said he would set up a jobs summit, while Mr Stranack said he plans to expand the job club he runs for more tailored support.

    Ryan, of Hythe Road, Thornton Heath, replied: "Something we find particularly hard to go by is that big firms won't give us jobs because we don't have experience. But how can we get experience if we don't have a job in the first place?

    "A lot of young people are going to backstreet businesses to get some money and they are being paid less than the minimum wage. It's definitely an issue and something needs to be done."

    The Advertiser would like to thank Gonville Academy and its staff for hosting Croydon North Decides. Amid debate over policies and politics the candidates did their best to provide some comic relief, sometimes unintentionally. During his opening pitch Respect's Lee Jasper tried to criticise the Advertiser's decision to restrict the panel to six of the 12 candidates, only for his point to backfire. He declared: "I think the Green Party should be on this platform. I don't see why..." But he was cut off with a shake of the head from Shasha Khan, the Green Party candidate, who was sitting at the opposite end of the panel. "Ah, Shasha, there you are. Well the Communist Party should be on this platform," replied Jasper to the sound of laughter from the audience. A few minutes later Mr Khan told the crowd: "If I lose my thread during my opening remarks it's because Winston's brought a Daily Express in and it's putting me off." When the UKIP candidate, who arrived five minutes late, first picked up the microphone he shouted: "It's great to be here, seeing all these smiling faces. "It seems like the only time you smile is when you're here. When you are on the street you are really upset. I know why you are upset, you're spending £53m a day to the European Union and once more you don't know. "But hey, if you don't believe me look at the front of the Daily Express," prompting the audience to erupt into laughter. After Winston interrupted editor Glenn Ebrey to ask whether he had been missed out on a question, the chairman replied: "How can I forget you, Winston?" Shasha Khan chimed in: "Winston you must be the only UKIP candidate whose not called Nigel, Derrick or, well, I can't remember the other name." Lee Jasper got in on the gags, albeit by accident, when he announced: "When I'm elected mayor..." But perhaps the biggest giggle of the evening came when Marisha Ray answered the question on addressing the shortage of school places in Croydon. "Education is a personal priority of mine and also a priority of the Liberal Democrats," she said, without any hint of irony. A teacher challenged Lee Jasper on his view that black pupils should be taught by 'people who look like them'. Lee Hardy, 29, stood up during the debate and read out a quote from 2008 which showed the Respect party candidate thought the black community should run their own schools. "I received an amazing education from Asian teachers, from white teachers, from black teachers – all of whom inspired me," said Mr Hardy who teaches in Fulham but lives in Thornton Heath. "In 2008 you said there should be a move towards the black community having their own schools run by people who look like their students and they should be taught by people who look like them. I have taught black and Asian students and I would like to think I inspired them in the same way black and Asian teachers have inspired me. "You said schools should be run by people with black ethics. I'd like to know what the difference is between a white man, an Asian man and a black man's ethics are? How would you hire teachers if they are supposed to look like their students? Would you exclude me from teaching these young people? Should every community group have their own school?" Pointing out the low percentage of Afro Caribbean teachers in London, Mr Jasper replied: "We need to have schools that focus on young black boys because that's what I'm about. "There's a crisis in our community and we as parents have to take responsibility for it. We want a school that meets the pedagogic needs of black boys who have specific issues in the mainstream education system. "What I say is this. The Afro Caribbean community should have the right to work with its own children in order to develop then in order they can be a success. It doesn't mean that Asians can't be taught in such a school, nor white. "But when I have young black boys in my community running around murdering, and no intervention from the state, we reserve the right to come up with solutions." Audience members were asked to fill out an anonymous questionnaire to gauge how each of the candidates performed. There was a lot of praise for the Green Party's Shasha Khan and Respect's Lee Jasper among the forty or so replies. A number of responses had one or the other, and sometimes both, as the winners on the night with one audience member even suggesting the two parties should work together. Another respondent said Mr Khan and Conservative Andy Stranack had 'a strong grip and knowledge of local issues' and that Mr Jasper was 'articulate and experienced with people'. Labour's Steve Reed was described as a 'professional' by one voter though another was less complimentary. "The Labour candidate is much too smug, clichéd and focused on saying the right things," the undecided voter wrote. "He will probably win but he does not deserve it." UKIP's Winston McKenzie was described as 'passionate' on the one hand and 'incoherent' on the other. Unfortunately, none of the respondents praised Liberal Democrat Marisha Ray. The overall response was encouraging to the debate itself was encouraging, with many stating they had left with a better understanding of who they would vote for. One Labour voter said: "I feel that I now have a more informed view of the political spectrum facing Croydon North." Lee Jasper, Respect Quote of the debate: to Steve Reed – "We're 'real' Labour, you're 'fake' Labour" High: Spoke with passion about giving 16-year-olds the vote Low: Hogged the microphone and reacted poorly to people talking over him You said: "Respect had a lot of good ideas and raised a lot of flaws in regards to the current government" Andy Stranack, Conservative Quote of the debate: "This by-election isn't going to change the government. It's about finding the best replacement we can for Malcolm Wicks." High: Put across strong record of local activism and came across as genuine Low: Drowned out by some of the louder, more forceful candidates. Too polite at times You said: "Impressed as local MP material with specific experience in Croydon" Steve Reed, Labour Quote of the debate: [about Malcolm Wicks] "Unlike some parties which want to divide us on race grounds, he understood the community is at its strongest when we are at our most together" High: Plans for a job summit shows he can do more than just criticise the Tories if he tries to Low: Complaining about finding fly-tipping but refusing to answer whether he had reported it to the council You said: "Steve Reed is nothing like Malcolm Wicks" Marisha Ray, Liberal Democrat Quote of the debate: "Education is a personal priority of mine and also a priority of the Liberal Democrats." High: Showed she had been working on her local knowledge over the past fortnight Low: Spoke in a condescending tone at times, oblivious to dissatisfaction with her own party You said: Of the 40 questionnaires filled in the only comment about Marisha was 'Wooden' Shasha Khan, Green Quote of the debate: "There's a racket going on in education at the moment." High: Highlighting other parties 'hypocrisy' on the incinerator issue. Well-researched answers Low: Weak on tackling crime. Talked of 'designing it out' but no detail You said: "Shasha made sold points grounded in truth and a lot of other candidates agreed with him on numerous issues" Winston McKenzie, UKIP Quote of the debate: "If you don't believe me, look at the front of the the Daily Express" High: Idea for scheme to teach young people required skills to build new homes Low: Coming in late. Moaning about Europe. Nonsensical points You said: "Winston was the most passionate candidate"

    Croydon North election debate candidates clash over issues

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    FOUR men have been found guilty of attacking footballer Rob Hughes in Greece in June 2008. Curtis Taylor, Daniel Bell and Sean Branton, from Horley and Joseph Bruckland from Hookwood were convicted of the attack following a three day trial in Haraklion, Crete. George Hollands of Reigate and Benjamin Herdman from Worth were cleared of the charges. All the men - who are aged in their twenties - had denied the charges against them. Former Croydon Athletic midfielder Rob required four life-saving operations after being attacked outside a Malia nightclub in June 2008. He was kicked, stamped and bottled into a coma and there were fears he wouldn't survive the attack. Aged 27 back then, Rob was living in South Croydon at the time of the attack and was about to sign for Bromley FC. He miraculously returned to England three months later and spoke about rebuilding his life. But having suffered brain damage in the attack, it has been a tough road over the last four years. He has had to cope with daily battles with his disabilities, including severe obsessive compulsive disorder. And in September 2010, his mum Margaret told how he had even contemplated suicide as the turmoil of the ordeal took its toll. She revealed how depressed her son has been, explaining at the time: "He said 'I can't live. I don't know who I am any more'. "Rob wasn't feeling sorry for himself. He just felt in a catch-22 situation. "He told me he couldn't cope any more, that it wasn't worth living, but added 'Mum, I love you'. He said he couldn't go on and he put the phone down. "I contacted somebody in the police I knew as I was extremely worried about his mental state." Fortunately, Rob never actually tried to take his own life but the incident left Margaret emotionally shaken. She had decided to speak out during that period after being left 'disgusted' that some of the men accused of attacking her son booked into a five-star hotel following their release from a Greek prison. One of them, George Hollands, even spoke of jumping around in a swimming pool in celebration. Hollands, Branton, Taylor, Bell and Herdman had been extradited to Greece but were bailed and allowed to return to the UK. This week - the five and Bruckland - were back in Greece facing trial on Tuesday in Heraklion, Crete. Rob had also flown over there and broke down in tears with emotion when he appeared at court. Margaret said: "He was in a terrible state, shaking. I really thought he was going to have a fit. "I was panicking, I really thought he was going to pass out." For Margaret and her family it has been a long and tough road, but she spoke of her delight at the decision of the court. Speaking this morning (Friday), she told the Advertiser: "We've come over here and got the verdict we wanted to get. It wasn't about (them spending) 50 years in a prison. It was about getting that guilty verdict, that meant everything to me. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over. This part of our life is over. "I'm never going to get the son back that I had before. I can't get the old Robert back. "But I don't carry the burden around with me. These boys will have to carry the burden, but I hope with that burden they will turn their lives around" Margaret revealed that some of the defendants and their families even came up to her afterwards and said sorry about what had happened to Robert. Showing a huge amount of dignity, she spoke to them and insisted that some good must come out of the tragic incident. And while the four guilty men were spared jail, Margaret was not bitter about the suspended sentence. She says the Hughes family had got what they had come for and can leave with their heads held high. Margaret explained: "When it (the verdict) was read out, there was a hush and a calm feeling. "At the end of the day, if I knew they were in a Greek jail I'd be on edge about 'Are they going to be released?'. I wouldn't be able to rest. "We got justice in Greece."

    Four men convicted of attacking Croydon footballer Rob Hughes in Greece

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    TWO people were rescued by firefighters from a flat fire in Purley early this morning.
    Firefighters were called at 3.52am to the fire in the first-floor flat in Abbey Court, Dale Road.
    Croydon watch manager Harvey Payne said they rescued a 21-year-old woman by ladder before breaking down the front door to rescue a 61-year-old man who was unconscious in the living room, where the fire had started. No-one else was inside the flat.
    He added the man was revived at the scene by firefighters before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
    Mr Payne said: "When we arrrived there was a young lady hanging out of a window so immediately firefighters put a ladder up to the window and assisted her out.
    "She was screaming that someone else was inside the flat so the other crews made their way to the front door with breathing apparatus, broke the front door down and rescued a gentleman out of the lounge."
    "They also rescued a little Jack Russell on the ladder; he was carried down by a fireman."
    He added that firefighters saved 75 per cent of the flat and contained the fire to that flat.
    Residents in surrounding flats were told to stay inside as it was safer than evacuating them through the smoke, while one mother and child were evacuated.
    The cause of the fire is being investigated.
    Three engines attended, two from Croydon and one from Purley.
    It is believed the flat's smoke alarm alerted the woman to the fire.

    Firefighters rescue pair from flat fire in Dale Road, Purley

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    JOHN Cartwright, candidate for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, answers questions submitted by readers for the Advertiser's public debate ahead of the Croydon North by-election on Thursday.

    Richard Atkins, of South Norwood asked: "What would each candidate do to continue Malcolm Wicks' legacy?"
    Mr Cartwright said: "No candidate in this election has the capacity to match the depth of Malcolm's commitment to the people of Croydon North.
    "I would try to listen to people's ideas and address their concerns, and not be restricted too much by rigid ideology."

    Eileen Gale, of Thornton Heath, and a number of other people asked: "What are your views on the proposed incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border?"

    JC: "I am against it. It will pollute Croydon North with toxic pollutants and particles, will be inefficient and expensive to run, and will only be viable if it brings rubbish in from all over the south east of England."
    Steve Turner, of South Norwood, and  Ryan Earl from Thornton Heath both asked: "What actions would you take to address high youth unemployment in Croydon North?"
    JC: "Allow people and entrepreneurs to invest in businesses and companies according to what the customer wants. Investment or schemes from central government would be wasteful in the long term because they depend on paying middle-men to second-guess (usually inefficiently) what they think should be the recipient of investment."

    Jonathan Cope, from South Norwood, asked: "What approach would you take to reducing crime in Croydon North?"

    JC: "The judges who sentenced last year's rioters and looters to substantial sentences had the right idea. People who choose to commit crimes need to learn to understand they will not improve their own community by stealing, robbing, cheating or mugging people. Immediate prison sentences for all burglars, for example, will make others think before committing crimes."

    Liam Fretwell, from South Norwood, asked: "What have you done, prior to this election, to help Croydon North and the people who live there?"
    JC: "I was a candidate in three ward by-elections in Bensham Manor in 1996, 2004 and 2007, during which I enlightened the voters with several thousand leaflets explaining my brilliant policies and uplifting them with my charismatic leadership qualities."

    A number of readers asked: "What will you do to address the shortage of school places in the north of the borough?"
    JC: "This is primarily a question for the local authority. I would look carefully at the formula and regulations on how places are allocated. But remember – there is no magic wand and we can't conjure up lots of new places at zero extra cost."

    One of the key questions was: "If you had control of the £23 million pledged to Croydon following last summer's riots, how would you spend the money."

    JC: "Go to the supermarket in London Road and buy 936 million chocolate biscuits."

    Vipul Dudhaiy, of Norbury, asked: "What would the candidates do to improve Croydon's negative image problem?"

    JC: "The only people who have a negative view of Croydon are the people from outside Croydon who are jealous of the fact that Croydon is culturally, intellectually, historically, and in every other way, vastly superior to anywhere else. Such people need to be cured of their delusions with enlightening and uplifting propaganda."

    Anne Viney, of Norbury, asked: "If elected, what would you do to ensure young people growing up had a decent chance of owning a home in the area?"

    JC: "Ensure a thriving, successful market economy in which prosperity and efficiency will gradually improve. Above all, that means avoiding the return of the catastrophic Labour government which spent and borrowed too much and which we couldn't afford. Keep calm, carry on, and vote Loony."

    Croydon North: Official Monster Raving Loony Party's John Cartwright answers your questions

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    FORMER Palace striker Leon McKenzie will be returning to his hometown of Croydon on Friday, December 7 to sign copies of his new book 'My Fight With Life'.

    And in an exclusive interview with Advertiser Sport in today's Croydon Advertiser, the 34-year-old explains how he would love to say 'thank you' to the Eagles fans at Selhurst Park.

    McKenzie played more than 400 games inside an 18-year career, scoring over 100 goals, and it was towards the end of the 2004/05 season that he recalls as one of his main highlights.

    "My goal against Manchester United for Norwich was definitely my favourite goal in March 2005," he said.

    "That was the highlight of my career, but there have been others like scoring two on my debut against Ipswich for Norwich, and also my Palace debut, which will always be in my heart."

    And he also pointed out the best players he had the pleasure of playing with and against in his career.

    "The best player I played with was Dean Ashton because he was probably the most complimentary towards my game," he said.

    "And the best player I played against was Thierry Henry. To be on the same field as him and see him in action when he was at his peak, he was the one."

    Towards the end of his career, he faced problems off the pitch and was on the verge of ending his life in 2009.

    And he points out exactly what he went through in detail inside his new book, which is set for release next week.

    "The book is very deep where I go with certain things and I don't think it will just appeal to football people," he said.

    "It goes back to my childhood and I speak a lot in depth about what I went through as a child, my parents and my family background.

    "I went through a very difficult period in the back end of my career, so the choice to be able to start it off that way, I just felt it would grip people more."

    McKenzie was recently inducted into Peterborough United's Hall of Fame at half-time against Palace two weeks ago, and he revealed that Norwich are set to bring him onto the pitch at Carrow Road in the near future.

    And he hopes something similar can be arranged at Selhurst Park too.

    "I've not been back to Selhurst Park this season but I spoke to someone at the club recently about getting a book signing arranged," he said.

    "I would just love to show my appreciation to the club that gave me the opportunity to play professional football.

    "Anyone will tell you I still look out for Crystal Palace - that's where I'm from."

    For the full-page interview with Leon, who talks more about his book, his current favourite Palace player, the fans at Peterborough recently and recalling his time as a youngster coming through the Eagles youth ranks, do not miss today's Croydon Advertiser.

    'My Fight With Life' is released next Friday, November 29, and Leon will be returning to Croydon on Friday, December 7 to sign copies of his new book at Waterstones book store.

    Leon was talking to Croydon Advertiser sports reporter Mark Ritson.

    Former Palace striker: I'd love Selhurst Park return

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    ANDRE MORITZ insists that Palace must continue to work hard to extend their unbeaten run and realise their dreams of promotion.

    The Brazilian midfielder was instrumental as the Eagles made it 14 games unbeaten, scoring one and having a hand in many of Palace's best moments in the 3-0 win against Derby County.

    But Moritz says the Eagles must continue to work hard on and off the pitch if they are to realise their ambitions of promotion.

    He said: "You know when you are top of the league that everyone wants to beat you.

    "We know that and we know we need to keep working hard and take it step by step and game by game."

    Moritz, who arrived on a 12-month deal in the summer having previously played in Turkey, revealed that he took a huge wage cut to come to Palace, but said he was delighted he made the move, adding that he would always respect Palace in front of other clubs if they come calling.

    And Moritz, who has scored three goals in three games since Ian Holloway took over as Palace manager, said that to be part of such a good run was "one of the best moments of his career".

    He said: "I have scored three goals in three games and I am really happy about that.

    "I had five good years in Turkey, but I think that I made a really good move coming to England and I am really enjoying it here at Palace.

    "The supporters are really excited at the moment and it is a really great feeling to be a part of this, but we just need to keep it up."

    Moritz said his favourite goal in a Palace shirt was the recent one against Peterborough, adding that the importance of the goal, which drew the Eagles level in a game they went on to win, made it all the more special.

    "It was a big goal," he said.

    "I scored when we beat Ipswich 5-0 and again here against Derby, but I think that one against Peterborough was really special."

    Meanwhile, the 25-year-old said the squad had taken confidence from the unbeaten run and while he stopped short of saying the Eagles would be promoted, he promised they would do their best to make it happen.

    "We believe in ourselves," he said.

    "But the most important thing is taking it step by step.

    "We can't say we are going to go up, but we can guarantee we will give it everything in each game to get the win."

    Andre Moritz: 'Crystal Palace run is one of the best moments of my career'

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    THE view is pretty at the top of the Championship for Palace at the moment and tomorrow they travel to an out-of-sorts Leeds United.

    The Elland Road club have plummeted in recent weeks towards the wrong end of the table, so this could be a good time to face them.

    They have not won in the league since a 1-0 victory over Barnsley on October 6 and have lost their last three games and conceded eight goals, so their defence will be vulnerable facing a Palace side who have scored ten in their last three matches.

    And last Sunday, striker Luke Varney was sent off in the 1-0 defeat at Millwall, so he's set to serve a ban and will miss the Eagles' visit.

    Former Palace manager Neil Warnock is now in the hotseat at Leeds and blamed the club's recent results on off-the-field ownership issues.

    However, on Wednesday, a Middle-East private equity group called GFH Capital finalised a deal to take over the club, starting a one-month transitional period, which will then see them become a 100 per cent shareholder with current chairman Ken Bates becoming club president.

    Let's hope their good news doesn't rub off onto their players too quickly, though, as Palace are in Yorkshire looking to make it 15 games unbeaten.

    Last weekend, it was business as usual at Selhurst thanks to a comfortable 3-0 win over Derby County and manager Ian Holloway could name the same starting XI.

    Andre Moritz impressed in the victory against the Rams after starting ahead of Owen Garvan and should retain his place in the middle of the park.

    Glenn Murray is a man on a mission at the moment on the back of his two goals and assist against the Rams, with Holloway claiming the 29-year-old is one of the best strikers he's worked with after the match.

    At the back, it looks like Damien Delaney is set to sign a new contract beyond January, and deservedly so.

    Why Ipswich let him go in the summer is beyond belief, but that's in the past now and he is clearly enjoying the next chapter in his career in south London.

    Looking at the home side tomorrow, who poses a threat to Palace's unbeaten run?

    El-Hadji Diouf has been playing in England for ten years now and is the other side of 30 years old, but he seems to be enjoying his football again under the manager who once described him as a "sewer rat".

    Advertiser Sport has picked him out as the opposition's player to watch this weekend because he still poses an eye for goal along with a creative pass, and on his day, he can be a tricky customer.

    Ross McCormack was heavily linked with a move to SE25 in the summer from Elland Road and the striker could face Palace after returning from injury recently.

    We've seen how lethal he can be and he'll be looking to hit the goal trail sooner rather than later, as will Italian forward Luciano Becchio, who has found the back of the net against Palace before.

    Midfielder Michael Tonge came to the fore in his Sheffield United days as they rose to the Premier League, while veteran Michael Brown could return to the starting XI following a one-match suspension.

    However, Rudolph Austin will definitely be out due to a cracked ankle bone and defender Jason Pearce is currently serving a three-game ban.

    And standing in front of Palace's attacking threat is goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, who has Premier League experience with Sheffield United and Queens Park Rangers.

    No game is easy in the Championship, but you just feel with the way Palace are playing at the moment, they could be returning down the M1 with another three points on Saturday night, but only just.

    On Tuesday next week, Palace are back on the road again when they face high-flying Hull City, so if they can come away with at least three or four points from these next two games, it will set them up nicely before the big match against Brighton next Saturday.

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    A NIGHTCLUB that has been linked to gang violence has been shut down amid police claims that someone might be murdered.

    Detectives feared a shooting was about to happen after gang members were reported to be gathering at a promoted event at The Roxbury, in Croydon High Street, on November 10.

    Police have now secured a temporary closure order for the club. The council is due to decide within a month if it can open again.

    At a Croydon Magistrates' Court hearing on Thursday, November 15, police said they were obstructed from clearing the 800-capacity venue on the night in question.

    They highlighted another incident at The Roxbury, in which a prominent gang member was hit over the head with a tripod and seen fighting at the door last August.

    But Lionel Kerr, premises licence holder at the club, accused the police of racism and one officer of wanting to ride in "like the Ku Klux Klan" to "get rid" of the venue.

    His accusations were strenuously denied by the police.

    Addressing Mr Kerr, PC Darren Rhodes said: "Your management at the venue falls short, below what we expect, as does your security and your promoted events that are causing the problems."

    The Met insists that "life and limb" would be at risk if the venue remained open.

    The court heard the event at which a shooting was feared was re-advertised for another date after the police intervention.

    Chief Inspector Duncan Slade said: "Since I've been in post I've seen an increasing threat of gang violence and increasingly it became focused on The Roxbury."

    Mr Kerr said he simply was not able to look at every "young guy with braided hair" and assume they were a gang member.

    He added: "How would I know that these guys are gang members?

    "I believe they don't want a large black venue in central Croydon. We haven't got a problem with gangs or drugs.

    "It's not all you can drink for ten pence – we're not doing that. We've got people paying £10 to £15 just to enter.

    "That's how you generate money and keep things safe."

    Mr Kerr added that around 75 per cent of people who go into his club are women, and the majority are over 25.

    He said he spent thousands of pounds before opening three years ago on meeting police requirements on CCTV, panic alarms and safety.

    Judge Tan Ikram said he it was unfortunate that "bad blood" existed between Mr Kerr and the police.

    But he sided with the police in deciding the venue should remain closed until the local authority decides its future.

    Referring to Chief Inspector Slade, Judge Ikram said: "What he says is that gang activity is increasingly focused on the Roxbury and the common thread throughout this is a lack of appropriate and sufficient security at the premises.

    "I think it's necessary to close the premises in the interest of public safety.

    "I'm referring it to the local authority."

    Croydon nightclub closed over murder fears

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    LEON McKenzie admits he's joined the Wilfried Zaha fan club after witnessing the academy product's talent in Palace's recent win at Peterborough United.

    And despite speculation linking the 20-year-old with a move to the Premier League either in January or at the end of the season, McKenzie believes it would be in his best interests to stay with the Eagles, especially under manager Ian Holloway.

    "I think sometimes there's only so much you can control," he told Advertiser Sport.

    "Wilfried has got something about him that he can definitely go on to do great things.

    "I like his style and the way he is on the ball.

    "Maybe he does get a whack here and there, but he's still very young, he's learning still and he's come on bundles.

    "He just needs to concentrate on what he's doing now for Palace and he's working under a fantastic manager.

    "I know Ian Holloway very well and always admired him as a manager, so he's in the best hands for man management and dealing with him.

    "I would say to Zaha to keep working hard and don't believe too much of the hype, even though you're a fantastic player.

    "Just stay humble, work hard, and when the time is right to play at that higher level, you'll know when the time is.

    "In due course, he will probably kick on, but right now he should stay at Palace because it's a fantastic club to be at.

    "In all fairness, he's broken into the England squad now and he's at Palace, so for me, he doesn't need to leave the club right now.

    "Logic tells you that he should keep cool because he might go to a bigger team and he might not play.

    "He's going to play every week at Palace so I would say stay where you are."

    Zaha should stay humble and work hard, says Leon McKenzie

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    THE Conservative candidate for Croydon North has said the public would be better off reporting crime to police based in shops or libraries than at a new station in London Road.

    Opening a police base in Broad Green was one of the key recommendations of the independent public inquiry set up following last summer's riots, but Andy Stranack believes it would have little impact on crime in the area.

    He said: "The danger of this debate is that we start saying that if we have a police building in London Road it's going to solve the problems.

    "My true feeling is it would be better to have police desks in WH Smiths, a library or a sports centre than building another (station)."

    Mr Stranack, who will have to overturn a strong Labour majority if he is to be elected next Thursday, appears to be on the opposite page to his campaign manager Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.

    Expanding on an answer given by Mayor of London Boris Johnson during a visit to London Road on Tuesday, Mr Barwell said a police station or office in London Road is a "priority".

    He said: "Your office has been really good on this Mr Mayor because they contacted me last week as the local MP to talk about where the front counter service should be in Croydon Central and I made the point to them that as soon as this by-election is over they should speak to whoever the Croydon North MP and clearly having (a police base) on London Road I would have thought is a priority."

    In February, the Local Independent Review Panel, tasked with exploring what could be done to prevent the riots from reoccurring, recommended an increase in "visible policing" in West Croydon and New Addington "by opening full-time stations in these areas".

    In an in-depth interview with the Advertiser Mr Stranack, 42, said that even if the police budget wasn't being cut the money would be better off invested in front-line officers.

    He said: "Generally the public don't go into police stations that much. It's not about the bricks and mortar it's about how we're using our police services.

    "A visible police presence in places where people actually go is more of a deterrent – more of a comfort to residents – than expensive building that no one ever goes to."

    Mr Stranack's stance mirrors that of the Met which said earlier this month that contact points in supermarkets or libraries could replace South Norwood police station.

    The building, in Oliver Grove, is one of five stations across London that has been given approval for closure, leading to criticism from Labour councillors.

    When asked whether he would back a campaign to save the station Mr Stranack replied: "It's not the key campaigning issue. I would say no. I don't think I could be convinced."

    The charity worker, who in 2001 gave up his £30,000 a year job and sold his house to learn about the causes of poverty by moving onto the Monks Hill estate, also appeared to contradict the party line on plans for an incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border.

    The controversial proposals have the backing of Conservative controlled Croydon Council but Mr Stranack, wants a public meeting on the matter.

    He said: "We have a landfill problem. Recycling is part of the solution, and it's great that rates are going up, but we are still going to have to find other measures.

    "My position on the incinerator is that as long as people can convince me its safe then I will back it. But I'm not convinced.

    "The two key issues are traffic flow and air safety. Those are the two things I need to be convinced about before I could say it's something I could buy into." Labour's Steve Reed has urged voters to elect him on his record of creating jobs – in the week his borough of Lambeth was found to have the highest unemployment in London. Throughout his campaign the Lambeth Council leader has pitched himself as Croydon North's 'jobs champion'. He has savaged the Tory-run council for high level of youth unemployment in Croydon North and believes his record shows he is the candidate to get the constituency working again. "I think people will expect their MP to take action on jobs," he told the Advertiser, adding: "I have a track record of creating jobs and I want to be measured on that." But the credibility of these claims have been called into question after official figures revealed that Lambeth is now top of the London unemployment table. There are 11,830 people on Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) in Lambeth. That equates to 5.6 per cent of the population, above Croydon (4.5 per cent) and the London average (4.2 per cent). When the Advertiser highlighted these figures Mr Reed, who had not seen the data, said: "Lambeth is heavily deprived but the point is we're creating jobs to help solve the problem. "If Lambeth wasn't doing that, (unemployment) would be even higher. Without a Labour government there's a limit to what we can do." Mr Reed, who has been Lambeth council leader since 2006, pointed to his role as chair of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea regeneration project which, if completed, would create up to 25,000 jobs. Work has begun on Streatham Leisure Centre with a further 600 jobs, he added. The particular issue of youth unemployment is the centrepiece of the Labour campaign and, in that area, the figures add up. There are currently 1,220 people aged between 16 and 24 on JSA in Croydon North, more than in neighbouring constituencies. In Streatham, where Mr Reed lives, there are 730. Although the number of young people on JSA in Croydon North dropped 6.9 per cent in the last month, there is still a lot of work to do. "Given this area has higher levels of youth unemployment than other areas, people want to see more opportunities to get back to work," said Mr Reed. "Young people feel that without hope of a job their futures look quite frightening." If elected, the Brixton Hill councillor says he would organise a jobs summit, held early in the New Year. "It will involve talking to partners, potential employers, skills providers and Croydon College about how we can all come together, first to understand why its worse than in surrounding areas and secondly what we can do about it," explained Mr Reed. "I can use my experience I have had with the giant Vauxhall Nine Elms project which is creating thousands of new jobs through partnership working. "If we can do it a couple of miles down the road, why can't we do it here? "It's going to take someone to stand up and pull those parts together. "The Tory council isn't doing it so I intend to do it. "I expect the summit to create jobs and yes I want to be measured on that." The Croydon North by-election candidates: Monster Raving Loony Party: John Cartwright National Front: Richard Edmonds Christian Peoples: Stephen Hammond Respect: Lee Jasper Green: Shasha Khan 9/11 Was An Inside Job: Simon Lane UKIP: Winston McKenzie Liberal Democrat: Marisha Ray Labour: Steve Reed Young People's Party: Robin Smith Communist: Ben Stevenson Conservative: Andrew Stranack

    Croydon North election candidates go head to head over jobs and crime

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    James Daly's Crystal Palace column for the Croydon Advertiser PALACE have had their fair share of cult heroes since I started supporting them. Eric Young with his crazy headband, Aki Riihilahti with his general craziness, even Dean Austin was a crowd favourite for a bit. And now it seems the Eagles have acquired another terrace fave in the shape of Andre Moritz.

    The Brazilian joined at the end of the transfer window and, despite not getting many starts, has become popular with the fans – particularly for his three goals in the last three games.

    He has bags of talent and has already showcased that with some excellent skills in the centre of the park – as well as a brilliant assist for Wilf Zaha against Burnley with an inch-perfect pass.

    On the FYP podcast recently Kevin Day compared him to Attilio Lombardo when the Italian played for Palace in 1998 – almost a bit too good.

    This makes me remember the Bald Eagle with wistful glee, swanning about the Selhurst pitch, bald as a coot, without a care in the world. He really was class, but the way Moritz playfully knocks the ball about does bear some resemblance to the Italian, who I met once at the Palace training ground when I was about 14, intending to get a photo and a signed shirt. Instead I got a lecture on stationery. The conversation went like this:

    Me (handing Lombardo a pen): Attilio, could you sign this please and could I have a photo please?

    Poses for photo my mum takes

    Attilio: Pen no work.

    Me: Huh?

    Attilio: Pen, it no work. You need pen work.

    Me: Oh. Right. Erm…

    I get home to find a photo on my camera of a bemused Lombardo holding a pen in my face. And no signed shirt.

    Oh well!

    James Daly: 'Andre Moritz already a cult hero'

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    A FAMILY who had £15,600 worth of their property stolen in a burglary last week may have had their home scoped out by the thieves in the preceding days.

    The family's house in Redford Avenue, Coulsdon, was broken into at around 4pm on Wednesday, November 14.

    Cash, bank cards, passports and jewellery were all stolen in the raid.

    The family, which has not been named by the police, said three unfamiliar men had separately stopped by the house, on November 9, 11 and 13.

    They said the first caller said he thought it was a friend's house, the second asked whether he could buy fireworks, and the third whether their car was for sale.

    Police said the three unknown callers did not appear to visit other properties in the road.

    All were described as being between 20 and 30 years old.

    One was described as slim, wearing dark clothing and a beanie hat.

    The second was said to be six feet tall, wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, and possibly speaking with a Welsh or Scottish accent.

    The third was said to be 5ft 5ins tall, wearing dark clothing and a baseball cap.

    Sutton's Crime Prevention Officer, PC Duncan Harris, said: "If anyone calls at your home with enquiries that seem so odd or unusual that they make you suspicious, then close the door on them, make a note of their description and any vehicle registration number, and call police immediately on 999."

    Police are appealing for information about the break-in.

    Anyone who can help is asked to call Sutton's Burglary and Robbery Investigation Team on 020 8649 0777, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.


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