Voice of the paper: Mixed emotions after an eventful year

Voice of the paper: Damien Lucas
Voice of the paper: Damien Lucas

So another year draws to a close and I think it is fair to say it has been eventful.

The year started with Hemel being put on the world map for the wrong reasons when the now infamous sinkhole saw 17 homeowners evacuated in Oatridge Gardens.

There was finally justice for the family of 63-year-old Thomas Baird in March. A year earlier James Carbott had brutally murdered Thomas – who was his ex-girlfriend’s father – stabbing him before burning his body. Carbott was handed a minimum 27 years in prison.

The Old Town works rumbled on ... and on ... and on and were finished in May this year, seven months over schedule.

In August we marked the centenary of the start of the Great War and the Gazette did its bit with a five-part supplement in the build-up to the milestone. And loss of life was an unfortunate theme in August as the town mourned the death of Fazan Ahmed, the 16-year-old schoolboy who was hit by a car in Highfield. The outpouring of grief and tributes are something none of us will forget in a hurry. Fazan loved life and loved his football too as a big fan of Arsenal.

It has been a memorable sporting year for the town. There was jubilation in April when Hemel Town were promoted to the Conference South as Dean Brennan’s men secured the title and they now sit comfortably in midtable in their new surroundings at the halfway stage of the season. Hemel’s Olympic gymnast star Max Whitlock showed his brilliance again at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July and August with a host of medals, and was more recently nominated for the BBC’s prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award finishing seventh (ahead of football superstar Gareth Bale no less). There was the historic Tour Of Britain, which saw the eyes of the world and some of its best cyclists descend on Hemel for one of the stage finishes in September.

More recently, there was justice for victims of a violent knifepoint rapist when Paul Drinkwater was finally banged to rights for his historic crimes in Berkhamsted dating back 30 years.

Hemel continues to grow as a hub for business, although it will lose a major employer after Dixons announced it was leaving the town (next May) back in September. Berkhamsted continues its trend-bucking 100% occupancy rate for its famous high street.

The year ahead promises to be fraught with political tension as the General Election looms large but I think it will be a positive year for the town with the Leisure World and Hemel Evolution plans really kicking into gear.

Happy new year to all our readers, I wish you all the very best.