Peer spent £286,000 on council card

Disgraced peer Lord Hanningfield spent more than £286,000 on luxury trips using an Essex County Council credit card, receipts show.

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Gateway super port set to welcome first ship

London Gateway in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, is a £1.5 billion "super port" which is expected to save British importers and exporters hundreds of millions of pounds every year from reduced transportation of goods across the UK.

Just 25 miles from the capital, it is the closest deep sea port to the UK's largest markets of London, Birmingham and Manchester. The container ship MOL Caledon is expected to arrive from South Africa at around 11pm.

London Gateway is Europe's largest logistics park with 9.25 million square feet of warehouse capacity, and it is thought the development will add £3.2 billion to the economy each year and 12,000 direct jobs.

Parents fight for justice

A woman who nearly drowned during a school swimming lesson 13 years ago has won a landmark ruling from Britain's highest court which paves the way for her to pursue compensation from a local education authority.

Annie Woodland was a pupil at Whitmore Junior School in Basildon, Essex, when she had to be pulled from the water and resuscitated in July 2000. She suffered severe brain damage and needs round-the-clock care. Serena Sandhu reports.

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Supreme Court success for former Basildon schoolgirl

A woman who nearly drowned during a school swimming lesson in Essex 13 years ago has won a landmark ruling from the UK's highest court, which paves the way for her to pursue compensation from a local education authority.

Annie Woodland was a pupil at Whitmore Junior School in Basildon when she had to be pulled from the water and resuscitated at Gloucester Park pool in July 2000.

Ms Woodland, now in her 20s, suffered severe brain damage.

In October 2011 a High Court judge threw out Ms Woodland's claim against Essex County Council on the basis that it was bound to fail, a view backed in a majority ruling by Court of Appeal judges.

Supreme Court justices in London have today allowed her appeal against those findings.

Man arrested after dead birds found in his fridge

Dead owls and stuffed birds were found at a property in Essex Credit: National Crime Agency

A man has been arrested in Essex as part of an investigation into the alleged smuggling of endangered birds of prey. A number of dead owls were found in his freezer in a house, in Stanford-le-Hope. Twenty-five stuffed birds were also seized.

The search was part of a joint investigation involving the NCA’s Border Policing Command, Border Force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit officers.

The man has been released on bail until January 2014.

Southend MOD site in blast scare

According to Essex Fire Service, around 22lb (10kg) of explosives were involved in the blast, which occurred at a weapons testing centre at MoD Shoeburyness, near Southend.

The weapons testers were freed by MoD officers in an armoured personnel carrier, but there were no injuries.

Five fire crews attended the incident, which happened at around 11am today.

A spokesman for QinetiQ, the private defence contractor that runs the Blackgate Road munitions centre, said:

"No-one was hurt in the incident at our environmental test centre and we are conducting a full investigation into what happened as is part of our standard safety procedures."

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Chemical blast rocks plant

People living close to the scene of a chemical explosion in Essex were urged to stay indoors as emergency crews tackled a caustic soda leak following a blast at a chemical plant.

One employee received a minor injury in the explosion at Industrial Chemicals Ltd in Thurrock at around 8pm last night.

Essex Police asked residents to stay inside their homes and keep their windows and doors closed following reports of "a strong chlorine smell in the area".

Safety experts later declared the blast site safe and said there was no longer any danger to the public.

We have had assurances from chemical experts on site that there is no risk to the public.

A small tank of diluted caustic soda exploded and the contents drained away into an interception tank and was contained on site.

– Neil Fenwick of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

The Health and Safety Executive has been informed and the cause of the explosion is being investigated.

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Pensioner readjusting to life after assualt

The pensioner's injuries following a burglary at her home Credit: Essex Police

A 95-year-old woman from Wickford, Essex, says she is readjusting to her life after being attacked in her own home.

Three men broke into her house in August, taking cash and her house keys.

After the assault she was left covered in bruises and with a fractured pelvis.

Police are appealing for information.

Police focus on cash machine thefts

Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate are urging people to be vigilant against ATM thieves.

Cash machine thefts tend to increase in the run up to the Christmas and New Year period with thieves trying a number of methods to get their hands on money inside the machines.

Banks and ATM providers are offering a reward of up to £25,000 to anyone who provides information in relation to a cash machine theft that leads to a conviction.

Officers are also asking members of the public to help them fight against cash machine theft by reporting suspicious activity at ATMs.

Detective Chief Inspector John McDermott said: ‘We target ATM thieves all the time but this is a determined, conscious effort to build on previous successes."

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