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  1. Derek Johnson @derekjohnsonitv

Gravesend statue honours wartime pilot

A statue of wartime fighter pilot Mahinder Singh Pujji has been unveiled in his adopted hometown, Gravesend. Mr Pujji was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valour while flying in World War Two.

Mr Pujji died in 2010, aged 92.

We speak to: Satinder Pujji, son; Douglas Jennings, sculptor; Air Vice-Marshal Edward Stringer, Royal Air Force; Air Cdre Gurcharan Singh Bedi, Indian Air Force; Gurjit Bains, Gravesend Gurdwara.

VIDEO: Statue of RAF pilot unveiled in Gravesend

He was among the first Indian airmen to fight for Britain during World War Two, was shot down twice and saw many of his friends die in combat. But Mahinder Singh Pujji went on to become one of the RAF's most distinguished fighter pilots, flew all over the world and was honoured for his bravery.

Four years after his death, there is a permanent reminder of his exploits in his home town of Gravesend. A bronze statue of Squadron Leader Pujji now graces the riverfront, celebrating his exploits and the contribution of millions of Indian servicemen and women.

Watch the unveiling of the statue below.

Mr Pujji's son, Satinder, speaks to ITV Meridian about his father.


Brazen Gravesend and Gillingham burglar jailed

A burglar who targeted flats above shops and business in Gravesend and Gillingham has been jailed for four and a half years.

James Hynd, 34, was sentenced to two years for the first offence, which took place in January at a flat above a pub in Gravesend.

He also received two and a half years for a burglary in Gillingham in June.

Hynd brazenly attempted to break into the flat in Gravesend and, when he was caught by members of the public, denied it, claiming he had been trying to hide.

He was arrested, charged and put before the courts. He was bailed and while on bail committed this further offence in Gillingham when he broke into a flat and stole the victim's possessions.

He has a history of targeting properties above shops and businesses and I welcome the news he is behind bars for his crimes.

– DC Robin Hemsley, investigating officer

Woman dies after being hit by car in Kent

Kent Police is appealing for witnesses after a fatal road collision in Gravesend.

At 5.25pm on yesterday, a female pedestrian was involved in a collision with a silver Mercedes on the A226 Milton Road.

The pedestrian, in her 30s, died from her injuries.

Officers are appealing for anyone who saw the collision to contact them.

Man suffers burns after lightning sets house on fire

A man from Kent has suffered burns after his house caught fire when lightning hit the family home in the early hours of this morning.

Roy Thomas from Gravesend, his partner and 15-year-old son were awoken at their home by a massive bang.

Roy explains: “We jumped out of bed and could hear the house alarm sounding. We started to feel our way downstairs in the darkness as all the power was out and Tracey smelt smoke, which we thought was coming from the TV. Fortunately, I looked up at the loft hatch and could see a glowing light."

Lightning hit many places across the region Credit: Joseph Crisp

“We phoned the fire service and I grabbed a ladder to investigate. As soon as I opened the hatch I could see the flames roaring away but the whole space was full of smoke. I tried to smother the flames with towels and bedding but it was too hot and I burnt my hands. By this time Tracey and Toby were passing wet towels and buckets of water to me, which I threw over the fire but it kept flaring back up. Thankfully, the last wet beach towel I threw on it managed to smother the flames and the firefighters were there."

Mr Thomas has now received hospital treatment for the burns.

Jail for man who tried to steal from police officer

Javid Ahmadzai tried to take a bike from an off-duty police officer Credit: British Transport Police

A man who admitted trying to steal a bike from an off-duty police officer has been jailed for 18 months.

Javid Ahmadzai, 19, of Havengore Avenue, **Gravesend, attempted to take the bicycle from the officer while they were on a train.

He pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court.

The court heard Sgt Brian Washbourn was going home from work on the train at the time of the incident. **

He said: "I was quite shaken by the incident and if it hadn't been for the intervention of other passengers I fear I would have been seriously assaulted."


Professional football coaches offer free lessons for men

The sessions will take place at GNC sports in Gravesend Credit: ITV

Free football coaching from professional trainers is being offered to men in Gravesham to encourage active lifestyles.

The scheme will start in May at the GNC sports ground, Trinity Road, Gravesend. Free nutritional advice will also be given.

Rats as big as cats? Have you seen bigger?

A giant rat found in Kent. Credit: Sue via Radio 2 Twitter

It's not the sort of find you want to make in an Easter egg hunt this weekend - a rat the size of a cat, you'd need a rather large rat trap to catch this one.

The rodent was found dead in Gravesend in Kent - just the latest example around the country.

This photo was tweeted by BBC Radio 2 after the problem was discussed on the Jeremy Vine show.

Kent man jailed after strangling woman in alleyway

A man from Gravesend has been jailed after he tried to strangle a woman in an alleyway.

Aaron Payne, from Fenners Marsh, followed his victim into an alleyway at around 6.30pm on the 1st August last year.

His victim was a complete stranger but she was aware she was being stalked and slowed to see if the man would pass.

Instead, Payne jumped on her, pushing her to the ground before throttling her.

The victim fought back whilst trying to alert a resident who shouted at Payne to release her.

Payne released her and ran away after he was chased by several members of the public.

He was identified by CCTV footage and arrested on suspicion of GBH.

He was sentenced today to eight years in prison, with a further five to be served on licence.

This was an entirely unprovoked, random attack on an innocent woman that must have felt like a horror story come to life. One moment she was walking along the street and the next she was being throttled by a complete stranger in a deserted alleyway. She has been left utterly traumatised by what happened but showed a huge amount of courage on the night in question when she refused to give up and managed to attract help. She also showed courage as she was forced to relive her ordeal when Payne appeared in court and initially denied any wrongdoing."

– DC Brian Smith of Kent Police
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