Review of the year 2017: January

Mayor Sherma Batson. Picture: Stevenage Borough Council.

Mayor Sherma Batson. Picture: Stevenage Borough Council.

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The new year started on a sad note for Comet readers with the announcement that former Stevenage town mayor and community activist Sherma Batson had passed away.

Sport stacker James Acraman from Stevenage after breaking the world record for the fastest 171 'cup upstack' at the Guiness World Records' headquarters in London.Sport stacker James Acraman from Stevenage after breaking the world record for the fastest 171 'cup upstack' at the Guiness World Records' headquarters in London.

We were inundated with heartfelt tributes after the 59-year-old suddenly died after attending a soul event in January.

Mrs Batson had been a long-serving councillor on Stevenage Borough Council and Herts County Council, and had founded the Stevenage World Forum Foundation which marks diversity in the town with the annual Celebrate!!! event at the Gordon Craig Theatre.

Tributes to Mrs Batson continued to come in throughout the year and, in July, the Together Centre – home of the World Forum – was aptly named the Sherma Batson Centre.

January stacked up well for Stevenage sports stacking star James Acraman, who earned himself a Guinness World Record for stacking the most cups in the shortest time.

Police dog Finn as a puppy, with some of his brothers and sisters. Picture: Herts Police.Police dog Finn as a puppy, with some of his brothers and sisters. Picture: Herts Police.

James broke the world record on his fourth attempt stacking the largest number of cups ever stacked in 1:23:09 James, who went on to break his own record again in November, said afterwards: “This is a childhood dream come true.”

One of the biggest stories for the Comet in 2016 and 2017 was the stabbing of police dog Finn.

The German Shephard and his handler PC Wardell were chasing down a suspect in Stevenage in October 2016 when a suspect reared up and stabbed Finn through the chest.

The police dog recovered after life-saving surgery and there was a major campaign to change the law so people accused of attacking service dogs would get harsher punishments.

Helen Bailey. Picture: Herts PoliceHelen Bailey. Picture: Herts Police

There was also a well-supported campaign to raise cash to train a Guide Dog who would be named after the legendary police dog, spearheaded by blind journalist Sean Dilley.

This month the campaign reached its fundraising total thanks to a sizeable donation from Newmarket firm Smarter Metering Services.

The highly publicised six-week trial for the murder of Royston author Helen Bailey, began in January with the court hearing her partner from Letchworth, Ian Stewart, had buried her body in a cesspit under the garage in the couple’s home because he wanted to get her money.

Her seven-year-old dachshund Boris was also found in the excrement-filled pit.

It turned our Stewart had been poisoning her using an insomnia medication and she was becoming increasingly worried for her state of mind.

The trial continued throughout the month and he was jailed for 34 years in February.

More news stories

16:29

An elderly couple gave a lift home to two young girls lost in a Stevenage industrial estate, unaware the pair had both been sexually assaulted that morning.

16:06

Students from a Hitchin ballet school shone like professionals as they trod the boards in the West End.

14:46

A suspected burglar has been arrested in Stevenage after an attempted break-in during the early hours of this morning.

14:14

Drone footage shows the massive extent of the damage caused by yesterday’s crop fire between Knebworth and Stevenage.

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