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Alcoholic started fire at assisted housing block Neighbour from hell jailed for arson attack NewburyBusinesToday

YourValentine’smessages – p29

pages40-42

Maddie Taylor with mother and father Becky and Dave after her charity hair cut. Inset below, Maddie’s cousinKaia

Ref: 07-1919A

A MAN with a grudge against soci- ety who terrorised an entire commu- nity has been jailed for a potentially deadly arson attack. It was sheer luck, said a judge, that Peter Higgins was unsuccessful in sparking a blaze which could have trapped around 50 residents inside an assisted housing block. Higgins set out to make his local community’s life a misery and police were regularly called to Speenhamland Court in Newbury as a result of his drinking binges. But it took the terrifying incident, in which he shoved flaming tissue paper through the letterbox of his long-suffer- ing next door neighbour, 77-year-old Margaret Benger, to win the residents some peace. Judge Angela Morris told him: “You endangered everyone in that building. “[Residents] would have had to nego- tiate past the fire in order to escape.” Higgins was in the dock at Reading Crown Court on Thursday for sentenc- ing, having admitted committing arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered on November 14 last year. The 60-year-old also has numerous previous convictions for offences including several counts of drink-driv-

Report by JOHN GARVEY email john.garvey@newburynews.co.uk twitter @johng_nwn

Maddie braves chop to make others smile “I DON’T mind giving up my long hair if it means a sick child can regain their smile again.” “When we got married last year you wouldn’t have thought in a million years there was anything wrong with her at all.”

ing, driving while disqualified, causing criminal damage, harassment and breaching restraining orders. Lee Harris, prosecuting, said fire service investigators said that, had the blaze not self-extinguished because there were no letters or newspapers beneath, it could have rapidly spread to the entire complex. By sheer chance, Mrs Benger had been out at the time and was horrified when she returned home to find the fire damage inside her home. She said in a victim impact statement that her entire life had been blighted by Higgins and she was now living in terror. The court heard that Higgins had also terrorised others in Newbury, threatening a woman with what appeared to be a pistol and warning: “I’ll make you suffer. You’ll be sad when I burn your dog. Wait and worry...” John Simmons, defending, conceded that pre-sentence reports made “unfor- tunate” reading and said: “One can only begin to appreciate the distress and anxiety this has caused. n Continued on page 5

Those were the heartwarming words of a Newbury schoolgirl who has had her long locks chopped off to support people, like her young cousin, who are suffering from cancer. Nine-year-old Madison Taylor had 12 inches of her hair cut off last Friday. It will now be donated to the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children who have lost their hair through cancer treatment, after learning that her 11-year-old cousin Kaia has the disease. Maddie, from Wash Common, told the Newbury Weekly News : “My cousin has cancer so I wanted to get my hair cut short and then send it to the Little Princess Trust so someone like my cousin can have a wig made for her. “I feel happy. I love it [my new hair cut]. My friends didn’t recognise me at first.” The Falkland Primary School pupil learned of her cousin’s kidney cancer before Christmas last year and has now set up a fundraising page to help others like Kaia.

Speaking about her daughter, she added: “She’s just your average nine- year-old who takes a lot of care of her hair. She’s really kind-hearted. “We got told at Christmas that her cousin had cancer and she’s aware that the chemo would make her hairless and Maddie said ‘I would like to donate my hair’. “I’m absolutely amazed by what she has done. I’m very proud of her.” Maddie’s father Dave said about the work of the Little Princess Trust: “From Kaia’s perspective, it definitely gave her a reprieve and something to look forward to and it made all the difference.” And on his daughter’s donation, he said: “She’s grown up about who it’s gone to and where it’s gone. “People who we haven’t seen for weeks and weeks have donated.” You can make a donation by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundrais- ing/rebecca-hill36

Maddie said: “Kaia loved her hair, just like me, so she was so upset when hers fell out. “For Kaia to regain her beautiful smile she had a wig made for her by The Little Princesses Trust, so she is very happy again. “I don’t mind giving up my long hair if it means a sick child can regain their smile again.” Maddie’s mother Rebecca said of Kaia:

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