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Rare heron’s visit raises £800 for charity

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WHEN a rare green heron appeared in the Narberth garden of Simon Hart MP, birdwatchers from all over Britain flocked to Pembrokeshire to catch a glimpse of the unexpected visitor.

Mr Hart said: “They were very generous and we raised £800 in ten days.”

Mr Hart and his family provided birdwatchers with refreshments during their stay.

The money raised has been donated to charity, with £500 going to the Paul Sartori Foundation and £300 to the Songbird Survival charity respectively.

“It was only the 8th time the bird has ever been seen in the country and we had visitors from as far away as Scotland and Norfolk – it was amazing to hear how far they had travelled.”

Sandra Dade, charity manager for the Paul Sartori Foundation said: “Seeing such a rare bird in this part of the world just goes to show how environmentally important Pembrokeshire is.

“We couldn’t deliver the quality of care that we are so well known for without help. Thank you to Simon’s for thinking of us and his very kind gift and thank you to everyone, near and far who made a donation.”

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Llangwm: Solicitor jailed for six years for £1m fraud

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A PEMBROKESHIRE solicitor who overcharged clients by almost £1m has been jailed this week for six years.

Edgar Stephen Thomas, aged 58, charged one client at the rate of £20,000 a week without doing any work at all.

Another was charged at £12,000 a week and went on to lose a total of £100,000.

Thomas, of Stephen’s Green, Deerland Road, Llangwm, admitted 23 offences of fraud and theft, which stopped only when his firm of Steve Thomas and Co was closed down by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that Thomas got away with the frauds by deducting monies from the estates of deceased people without telling the beneficiaries.

“He grossly overcharged and then deducted the payments directly from the estates of deceased people,” he said.

“He helped himself without telling them what he was doing.”

The overcharging began in 2005 when he was asked to handle the estate of Richard James Rogers. He charged the estate £41,800 plus VAT but internal documents showed that as the work decreased his bills increased.

Thomas agreed overcharging that estate by £12,000.

Thomas went on to plunder many more accounts.

The most outrageous example, said Mr Davies, related to the estate of Audrey Williams, who died in 2013.

Thomas charged £127,250 plus VAT, sometimes raising–but not posting–two invoices a day. He agreed he had overcharged by £100,000.

Mr Davis said Thomas’ offending did not stop there. His firm was hired by Vaughan’s Radio, an electrical store in Haverfordwest, to handle the purchase of a business in Aberystwyth.

Thomas simply kept for himself £50,000 of the purchase price.

Mr Davis said Thomas had worked for Eaton Evans in Haverfordwest, rising to becoming a partner, before leaving to form his own firm in 2005.

His accounts had to be audited and as a result the SRA were alerted to fears that he was overcharging.

A detailed forensic examination of his accounts was carried out and the fears were confirmed, along with the discovery of a shortfall in his client’s accounts of £144,326.

There was then an administrative error at the SRA and the initial report was not acted upon until June 2014, when a second financial investigation revealed more fraud and he was later struck off.

In February 2015 Thomas was declared bankrupt.

Mr Davis said the SRA had reimbursed those who had lost because of Thomas’ fraudulent behaviour, but there remained the question of costs and whether he could be made to repay any of the money. An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act is underway.

Thomas’ barrister, Ian Ibrahim, said his client was now broke and all the money had gone on keeping his business afloat.

“His fall from a high place has been dramatic. His remorse is complete and utterly without qualification.

“He has lost everything and knows that he will go to jail today.”

Judge Keith Thomas said those who worked in the legal profession had to demonstrate the highest level of integrity because the public put trust in them, sometimes at the most stressful times of their life.

“Your victims have described your behaviour as disgusting and despicable.

“You were struck off in 2016 and have had to wait a long time for the process to be complete, but that is partly because you were not willing to admit the extent of your offending,” he added.

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Claim a free McDonalds cheeseburger this week

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TO REMEDY ‘Blue Monday’, McDonalds is giving away a free cheeseburger to everyone this week.

Starting today (Jan 21), the fast food chain is asking customers to install the McDonalds app on their phone and then take it to their nearest restaurant for a free burger.

Blue Monday is said to be the ‘most miserable day’ in the year.

The app is available on both the Google Play store for Android devices, and the App Store for iOS devices.

Once downloaded, register a new account, or log in to your existing account, and go to ‘My Deals’ to claim your free burger.

The offer runs until Friday (Jan 25) and can be claimed any time after 10:30am, when the breakfast menu finishes.

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Road re-opened following successful bridge replacement

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PEMBROKE ROAD in Merlins Bridge, Haverfordwest, has re-opened and train services between Whitland and Milford Haven have resumed as normal, following the successful replacement of Pembroke Road railway bridge this weekend.

Over the weekend, Network Rail teams worked around the clock to demolish and remove the existing railway bridge deck – which carries the South Wales Main Line. Engineers then installed a new, steel structure which includes a concrete collision beam to provide extra resilience, as part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to improve the reliability of the railway.

Rhys Howells, scheme project manager for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “We would like to thank residents and rail passengers for bearing with us whilst we replaced Pembroke Road railway bridge.

“The previous bridge deck was nearing the end of its serviceable life, and has now been replaced with a more resilient structure which will help to keep the railway in West Wales running reliably.”

Next month the second part of this £4.25m upgrade project will see engineers replace Milford Road railway bridge.

The A4076 at Milford Road railway bridge on Dredgeman Hill will be closed from 7pm on Friday 15 until 6am on Monday 18 February and a fully signposted diversion route will be in operation.

Residents and local businesses wishing to find out more about the work to Milford Road railway bridge are invited to attend a ‘drop-in’ event on Thursday 31 January from 3pm to 6pm at the Merlins Bridge Welfare Hall, Pembroke Road, SA61 1JW. No appointment is necessary and representatives from Network Rail’s project team will be on hand to provide information and answer any questions.

You can also find out more information about this essential upgrade project here: www.networkrail.co.uk/Merlins-Bridge.

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