2013 in review: Rollercoaster of a year for people in Belper

From tragic loss of life to Olympic visitors, 2013 has been somewhat of a rollercoaster for the people of Belper filled with mixed emotion.

The inquest into the deaths of Rachael Slack and her son Auden, from Holbrook, dominated the news. It concluded they were unlawfully killed by her ex-partner and Auden’s dad, Andrew Cairns, who then took his own life. Meanwhile heptathlete gold medallist Jessica Ennis was the surprise guest at a wedding at Shottle Hall.

It will also be remembered in the annals of local history as the year Thorntons sadly severed its final link with the town, as its shop on Derwent Street closed.

And it was also the year that a gay Belper couple were among the first in the UK to hold a civil partnership ceremony in a church building in the town.

Whatever your memories of events such as the super successful Belper Games, Belper Food Festival and the town’s coveted gold in the East Midlands in Bloom contest, they show the town still has real community spirit.

And the Belper News will be there to capture all the goings on during 2014.


The parents of a two-year-old boy who died after drinking methadone were convicted of manslaughter.

Sally Dent, 33, and Shaun Binfield, 45, were arrested after their son Riley Pettipierre was found lifeless at their home in Kilbourne Road, Belper, on March 13, 2011.

The pair were found guilty by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court following more than four hours of deliberations. Dent was also convicted of cruelty to a child.

Meanwhile, Belper was hit by deep snow and arctic temperatures prompting school closures and travel disruption.


Thorntons announced it was to close its shop in Belper, bringing to an end the chocolate maker’s 65-year association with the town.

The King Street store was due to shut its doors for the last time in the summer. The company said it hoped to find staff affected by the closure jobs within the group.

Elsewhere, staff at a Belper wedding venue had an Olympic-sized surprise when golden girl Jessica Ennis was a guest at a wedding there.

The heptathlon gold medallist was at Shottle Hall, in Belper, for the wedding of her soft tissue therapist Derry Suter and his bride Sonya Freeston.

The London 2012 star was not the only big name on their guest list – the couple were also joined by two-time World Squash Champion and double Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nick Matthews, of Duffield.


It was thought almost 500 disabled people in Amber Valley could be forced to pay more rent or move out of their homes when the Government’s ‘bedroom tax’ came into effect in April.

Meanwhile, police were appealing for help in finding a Belper man who went missing from his home in town.The 29-year-old was later found safe and well.

Bad weather continued and led to the closure of a number of schools in Belper and surrounding villages. Roads were shut, schools closed and buses cancelled as an unseasonable blast of arctic weather played havoc. The mercury dipped to a low of -2C with the snow piled up to eight foot deep in some areas.


Tesco ditched plans to build a megastore in Belper, ending years of speculation over the development.

A spokesman confirmed the retail giant was no longer interested in building an 80,000 square foot supermarket off Derwent Street.

The announcement brought to a close around seven years of uncertainty over the development, which would have created around 400 jobs. Campaigners against the store felt it would damage the town centre.

Patriotic pride was in full swing as hundreds of Scouts, Beavers, Girl Guides and Cubs marched through Belper town centre to mark St George’s Day.

And an enterprising Belper pair were set to throw open the doors of the town’s old Salvation Army Hall.

George Jones and Pippa Mansel re-launched the Market Place venue - which had been closed for two years - as a not-for-profit social enterprise.

The 60-person capacity hall provides a community space in the centre of the town, available for hire to groups, businesses and individuals.


Eyewitnesses reported a “horrific” bang as a large explosion went off in a former factory building in Belper town centre.

Workers at nearby businesses said they were shocked at the speed at which the fire spread at the former Thorntons site on Derwent Street.

Firefighters and paramedics were quickly on the scene and a police investigation launched into the cause of the fire.

A police helicopter circled over the affected area warning residents to shut doors and windows as plumes of smoke containing asbestos spread quickly across the town.

In other news, new plans for massive re-development in Belper were being drawn up after supermarket giant Tesco confirmed it was no longer interested in building a megastore in the town.

The retail chain owns a large patch of land off Derwent Street – which had been earmarked as the site for an 80,000 square foot supermarket.


A hooded robber caused an elderly woman to suffer cuts and bruises when he stole her bag in Belper.

The attacker, who was riding a skateboard, targeted his 74-year-old victim as she walked along Chesterfield Road.

Waitrose and M&S quashed rumours they had thrown their hats into the ring to develop the old Thorntons site in Belper.

Social media had been awash with speculation that the supermarket giants were interested in building a store on the land off Derwent Street after landowner Tesco ditched its own plans for a megastore there.

However, speaking to the Belper News, spokesmen for both retailers denied they were interested.


An ex- Scout leader was jailed for 18 years for having “disgusting and depraved” sex images of children.

They were found after Derrick Lodge, 54, sent his computer to a shop for repairs and staff alerted police, a court was told.

Jobless Lodge, of Old Mill Close, Duffield, admitted having indecent images of children when he appeared at Derby Magistrates’ Court.

In other news, celebrity chef Brian Turner backed the Belper Food Festival as more than 100 stallholders prepared to take over the town centre.

The Ready Steady Cook star sent a message of support to organisers as plans for the seventh festival looked set to be the biggest and best ever. The event was a huge success and took place in blistering sunshine.

Around 4,000 people descended on Belper’s Rugby Club for the second annual Penny’s Fund Belper Games to help raise cash for three charities.

The event featured an ‘It’s a Knockout’-style team tournament, a huge craft fair, food and drink festival, plus lots of attractions for families to enjoy.


A man died after being hit by a train near Belper rail station.Officers said the collision was “non suspicious”.

A Belper gay couple were among the first in the UK to hold a civil partnership ceremony in a church building.

Helen James and Alison Scrowston made a commitment to each at Belper Unitarian Chapel, in the first ceremony of its kind ever to be conducted in Derbyshire.

The happy occasion was made possible after the chapel became the proud holder of the very first licence in Derbyshire permitting civil partnerships in a place of worship.

And a mountain rescue team and police retrieved the body of a man found in a river.They were called at around 10am on Sunday, August 25 to remove the body from part of the River Derwent near Holly Lane, Ambergate.


A large fire which tore through a Belper home was thought to have been caused by a tumble dryer.

The blaze, which broke out in Milldale Court at around 8.45pm on Sunday, September 1, was tackled by crews from Belper, Duffield, Ripley and Kingsway.

All occupants of the house were able to escape safely.

Badger culling was banned on Derbyshire County Council land.The Labour-led authority made the decision on the back of scientific evidence which suggested a badger cull would actually increase the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

An inquest was told how a Holbrook woman, her young son and her mentally-ill ex-boyfriend were found stabbed to death.

Rachael Slack was found dead along with former partner Andrew Cairns and the estranged couple’s 23-month-

September continued

old son, Auden, at her home in Well Yard in the village.

Coroner Dr Robert Hunter and a jury sitting at Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner’s Court began hearing evidence into the three deaths.

Vandals trashed Belper’s Strutt Street toilets and were allegedly taking drugs in the cubicles just weeks after they were re-opened to the public by Belper Town Council.

Burnt foil and empty bottles of alcohol are being strewn around the conveniences, which were taken on by the town council in July after Amber Valley Borough Council stopped funding.


A jury at Derbyshire Coroner’s Court concluded that Rachael Slack, 38, and her 23-month-old son, Auden, were unlawfully killed on June 2, 2010 at Well Yard, Holbrook.

Following their deaths, Rachael’s ex-partner and Auden’s dad Andrew Cairns, 44, who had been released on police bail five days earlier, killed himself at the cottage.

The town’s MP Pauline Latham said she would press supermarket giant Tesco to come up with a use for the land it owns in Belper after it dropped a plan to build a megastore there.

Repairs to sluice gates on the River Derwent prompted unusual views to open-up in Belper.

The Environment Agency drained the river in September, but had to repeat the process after finding another fault with the large metal gates which help control flood water.


A boy who was injured after falling over in Belper’s Memorial Gardens was awarded more than £12,000 in compensation.

As reported in the Belper News last June, the youngster’s head was cut open after he tripped and hit his head on railings in the popular King Street gardens.

He was treated at Ripley Community Hospital for his injuries, which left a scar on his forehead and legal action was mounted against Belper Town Council, which owns and manages the gardens.

A completion date for the new £400,000 Edwardian tearooms in Belper’s River Gardens was revealed.

A report to Amber Valley Borough Council’s cabinet group on parks and open spaces in the borough put a target on the development of September 2014.

Plans for the Swiss Tearooms replacement had been submitted to the authority in October.

Tesco representatives were set to come to Belper in the New Year to discuss plans for the old Thorntons site, it was revealed.

Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham contacted the supermarket giant, which owns land at the derelict site on Derwent Street, after concerns were raised.


Detectives investigating the death of a woman in Belper appealed for anyone who saw suspicious activity at her home in the days before she was discovered to come forward.

Officers were called to 47 Short Row, Belper, at around 11pm on Tuesday, December 10. The body of a 70-year-old woman was discovered at the address.

Councillors in Belper were on the verge of taking the unprecedented step of a ‘ vote of no confidence’ in the town’s mayor, in a bid to get her to resign.

However, the mayor, Councillor Deborah Biss, vowed not to stand down as Belper’s top civic dignitary and chairman of the town council after a row over previous decisions at the council, which some councillors claim need investigating.