London attack: Surrey home raided by police owned by foster carers awarded MBE

Elderly couple described as 'beautiful people' by neighbours 

Will Worley,Samuel Osborne
Sunday 17 September 2017 15:49
Armed counter-terror police raid a house in Surrey

The Surrey home raided by police responding to the Parsons Green bombing belongs to an elderly couple who were awarded by MBEs by Queen Elizabeth for their work fostering children.

Penelope and Ronald Jones, 71 and 88, were recognised for serving children and families on 2009’s New Year’s Honours list.

Neighbours described them as “beautiful people”. But on Saturday their home was at the centre of a fast moving counter-terrorist investigation.

The raid followed the "very significant" arrest of an 18-year-old in Dover in connection with the bombing. Another man, aged 21, was arrested in Hounslow on Saturday night.

Both were being held in custody at a London police station.

The couple had taken in at least 268 children over four decades, according to an undated interview with Elmbridge CAN, a group which aims to "to build a culture of welcome to refugees."

In the interview, Ms Jones said fostering "had its ups and downs," adding: "They're all children, it doesn't matter if they're sky blue or with pink dots on them - they just need to be loved."

She and her husband are believed to have looked after at least eight refugee children.

The teenager arrested in connection with the attack had reportedly been in trouble with the police before, according to neighbours of the couple.

Serena Barber, 47, who lives in a property backing on to the Jones's house told The Mirror: "All I know is that they have two boys at the moment, both are foreign.

"One is very quiet and polite, the other who is 18 is awful."

Another, who gave his name as Richard, said: "One of the men living there was a real troublemaker."

He added: "Most of the street had complained about him at some point in the past few months. "He was in trouble with the police a few times."

Alison Griffiths, a friend of the couple, told the Press Association they had an 18-year-old and a 22-year-old staying with them recently.

She described Mr and Mrs Jones as "great pillars of the community", adding: "They do a job that not many people do."

Parsons Green bombing: Arrest is 'very significant' says Rudd

Long-time family friend Serena Barber, 45, said: "Penny's a wonderful foster mother. She takes everyone, she doesn't turn anyone away."

Another friend, Jim Adaway, 37, said the Joneses had recently returned to foster caring to help resettle youngsters from overseas.

He said: "They have been here a lot longer than me.

"All I know is that they gave up the fostering and someone got in touch with them and they started taking kids again, refugees, about a year ago."

He said the couple were "healthy", but Mr Jones used a mobility scooter. His wife had been struggling with one of the children in their care, he added.

"I think Penny was getting in touch with [the authorities] saying 'I cannot handle this one'.

"I don't know if it was the right decision to do this [fostering]."

Police raided the address on Cavendish Street on Saturday

In an online group, residents of Sunbury-on-Thames expressed their admiration for the couple.

An initial post by Terry Ransom said: "Can we now show our support for the foster carers who have been caught up in the incident at Sunbury, who gave shelter to those that needed it. I sincerely hope that they are treated well by all involved." Within hours, the post had more than 290 likes.

Heather Woodbridge pointed out that the couple have done a lot for young people locally, saying they were involved in setting up a youth club in the town.

"[It's] nothing to do with them," said Sonia Shuter. "Foster carers are amazing people and I'm sure this lovely couple are too. I hope they get the support they need."

Police officers taking part in an operation in Cavendish Road, Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey

On receiving their awards eight years ago, Ms Jones said of fostering: "We do it because we find it rewarding... Helping other people is rewarding, and I treat them how I would like to be treated if I was in that situation."

The couple are said to be staying with friends for at least the next five days following the police raids, during which surrounding houses were evacuated by counter-terror officers, with residents told they had "one minute" to flee their homes.

All but one of those injured in the explosion have been discharged from hospital and the UK terror threat level reduced from "critical" to "severe".

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