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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 14:05 GMT
Death house fate in the balance
A view from the air of the garden of a house on Irvine Drive
Police have searched the garden and house
For years, the residents of the neat council estate which surrounds Irvine Drive in Margate would have found it easy to describe the area.

Most would have readily handed it the title "ordinary".

However, since the discovery of two bodies buried in the garden at 50 Irvine Drive, this very unassuming cluster of homes is now anything but typical.

And the local community are left facing the question of what to do next with the 1960s-built three-bedroom house which has become so irrecoverably tainted.

The house has joined a list of properties better known for their grim history - some of which were demolished to deter macabre sightseers and to enable the surrounding community to move on.

Residents in Irvine Drive will get their chance to talk about the fate of the property at a meeting on Thursday.

The remains of Dinah McNicol, 18, from Essex, were found in the garden of the terraced house on Friday.

We will seek the views of the residents and the families of the victims before we make any decision
Thanet council spokeswoman
The body of Vicky Hamilton, 15, from Redding near Falkirk, was recovered on 12 November. Both teenagers went missing in 1991.

On Saturday, the current tenant Nicola Downing - who is not linked in any way to the horrific discoveries at the house - described the awful day when Essex police officers knocked on her door and explained they would have to dig up her garden.

Ms Downing and Mark Drage had lived at the house since 1995 with their four children.

She said: "I can only describe it as a nightmare that gets worse every day. We lived in that house for 12 years and we had a happy family home.

"What they have found is awful and it has turned our family life upside down."

Ward councillor Edwin Watt-Ruffell said: "It's an ordinary community, there are young people, disabled and elderly. It is a normal mixture of people, working class and middle class.

"The majority of people there took advantage of the right-to-buy their council home."

Cromwell Street
Fred and Rose West's house has been replaced with a walkway
Ms Downing and her family have been rehoused by the local authority and are not expected to return to Irvine Drive.

The former home of serial killer Fred West, 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, was knocked down as was the house in which Ian Huntley murdered two girls in Soham.

However two properties where the serial killer Dennis Nilsen murdered his victims are still in occupation in north London.

And the infamous 10 Rillington Place, the home of murderer John Christie, was only demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Westway road in London.

The street had been re-named to remove its associations with the killings following Christie's execution in 1953.

Radar equipment

When asked about the fate of its property in Irvine Drive, Thanet District Council said: "We will seek the views of the residents and the families of the victims before we make any decision."

And Mr Watt-Ruffell confirmed that discussions between the authority and the local community were going to take place.

Dinah McNicol (l) and Vicky Hamilton
The bodies of Dinah McNicol (l) and Vicky Hamilton were found last week
He said: "We are meeting with the residents and the vicar and there will be a briefing on Thursday at the council offices about the future of Irvine Drive.

"I can't say any more than that at the moment."

Essex Police have spent more than a week searching the house and garden in Margate.

Officers and forensic archaeologists have broken up tiles and drilled through concrete on the ground floor and used radar equipment to focus on "anomalies" in the structure.

Kent Police said each force had a duty to return a home that had been the scene of a major criminal investigation to its original state.

But a spokesman said whether the occupants returned to the property was up to them.



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