Strange happenings near radar dome
20 February 2006 08:30
The giant grey "golf ball" cuts a sinister shape on the seaside skyline as it goes about its silent duty of helping protect the nation.
But strange things, that could be part of an X-Files episode, are happening in the shadow of the radar dome.
Frightened motorists have had their engines and lights cut out, while instrument dials crash to zero or speed to 150mph as they cruise past the landmark on the North Norfolk coast.
Mother-of-two Kerrie Maydew, who does a "school run" past the Trimingham radar unit, has been a victim half a dozen times.
The first time saw her dashboard go dead - and when she pulled into a local garage mechanics found all her electric windows and indicators had failed too.
It turned out the main fuse box of her reliable Nissan Almera had been "fried" and needed replacing at the cost of £300. The next few times it just saw the dials drop to zero, but it was just as scary.
"It is frightening. The first time I dare not turn off my ignition in case the car would not start again and left me stranded," said Mrs Maydew from Mundesley.
"I am a bit more used to it now, but your heart still goes in your mouth each time. It only ever happens when I drive past the radar golf ball towards Cromer - so it must be what is causing it."
"We have lived here for about five years, but it is only been happening the past couple of months," said the 39-year-old from Church Lane.
There has been a steady stream of trouble-hit cars turning up at the nearest garage - Crayford and Abbs on Cromer Road at Mundesley - where both the bosses have also been victims.
One of them, Neil Crayford, is a former RAF radar operator, so he brings some expertise to the baffling problem.
"We must have had 30 cars in with problems over the past couple of months. And they are only the ones we know about, so there could be more. It is a mixture of lights and engines cutting out, along with dashboards going haywire."
Mr Crayford said his headlights and dashboard cut out for a few seconds as he drove past in convoy one night with a colleague - who suffered exactly the same fate.
"It is a bit scary in the dark, suddenly having no lights on a country road - even for a few seconds," he added.
Most of the cars have been repaired by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery, which seems to re-set the electronics.
"I have talked to people who live near the dome, but it doesn't seem to affect their televisions or radios - so it is just something in cars it appears to affect," said Mr Crayford.
His business partner Kevin Abbs also suffered electrical problems at the dome, while delivering a customer's car after service - so it was in perfect working order when it began the journey.
During six years in the RAF as a fighter controller Mr Crayford worked at Trimingham's "mother station" at Neatishead before joining the motor trade.
He is barred under the Official Secrets Act from saying too much about the dome - which is a key part of the national air defence system.
But he said: "Something must have changed - either the frequency or output - for this to happen.
"I lodged an official complaint with the Ministry of Defence two weeks ago, but incidents are still happening. We get about five a week, and had three more on Friday."
An MoD spokeswoman confirmed it was investigating complaints about the radar head interfering with cars.
But she added that there were other private users on the same frequency range as the Type 43 radar spinning inside the dome.
The radar was "operating legally" and there were "no guarantees the Trimingham radar is the cause of the reported incidents."
The spokeswoman also pointed out it was the responsibility of car makers to protect vehicle electrical systems, and that car handbooks warned of possible malfunctions close to radar transmitters.
As they say in the X-Files ….The truth is out there.