‘Hellhole Island’: Residents living on a ‘ghost town’ island where gangs run riot because you ‘never see police’ say it has no-go zones where they would not visit ‘for a million pounds’
Residents living on a ‘ghost town’ island claim gangs of youths ‘rule’ the streets because they ‘never see police officers’.
Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent has been dubbed ‘the town that time forgot’ by angry locals who ‘feel abandoned’ by the authorities.
Families say they are afraid to send their children to school and local residents are fleeing the island in the Thames Estuary for safer communities elsewhere.
MailOnline visited the port town, with a population of 21,139, the second most dangerous small town in Kent and one of the top 20 most dangerous from England.
Bombings, crime, thefts, drug use and a ‘general lack of community spirit’ have driven the area into ‘absolute desperation’, according to local residents.
One woman said: ‘It’s a hellish island. There are parts here I wouldn’t be paid a million pounds to visit. It’s terrible.’
Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent (pictured) has been dubbed ‘the town that time forgot’ by angry locals
Residents living on a ‘ghost town’ island claim gangs of youths ‘rule’ the streets because they ‘never see police officers’. Pictured: Sheerness High Street
Pictured: Banks and tables are dumped by the roadside in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey
Sheerness is the largest town on the Isle of Sheppey on the Thames estuary in Kent
Sheerness has a crime rate of 181 crimes per 1,000 – more than the Kent average of 88. Most issues were linked to anti-social behaviour, drugs and criminal damage.
It is also the largest town on the Isle of Sheppey and famous for being home to three prisons – including maximum security HMP Swaleside.
In 2006, 18-year-old Christopher Alaneme was brutally murdered there after being chased by a gang of five white men who were on holiday.
One Youtuber even gave it the name ‘hellhole island’.
One man on Tiktok said: ‘Most people think the Isle of Sheppey is a prison colony – but it’s much worse than that.’
He also said in a video that it was ‘probably the most dangerous place in the whole southeast’.
Margaret Jackson, 67, who lives in Sheerness, told MailOnline: ‘It’s a hellish island. There are parts here I wouldn’t be paid a million pounds to visit. It’s terrible.
‘It’s gotten so much worse in the last few years.
‘There is a lot of violence and anti-social behaviour. The youths riot. They control the estates and people will not go near them.
‘The main street is a ghost town and like the town that time forgot.
‘They just bring the dregs of society to live here. Not many local people live here anymore.
‘They all came in from outside.
‘Some of them are the roughest of the rough and cause nothing but misery to the rest of the town and the island in general. They are horrible.’
James McCreadie, of Linden Road, Sheerness was the third man to be jailed in 2022 for being part of a gang of thieves who repeatedly targeted people in the town.
One shopkeeper said: ‘We have been let down. It’s like a ghost town. Shops are so empty. There is nothing to do.
Local residents in the port town (pictured) say they feel abandoned by the authorities and the government
Pictured: A Sheerness high street shop apologizes for being closed and directs shoppers to a nearby store on the mainland
Pictured: A shop with paint peeling off its sign in Sheerness town center where locals feel ‘abandoned’
Pictured: Rows of barges line the docks of Sheerness – a port on the Thames estuary
‘The scenery is beautiful, but it counts for nothing if there is nothing to bring people or entertain.
‘There has been an explosion in tanning salons and barbershops – but nothing that is of any long-term or real use.
“There are so many empty shops, but the solution is not to fill them with just hairdressers and tanning salons and vape shops.”
Retired Ingrid Rice (71) said: ‘You never see a police officer in this town.
‘There is crime. It’s everywhere. It used to be very nice here. It’s such a shame what happened.
‘There used to be lots of bars and it was a great night out. Now so many places are empty.’
Just last summer, 35-year-old Sam Petrou was shot dead at a Sheerness holiday park. Police arrested a total of five people over the father’s death after his body was discovered in a caravan at Cliff Cottage in Chalet Park in June 2023.
Pictured: The crossing from the Isle of Sheppey to mainland Kent. Local residents say neighbors have fled the town
Local residents say Sheerness boasts ‘beautiful’ views, but describe the state of the town as ‘heartbreaking’. Pictured: A mural welcoming tourists to the town
Ingrid said she was also upset about how some empty shops were filled.
She added: ‘We used to have a local shoe shop and a shop for everything you needed. There is none of that now. It’s just tan spots.
“The town is dead.”
Her friend Chris Kelly, 71, added: ‘There’s a lot of money for cycleways and endless things like that, but why not proper investment in the town?
‘It’s a beautiful place to live. The views over the sea are fantastic.
“However, it is heartbreaking what has happened to the town itself.”
One couple said they wanted out ‘as soon as humanly possible’.
A mother said: ‘I don’t feel safe raising children here. There is always something.
Another added: ‘My family refuses to visit me which is pretty bad, all about where I live. There’s nothing to do, it’s like a zombie town.’
Merdan Yildirim, 29, who owns Island Fish Bar, said: ‘It’s a ghost town. I’m not sure how so many shops became empty. This is a real shame.
‘More money needs to be invested. The pavements are a nightmare, people are always tripping.’
Others were eager to defend the territory.
Pete Hinds, 63, said: ‘It’s good. What do people expect, Monte Carlo?’
Busker Steve Harding, 75, who has lived in the town since 1987 – said he ‘loves’ the area.
He added: ‘The people are great. They are very happy with what I do.
“I think it’s fantastic.”
Insp. Vanessa Foster from Swale’s Neighborhood Task Force said: ‘Over the past year officers on the Isle of Sheppey have continued to respond to concerns and issues raised by residents and business owners.
‘Sheerness, as the main town, experiences a higher level of offending and we have deployed additional patrols to tackle any issues in this area.
‘The officers, working in uniform and plain clothes, are focused day and night on targeting prolific offenders, including those who have recently been released from prison and are at potential risk of returning to crime.
“During this period, we have reduced burglaries at people’s homes by more than half, from 68 to 24.
‘We are also working closely with retailers and their security teams in the town to ensure that repeat shoplifters are quickly identified and brought to justice, and this has also led to an encouraging reduction in theft.
‘Local officers have been particularly effective in identifying offenders through the investigation of CCTV and where the suspects are being held, investigators from our victim-based crime team have ensured they are charged and brought before the courts.
‘As well as officers patrolling to keep our streets safe, we also have teams dedicated to tackling domestic crime, managing sex offenders and bringing offenders to justice while supporting vulnerable victims.
‘This ongoing work has resulted in 229 fewer crimes in Sheerness Ward during 2023, compared to the previous year.
‘While this nine per cent reduction in crime is encouraging, we are not complacent and will continue to focus our resources on those areas where it can have the greatest impact.
‘This work is dependent on assistance from members of the public and I would urge anyone concerned about crime in their area to make a report via our website. If a crime is in progress, always call 999.’