THE first full week of July 2003 saw Highworth shopkeepers alerted to a fraud.

Only coin collectors and people with long memories were immune to it.

“Coins commemorating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee,” we said, “are being mistaken for £5 coins.

“So far staff at the town’s new Co-op store and the post office have reported finding them in their tills at closing times.”

Millions of the coins, known as crowns, had been issued in 1977 to mark the 25th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne.

They were intended as souvenirs - many were handed out alongside commemorative mugs by the organisers of street parties - but had a legal tender value of 25 pence.

Problems arose in later years when identically-sized £5 coins, also legal tender, began to be issued to mark other royal events.

Enterprising criminals either searched their own cupboards for the coins or bought them cheaply from dealers before trying to pass them off as worth £5.

In Highworth’s Co-op, one fraudster handed over a dozen, worth a total of £3, to pay a £60 bill.

Local police officer Mike Armishaw warned shopkeepers: “It is an easy mistake to make because the coins do look so much like £5 coins. But in reality they are only worth about 25p to a collector. Even the real £5 coins aren’t that common, so people wouldn’t necessarily know what they looked like.”

Still in the realm of crime, we ran a confusing and rather alarming photo with a story about a particularly nasty bout of vandalism.

It showed a headless child about to throw a ball to a dog, both of them seemingly unaware that a man was kneeling in the background and holding the child’s head in his hand.

A second glance revealed that the child and dog were a poignant memorial at the Radnor Street cemetery in Kingshill, and that the man was respected and very angry local councillor Michael Barnes.

“This is sickening, mindless vandalism,” he said. “These people are coming here with the intention of causing damage.

“Security needs to be reviewed urgently, and we should also do more to make the gravestones safer.”

We visited the cemetery and described what we found: “Memorial crosses had been kicked over and statues broken.Vandals had smashed the head off a statue at the grave of a 14-year-old girl killed in a cycling accident in 1938.

“In another incident, a memorial cross had been kicked over and was lying across a grave.”

On a happier note, the Swindon area’s newest and perhaps most tranquil visitor attraction was about to open.

We said: “In February, the Studley Grange Butterfly Farm was little more than a building site inside two large greenhouses.

“Now it’s ready for visitors, featuring a tropical climate, and resembles a distant paradise of exotic plants and hundreds of butterflies from more than 50 different species.

“The butterfly farm, which is located at the rear of the Blooms of Bressingham Garden Centre, will be one of the largest in the country.”

Manager Luke Brown was at pains to point out that all specimens were captive bred as opposed to having been taken from the wild.

The attraction still thrives a decade and a half later.

A Swindon community activist who worked tirelessly to rid a neighbourhood of vice received a People of Wiltshire Good Neighbour Award.

Matt McCue, who chaired the Broad Street Community Council, set up a voluntary organisation called Street Watch in a bid to drive prostitutes, their pimps and their clients from the area.

The clients had been a particular problem, as they cruised the area in cars and propositioned local women and sometimes girls.

Volunteers monitored the streets and supplied the police with lists of registration numbers.

Mr McCue, who died the following year aged just 52, said: “Every time I go out with Street Watch we see the difference it’s made to the area.”

That week in 2003 also saw the opening of a murder inquiry following a mysterious and tragic death the previous week.

Stephen Hilder, 20, an Army cadet at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham, fell 13,000 feet to his death when his parachute failed during a skydiving championship near Brigg in Lincolnshire.

Having established that both his main and reserve parachutes had been tampered with, detectives embarked on a months-long search for possible motives, but nothing convincing could be found.

This left only the suggestion that he had sabotaged his own equipment, but none of the people closest to him had noticed anything to suggest he was contemplating suicide.

Nor was there forensic evidence that he had damaged the parachutes himself.

An inquest eventually recorded an open verdict, but the case remains a tragic enigma.