Welcome to the Lutontoday News Review of the Year 2012, a month by month look at last year's news and sport stories in the Luton and Dunstable area. Use the timeline across the top to change the month, and click on the hyperlinks to read the full stories as they appeared on our website.
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2012 started off on a high, with three Luton citizens being awarded MBEs in the New Year Honours List. The individuals picking up the gongs were former police superintendent Andrew Martin, Marsh Farm Sure Start leader Denise Poore and HM Revenue and Customs higher officer Colleen Doherty.
However, things became tense when care details, including the names and addresses of elderly and vulnerable people in the town, were found dumped in Wilsden Avenue in Farley Hill, leading to a care worker being suspended.
Some big announcements were made at the start of the year. Luton Airport made public its expansion plans, which would allow it to serve 18 million passengers a year, while Luton Borough Council said the move would create up to 6,000 new jobs.
Meanwhile, the Love Luton festival unveiled The Wanted as the first headline act to feature in the three-day summer celebration, planned to culminate in the arrival of the Olympic torch in the town on July 8.
Shocking figures revealed that more than 300 weapons, including swords, axes and a crossbow were seized by Bedfordhsire police, while more bad news came in the form of results published from a survey which pinpointed Luton as the fourth unhappiest town in the UK.
Two families had a lucky escape from a fire that engulfed their neighbouring flats on Clifton Road in Bury Park. Meanwhile, there was more dissatisfaction among town residents, who met with trust bosses to discuss the findings of a report looking into ways to improve parking in and around Luton and Dunstable Hospital.
People proved they were proud to be Lutonians by fighting back against a negative portrayal of the town in the Channel 4 documentary Proud and Prejudiced, which focused on Muslim extremist Sayful Islam and leader of the English Defence League, Stephen Lennon.
In sports news, the Hatters' hopes of promotion were dashed when they lost 1-0 to Barrow.
Freedom of Information requests revealed some startling figures: 56 taxi drivers licensed by Luton Borough Council had criminal convictions, ranging from assault to drug possession, while Luton and Dunstable hospital was owed £3 million in unpaid invoices.
Police had to stand guard at the launch of a new Islamic information centre after members of the English Defence League gathered to protest against it. However, there were also concerns that Yusuf Bonner, the centre's manager, had links to Islamic extremism.
On a cheerier note, the route the Olympic Torch would be taking through Luton and the names of those carrying it were announced. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Barnfield College, Pete Birkett, denied controversial claims that he wanted to privatise education, saying that there were no plans to make Luton's academy schools into profit-making enterprises.
On the sporting front, the town celebrated its sporting stars of 2011 at the Luton Sports Awards, held at Riverside Suite in the Vauxhall Recreation Centre.
Police investigations were launched after a string of separate arson attacks involving two ice-cream vans and a mosque in Bury Park.
The Love Luton festival was mired in controversy after Luton Borough Council said it couldn't release information disclosing the number of tickets sold, due to a clause in the headline artists' contracts.
In other news, the council also announced that no schools in Luton would be forced to become academies after a report stated that the Department for Education was talking to council officers about removing three schools from local authority control.
A dramatic police swoop saw five men arrested in Bury Park and Farley Hill on suspicion of terrorism offences, leaving residents stunned.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian press came to town following comments by mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who described conditions in Luton as "war-like".
The elderly expressed their disgust at the state of the town's bus service. Passengers complained that some drivers didn't wait for them to sit down before pulling off and drove past stops where passengers were waiting.
Meanwhile, Bedfordshire Police made final preparations for one of the biggest operations in its history as the English Defence League and the counter "We Are Luton" group planned to descend on the town on May 5. The cost of the protest to taxpayers was a staggering £1 million, with police officers present from 20 forces around the country. However, the event passed mostly without incident: two people were arrested on the day - one from each of the groups involved - but only nine out of a total of 125 outlets in the town were closed for business.
There was little praise for security at the Stockwood Discovery Centre, after thieves managed to break in and steal a medieval jug worth £750,000. The rare Wenlok Jug was recovered by police in Surrey in September.
In sports news, Kenilworth Road anticipated big changes for the summer as around 14 players and a number of management staff came to the end of their contracts.
The town got out its bunting to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Despite the dreary weather, people put on their party hats and held street parties across Luton.
On an angrier note, residents opposed plans to build 14,000 new homes across Bedfordshire, as well as a new bypass linking the A6 and M1 and the construction of Junction 11a on the motorway.
There was cause for celebration when chief executive of Barnfield College, Pete Birkett, became Sir Pete in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
At the end of the month, three brave children rescued an angler from drowning in a pond. Nicole Brisland, Jordan Hunt Sinclair and Kelly Marie Saunders raised the alert and helped to pull Andy Lydiatt to safety after he was ignored by other passers-by.
Love Luton was the flavour of the month: the four day festival kicked off on July 6, culminating in the passage of the Olympic Torch through the town. Chart-toppers The Wanted and former X Factor contestant Olly Murs performed to thousands of fans and huge crowds lined the streets to watch the procession of the Olympic Flame and cheer on torchbearers, including F1 driver Lewis Hamilton.
However, there were reports that the council would be left counting the cost of the event, with a £290,000 shortfall. Luton Borough Council chief executive Trevor Holden said he had no regrets about hosting the event, saying it had been a positive experience for the town.
On the education front, Michael Gove gave the go-ahead for a new free school on the old Wardown Swimming Pool site, to be set up by the Active Luton trust.
Residents hit out against the Barnfield Federation's plans to build a new primary school, a care home, and up to 39 homes on the New Bedford Road college campus site.
Powerless Town Hall chiefs claimed that they were unable to prevent travellers from returning to a run-down Luton industrial site, despite workers saying that their business was suffering as a result.
There was more negative press for the council when it was revealed that around 700 homes in Luton were sitting empty, despite the fact that the town was suffering from an acute housing crisis, with around 5,000 families on the housing waiting list.
Luton Airport announced that it would formally submit its controversial expansion plans by the end of the year.
At the end of the month, students celebrated their GCSE and A-Level results, with many youngsters acheieving a string of top grades.
In sports news, the Hatters were determined to be promoted after their defeat in the Wembley play-off, with Luton boss Paul Buckle claiming they were "hell-bent" on success.
The figures finally came in for the Love Luton festival: it was revealed that the town lost £394,000 through the event, but council bosses claimed no heads would roll.
However, Town Hall chiefs later announced they were planning a major staff cull, in an attempt to make savings of £48 million over the next three years.
Barnfield College withdrew its building plans in a dramatic u-turn after tireless campaigning from local residents.
There was excitement when Luton lad, Jaymi Hensley, got through to the bootcamp stage on the X Factor with his band Triple J.
The three members were later joined by a fourth, to become Union J, and went on to reach the semi-final of the competition.
There was bad news as Bedfordshire Police admitted they had made "little progress" in tackling anti-social behaviour in the town, with figures up since 2011.
Things didn't improve when Danish Muslim convert, Morten Storm, claimed he was an undercover CIA agent, posing as an extremist to infiltrate Islamic groups in Bury Park. Muslim leaders in Luton expressed their fury over a man they viewed as a troublemaker.
The British Freedom Party PCC candidate, Kevin Carroll, was arrested, leaving his campaign in tatters. He accused the authorities of trying to silence him.
However, the end of the month brought something to smile about. Luton grandmother Sheila Keany met the penpal she had been corresponding with for more than 50 years on the ITV programme Surprise Surprise.
On the sporting front, the Hatters voiced their hopes of buying back their ancestral Kenilworth Road home from the council.
The month kicked off with controversy when Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, announced she would be going into the jungle for ITV programme I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
Former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell denied that he had given Dorries permission to take a month's leave to enter the jungle and the resulting furore saw the MP be the first to be booted out of the show.
It was certainly a month for disgraced politicians as a jury decided Margaret Moran, former MP for Luton South, had taxpayers out of a staggering £53,000, in the worst case of dishonesty to emerge from the MPs' expense scandal.
The results of the PCC elections were annouced, with Labour candidate Olly Martins securing victory. He said his first task would be to "knock back" controversial plans to privatise the police force.
The dark winter nights were accompanied by darker news, as High Town residents called for action over sex workers blighting the area where they live.
On a brighter note, former Putteridge High School pupil, Elizabeth Price, scooped the country's top art award, the Turner Prize.
Christmas is always special but this one will be a real red letter day for Katherine Drake. For the first time in more than a decade, the 23-year-old from Tennyson Road in Luton will be spending it with the father she adores but thought she might never see again.
Roy Wightman, a 97-year-old lifelong Luton Town fan, suffered a broken leg after being trapped under a car in an accident. After a request from the Luton News, Hatters players visited Mr Wightman at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital, and brought with them LTFC goodies including a scarf and a signed team photograph.