NEWS

2011-06-30

Teachers on strike

THOUSANDS of protesters descended on Birmingham city centre as part of nationwide demonstrations against government spending cuts.

Workers from the PCS, NUT, ATL, UCU and Unison assembled in the city's Victoria Square, joined by workers from the city council who had also decided to strike in a show of solidarity.

Despite being told by police that they would not be able to march, the protesters walked in a short loop around the city centre through Birmingham's major shopping district.

In a noisy march men women and children waved placards and chanted, "No ifs, no buts, no public spending cuts," while stewards banged on drums and waved placards along the short route.

Police followed protesters as they marched, but apart from a short delay to city centre traffic there appeared to be no disruptions caused.

Retail workers came out of their shops to watch the march, with some of them applauding the protesters as they passed.

Many shoppers stopped to take photos of the banners and those waving them, with one group of students even deciding to join the parade.

Among the placards, one little girl could be seen holding a hand-drawn sign which read: "I need healthy, happy teachers."

Some chose to wear outlandish costumes to the protests, with one stilt walker dressed as a policeman handing out balloon animals to strikers.

After the march, the protesters reassembled in Victoria Square to hear speeches by union chiefs.

Bands also played protest songs on the small stage in the corner of the square.

The turnout in the city centre appeared to fall short of the 10,000 people that had been predicted to turn up by union bosses, but it was estimated that around 3,000 still chose to attend

However, union reps seemed pleased with the day's proceedings.

Doug Morgan, assistant secretary of Birmingham NUT, said: "We're here to make certain of the conditions for ourselves, but we're also striking today to make sure the children we teach or care for will also have jobs in the future.

"We are going on the streets of Birmingham anyway, even though they told us we weren't allowed.

"To the government ministers who are attacking us, and the councillors who are attacking us I would say 'you are few, we are many'."

Elsewhere, teachers at Vaynor First School in Redditch, Worcestershire, were praised in the Commons yesterday/on Wednesday for choosing not to strike.

Headmistress Sue Foster-Agg said today/yesterday (THURS) that staff at the school, for five to nine year olds, had made the decision not to strike out of consideration to parents of young children, but said that they were not opposed to strike action.

She said: "Those that were eligible to choose to strike decided at this point that they would not do that because of the children and the families it would disrupt.

"In the future, if negotiations are not fruitful, they may reconsider their decision.

"But in the teaching profession, we are a caring profession and at this point in time the staff decided to put the children first.

"However, we are totally supporting those who have gone out today."

Mrs Foster-Agg said that parents at the school had welcomed staff's decision to go to work today/Thursday, but that they were also sympathetic to those on strike.

She said: "They are positive, pleased we are open, but equally people that we have spoken to are supportive of the fact that teachers are thinking that they have got to strike.

"To get high quality teachers, they need good pension provision and that isn't necessarily available at the moment."
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2011-06-29

Chocolate record

A BAND have released their latest single on an edible playable chocolate record.

Scottish pop group Found created the bizarre single with a centre label made from icing sugar and an outer sleeve printed with edible ink on rice paper.

The group teamed up with a bakery to create the sweet record which has 50 per cent cocoa solids and still plays their new single.

The idea came about when chocolatier Ben Milne who is friends with band members Ziggy Campbell and Tommy Perman decided to shoot a video for their new single '  'Anti Climb Paint' in a bakery.

They noticed that some of the bakery machinery resembled equipment used in vinyl pressing plants and asked Ben if it was possible to make a chocolate record.

Ben's first attempt saw him pour molten chocolate on to a regular vinyl disc, but when he played it on a turntable he found out that the song played backwards.

Ben spent weeks experimenting with different methods but what he really needed was a negative metal stamper of the record –the same template that is used in a pressing plant.

The bands record label Chemikal Underground then sent Ben two metal templates which the bakery then used to create 50 chocolate 7" singles.

Ben reckons people will get around 10 plays from the record before it wears down.

He said:  “I heard that vinyl is on the increase and that CDs are on their way out, so chocolate records could be part of a resurgence and people getting their record players out of their attics.”

The record has already been played  - and then eaten - live on radio by Lauren Laverne on BBC6 Music.

Found fan, Karla Brindley, 33, from Workington, Cumbria, has heard and tasted the record.

She said: "Its got everything a girl needs - great music and chocolate. Whats not to like about it.

"It's a prretty cool rock 'n' roll product."

The band includes Ziggy (lead vocals, guitar), Tommy (bass guitar, synth) and Kev Sim (electronics, percussion) who describe their sound as an unusual mix of garage rock, melodic pop and glitchy electronic.
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2011-06-28

Two-sided TV

COULD this be the device that finally solves the all-too familiar argument of what to watch on TV and bring families back together?

A two-sided flat-screen monitor has been designed that allows parents to watch TV while their children do the same or even surf the internet, or play computer games all within their view.

It could also mean the end of one disgruntled partner being resigned to the bedroom of an evening after arguments such as whether to watch the soaps or the football.

And there would be no more children scrambling over who uses the computer first.   

Designed as a dual computer the GBP1,000 'back to back monitor' comes from the mind of designer Phil Pauley, who plans to bring families closer together but also help save he environment.

He said: "The idea came to me while I was sat at home with my wife.

"We were watching TV together and when the programme finished she wanted to watch something different to me.

"We ended up having the traditional argument over who would get to watch what and she ended up saying she'd go upstairs to watch her programme in the bedroom.

"I realised it was silly that we had to be apart just because we wanted to watch different things. It happens all across the country as well, families find themselves spread across the house because they all want to do different things.

"But all the things involve a monitor, so surely they can be integrated into one unit?"

Phil started work on the device immediately, and came up with these designs. They show an integrated computer with two monitors that allow users to do more than one thing in the same room.

Phil is currently in advanced talks with several Chinese investors aimed at getting the TV built soon and hopes to have it fully-manufactured in six months time.

He says the device isn't just restricted to televisions, it would allow parents to keep a close eye on their children while they surfed the web, or played computer games, helping alleviate every day fears about what their little ones are seeing.

"It would help bring families back together," added Phil. "I think we'd all be much closer if we could just do things in the same room.

"I feel it's liberating the televisions from the wall, it's been stuck in the corner of our living room for years, and is increasingly attached to the wall.

"Just by moving it away from the wall and more into the centre of the room it can have a massive effect on our lives."

Not only would the 'Back 2 Back Monitor' allow families to spend more time together businesses could use the TV to reduce the amount of power they use, no longer requiring multiple monitors across their offices

"It would even help the environment, you suddenly don't need anywhere near the amount of devices, using up electricity whether in the home or at work, added Phil.

"Businesses wouldn't need multiple televisions filling the office, just a few could do the same job. It could reduce the amount of electricity we all use dramatically, as well as bringing us closer together."
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2011-06-27

Benefits U-turn

A SCHOOLGIRL who was stripped of her disability benefits despite losing a leg when she nearly died from meningitis has been reinstated with her allowance after a U-turn by red-faced bosses.

Young Olivia Robertson was told she was not disabled enough to qualify for benefits by officials.

But the mean spirited employees at the Department of Work and Pensions have finally seen sense after the embarrassing blunder.

Her GBP300-a-month Disability Living Allowance has been approved until 2017 and payments will be backdated to January.

“Justice has been done,” said her Auntie Sheryl Robertson, who has looked after amputee Olivia, ten, since her mother died from cervical cancer.

The youngster had her right leg amputated after she survived the deadly disease when she was just two-and-a-half in 2003. Now she endures constant pain and survives on a couple of hours' sleep a night.

Complications from the disease mean that she is unable to use her right arm properly, and had to train herself to be left-handed instead.

She has lived at her aunt’s in Hilmorton, Rugby, Warwickshire, with her two sisters Beth,13, and Georgia, 12, since her mum Tracey died aged 21 in 2002.  She selflessly stepped in immediately to take care of her sister’s three children.

Sheryl, who has two children of her own, relied on the money to give her niece the best quality of life possible.

She said: “I couldn’t believe it. How disabled do you have to be? It was a diabolical decision to make.”

Olivia will often participate in some games with her classmates, which might give the false impression that her leg doesn't cause her too many problems, Sheryl said.

“Olivia is quite resilient but she does find it a struggle. She can’t even catch a ball or a ride a bike.

“This system has got to change, especially for children.”

She vowed to fight for Olivia’s right to keep the benefit after it was stopped earlier this year. She was outraged and claimed that her condition was assessed over the phone with one of her school teachers without a medical.

She appealed the decision and went to court to argue her case.

Sheryl added: “My sister would be pleased that justice has been done and that we went to court and they could see we were telling the truth about Olivia’s condition.”

The GBP300 a month benefit - minus GBP45 taken out to pay for a car - means the family can easily get to hospital as well as on day trips.

Olivia said at the time: “Life can be hard with my false leg, it can hurt me quite a bit too. It aches and I have to take it off.

“It can be tough when I get out of the bath. Running around with my friends can be hard too because my balance isn’t very good and I fall over.”

Olivia added: “I would be really upset if we couldn’t go on our days out and holidays. I like going to Center Parcs, especially when we go swimming.”
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2011-06-26

NEXT boss caught drink driving

THE owner of retail-giant Next attempted to bribe two police officers who stopped him for drink-driving in his Maserati, a court heard.

Worcester Magistrate's Court was told that fashion tycoon George Davies, 61, had offered the supercar to officers after being apprehended outside his home in the early hours of May 12 last year.

The multimillionaire and his legal team - from the firm owned by 'Mr Loophole' lawyer Nick Freeman - deny that such a comment, which was not officially recorded by officers, had ever been made.

Mr Davies - who created the George at Asda clothing range - faces a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to stop when instructed to do so by police.

The court heard that police had first begun to tail Mr Davies when they spotted his Maserati driving along the High Street in Broadway, Worcs, at around one in the morning on May 12 last year.

Police constable Jonathon Rice, who drove the marked police Volvo used to follow Mr Davies, said that officers had initially followed his silver vehicle because they thought it was an Audi - a car often used by career criminals to commit crimes in the well-to-do area.

PC Rice told the court that the car had been travelling 'slightly in excess of the speed limit' on the thirty mile an hour road.

He said that he and his colleague followed Mr Davies for about five miles towards his home, using flashing lights to alert him to their presence.

Officer Rice said: "The vehicle carried on, never going excessively fast, just carried on driving with no indication from the driver, no indication at any point that he was going to allow us to go past, he just carried on driving."

PC Rice said that they followed the car up to a large house with a gate, where the driver stopped in order to open it.

At that point, PC Rice said, the other officer jumped out of the car, ran towards the Maserati and "thumped" on the window to attract Mr Davies' attention.

When PC Rice went to assist, he said that Mr Davies appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.

He said: "He was unsteady on his feet, as I got closer to him I could smell alcohol on his breath and also his speech was slurred."

The officers subsequently arrested Mr Davies and drove him to Worcester Police Station.

PC Rice said Mr Davies was 'quite chatty' during the trip, and that he even tried to drunkenly bribe the officers.

PC Rice said: "Mr Davies, obviously in drink, did say to myself and PC Berry that we could have his Maserati car if the matter could just be dropped.

"I took that as somebody in drink saying something that they did not mean or believe."

Once at the station, the court heard that Mr Davies responded 'no' when asked if he had drunk alcohol or taken any medication.

He gave two breathalyser tests within one minute of each other at the station, one reading 53 mg of alcohol,  the second reading 52.

The legal limit is 35mg.

Mr Davies' solicitor, Jon Oultram, put it to PC Rice, who had made no written record of his comment in official documents, that Mr Davies had never offered his Maserati in return for being let off.

Cross examining PC Rice, Mr Oultram said: "Mr Davies never said anything about a Maserati, you're just saying that to make his position look worse, aren't you?"

PC Rice denied this, saying that he had thought he was doing Mr Davies 'a favour' by not recording the comment and potentially getting him in more trouble.

He said: "He asked the question and in stuck in my mind."

Mr Oultram may seek to have the trial thrown out, as CCTV tapes from police custody, which he says may prove Mr Davies' behaviour was not 'untoward' were not retained.

Mr Davies, 69, wore a grey pinstripe suit, blue shirt and black tie with red and gold stripe.

He was given permission by magistrates to wear sunglasses in court if required, because of migraines sometimes triggered by artificial lighting.

The condition was said to be the result of an operation to remove a brain tumour in 2002.
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2011-06-25

Bupa in court over pensioner death

MEDICAL giant BUPA has been handed a six figure-fine after a vulnerable 91-year-old died from a fall in one of its care homes for the elderly.

Frail Irene Evans, 91, fell from a hoist operated by staff who had not been properly trained in its use, a sentencing hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court was told on Thursday

The dementia sufferer, who had three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, fell forward from the lifting equipment at Parklands Court Nursing Home in Bloxwich, West Midlands in January 2007.

Mrs Evans, who was unable to speak and suffered limited mobility, was said to have slipped from the sling, suffering a five-inch gash to her forehead.

She died from her injuries ten days later.

The court heard that staff at the nursing home had ordered a new hoist to help move Mrs Evans from her bed to a chair in her room after it was suggested that the existing equipment may have been causing sores.

But management at the home did not follow BUPA's central procedures when ordering the new equipment, which meant that it did not undergo the proper assessment which was required.

As a result, staff were not properly trained in its usage, and had assumed that it had operated in the same way as the previous equipment.

The incident gave rise to a four-year legal battle, ending in Thursday's GBP100,000 fine.

At an inquest in December 2009, a jury  decided on a verdict of accidental death, giving rise to today's proceedings.

The Medical group was ordered to pay a GBP 100,000 fine plus GBP 50,000 in court costs.

Delivering sentence, Judge John Wait said that a failure to properly assess the new equipment was what led to the accident.

He said: "What was required was an alerter to any change in assessment or care plan, together with information or training in respect of that change and that was absent."

He added: "If there had been adequate training in staff that training would have alerted the staff involved as to the operation of the new sling and not make the assumption that it operated as others had."

As the judge read the sentence to a full public gallery which contained weeping family members, he added that he felt the incident was not indicative of failings throughout BUPA as a whole, and that the wider health and safety record was a good one.

He said: "There is no evidence that this error was at a level higher than at the home in Bloxwich."

Judge Wait initially levied a fine of GBP150,000, but reduced the penalty to GBP100,000 due to the company's early guilty plea.

He said: "There was a very early guilty plea from the moment the accident took place, the company has been entirely co-operative in answering the questions asked of it by the Health and Safety Executive during the course of its investigations and responding promptly to recommendations in order to improve its procedures and policies."

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Evan's granddaughter, Helen Baggott, 45, said that the family hoped their struggle would mean other families would not lose loved ones in the same way.

She said: "I think we are all happy with the outcome, and I think we are all relieved.

"It has brought some closure, BUPA have put some changes into place, but at the moment we still don't know what really happened or how it happened, and still have to come to terms with the fact that we might never know.

"It's not really about the fine, the fine can never compensate for the loss of life."

Mrs Baggott added that the close-knit family had stuck together to fight for the result.

She said: "It has been a really difficult time, all you have to go through, it's so easy for you to get lost in the system, so many times we've come to a point where it feels like you're getting absolutely nowhere.

"I think it is only because we are a close family and have stuck together and been there for each other that we've got through these four and a half years.

"I would imagine if it was an individual who loses a loved one I really don't know how they would cope with the situation."

Paying tribute to her grandmother, she said: "She was lovely. Quiet, placid but always smiling.

"She just loved her family, they meant everything to her.

"We just hope that no-one else will have to go what we've been through."

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2011-06-24

Michelangelo Cover Up

A KILLJOY council have ordered for an elderly couple's replica of Michelangelo's David to be covered up - because it is 'offending' residents.

For more than 500 years the classic statue has been admired by all - but one couple have been forced to move their version of the artwork following complaints it was upsetting.

Clive and Joan Burgess put the replica of the famous nude statue outside the front door of their new home in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

But within days of moving in the couple were told by the warden of the council-owned sheltered housing complex  “people did not want to look at him”.

Now the couple have hidden the statue, the original of which stands in the  Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, behind a shrub and a patio set in the garden of neighbour Sue Cullen.

The couple say they are shocked the statue has created such a stir.

Mrs Burgess, 64, said: “The warden asked us to move him as people didn’t want to look at him. They think it is not tasteful.

“It was offending folk but I can’t see the reason behind it.

“I heard someone was going to buy a pair of pants and put them on him.”

Mr Burgess, 71, added: “It is a timeless piece of art.”

The replica of Michelangelo's Renaissance masterpiece is not the only statue owned by the couple that caused a stir with neighbours.

Mr and Mrs Burgess have also moved a small water feature of another classical piece, a replica of the Manneken Pis statue, of a toddler urinating, which was also outside their front door. It now stands in their kitchen.

The couple, who moved into their ground floor flat in May, brought David and the Manneken Pis from their former home in Baston Road, Greatford.

Mr and Mrs Burgess, who used to run a pub, bought the GBP100 statue from a garden centre five years ago.

Neighbour Sue said: “There has been such a hoo-ha over this. It is a statue, it’s fabulous.

“You are not telling me that children don’t see worse than that on television.”

But another neighbour who did not want to be named, said: "Who wants to look at a man's private parts every time they go out the house. I'm sure if I erected a statue of a naked woman they would have something to say about it."

A spokesman for South Kesteven District Council,said: “We didn’t deem it to be offensive however we did explain that several residents had expressed that they were upset by it.

“Our understanding is that we didn’t instruct for the statue to be moved we simply passed on the concerns raised with us and the owners agreed to move it."
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2011-06-23

Toddler could have been saved

THE death of a three-year-old boy -murdered by a couple who were supposed to be caring for him - could have been prevented after a damning report revealed the toddler was not protected and badly let down by child protection agencies.  

Ryan Lovell-Hancox was battered to death after being systematically abused by Kayley Boleyn and her boyfriend Chris Taylor -who had both been flagged up as dangerous to children before.

A serious case review today/yesterday (THURS) revealed the tragic youngster was badly let down by Wolverhampton City Council, housing officials, probation staff and police.

In total 14 agencies missed opportunities to save Ryan's life, the scathing report said.

Ryan had been staying at Boleyn's squalid flat in Bilston, West Midlands, for less than a month before his death in December 2008  after his single mother paid Boleyn GBP40  week to look after him because she was struggling to cope alone.

Teenage carer Boleyn and her alcoholic boyfriend Taylor left tragic toddler Ryan with 75 injuries before he died in 'hell and squalor' on Christmas Eve.

A court heard last year how little Ryan was thrown against walls, locked in a cupboard, punched and slapped by 'bullies' Boleyn and Taylor, who had been entrusted with the tot's care by his mother Amy Hancox, a distant cousin and childhood friend of Boleyn, 19.

A Serious Case Review into the tragedy, which published its findings today/yesterday(THURS), disclosed how:

*Police "lost" details of an earlier assault by Boleyn on one of her brothers and sisters that could have flagged up her potential danger to children if properly recorded

*Probation Service failed to properly record that Taylor was branded a "medium level risk to children" and failed to spot the potential danger when he took Ryan along with him to an interview with a probation officer days before the murder

*Shaftesbury Young People's Project, employed by Wolverhampton City Council to monitor Boleyn, used "poorly trained staff" who did not visit her often enough.

The review found that one of the housing officers did call to the flat on the day Ryan was later rushed to hospital unconscious with multiple injuries.

But during a press conference today, lawyer Martin Burnett, who headed the review commissioned by Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children board, said: "The member of staff involved had no specific social work qualifications, limited qualifications or experience generally, and had received insufficient training.

"The supervision this staff member received also appears to have been of poor quality.

"He said he concluded the worker was given 'more responsibility than it was reasonable for someone in those circumstances to bear'.

"Having seen a child at the flat, the worker took no action," he added.

The review heavily criticised Wolverhampton City Council for not properly checking on the work carried out by Shaftesbury, which had been contracted to "provide a minimum level of contact" with Boleyn to the run up to the tragedy, but did not do so.

The council was also criticised for having a contract with Shaftesbury that was "neither sufficiently detailed nor precise enough to govern the complex arrangements it was supposed to deal with".

Ryan was rushed to hospital with 54 separate visible marks of injury, less than 40 hours before his death on Christmas Eve 2008.

The child had been systematically abused for weeks after his 21-year-old mother paid Boleyn, then aged 17 and now 20, to look after him.

Boleyn later admitted that he had been shut in the airing cupboard, forced to lick up spilt soup from the filthy floor, shouted at so harshly he wet himself, mercilessly beaten on the sole of the feet and bottom and repeatedly slapped.

Both his ears had faded bruises caused by earlier heavy slaps to the side of the head. His face had been rubbed on the carpet so harshly that it caused friction burns to his nose probably as punishment for wetting himself. She blamed Taylor for much of the brutality.

The review into his murder also criticised West Midlands Police after it emerged that three years before the murder, Boleyn had been reported to police for assaulting a younger sibling.

Mr Burnett said: "The original allegations of that assault became lost. The absence of any police record meant that these allegations were unknown to other agencies dealing with her in the future."

He added that Taylor had been branded a "medium level risk" to children in October 2005 but added: "This assessment was not properly recorded by the Probation Service, and the appropriate "flag" was not placed on his record.

He said that the records of both Boleyn and Taylor was both "deficient" and did not properly show the background level of risks posed by the couple.

He also said that not enough had been done to help Ryan's natural mother bring him up alone.

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2011-06-22

Fire engine kills teacher

A PRIMARY school teacher was killed in front of her young daughter when a fire engine smashed into her car as it responded to an emergency call that turned out just to be a family barbecue, an inquest heard.  

Helen Hunt, 39, was driving her nine-year-old daughter Laura to Brownies when her Citroen Saxo collided with the fire appliance in Northfield, Birmingham last year.

Laura suffered minor injuries in the crash while Mrs Hunt died early the next morning in Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital of multiple injuries including a broken skull.

An inquest sitting at Sutton Coldfield magistrates court heard that the fire engine was responding to a 999 call from a member of the public reporting a fire in a block of flats - which later turned out to be a neighbour lighting a barbecue on their balcony.

The inquest heard that the engine was travelling at at least 48mph down the 30mph limited road, which it is permitted to do so in an emergency. It was driving down the middle of the road in order to maximise its visibility.

PC Nigel Powell, who had investigated the scene of the crash and is an expert in road traffic accidents, told the court that there was a 31 metre tyre mark left in the road from the fire engine as it attempted to avoid the collision.

He said that West Midlands Fire Service guidelines said emergency vehicles could travel at the speed limit plus 50 per cent with an extra tolerance of 10 per cent on top to account for speedometer error.

This put the engine travelling just inside the guidelines set out, but PC Powell pointed out under cross examination that they were just guidelines and the law allowed emergency vehicles to exceed the speed limit in an emergency with no limit.

Eyewitnesses had confirmed at a previous hearing that they saw the engine slam on its brakes and attempt to swerve to scrub off more speed and avoid the collision but to no avail.

The court was told back in April that the fire engine would have been in view for over six seconds  to Mrs Hunt in her Citroen Saxo before the collision.

Joe Poyton, who was driving the fire engine at the time, told police he had seen the back of Mrs Hunt's head just before the impact, suggesting she had been looking the other way just before the two vehicles collided.

He said: “I did everything I could to try to avoid the collision.

“The lights and the siren were on. As I approached the junction the car pulled out into my path. At the point of impact the car was moving very slowly. A fraction after braking I steered to the left, but there wasn’t room for me to get past on the left.

“Had the car been further forwards there might have been.

“There was nothing I could have done to have avoided the collision.”

Teacher Nathan Hill saw the accident from his car. "The car pulled out and at that point I had a real moment of shock and horror of what I thought might happen," he told the inquest. "As soon as the car pulled out I had an awful feeling about this one.

"I was pretty much fixated on what was going to happen."

Assistant deputy coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe recorded a verdict of accident death today/yesterday (WED).  She said: "The fire engine was not breaking the law or any regulations from West Midlands fire department," she said.

"The driver of the unit applied emergency braking as soon as he realised there was going to be a collision. Mrs Hunt had pulled out of a the junction slowly.

"It would appear she believed she was no longer in danger from vehicles coming from her right, she must have seen the fire engine at some point, but by that time she was unable to move forwards or backwards to avoid an accident."

Mrs Hunt's husband Shaun declined to comment after the case.
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2011-06-21

Road rage causes death

A MOTORIST was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of a 55-year-old man in a car park during a heated row over an alleged road rage dispute.

David McIntyre McPherson, was understood to have suffered a suspected heart attack and collapsed in the middle of an argument in the St John’s open air car park in Northampton at about 10.35am on Saturday.

Mr McPherson, from Northampton, was understood have been rowing with a 40-year-old man following a suspected road rage incident in the area moments earlier.

Police have appealed for any witnesses to the incident to come forward, and were particularly keen to hear from drivers who may have seen the early stages of the dispute.

DCI Martin Kinchin, from Northamptonshire police, said: “The car park was busy on Saturday morning and I am keen to speak to anyone who witnessed this verbal argument at about 10.35am in St John’s car park, in Northampton.

“We are also keen to speak to anybody who witnessed any dispute between the drivers of a blue Toyota Yaris and a bronze-coloured 3-series BMW in Bedford Road, Northampton immediately prior to this incident.”

It is understood the 40-year-old man was arrested in the vicinity of the car park although it has not been confirmed whether or not he stayed with the victim until the paramedics arrived after he collapsed.

Police confirmed they were not looking for anyone else in relation to the matter and reiterated it was a verbal, not physical, attack.

A 20-metre area of the car park, near a pay and display machine, was sealed off with police tape immediately after the incident and shoppers were spoken to by police as they removed their cars from the area.

Emergency teams were called to the scene at about 10.40am and the car park remained out of bounds until lunchtime on Saturday.

Paramedics were seen treating the victim for up to 20 minutes but he was later pronounced dead.

A number of items of clothing were seen scattered within the police cordon, with forensics teams working closely with officers to recover potential pieces of evidence from what police were treating as an active crime scene.

Shoppers were being diverted away from the car park and into the multi-storey car park opposite.

The 40-year-old man has been released on bail pending the results of a post mortem examination, which is due to be held on Tuesday.

A report has been prepared for the coroner.

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2011-06-20

Fairytales made of balloons

A WACKY artist has recreated his favourite children's fairy tales - using the unusual medium of balloons.

Larry Moss, who has displayed his incredible, inflatable art in 12 countries across four continents, has created these astonishing images depicting some of the world's most famous children's stories.

The display, called the Fine Art of Airigami: Once Upon a Time, includes The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk, all made mostly from air.
 
Once Upon a Time, created by Larry and his design partner Kelly Cheatle, features all new work inspired by childhood memories, with fantasy “snapshots” from classic children’s stories, fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  

Children are depicted as characters from the famous fables, in a world created with a myriad of different types of balloons.

Impressively, one picture, depicting Jack and the Beanstalk, shows a child standing on the famous beanstalk supported entirely by balloons.

In another, Goldilocks, incredibly small, near see-through balloons, have been used to depict the wisps of steam coming off the porridge that was too hot for the bear's house intruder.

Little Red Riding Hood's famous cape is constructed entirely from rubber and air, along with her basket, as she is watched from behind by a sinister balloon wolf.

The photos – which are a combination of balloon sculpture, photography and illustration – will surround a live balloon sculpture installation.  The show’s title also plays off the temporary nature of Moss’s medium.
 
Larry started using balloons 25 years ago as a New York City street performer. He began experimenting with balloon art in 2009 with incorporating his unusual medium into photographs.  

The result was his Master Works series – parodies of iconic masterpieces – which debuted in his exhibition, Putting on Airs, at an American competition called ArtPrize.
 
“The Master Works were inspired in part by the general perception of my medium as a child’s toy," said Larry, who has been asked to appear at the White House several times,

"I decided to recreate the works of the great masters to gently challenge people’s preconceived notions of what art is and to make them smile.
 
“I’m not trying to prove anything anymore,” she added “I just want to keep growing and sharing my art with people who are in touch with their inner child.”
 
Larry is also the creator of four 'Balloon Manors' – 10,000-square-foot haunted houses in America made from 100,000 balloons each – which have raised more than USD80,000 (GBP50,000) for health charities.  

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2011-06-19

"Hello boobs!"

THIS RACY billboard is designed to save lives - but its makers are hoping that it won't have the opposite effect and cause male motorists to crash.

The advert for breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! is a cheeky parody of Wonderbra's traffic-stopping 1994 advert featuring supermodel Eva Herzigova.

But rather than promoting saucy knickers, the new version of the huge poster is designed to remind women to check their breasts for signs of breast cancer.

And the people behind it are hoping that it won't cause distracted commuters to crash their cars like its predecessor was said to have done.

Next to the picture, the slogan 'Hello Boobs! Knowing your breasts can save your life' appears next to the charity's logo.

And just like its predecessor, the saucy advert has been turning heads since it was unveiled last week (Thurs).

Pretty Kristin Hallenga started CoppaFeel! after being diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 23-years-old.

Now 25, Kristin unveiled the billboards this week as part of the charity's efforts to get women to NAME their boobs. They can be seen up and down the country and have already turned heads in Birmingham and London.

She said: "We want people to have a more meaningful relationship with their boobs, we want them to name them.

"With those names, we want to send people personalised text messages reminding them to check their breasts."

Kristin, who founded the charity with her twin sister Maren, is hoping to appeal to a younger demographic of women who might not normally check for lumps in their breast.

She said that the charity, of which Radio 1 DJ Fearne Cotton is the patron, tries to do things in a "quirky and interesting way" to appeal to a younger audience.

She said: "We do a lot of guerilla stuff, the idea is that people will see the advert and wonder what the campaign is about.

"It's had a great response, people have already been talking about it on Twitter."

The charity got the blessing of  Trevor Beattie - the man behind the original ad - to recreate Herzigova's iconic pose.

Kristin said: "Since it was recently voted the most successful ad campaign of all time, we got in touch with the guy who designed it and asked if we could take off his advert - he said yes.

"For a small charity like us to get permission to do something like this is great."

The original advert was voted 'most iconic outdoor advertisement' in a poll conducted by trade body Outdoor Media Centre in March this year.

When it was originally released, the ad was accused of causing distracted male motorists to crash their cars as they drove past.

Kristin said: "We just knew that the advert would catch the eye, but I hope it doesn't cause any crashes."

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2011-06-18

Trouble for magician

A MAGICIAN was thrown out of a bar and quizzed by police - for bending a fork!

Paul Fisher, who goes by the stage name Paul Saint, was given his marching orders by a burly doorman after performing the trick for friends at Apres bar in Lichfield, Staffs.

"I tried to tell the bouncer that the forks were my own, but he wouldn't listen," said Paul, 35, by day a driving instructor from Pelsall, West Midlands.

"I always take a few props out with me and perform for friends. I've never had this reaction before."

Moments after being turfed out, he claims a police van raced to a halt beside him and he was told to get inside in connection with the incident.

"It was completely over the top," said Paul, who has been a part-time magician for 10 years and performs at corporate events.

"I was only having an innocent drink with a few friends.

"I was told to get out and the police were called. I wasn't given any sort of explanation or told to put the forks away.

"The police vehicle came screaming up the street and an officer jumped out.

"He said he'd had a complaint about me bending up some forks. I told him they were my own forks and was about to get some out of my pocket when he told me to get in the van."

Paul, who added that he was completely sober at the time, was driven back to Apres and made to wait in the van while the officer spoke to the doorman.

"He spoke to the bouncer, having a laugh and joke, and then did a background check, which came back all-clear," he said.

"The officer then let me go.

"I was astonished that there was all this fuss over a few forks, which I happened to own. I was performing this trick in front of my friends.

"I just can't believe the way I was treated. The bouncer seemed to think that I'd been in there before, but that was the first time that I had ever set foot in the building.

"I think they were just having a laugh at my expense and trying to make me look like a fool. Since when has it been a crime to bend a few of your own forks to the amusement of your friends? I had contained the tricks to just my group."

He added: "I've done impromptu performances in pubs before and never been banned for it. Bringing in a magician adds value to a person's night out as it's entertaining.

"I am shocked that Apres would react like this. All I was doing was showing a few friends some tricks.

"They completely ruined our night. It's not as if I was drunk and disorderly."

Fiona Williams, director of Apres, claimed that the fork was a security issue - despite the bar serving food and having its own supply of cutlery. She said: "It is our policy not to allow objects into our venues which can be a danger to the general public.

"That man was not organised as a magician, nor did he announce himself or his intentions to perform as a magician to our doorstaff or management.

"Our actions were conducted in the interest of the public. We have to protect our customers and knives and forks are a security issue."

A Staffordshire Police spokesperson said that no record of the incident had been logged.

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2011-06-17

'Smelly man' appeal

POLICE have left taxi drivers baffled after launching a bizarre appeal to help catch a 'smelly man'.

The unusual request comes as detectives in Bedford investigate the theft of a TV earlier this month.

It’s believed a taxi driver bought a TV and DVD combo unit from the pungent criminal last week while his taxi was parked up in a bus station cab rank.

The man selling the unit was described as white, aged in his mid thirties, skinny build, 5ft 9ins tall with short brown hair in a crew cut style and very few teeth. He was dirty and very smelly.

A man has been arrested in connection with burglary, and now officers are hoping the taxi driver will come forward.

Local taxi drivers have spoken of their confusion at the description given by the police.

A local taxi driver, who didn't want to be named, said: "He must pong something awful if the police think it's strong enough for you to remember.

"Surely a photo-fit would be better? Especially if they say a man has been arrested. If they're looking to get him identified shouldn't they release a picture and ask if anyone has bought something off him?

"Or are they going to release a description of the smell?" he added.

Another working in the area said: "We see so many people through our taxis how are we going to remember one from their smell?

"Half the people I have in my cab smell bad."

Det Con Verity McCann said: “We’re trying to find the taxi driver as he could help us solve the burglary.

“He may well not realise that the TV is stolen and we are not looking to take action against him, we’re just trying locate the television so that we can complete our enquiries into the burglary and help the householder.

“We’d like to hear from the taxi driver or anyone who may know who he is – he can give us a call direct at the main police station or just call in and have a chat.”

Officers believe the unit was stolen in a burglary at Grosvenor Street in Bedford on Thursday, June 9.

The driver was in a green car, but efforts to find him so far have drawn a blank.

Alongside the TV and DVD unit, a gold coloured Acer laptop worth GBP579 was also stolen in the burglary.
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2011-06-16

Villa fans protest

SEVERAL hundred furious Aston Villa fans gathered at Villa park this/yesterday/Wednesday evening to vent their anger at chairman Randy Lerner's attempts to appoint former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish as the club's new manager.

Carrying banners and chanting the fans blocked roads around the stadium before taking over the steps to the club's famous Holte End.

On banner read 'Stay the Eck away from Villa Park', referring to McLeish's nickname 'Big Eck', while another read 'once scum, always scum'.

The angry protest was organised via social networking sites including Facebook after it was revealed that McLeish had cut short a holiday to have talks with the Birmingham club.

Initially gathered by the club gates the crowd chanted angrily against the potential appointment, saying that no fans would turn up to the first game of the season should the former Rangers manager take over the reigns following Gerard Houllier's departure last month.

McLeish resigned from the St Andrews club earlier this week, citing the sacking of key technical staff as his reasons for leaving.

Birmingham chiefs have reported their city rivals for allegedly 'tapping up' McLeish and are demanding compensation before he joins Villa.

David Moore, 40, helped to organise a banner that has hung across the gates for several days saying 'No McLeish at Villa'.

"We all spend a lot of money every year on the club, and no one wants him here," he said.

"He's not good enough for us, I will want my money back for my season ticket if he joins. "

Shortly before 6pm the situation almost turned ugly as the swelling group flooded towards the gates,  blocking the road.

Club officials immediately locked and chained the gates, leading to one can climbing to the top to lead chants.

Shortly after several angry fans tried to break through the gates unsuccessfully before deciding to head towards the Holte End, home to Villa's most vociferous fans during games.

46-year-old Trevor Baker and his son Tom, 25, came from Solihull to join the protests.

"It's got nothing to do with his connection with the Blues," said Trevor.

"If they'd had a great manager and we nicked him off them I'd be delighted. But he's just not good enough.

"Even Birmingham fans will tell you he isn't, he only plays negative football."

The pair have a preferred appointment that is echoed by many other Villa fans.

"I want David Moyes," said Tom. "He'd be good enough, but McLeish just won't cut it.

"He relegated Birmingham twice," added Trevor. "The Cup makes no difference, they didn't win it, Arsenal lost it."

After half an hour the group headed back to the club gates, after roundly booing some passing police officers and a club official who came to talk to them.

By this point the numbers had swelled so much that the road was completely blocked, leaving drivers trapped in the road.

Soon protesters had climbed the railings and the gates, changing to be let into the ground they consider to be there's.

Police closed the road at around 7pm with about 500 people blocking any access around the stadium.

Soon after fans broke through the gates and ran to chant outside the club reception.

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2011-06-15

Will.I.Am made out of black eyed peas

AN artist has created a portrait of hip hop star will.i.am using nothing but thousands of black eyed peas.

Dubbed 'Peacasso',  university student Lee Merricks spent 24 hours in a four day period slaving over the 85cm by 60cm portrait and positioning each pea by hand.

The artwork contains around 5kg of black eyed peas. It is unsure how many peas in total were used.  

The work was commissioned by Alton Towers Theme Park resort to celebrate the band’s forthcoming performance at the Staffordshire venue.

A spokesperson said: "We hope that somebody might get the chance to win the portrait or when they play at the theme park we could even present it to will.i.am and see what he thinks of it.

"Lee worked into the late hours of the night to complete this and we think he has done a fantastic job.

"We wanted to celebrate the face that the resort was hosting one of the few Black Eyed Peas UK dates and thought this was a good way to do that."

Samantha Horne, 22, one of the GBP 39 ticket holders for the event on July 6, said: "I'm surprised nobody has thought of this before. It looks great."

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2011-06-14

Women dies after falling in heels

A POPULAR pub landlady died just days after falling over in high heels during a night out.

Tragic Sian Thomas even wrote on her Facebook page following the fall: "had a good night for jenny’s leaving party ... but slipped over in my heels and been to A AND E and i have bruised the bone on my knee !!! in agony , cant walk :(...”

The 38-year-old’s message implied her injuries were painful but no more than bruising - but days later she was dead.

At an opening of an inquest into her death on Monday Worcestershire coroner Geraint Williams reported that Miss Thomas, who ran the Berkeley Arms in Spetchley, Worcs, had developed an embolism following the fall.

The Facebook message left at 12.26pm on Tuesday, June 7, was to be her last as she was suddenly taken ill at her partner’s house and died the next day.

Friends replied to the message with comments such as 'hi sianey well that was silly wasn't it' and 'hope ur ok', but after tragedy struck dozens of people flooded her page with tributes.

Friend Jenny Kite simply wrote: "Love you forever x"

One friend said: “Sian my lovely, I can’t believe your gone, So many great memory’s (sic), I’ll never forget you x x x”

Another posted: “So sad news Sian, you were fantastic to work with and a truly wonderful person to know. You will be missed by many. It was a privilege just to know you.”

On her page, Sian listed her favourite quote as "live life for today tomorrow may never come...'.

A get-together was held in her memory at the Firefly bar on Saturday night. Miss Thomas was originally from Pembrey in south Wales and had worked at the Berkeley Arms for almost three years. She also lived there.

Last week, Darren Eden, managing director of Spirit Hospitality, which owns the Berkeley Arms, paid tribute to Miss Thomas’ commitment and fondness of the pub, its customers and staff.

He said: “Very sadly our dear friend and colleague Sian Thomas passed away suddenly on the afternoon of Wednesday after being taken ill in Worcester.

“Sian’s commitment to her work and her fondness of the Berkeley Arms, its staff and its customers was exemplary and she will be greatly missed by us all.

“It is very early days and arrangements for her funeral are not yet known. This is an extremely sad time for us all and our thoughts and prayers are with Sian, her family and her many close friends.”

Arrangements for her funeral are yet to be confirmed. The inquest was adjourned for reports.

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2011-06-13

Festival goers should check Insurance

With the Music Festival season upon us… Download, and the Isle of White festival’s have already been and gone. But fear not still to come are Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and V festival!

Swinton Insurance is offering a word of warning for festival goers to make sure they have their personal possessions covered on their home insurance policy.

Swinton, the UK’s leading high street retailer of home insurance, surveyed 2,200 customers and found that 37% of regular Festival goers take valuable possessions to festivals but only 11% of this percentage would make sure their items were insured.

Swinton also found that just over 7% of festival goers had had items stolen from their tents and campervans. A further 11% had lost or damaged items themselves whilst camping at festivals.

As theft, loss and damage of possessions is common at festivals, Swinton is advising customers to check what items are currently covered on their contents insurance policy before they take their valuables away. If customers do require any additional cover for personal items, they can easily add them to their existing home insurance policy.

Steve Chelton, Insurance Development Manager at Swinton said, “It’s important that festival goers try and be on their guard for opportunistic thieves who, unfortunately, target these sorts of events. Tents are often left unguarded for long periods of time, so we advise people to keep valuables on them at all times. We also advise adding any valuable possessions to their home insurance policy if they plan to take them to festivals.”

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2011-06-12

Indian fish pill

IT MAY look like a bizarre ritual, but these people are eating a centuries-old 'fish-pill' cure said to treat a range of respiratory problems.

Men, women and children flock to Hyderabad, India, to take 'fish prasadam', a traditional remedy which locals say relieve asthma and other breathing difficulties.

Over 20,000 people descended on the city's Exhibition Grounds to receive the 'miracle cure' on Wednesday, at an annual event to herald the arrival of the Monsoon season.

Eager patients lined up to swallow a live 'murrel', or 'snakehead', fish, which had a yellow herbal paste stuffed into its mouth.

Locals believe that they have to swallow the fish for three consecutive years in order to reap the benefits of the treatment.

Local family the Bathini Gouds have been distributing the fish pills free of charge for over 160 years.

They set up 32 treatment counters on Wednesday night at the city's exhibition centre, where men, women and children had been queuing for several hours in the hope of receiving one of the 'fish pills'.

Many of them travelled over great distances to attend the giveaway, and for some seasoned attendees it wasn't their first time receiving the treatment.

Bhumiya Naik, who came from Latur, Maharashtra, around 170 miles/280km away, said: “This is the third time I have come here as I got some relief earlier.”

First-timer Ajmal Khan from Bidar, Karnataka, said he heard about the medicine from his friends.

He said: “I have been suffering from asthma for the last seven years. I have tried everything but nothing worked. Now I want to try this.”

Controversy hit the popularity of the so-called 'miracle drug' after protest groups labelled it as a fraud.

They claimed that the herbal paste, which contains heavy metals, could be doing more harm than good.

One group opposed to the treatment, children's rights organisation Balala Hakkula Sangham, organised a consecutive event where ‘frog medicine’ was handed out to mock the fish prasadam.

But the Goud family, who were ordered to conduct tests on the paste by a local court, said it had been revealed to be safe.

The family has been distributing the 'fish prasadam' free of cost for the last 165 years.

It claims that the one of their ancestors was given a secret formula for the herbal medicine by a saint who made him swear that it would only be distributed for free.

Despite the fish pills being given out for free, the event is a money-spinner for the local authorities, which sees thousands head to the city.

Local fisherman also profit from the event, as thousands of the tiny murrel fish are required to administer the medicine to each patient.

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2011-06-11

Yobs hurl cat under car

AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD girl has been left heartbroken after yobs threw her beloved kitten under a moving car in a "barbaric" attack.

Nine-month-old kitten, ‘Patch’, died immediately from the impact after two heartless thugs tossed her underneath the car.

The kitten had been given as an eighth birthday present to Annabella O’Neill in November, and the little girl was said to have doted on the kitten.

Annabella’s mother, Mary, said she has not been able to tell her heartbroken daughter the cause of her beloved pet’s death and has instead simply told her she died in a tragic road accident

She said: “I haven’t told her the whole story but I have told her it was an accident. I don’t want her to know there are people out there who could do this to be honest.

"She's already devastated. Patch was her best friend."

Mary was alerted to Patch's tragic death after a neighbour witnessed the incident unfolding.

She said: “My next door neighbour was walking down the road and saw it happen.

"She didn’t realise it was our cat and then asked if it was a little black and white kitten.

"The driver of the car that hit her didn’t see anyone but there was a van coming the other way and the driver saw somebody throw her under the car.”

The sickening attack happened in Spencer, Northants, at around 9.45pm on Wednesday night.

Mary said she wanted to warn other pet owners in the area about the attack.

“It is worrying that somebody can do something like that.

"She was a dopey little thing and she was so friendly so would have just walked up to people.

“If someone can do this to a little fluffy animal you wonder what else they could do. I just can’t understand the mentality of someone who does something like this.”

Police yesterday said they were investigating reports two men had carried out the attack.

One of them is described as Asian, wearing a white baseball cap.

Roy Marriott, from the Animals in Need, labelled the attackers as “barbaric”. He said attacks of this nature had happened before in the county but were rare.

He said: “We have had incidents before about 18 months ago with dogs that have been thrown underneath cars on the A14 but we haven’t had anything like that involving cats.

“I just can’t understand what on earth possesses anyone to do that. It is absolutely barbaric.”

A police spokesman said: “They were informed by witnesses that two unknown men had been seen to throw a cat underneath a car before running off.”
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2011-06-10

Man attacked by buzzard

A PENSIONER was left pouring with blood after a terrifying buzzard attack left him with  deep claw scratches to his head.

Nick George, 71, was left badly injured after being swooped on by the bird while he walked in the Cotswold countryside.

The buzzard dive-bombed him on a path in a wheat field near Severn Stoke, Gloucestershire, on Monday.

Mr George, from Bredon, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, said he had no idea why it attacked him.

Experts have said such incidents were rare, but was usually the behaviour of a parent protecting its young.

Mr George had been planning a route for the Tewkesbury University of the Third Age walking group when he spotted the buzzard being "mobbed" by a group of crows.

"I thought I'd been hit on the head with a stick or a brick and I staggered forward with my walking poles which luckily kept me on my feet," said Mr George.

"I looked up and could see the buzzard flying away, then the blood started coming down over my eyes and down my face."

He was treated for four deep scratch wounds at Tewkesbury Hospital.

"I've seen lots of buzzards in the past and they, but I've never ever been attacked by anything. Quite a shock it was when it happened," Mr George said.

Mark Palmer, falconry expert at the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent, Gloucestershire, said he had heard of isolated incidents in the UK, but that they were very rare.

"June is the month when young buzzards will be leaving their nests and trying to find their way in the world and some of them might not be that good at flying, so they may land on the ground or a low branch," he said.

"Like any good parent, the buzzard is going to do its best to protect [its young] it if it feels they are threatened."
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2011-06-07

PE teacher accused of rape

THE head of PE at a Catholic school asked a female student to perform an oral sex act on him before raping her, a court has heard.   

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court was told that Matthew Fludgate, 34, from Stourport-on-Severn, convinced the then 18-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to go back to his hotel room with him after a leavers' party.

The girl, who is now 19, said she had been drinking heavily for much of the evening, and could not remember going to the popular Walkabout bar in Birmingham city centre.

She said that she had exited the club at around 3 am on May 29th, when Mr Fludgate told her that all her friends had already left.

She had been attending a leaving party for students at St Edmund Campion School, Erdington.

The party had started at Old Orleans restaurant in the city centre, before moving to the Australian-themed Walkabout bar afterwards.

The girl had told the court at yesterday's/Monday's hearing that she had been 'very drunk' for much of the evening.

Choking back tears as she gave evidence from behind a blue screen, the girl said she had told the teacher that she would make her way home in a taxi, but that Mr Fludgate had convinced her that it would not be safe.

She said: "I just remember him saying my friends had gone and left me, and the safest option would be to go with him.

"He asked me if I wanted to go to a hotel, I said 'no I'll get in a taxi'.

"He said 'no, you can't go in a taxi on your own, all your friends have gone. The safest option is to come with me and I will put you in a taxi."

After leaving the Walkabout, the girl said that the pair made their way to a nearby hotel, where the teacher was staying due to his home in Stourport being far away.

She claimed that, after entering the room, she sat on the bed before Mr Fludgate asked 'will you give me head?' but she refused.

Fludgate then asked the girl if she would have sex with him, and she refused because she was on her period.

Despite this, she alleged that Fludgate told her: "It will be alright, I've had sex with girls on their period before."

After that, the girl said that Fludgate removed her underwear before performing an oral sex act on her.

She said that, after several requests to stop performing oral sex, he did, before moving on to have penetrative sex with her against her will.

The morning after, the girl said that Fludgate had told her not to tell anyone what had happened and that they were both at fault.

She said: "He made out that we were both in the wrong and that it was wrong that it had happened and he said to keep it to myself and not tell anyone.

"And if it got out, to say that he had put me in a taxi at the end of the night.

"He said we had both crossed the line."

The girl told the court that she had told her friend what had happened the morning after, and eventually told her headteacher what had happened after initially keeping quiet.

Defending, Tarlow Dubb put it to the girl that she had been pressured by her friends into making a rape allegation.

He said: "This allegation has been brought about by your friends, who were not in that hotel room, and that you and them have got your heads together and pressured you to say that what happened in that room was rape.

He added: "You have created this story to explain to your friends where you slept the night...and perhaps to explain to the teachers or your mum and dad."

The girl admitted that she had felt "embarrassed" and "scared" but denied fabricating the allegation.

Mr Dubb also mentioned that rumours at the school had linked the complainant with a different PE teacher the previous year, after another leavers' party which ended at the same branch of Walkabout.

It was claimed that the girl kissed the teacher.

She denied this, but the rumours  resulted in meetings with social workers and the police.

As well as a charge of rape, Fludgate also faces a serious sexual offence charge and a charge of a sexual assault against another pupil.

The trial continues.

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2011-06-06

'Likely source' of E. coli outbreak – German farm

Located in Uelzen, northern Germany, the farm produces bean sprouts and and is at the epicentre of the outbreak which has left 22 people dead.

German officials are awaiting conclusive proof from results of tests done on the farms produce.

The farm has been closed, and the country has been advised to not eat bean sprouts.

Tomorrow an emergency meeting will be held to discuss the outbreak and the effects on production.

The agriculture minister for Lower Saxony, Gert Lindemann, said: "Further evidence has emerged which points to a plant nursery in Uelzen as the source of the EHEC cases, or at least one of the sources," he said.

Concrete evidence will depend on test results, but "a connection has been found involving all the main outbreaks".

The farm supplies a number of restaurants and markets in Hamburg, the farm is located just 100km outside of the city, and neighbouring German states.

Mr Lindemann said the farm grows a wide variety of bean sprouts from seeds imported from different countries.

Mr Lindemann said the sprouts produced there are grown in temperatures of about 38C, "which is ideal for all bacteria".

The farm's general manager, Klaus Verbeck, was quoted by the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung as saying that he could not see how it was to blame.

"I can't understand how the processes we have here and the accusations could possibly fit together.

"The salad sprouts are grown only from seeds and water, and they aren't fertilised at all. There aren't any animal fertilisers used in other areas on the farm either."

The aggressive hybrid form of E. Coli is highly toxic to humans

More than 2,150 people in Germany have been infected by enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) bacteria.

A number have since developed haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS), which can be fatal.

Cases have been concentrated in Hamburg, with infections in 12 other countries linked to travel in Germany.

Twenty-one of the victims have died in Germany, and one person in Sweden.

Scientists say the new E.coli strain is an aggressive hybrid form toxic to humans and not previously linked to food poisoning.

German Health Minister Daniel Bahr said it was not yet safe to give the all clear.

"We still have to expect more cases of HUS. We continue to recommend that people do not eat raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce in northern Germany," he said.

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2011-06-05

Whole cashpoint stolen

THIS is the scene of devastation left behind after a thief charged into a shop using a JCB  and pulled a cashpoint from the wall.

The incident happened at about 4.30am Thursday 2nd May at the Co-op Northampton.

A 33-year-old man has been arrested.

It is the latest in a long line of attacks on the shop which has become notorious for being one of the most vulnerable stores in Northampton.

The JCB used in the attack was found yards from the store on the drive of a nearby resident.

Anyone with information can call police on 03000 111222

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2011-06-04

Former boxer kills bestfriend

A FORMER boxer has admitted killing his best friend with a single blow in a New Year’s Day row over the sister of X Factor star Liam Payne.

Fitness instructor Martin Gannon struck ex-soldier Craig Glaze, rupturing an artery and triggering a brain haemorrhage from which he never recovered.

Gannon learned on New Year’s Eve that Mr Glaze had had a “brief relationship” with his ex-girlfriend Nicola Payne, sister of singer Liam.

The 24-year-old personal trainer appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday where he admitted the manslaughter of Mr Glaze, who had a three-year-old son.

Judge John Warner bailed Gannon ahead of sentencing but warned of the “almost inevitable sentence.”

The 25-year-old victim lived next to his attacker in Bushbury, near Wolverhampton.

The row happened after the One Direction singer's sister split with Gannon but he confronted Mr Glaze at his house the following morning. He died the next day.

Detective Chief Inspector Darren Crutchley said: “They had known each other since they were knee high and it was an extremely close relationship, to the point where the reality of that breach of trust was something Gannon could never accept.
 
"They were childhood friends with a seemingly inseparable bond. But hours after they celebrated New Year’s Eve together, a single punch from former boxer Martin Gannon left Craig Glaze dead and two families shattered."

Friends for some 20 years, Mr Glaze and Gannon were even neighbours on Cromwell Road in Bushbury.

The victim had spent 18-months serving with the Queen’s Royal Hussars driving tanks and spent several months in Iraq.

Friends and ex-colleagues of the 25-year-old former soldier spoke of “a fantastic person” and a “true soldier”.

After leaving the military, he is understood to have been working in the construction industry.

Gannon, meanwhile, is a keep-fit fanatic and was a friend of 17-year-old X Factor singer Liam Payne.

The personal trainer, who lists Rocky as his favourite film, had been a keen boxer who fought in a championship.

He dated Liam’s sister Nicola for many years until their split in 2010.

Gannon remained friends with Liam and was one of only 11 people chosen to cheer on Liam, also from Bushbury, in the X Factor studios in Wembley in December.

He had been there to watch the teenager’s musical dream come to life over the years, and was there to offer his support as the family travelled to the capital to cheer on One Direction in the grand final of the show.

A friend of Gannon’s said that he had remained close to Liam’s family.

The friend, who asked not to be named, said: “He sometimes talked about how proud he was of Liam and all his success.

“It is a huge shock that something like this has happened. He seemed a lovely lad.

"It is such a shame that just a few weeks before the death he was so happy with everything that was going on and all of Liam’s success."

Mr Glaze leaves a brother Ryan, 19, and a sister Rebecca, 14.

His parents were too upset to discuss the tragedy.

But, speaking at the time, Reginald Glaze, aged 45, and Craig’s 43-year-old mother Yvonne said: “The family would like to say thank you for the support of family and friends. Craig was a lovely, gentle son, brother, partner and father.

“He will be sadly missed.”

Gannon will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.
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2011-06-03

Councillor claimed 26k for taxis

A COUNCILLOR has come under fire for claiming a whopping GBP26,000 for taxi fares.

Conservative Rupert Reichold, of Northamptonshire County Council, has been blasted for the second time after his "disgraceful" expenses claims were exposed.

Figures have shown the retired civil servant claimed GBP4,000 in fares between April 2010 and the end of March this year.

And in 2007, Coun Reichhold faced strong criticism when it was revealed he claimed almost GBP12,000 over five years on taxi fares to get to meetings in Northampton from his home in the Oundle ward, Northants.

The figures also reveal the total claimed by Coun Reichhold in travel costs since 2005 now stands at more than GBP26,000.

The 73-year-old back-bench councillor, who cannot drive, defended his decision to take taxis to and from County Hall at a cost of GBP102 for each return journey, saying it was a result of living in a large county.

But opposition councillors branded the claims “a disgrace” and called on him to pay back the money.

The leader of the Labour opposition group, Coun John McGhee said: “I really despair that after this was first highlighted in 2007, nothing has been done about it, especially at a time when there have been considerable cuts to services for the most vulnerable people in the county.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Coun Brendan Glynane added: “Councillors are allowed to claim these expenses, but you have to ask what message it sends to people who are having their bus services cut drastically.”

The council’s expenses figures for the last financial year showed Coun Reichhold claimed the second highest amount for ‘travel and subsistence’, second only to the leader of the authority.

His GBP102-a-time return taxi bill for travelling to meetings in Northampton was also far in excess of the GBP8.30 cost for a day-return bus ticket between Oundle and Northampton.

But he dismissed criticism of his expenses as “political nonsense”, adding: “The claims reflect the cost of getting to official county council meetings.

“The rules allow for the repayment of taxi fares for that purpose.”

He also pointed out that as well as attending meetings of the council, he also sat on the authority’s fostering panel and development control committee.

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2011-06-02

E. coli: Cucumber crisis continues

Germany has now reported 470 cases of E. coli and 16 deaths from the disease, a further person has now died in Sweden.

The total of people infected with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which can cause the deadly haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS), has now reached 1,500.

Russia is no longer accepting vegetables from the European Union, and the country's chief medical officer said EU-produced vegetables would be seized across Russia.

German health officials have admitted they do not know where this particularly virulent strain of of E.coli has come from, however earlier claims that Spanish cucumbers were the source have been discounted.

Russia's ban has been called "disproportionate" by the EU, and would be lodging a protest, European Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent said.

He added that the total value of EU exports of fresh fruit and vegetables to Russia was 3-4bn euros a year, with Spain, France, Germany and Poland the biggest exporters.

Germany's head of public health warns it could be months before the outbreak stops, depending on whether infected food is still in warehouses and whether the original source is still active.

At least 365 new E. Coli cases have been reported, worryingly a quarter of them involve HUS (a condition associated with bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure).

Summary of cases:

  • Germany: 470 cases, 16 deaths
  • Sweden: 15 cases, one death
  • Denmark: Seven cases
  • The Netherlands: Three cases
  • UK: Two cases
  • Spain: One case

Sources: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the Robert Koch Institute

Several countries have taken steps to contain the outbreak, such as a complete ban on cucumber imports and removing the vegetables from sale.

Health authorities have also advised people to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly, to do the same with all cutlery and plates, and to wash their hands before meals.

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2011-06-01

Smoke and mirrors

SMOKE and mirrors have long been the preserve of magicians, but one amateur photographer has taken advantage of the concept to produce these stunning images.

36-year-old Jay Payne, from Burnley in Lancashire, makes the extraordinary images using incense sticks, his camera and photoshop, all in his living room.

Jay says he darkens his living room and lights an incense stick to create the pictures, setting up his ordinary Digital SLR camera and using a manual flash.

He then mirrors the images on photoshop before adding the colours in to pick out the details of the picture better from the black background.

The pictures pick out images from the smoke from nowhere, with little manipulation.

Faces can be seen in the middle of the mirrored images that have been produced just by an effect that replicates the process of putting a mirror next to the smoke.

"I just set it all up in the living room with some incense sticks I've bought and take some pictures," said Jay, a service delivery manager.

"I focus the camera on the smoke and keep the shutter open for about a second to get the pictures.

"Then I put them through photoshop, the whole process takes a few hours in total."

Jay can take thousands of pictures in a session before finding one that looks right, and has taken the concept further with a series of pictures depicting oval shapes, sweeping the smoke around in a circle.

He first began producing the images in February 2008, having seen a similar technique online and has recently managed to sell a few of the pictures.

"The images are fascinating because what I pick out as the image might not be what comes through to anyone else," he said.

"I don't know what I'm going to see until I mirror the pictures, it's a matter of waiting and seeing. Sometimes the mirror means a face or an image comes through seemingly out of nowhere.

"Some of my friends have said they reckon there's a demon in my PC because it pics out these demonic images."

Jay took up photography as a hobby over a decade ago and uses it as a way to relax outside of work.

"I started doing weddings and christenings as a hobby. I'd love one day to be able to make photography my full time job," he said.

"But it would have to be something like the art works I produce, something like that is very calming after the stressful job I do. It's just a matter of gaining confidence in my work.
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