NEWS

2011-11-30

Councillors strip

THESE kinky councillors have taken political transparency to another level - by stripping off for a saucy calendar.

In what is sure to be a vote-winning move, the eleven female politicians from the West Midlands have left little to the imagination in a series of cheeky poses.

And as you might expect, the members of Sandwell Council may have left their clothes at the door, but cheeky references to their political allegiances have made it into the calendar.

Miss May, councillor Linda Horton, is shown posing in a regal-looking chair with only a sign reading 'Vote Labour' and some strategically-placed red roses covering her modesty.

And the flower-themed 'Ladies in Bloom' calendar also tips its hat to a number of festivals and events. 

Cllr Horton also pops up alongside Cllr Julie Webb in November, as the pair pose wrapped in a tastefully-draped Union Flag covered with Remembrance Day poppies.

Miss December, Councillor Joy Edis, is perched on on a staircase, modesty protected only by a Christmas present and flowers.

The pictures for the GBP6 calendar were taken in various locations around the Council House in Oldbury, West Mids.

Last week, the calendar, which was put together by members of the Labour party, was launched in the mayor's office at the same venue.

On posing for the calendar, Cllr Horton said: "It was something we'd been throwing about for a while, and one of the male members of the council dared us to do it.

"That was like a red rag to a bull.

"It was a bit embarrassing to start with, but we all got into it, as women do, we all had a giggle and it took off from there, if you'll excuse the pun."

The calendar has already sold dozens of copies, including one to rail enthusiast and former Pop Idol judge Pete Waterman

Cllr Horton said: “We’ve had a very good response so far.

“Pete Waterman bought one at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC. I believe he was very impressed.”

But it has not been to everyone's taste, with some saying that they would rather their cash-strapped council were turning their attention to 

Builder Andy Murphy, 34, from Oldbury West Mids, said: "Fair play to them for having the guts to strip off and try to raise some money, but I think there's more pressing things they could be doing.

"Winter's on the way and there's already loads of potholes in the road, couldn't they be doing something about that?"

Cllr Horton hit back at the criticism, and said that the response had generally been good“We haven’t really had any criticism,”

 

“One person said ‘have you got nothing better to do?’ but I would say to that person ‘get a life’.

 

“It’s for a good cause and if we upset anyone we apologise but most people are supporting us.”

 

Councillor Lucy Cashmore, who represents Bristnall in Oldbury and poses for March, added: “It’s something we never imagined doing, it was great fun, but at same time we are determined to raise as much money as possible for the mayor’s causes”.

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2011-11-29

Thug punches puppy

A THUG repeatedly punched a terrified 12-week-old puppy in the face in an attempt to teach it a lesson, a court heard.

Vile Matthew Blagborough, 22, was seen whacking the defenceless female pup, leaving its nose and mouth bleeding, according to witnesses.

He left the petrified pooch with a swollen face and bloodshot eyes after the chilling attack.

He was told he could face up to six months in prison for the horrific assault on Staffordshire Bull Terrier Molly.

Blagborough, from Cardiff, had denied causing unnecessary suffering to the dog but was found guilty following a trial at Telford Magistrates’ Court yesterday (MON).

He was also convicted of another charge of failing to be responsible for the animal’s welfare.

Magistrates told Blagborough that custody was ‘very much an option', and set a sentencing date of December 20.

The incident happened on January 30 this year close to a pub in the Oakengates area of Telford.

Mr Roger Price, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said the dog suffered soft tissue injuries.

The right side of its face was bruised and her eyes were bloodshot.

Mr Price said: “The defendant admitted in interview he clipped the dog’s nose a few times but he denied punching the dog. 

"The reason he gave was to teach the dog a lesson.”

Two eyewitnesses told the court they saw Blagborough hit the dog near the Coalport Tavern on January 30 this year.

Witness Jack Watton said he was travelling in a car with three female friends when they saw Blagborough attack the dog.

Mr Watton said: “There was a bloke walking along the footpath and he had the small animal in his left hand. He held the dog by the scruff of the neck and he punched it with his right.

“It wasn’t tapped on the nose, he was laying into her with a closed fist.”

The court heard the four friends got out of the car and told Blagborough to stop hitting the dog, which he had bought six weeks earlier as a gift.

Another witness, Jade Varney, said the dog broke loose and the friends chased Blagborough. Miss Varney said Blagborough eventually caught the dog and tried to get into a taxi but the driver would not let him inside.

Magistrates were told Miss Varney then called the police.

She said: “The dog’s mouth was bleeding, its nose was bleeding. 

"It looked really distressed. 

"It was squealing like it was in pain and it looked like its spine was sticking out of its back. It was horrible.”

Miss Varney said she saw Blagborough hit the dog about five times.

The court was told the dog was taken to Walker & Wikeley Veterinary Surgeons, in Oakengates, the following day by the RSPCA.

Vet William Walker said: “It didn’t look like the sort of injury caused by a routine trip or a puppyhood accident.

“It is my opinion that the injuries were consistent with this animal having been punched.”

Blagborough said he had bought the dog for his partner for Christmas and was walking her to an off-licence.

He told the court that he had ‘clipped’ the dog as a training method as it had defecated on his shirt.

He said: “I clipped her on the nose a couple of times and said ‘naughty’. I was told that is what you do to train them.

“She was a 12-week-old puppy – why would I want to attack her?”

But eyewitnesses told the court they had seen Blagborough grab Molly by the scruff of the neck and punch her repeatedly with his clenched right fist.

On seeing this they challenged him, magistrates were told yesterday.

The dog then broke loose and Blagborough chased her up an alleyway, witnesses said.

Blagborough claimed that during the chase he had slipped and fallen on top of the puppy.

But magistrates rejected Blagborough's defence and found him guilty of both charges.

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2011-11-28

Giant gummy bear

SWEET lovers searching for the perfect sugar fix this Christmas need to look no further than this gigantic 32,000 calorie gummy bear.

Manufactured in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, the 11 kilogram candy beast features a one litre tummy bowl, perfect for serving drinks or more sweet treats from at festive parties.

Weighing five times more than the world's largest gummy bear, the 'Party Gummy Bear' is not for the feint-hearted - containing enough calories to sustain the average adult for over two weeks in its 265 snack-sized servings.

And children desperate to have the sugary giant in their stockings this Christmas may need to cancel the Xbox or pony orders - as the 'Party Gummy Bear' will set back mum and dad a whopping GBP129.

Available to order from website www.vat19.com, the 17-inch bear, which remarkably has a one year shelf life, is available in red cherry, orange, green apple, and blue raspberry flavours.

A spokesperson for the product said: "One fateful day in July, we dared to imagine a gummy bear so massive that it would be its own candy containment device. 

"A few short months later, the Party Gummy Bear was born. We cannot think of any better way to serve candy than from within the tummy of a massive gummy bear."

Self-confessed sweet addict Sarah Johnson, from Birmingham, was amazed when she saw the monstrous bear.

"I can't believe someone has thought to make a gummy bear this big," said the 26-year-old receptionist.

"It's been years since I've had a pack of gummy bears but I am always munching on a pack of sweets at work and am definitely going to get my boyfriend to buy me this for Christmas.

"It might say it can last for a year but I think between me and my sister it would be all gone by the New Year."

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2011-11-27

Tesco Triplets

TRIPLETS who's father left their mother while they were being born have showed how close their "unique bond" is by all getting jobs for supermarket giant Tesco.

Kelly, Simmone and Stacey Roadway are so similar that even their mum and boyfriends have failed to tell them apart in the past.

The pretty sisters celebrated their 21st birthday on Monday but their lives got off to a heartbreaking start.

Their mother Elaine, from Heath Hayes, Staffordshire, recalled: “My husband told me he was leaving while I was actually giving birth.

“I couldn't believe it but, to be honest, I didn't have time to think about it. I was too busy!“ The girls were born on November 21, 1990.

Simmone and Stacey were classed as identical as they came from the same egg.

Elaine, who was already mother to two older boys, brought the babies home from hospital a fortnight later in thick snow.

“No-one could get to us because of the snowfall, so I was totally on my own for a couple of weeks,'' she recalled.

“I breastfed two girls at a time then the third one afterwards. It was tough, but easier than trying to sterilise all those bottles.

“They were really good babies and their brothers, Craig and Carl, also helped to amuse them.

“It was the nights that were exhausting. I'd only get one and a half hours sleep between feeds. "When one woke up, I tended to wake them all up to feed them, otherwise I'd never get any sleep.

“But after around three months they started sleeping through to 6am.

“I kept the hospital bands on their little legs for as long as I could because I was worried I wouldn't be able to tell them apart.“

Getting out and about was never easy for the mum-of-five.

Elaine, 51, says: “I had a triple buggy but I couldn't get it onto the bus or into the boot of the car.

Screamed “I couldn't fit all the children into one car, so if we wanted to drive somewhere then someone would have to come with us.'' It was clear from an early age that the girls had a unique bond.

Elaine said: “When they were still crawling, Kelly managed to dislocate a bone in her elbow.

"A friend rushed me to hospital whilst another friend looked after the other children.

“They later told me that her two sisters screamed for a while then all of a sudden, they stopped.

"We realised later it was when their sister was being treated in hospital, exactly the same time she stopped crying.

“It was really weird, it was like her two sisters knew what was going on.“

The girls all attended Heath Hay es Primary School, before moving on to Kingsmead Secondary School in Hednesford.

And it was while at school that they began to realise they could use their almost identical looks to their advantage.

Kelly said: “We used to swap classes at school. If one of us didn't want to go to a lesson or sit a test, another one would go in her place.

“All the pupils would know and they'd be laughing but the teacher would ask `What's so funny?' “We did use the fact that we were identical sisters to our advantage a lot.“ And it was not only at school that the girls have caused confusion...

“I once had my sister's boyfriend come up behind me and kiss me on the head!“ laughed Kelly.

“I turned round and said, `What are you doing?' He did a doubletake and was really embarrassed.

“Another time on holiday Stacey's boyfriend walked up and slapped me on the bum! He said `Oh no, don't tell Stacey' ­ but she just saw the funny side.

"It's not like it was the first time that had happened.“

Kelly is manager of a One Stop shop owned by the supermarket group while Stacey and Simmone work at the local Tesco superstore.

“I can't go to my sisters' workplace without someone saying, `Hi Stacey' because they think I'm her,“ says Kelly.

"But it's great being triplets as there's always someone there for you. Living together and always being together means we do have areally strong connection.

“If one of us is sad, the others do anything to help them. “We're really close to my brothers too.

"Our dad left when we were really young so, in a way, they took over the dad role, with the help of our grandad. “It meant we were tomboys when we were growing up. We used to play football and do everything with them.

“When we were little, we wanted to play with the same toys and mum dressed us in the same clothes. We rebelled against that as we grew older.“

Despite dying their hair different colours, the girls still get mixed up. Kelly says: “It's nice sometimes to be seen as different people.

"If we got into trouble when we were younger, it would always be ALL of our faults, rather than just the one who did it.

“As we grew up, everyone knew us in a nice way as `The Girls'.

“And we are all really proud of mum.“ Elaine married second husband Ge off Gallagher in October 1999 and the triplets were bridesmaids.

“I'd always planned to have a big family,'' said the doting mum. “I thought perhaps I'd have two then a gap then another two but I ended up with three in one go! “I still struggle to tell the girls apart G from the back sometimes and if one tel ephones me, it can be difficult to work out who it is at first. They're always together, they don't tend to do things separately.

“In some ways other people sometimes feel left out because of it.'' And she added: ``I can't believe they're 21 now.

"It makes you wonder where the time has gone.“

To celebrate their milestone birthday the girls enjoyed a hot air balloon ride and Kelly did a bungee jump with her brother to raise money for the stroke rehab centre at Cannock Hospital, where her mum works.

“It was the best experience ever,“ says Kelly.

“Celebrating your 21st birthday with your two sisters is really special.“

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2011-11-25

Vanishing barcode

A UNIQUE indicator which destroys barcodes on products which have gone off could soon be hitting the shelves of British supermarkets.

Swedish company Tempix have invented a new temperature indicator which can be coupled to the barcode on the price tag, rendering it illegible to the scanner if it is exposed to too high a heat.

The patented invention goes a step further than previous attempts to solve the problem, many of which simply change colour when the packaged product becomes too hot, and has already been a raging success across Sweden.

Mats Nygardh, Managing Director at Tempix, admitted the unique indicator was actually born as a result of a conversation about ICE-CREAM and says it has taken a decade to get it to market.

"My business partner looked at a TV programme that found out if you bought ice-cream, you can find ice crystals on the package," said the 53-year-old.

"He is an inventor and started to think about a colour changing indicator but that's no good because if the customer gets home, sometimes after a long trip, and it has changed colour then they would have to go all the way back to the store and it could be unclear who is to blame.

"So we came up with the idea of an indicator which destroys the barcode when the product is at the wrong temperature, meaning the customer knows before he takes it to the till.

"It took almost six years before we had the first try and then another four years until now, we have had to be patient."

Tempix launched their indicator in Sweden's biggest supermarket chain ICA on October 1 and already have the product on a selection of control-packaged meats in over 1000 stores.

And even though the company consists of just three people, including Mats, they have set their ambitions on conquering Europe.

"We plan to expand, we started in Sweden of course and we plan to come to Great Britain and Holland and the rest of Europe - but we have to take it one step at a time," added father-of-three Mats.

"We have contact with Marel from Colchester (a leading supplier of advanced equipment, systems and services to the fish, meat and poultry processing industries in the UK) and we hope to get in touch with shops like Tesco and Asda."

Mats admits his inventor friend, 64-year-old Henry Norrby, is always coming up with weird and wonderful ideas - but says it was his own good contacts with ICA that helped the indicator reach the shelves.

"When we thought up the idea, we wondered if the product already existed and I had to use my contacts in ICA," said Mats, who used to manage his own ICA store.

"I know the Vice-President at ICA so I phoned him and told him about it and he sent it forward to the people above him, and it all went from there."

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2011-11-24

Baby shook to death

A SOLDIER violently shook his baby son to death in a fit of rage while home on leave, a court has heard.

Five-month-old Theo Davies died of severe brain injuries and suffered extensive bleeding behind the eyes after being shaken by his 'proud and capable father' Private Jonathan James, a jury were told.  

The 25-year-old was said to have acted in a 'momentary loss of temper or control” while Theo's mother Leanne Davies was down the shops fetching milk. 

He denies the manslaughter of his son and his trial began at Worcester Crown Court yesterday (Tue).

The court heard little Theo had suddenly collapsed at his home in Stourport, Worcs, on August 24 2009 while in the care of his father. 

He died a day later in hospital, the court was told.

Opening the prosecution, Mr Christopher Millington QC said extensive checks had been carried out by experts who had not been able to find a medical condition to account for the injuries.

He said no account of an accident which could explain the injuries had been put forward by any party and said experts had concluded it had been caused by a trauma which occurred near the time of his collapse.

Mr Millington said the prosecution believed it “probable” the youngster had

been the victim of “violent and unlawful shaking” while in the sole care of his father.

But he told the court James, now of MoD St Athan, Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, had denied ever shaking his son and had told police he could not account for how the brain damage had occurred.

Mr Millington said on August 24 James, who had been on leave from the armed forces, had got up first and heard his son stirring. 

He went in and gave him a feed and medication the youngster was taking for an ear infection.

When James’ partner, the baby’s mother, had got up they realised they had no

milk. He had given her GBP10 to get some from a local store.

Mr Millington said she had returned minutes later to James calling for the emergency services and Theo to be in an unresponsive state.

Paramedics and doctors battled to save the youngster – first at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and then in Birmingham. 

Although they restarted his heart he was unable breath independently.

“What the exact circumstances were may never be known. There were only two people present at the time. One was the baby, the other the defendant.

“We believe it probable that Theo was the victim of violent and vigorous shaking. 

"We do not say this was inflicted intentionally. There is much evidence to suggest the defendant was a proud and capable father.

“The action was probably the result of a momentary loss of temper or control.”

But the court heard James said he had been alerted something was wrong with his son when he heard a “bumping sound and a gurgle”.

The trial continues.

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2011-11-23

Remains found in garden

A SHOCKED couple were forced to halt the extension of their home after making the grizzly discovery of FOUR bodies under their patio.

Bur fortunately for Stephen and Nicky West it turns out they made quite the historical find and  the bones were actually part of an Anglo Saxon burial ground and over 1,000 years old. 

The couple have lived at their house in Ratley, a village in south Warwickshire, for nearly seven years, and were having their home redeveloped when one of the builders unearthed the remains.

The village is near to Edgehill - site of the the battle of Edgehill, where the King's army clashed with Parliamentarians in 1642 at the start of the English Civil War.

Mr West, 55, said: "It was the age-old story of builder taps on window saying he has something to tell us. The builder knocked and said 'Stephen, I think there's something you need to see'.

"He had a skull in his hand and I thought 'oh my goodness'."

Mr West said at first he thought the bodies were probably casualties of the battle.

He said: "It was funny because when we started the work on the house people said 'you'll probably find bones in the garden from the civil war' but they predated that by a long way."

In fact the bones predated the civil war by 1,000 years.

"They're probably 1,500 years old," said Stephen, who runs an online company selling bird food. "It's amazing to think these people lived in the same place as us.

"We now wonder what we'll find whenever we dig up the garden, the experts said there's probably more there.

"We're interested to know what's down there, but to be honest we'd like to keep the bit of the house we live in standing where it is so we won't be searching too hard."

Mr and Mrs West informed Warwickshire County Council's archaeologists who recently had the remains confirmed that the remains were over 1,000 years old. 

Archaeology Warwickshire's manager Stuart Palmer visited the site and determined they had been buried there long ago and were not the victims of any recent foul play.

Mr Palmer said the group did not normally undertake scientific research on all finds because the service's funds were limited.

But Stephen, and his wife Nicky, 52, an IT project manager, were so intrigued by the discovery they commissioned Archaeology Warwickshire to test the bones.

The bones were discovered in autumn last year but the service has only recently released the test results.

They were taken away first to Gloucester University and then to York University for testing by expert archaeologists. 

The archaeologists identified the remains of at least four bodies which included two adult females, a young male and a juvenile aged between 10 and 12.

Radiocarbon dates from two of the skeletons show that they died around 650-820 AD in what is known as the middle Saxon period.

England at this time was divided into a number of kingdoms and Ratley may have been in a frontier war zone between the Saxon kingdom of the Hwicce and the eventually dominant Anglian kingdom of Mercia.

Mr Palmer said: "The discovery of this previously unsuspected burial ground is an extremely rare and important addition to what has previously been an archaeologically invisible period of Warwickshire's history.

"Detailed analysis of the skeletons has revealed an insight into the health of the middle Saxon population who clearly suffered periods of malnourishment and were subject to a wide range of infections indicative of lives of extreme hardship and often near-constant pain."

He said it was quite rare to find bones of this date anywhere in the county let alone in someone's garden.

He added: "The bones are almost certainly part of a much larger cemetery."

The bones, which were removed for testing, will now be stored by the service until it is decided where they will be kept permanently.

Mr West said they were not bothered about living on top of an ancient burial ground.

He said: "It's spine tingling to think there's so much history and we're sleeping on it.

"It's one of those odd things, it's quite comforting in some ways, as long as they don't disturb our sleep."

"You do hear all these stories about ancient burial grounds bringing curses, we just have to hope they're not true I suppose."

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2011-11-22

Disabled banned from karaoke

A DISABLED man has been banned from taking part in his local karaoke night - because he isn't a good enough singer. 

Beatles fan James Smyth,  23, had become a regular at Friday evening karaoke sessions at The Abington pub, in Northampton, performing Fab Four hits such as Hey Jude and Yellow Submarine.

But this week he was asked not to sing by organisers, who claimed he was not good enough - despite not receiving ONE complaint from customers. 

The distraught Down's Syndrome sufferer currently lives in Ryan QC Homes supported accommodation in Northampton.

 

Today (MON) Alex Duggan, Ryan Homes manager, said: “Our residents have been going to the karaoke for well over six months now, one of them for over a year.

“They meet friends who also have learning disabilities, and have dinner together at the pub and drinks throughout the evening.

“On Friday, the DJ who does the karaoke handed out song books to all the tables in the pub, but for some reason he didn’t hand any to the table our residents were sitting at.

“A member of our staff who was there thought this was a little strange as he normally gives us a book straight away.

“After a few minutes the DJ came over and informed my member of staff he was not allowed to let the residents sing on the karaoke.

“He didn’t give a reason, he just said he is told what to do and the owner pays his wages at the end of the day.”

Mr Duggan said the pub’s actions had come as a complete shock.

He added: “I know most of the people in the pub welcomed the residents with open arms each week, and they really have all got on very well.

“It has always been a busy night on a Friday for the karaoke and our residents being there didn’t seem to affect the numbers whatsoever.

“The residents would only sing one or two songs each week depending on how busy the pub was, and they were in no way ‘taking over’.

“I feel it is a great shame vulnerable people in our society can be treated in this way.”

Neil Bartholomey, owner of the pub, said it had not been his decision to ask James not to sing, but that it had been taken by the person running the karaoke.

He said he had been “upset” by the whole issue, which he felt had been “blown out of proportion”.

He said: “James was asked not to sing purely on his ability in that he physically doesn’t sing. He just shouts words. There is no tune whatsoever.

“We do our utmost to make sure everyone has a fair crack of the whip and enjoys an evening, and we are trying to find that balance,”

Mr Bartholomey said he was not aware of any complaints being made against James’s singing from punters, but he believed people had left the pub on occasions because of it.

He said the pub was always welcoming to people with learning disabilities, and claimed the issue with James’s singing had been mentioned to his carers in the past.

He said: “If he came in and sang one song nobody would worry but sometimes these guys just want to come in and dominate the night.

“The karaoke is open to everyone, but everybody who sings really badly gets one opportunity, not half a dozen.”

A statement from the pub said: "There is an element of talent in karaoke required to be entertaining for the enjoyment of all.

"There are no physical reasons as to why any person cannot sing. However the definition of singing is to have a verbal skill. It is not to shout words down a microphone and for that to be called singing.

"Anyone that cannot sing in the broad sense of the word can be asked to desist if the noise created would not be classed as singing.

"Until recently a member of staff who had Downs Syndrome, worked at The Abington every Friday. It was a sad day when he had to retire from us due to his forgetfulness and his ability to be in a safe environment."

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2011-11-18

Police stations shut at 6pm

POLICE stations in the 'second city' are set to close overnight as cash-strapped cops looked to save GBP126 million.

Four of Birmingham's cop shops are set to shut their doors to the public from 6pm in a hugely contentious West Midlands Police plan.

Aston, Handsworth, Harborne and Kings Heath stations will move from opening around the clock to a 10am to 6pm service - a plan which has been condemned as "lacking in human sentiment and sympathy" by former city councillor Mike Olley.

“This is the most important removal of police front line services that we have ever witnessed and it is important that those affected are given every opportunity to respond to these proposals,“ said Mr Olley, who is bidding to become the first elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

The four Birmingham stations are among 12 cop shops across the West Midlands, including Halesowen, Stourbridge, Dudley, Wednesfield, Bloxwich, Willenhall and Chelmsley Wood, that will see opening times cut as the force looks to find GBP126 million savings over four years.

External telephones will instead be fitted to the stations to allow public access to call handlers when front offices are closed.

Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson said the West Midlands force needed to “modernise its approach“ to policing.

"We need to modernise our approach as we police a different world now to what we did even ten years ago," he added.

“The majority of people now contact us over the phone or via email and would simply never want to set foot in a police station.

“We need to provide a service that is right for the people we serve and not carry on working in a particular way simply because it's the way we always have.“

Letters sent from chief superintendents to key partners said the changes would come into effect from January.

But the ruling West Midlands Police Authority is not due to consider them until next month and it appears they have been caught on the hop.

In a statement, the Authority said it “had been made aware of the letter“ which it “understood was part of the consultation the force was undertaking“.

“We recognise the importance of this issue and will want to ensure proper consultation takes place on the proposals that both respects the public and offers opportunities for their views to be taken into account,“ the statement added. 

Dep Chief Con Thompson Thompson has since said that police would consult with the public from next Monday.

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2011-11-17

Hitler's fake passport

THIS fake passport listing German dictator Adolf Hitler as a jew with 'a little moustache' proves that British special forces had a sense of humour during World War Two.

The hilarious spoof was made by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) - a group in charge of organising resistance in occupied countries and who were famously told to 'set Europe ablaze' by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

SOE were formed in July 1940 at the height of the crisis following the fall of France and relied heavily on the use of undercover agents or spies - sending 500 into German occupied France alone.

To assist their agents, the group's forgery section, often staffed by counterfeiters recently released from prison, made fake passports, travel permits and work passes - helping their skilled agents pass right under the Nazi's noses.

After the war ended, examples of such documents were preserved to illustrate their work - with the comical Hitler passport one of many fakes that are being looked after by the National Archives.

Although accurate to the tiniest detail and showing exactly what the forgers were capable of, Hitler's passport also shows their sense of humour and hints that morale was in good spirits.

As well as a red 'J', which stood for a 'Jew' on a German passport, they have given the infamous dictator a visa allowing him entry into Palestine - which was under British control at the time.

The passport also lists the Nazi leader's occupation as a 'painter' and, under distinguishing features, they list his 'little moustache'.

Speaking about the treasured memento, Records Specialist at the National Archives, Mark Dunton, said: "I've looked at the fakes and the thing is, they are absolutely immaculate.

"They all look so authentic, they have got all the stamps of the Reich and the proper marks. The documents they produced didn't cause any suspicion with the Nazi regime, they were that good.

"The Hitler passport is irreplaceable, it is almost beyond value."

The 51-year-old expert, who has worked at the National Archives for 27 years, believes that the fake passport fits in with the British wartime culture of mocking Hitler and making light of what was a serious situation.

"I think in a way the forgery section were sort of showing off to show what they could do. They were having a bit of a joke, poking fun at Hitler," he added.

"I think it is very much in tune with the British public's way of belittling Hitler, cutting him down to size by ridiculing him."

As well as creating fake documents vital to their secret agents' success, the SOE came up with thousands of other weird and wonderful ideas - such as exploding rats and silk hankies with maps intricately printed on the inside.

And, although the Hitler passport was meant as a light-hearted joke, it is certain that other fakes created by the special group to aid spies behind enemy lines were key to Britain's success in the conflict.

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2011-11-16

Vietcong Cards

THESE racy 'calling cards' were distributed to American soldiers during the Vietnam war in a sneaky bid to get them to betray their country.

The saucy cards feature a photograph of a young, semi-naked girl in a erotic pose with the text: ‘Hey American – This girl and USD10000 cash – you do not need to fight your own people! We just need your cooperation in learning your training! You can earn extra cash if you choose to assist in our training or intelligence programs ! Live in comfort and safety in Europe or Asia !’.

They were produced to target horny soldiers during the conflict in a ploy to get them to turn their back on their country.

This week they will go under the hammer at an auction after being donated by a military collector. 

Historical documents expert at Mullocks Auctioneers Richard Westwood-Brookes said: "These calling cards were rather crude pieces of propaganda to try and lure the Americans to come over to the other side.

"They distributed these to the American soldiers. There was a lot of young men on their own, far away from home. I think they thought all the young men would be interested in would be easy money and easy women."

He continued: "They were typical Americans so when they started to lose they lost it completely. The Vietcong capitalised on that by producing these little cards.

"They were offering these girls but of course anyone who fell for it didn't get money or a girl but what they would get would be a torture chair. It was horrid.

"The American army was largely made up of conscripts. They were not regular soldiers. They were ordinary lads who were drafted into the army to fight. It caused an enormous amount of of problems in America." 

The three cards are expected to fetch GBP100 when they go under the hammer at an auction at Ludlow Racecourse in Shropshire on Thursday.

Mr Westwood-Brookes added: "They were brought back by American soldiers as souvenirs. They are in very good condition. As with all of these things issued to people actually fighting, they are pretty rare."

The auctioneers wanted to include the lot in the sale now following Remembrance Sunday.

"We included them in the November sale because it is so close to Remembrance Sunday," Mr Westwood-Brookes added.

"We like to put as much about conflicts in there as possible. 

"Most people think of World War II being the only conflict remembered on Remembrance Sunday but we like to point out there are plenty of other wars that took place. 

"The Vietnam War hardly every appears - it is vary rare that it does."

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2011-11-15

Post office raid

THIS shocking footage shows the moment two masked bandits set upon a delivery driver with an axe in a terrifying raid.

The CCTV images show how the men pounced on the driver as he dropped off cash boxes at the counter of a West Midlands post office.

During the terrifying attack, which lasts less than a minute, the balaclava-clad robbers can be seen pursuing their target in to the post office as he walks towards the counter.

As they approach the counter one man, wearing a black jacket and ski gloves, threatens the driver, who is wearing a safety helmet, with an axe.

The terrified driver can be seen to cower from the attacker as his accomplice, wearing a blue and grey jacket and dark blue jeans, wrestles the cash box from him.

Both men can then be seen walking out of the post office.

The man in the grey jacket leads the way, carrying the cash box, while his accomplice follows closely behind, still brandishing the axe.

The driver was dropping off cash boxes at the Blackwood Road branch in Streetly, West Midlands. 

The full blade of the axe can be seen in one harrowing picture as a raider holds the weapon up to threaten the victim.

The robbers grabbed the driver from behind and held the axe inches from his face.

No-one was hurt during the raid, but staff at the post office have described how scared they were as it happened.

The terrified owner of the post office described how the crime unfolded in a 30-second blur on Friday.

“It just happened so fast,” said 29-year-old Suki Dhillon from Four Oaks. “I was really shaken up but I was more concerned about the delivery guy.

“They grabbed the cash box and the key that we had just given him and ran straight out just as quick as it happened. I can’t believe it. Streetly is such a nice area.”

Anyone with information can call the police on 0345 113 5000.

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2011-11-04

St Bernard's Biker

A THRILL-seeking St Bernard dog is living life in the fast lane after his motorbike loving owners just could not bear to leave him at home.

Now the appropriately named Harley has the crash hat and goggles, known as 'doggles', and his own seat in a sidecar - making him a fully fledged biker. 

It means whenever his owners Alan and Tina Valkeith, from Peterborough, take to the open road, 17-month-old Harley is right there alongside them - enjoying the sights, sounds and open air as the couple nip along the local roads on their Honda Gold Wing 1200.

The petrol-head pooch is taken on two or three outings a week, usually into Peterborough for shopping, but has also travelled as far as Nottingham. 

“He now goes out wherever we go," said owner Alan, 62. "As soon as I make a move to go in the garage, he’s there, wanting to get in the bike. 

"If I go out on the bike on my own, he’s sat up at the window waiting for me to come back. He will sit in there all day long.”

Alan and Tina’s passion for dogs is matched by their love for motorbikes. They even rode to their wedding in 2004 astride a Harley Davidson. 

But the couple faced a dilemma over how to reconcile the two, as they were unable to take their beloved pooches with them on days out on their motorbike.

“I don’t like leaving a dog on his own at home, especially with a St Bernard. They have to be with someone or another animal otherwise they fret," Alan added.

“A couple of hours would be the most I would like to leave a dog on his own at home.”

The couple found the answer in America, where it is more commonplace to see dogs in sidecars - though usually smaller varieties than a St Bernard.

Harley, who has been "motorbarking" for four months, was introduced to the thrill of the open road gradually, taking small journeys at first. 

However, it soon became clear his eyes were becoming sore, so Alan and Tina set about kitting out their pet pooch. 

As well as a pair of 'doggles', used to protect against the sun, a Harley Davidson helmet was ordered, dismantled and the polystyrene interior moulded to fit Harley’s head.

“Someone mentioned that dog should have a crash helmet. I thought ‘he’s got a point, because we are wearing crash helmets’.”

“I was surprised how he took to the helmet. Whether he realised we were wearing crash helmets, I don’t know. I’m not sure how dogs’ minds work.”

And it seems that Harley, who's proving to be popular wherever he goes, is enjoying his new-found local celebrity status.

“He’s always getting his photograph taken. They can’t believe it,” Alan said.

And his wife Tina added: “A lot of people just smile, some people wave at us and then you get the people who look, look away and do a double take, thinking ‘did I really see what I just saw?’

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2011-11-03

World's smallest 5* hotel

AT 2.5 METRES wide and with just 53 square metres of floor space - this luxury lodging  is the world's smallest five-star hotel.

The Eh'hausl hotel in Amberg, Germany, would be a perfect location for vertically-challenged jet-setters such as Tom Cruise, Bernie Ecclestone or even French PM Nicolas Sarkozy to make a short getaway.

Although Mr Sarkozy's 5'9" supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, may have to watch her head if she tries to enter the diminutive domicile.

From the outside, the EUR240/GBP210 per night hotel looks as though it has been sandwiched in between two neighbouring buildings.

But its deceptive frontage disguises a luxurious interior packed with a range of full-sized treats.

Guests at the Hobbit-style hotel, located around 130 km/80 miles from Munich, can expect to find flatscreen TVs, gold-trimmed furniture and a spa bathroom across its six floors.

And just like its larger counterparts, there is, of course, a mini-bar.

Described by its owners as a 'luxury hermitage', the hotel is unmanned, with guests handed keys to the building when they check-in.

Upon opening the doors they are greeted by the strains of Verdi's 'La Traviata' emanating from invisible speakers in the walls.

El Hausl is fully booked months in advance, although this owes much to the fact that it can only house one couple at a time.

A hotel spokesperson said: "The hotel is very popular with guests from all over the world, from South Africa, America, England and Russia.

"As well as the size our guests are always very impressed by our hotel's historic background."

Translated from the German as 'Wedding House', the Eh-hausl was built in 1728 after the local council decreed that couples could only get married if they owned a residence.

Spotting a business opportunity, a local merchant built the small, cheap house and sold it to young couples who would live in it for a matter of weeks while they carried out their nuptials.

After they were married, they would sell it on to another pair of would-be newlyweds.

According to local legend, people who spend just one night at the hotel can enjoy a blissful, lifelong marriage.

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2011-11-02

Zoe Ball likes a 'boning'

RADIO 1 DJ Zoe Ball shocked Strictly Come Dancing viewers on Tuesday tea time by announcing live on air on that she wants a 'daily boning'.  

The 40-year-old was presenting 'It Takes Two' the sister show of the BBC family entertainment programme when she made the faux-pas while discussing the wardrobe malfunction of Chelsea Heeley - causing a few pensioners hearts to skip a beat.  

The 23-year-old of Waterloo Road star fell out of her dress during a tango with partner Pasha on the Halloween show last weekend.

But yesterday (TUE) at 6.50pm, while Zoe chatted with fashion designer Ben de Lisi about the slip-up - she blurted out: 'that's what I want every day - a corset and boning.'

Shocked viewers quickly took to social networking sites to vent their shock after she made the risque comment to viewers of the BBC2 show - which is mainly made up on an elderly demographic.  

Corieltauvia Lisa Venables, tweeted:  "Ooer missus! Zoe Ball? We're talking about the structure of the dress #SCD so stop talking about the need for (ahem) boning everyday."

While kbmanc Karen Kelly, said: "Haha Zoe Ball just said on It Takes Two "that's what I need every day, a bit of boning"

And web-user 'tawalton Tracey Walton', added: "Did Zoe Ball really just say she wanted boning every day?" 

But Strictly fan, Rachael Heise, 24, said: 'I was watching it with my nan at the time. She raised her eyebrows a little bit to say the least. It wasn't really appropriate for teatime really. She's got to be a bit more careful about what she says. I imagine a few pensioners wouldn't find that kind of comment amusing."

Introducing a segment of the show called 'Top of the Frocks' Zoe was discussing Chelsea's wardrobe malfunction and said: "it happens to even the best of people," before asking Di Lisi: "How do the designers insure that doesn't happen? That you don't have those moments? "

To which he replied: "You can never get it completely right, in a dress like that which is barely there to be honest. 

"I guess what you could have done is put a corset inside the dress and mounted the stretch of velvet on top of it. Nobody would have been the wiser.

"The dress on its own was a great success. but if she felt vulnerable it could have effected her dance....a corset with some boning..would have been the idea."

To which Zoe replied: "That's what I want every day - a corset and boning."  

The three quickly move on to the design of the dress but her remarks soon flooded the internet.  

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2011-11-01

Coppers stalked woman

A BRAVE stalking victim has waived her anonymity to talk about the torture she suffered at the hands of a seedy policeman who bombarded her with explicit texts and phone calls after visiting her to investigate a crime. 

Mum Maria Snow said the harassment she suffered from copper Mark Wilkie turned her from a confident and outgoing person into “a nervous wreck”.

The attractive 48-year-old was subjected to a daily barrage of texts and phone calls from the former Bedfordshire Police PC after he attended an emergency at her home.

Last month, Wilkie, 51, was jailed for three years and four months at Cambridge Crown Court after being convicted of sending texts and making heavy breathing phone calls to 12 women, but it is thought there may have been more than 50 victims.

Wilkie, who used a stolen pay-as-you-go phone so as not to be traced, admitted 12 counts of misconduct in public office from 2008 to 2010.

Many of his victims’ details had been taken from the police database, and included victims of domestic abuse and missing teenagers.

Wilkie began contacting Ms Snow, an events organiser at Dunstable Town Council, after attending an emergency call to a domestic disturbance at her home in February last year.

“I received a text message saying, ‘You’re totally gorgeous and sexy,’” she said.

“I texted back saying they had the wrong number, and got a reply saying, ‘No I haven’t Maria’.

“It turned into six months of texts and phone calls, every night and day. It was mental cruelty.”

Her suspicion fell on every man she knew, she said, from “friends’ husbands, to someone at the gym, to people I worked with”. 

The stress and anxiety even caused her hair to break off and fall out.

“I didn’t want to change my phone number because I had had it for 20 years and used it for my work, and my phone wouldn’t let me block the calls.

“He started with one call a day and within a month it had gone up to once an hour. It was like a drip, drip torture. 

"Two months in I texted back and said, ‘I’m in the middle of a horrible divorce, could you please stalk me in six months’ time?’

“My friends would phone him and threaten him, but it didn’t make any difference.

“There was one time that I answered the phone as I was worried it might have been one of the children trying to contact me, and it was him.

“He said, ‘Hi, it’s me,” and I almost threw up on the spot.

“You just go into a whole world of doubt and suspicion, and it makes you realise how vulnerable you are.”

The contact stopped abruptly at the beginning of August last year, and at the end of December she had a phone call from the police.

“They said they’d arrested Mark Wilkie. They’d been into his locker at work and found a phone with all the numbers.”

Wilkie, of Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, served as a police officer for nearly 30 years and received several commendations for bravery and exceptional service.

In mitigation, defence counsel Hector Maclean-Watt told the court his client’s long-term relationship had broken down shortly before the offences started and his marriage had ended four years earlier.

The judge, sentencing him to three years and four months in prison, described him as “sexually obsessed.” He said the offences were “an appalling breach of trust” which undermined public confidence in the police.

Judge Gareth Hawkesworth told Wilkie: “You abused the very people you were there to protect. This was effectively terrorising vulnerable people in breach of trust.’’

Bedfordshire Police added: “Wilkie’s behaviour is absolutely abhorrent.”

The jailing of her tormentor, who she describes as “a pervert”, has brought little relief or joy for Ms Snow.

“I can’t be pleased at the sentence. I just feel numb and I wish I didn’t have to be involved,” she said. “I actually don’t believe I trust anyone any more.

“But I hope this will make the police take this kind of situation seriously, and I hope it stands as a lesson to other people out there."

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