NEWS

2011-10-27

Owl imprint

THIS extraordinary outline was left when a misguided owl flew straight into a pensioners living room window.

The unfortunate bird collided with 76-year-old Audrey Smith's window on Saturday night leaving the outline as it hit.

In fact the owl has struck the window with such force that the outline is more than just the usual bird strike smudge.

Every detail of the bird can be seen on the window, each feather has left its own imprint and even the owl's facial features can easily be made out.

"I was sitting in my living room on Saturday night at about 9pm with my dogs when we heard this almighty bang," said an astonished Audrey.

"I assumed at first it was local kids but the dogs didn't react so I left it.

"Next morning my daughter came to visit me and said 'mum have you seen the outline on your window?'.

"I was astonished, I've seen plenty of birds hit the window as we live in the countryside, but it's normally just a smudge on the window.

"You can see every detail of the bird in this one, every feather and even the eye sockets. I just can't bring myself to wash the window, it's too beautiful.

"I will wait until the rain comes to wash it away, but I'll be really sad when it goes.'

The owl may have been stunned but bird-loving grandmother of eight Audrey, from Clenchwarton, Norfolk, hopes it survived the collision.

A search of her garden the following morning revealed no sign of a bird's body.

"It must have just dazed itself," added Audrey. "I hope it was able to fly away as I've not seen a sign of it in the garden since."

After the appearance of the image Audrey was inundated with neighbours and friends wanting to look at it.

"Everybody I know has wanted to come and see it," said Audrey, a former sweet factory worker whose husband Richard passed away a few years ago.

"They've all been around to see and take photographs. It really is a wonderful image."

Audrey is a keen nature lover. She spends her free time gardening and fills her garden with bird feeders so she can watch the birds, but she was not aware an owl was making hunting forays in her area.

"The last time I saw an owl was when I was a little girl. It was sitting on a gatepost and it frightened me," she said.

"There must be some around because of where we are in the countryside, but I've never seen a sign of one before around here."

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2011-10-26

Halloween House

THIS may look like an over-the-top festive house all geared up for Christmas, but this snazzy 'all-dancing all-singing' home is actually to mark Halloween.

Each year, the creative owners of the house in California,  put lights all around the property which flash in time to music and display spooky faces that bizarrely seem to sing along to create amazing Halloween melodies.

It uses tombstones, hand carved pumpkins, strobes, floods and thousands of lights - to create an incredible light show set to the tunes of the LMFAO hit pop song Party Rock Anthem.

Furthermore, it features four large, moving pumpkin faces on the top level, that has given wowed audiences a singing light performance for the past three years.
 
The owners since become hit on Youtube with their music videos, attracting thousands of views.

The same house was decked out last year in the same lights to create an entertaining version of Michael Jackson's “Thriller".

And in proceeding years they have made videos set in time to Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice and Bobby Boris Pickett's 'Monster Mash'.

Complete with four singing pumpkin faces, tombstones, hand carved pumpkins, strobes, floods and thousands of lights it really is quite a sight - with not an inflatable snowman anywhere to be seen.

Writing on YouTube the creator said: "Most all lights have been changed from incandescent to RGB LED so power consumption is a lot less than previous years.

"All lights, faces and props are custom made (DIY) by me except for the roof line which are CCRs. Controlling channels have gone up 8X from last year. 1144 channels. Light-O-Rama."

The lawn is also littered with pumpkins and other decorations that add to the show.

It was revealed today/yesterday (TUE) how Halloween is now the second most popular family occasion behind Christmas with parents spending more than GBP100 on parties for their children this year.

The survey found that Halloween came in ahead of other traditional family occasions including Easter, Eurovision, Bonfire Night and even beat childrens' birthday parties.

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2011-10-25

Spooky fruit skulls

IF you can't find a pumpkin for Halloween this year, you might be interested in these grim creations which are sure to put anyone off their five a day.

These ghoulish skulls carved from fruit and veg are the work of Russian-born, Paris-based sculptor Dimitri Tsykalov.

In this collection, the 47-year-old has turned household fruit and veg, including apples, watermelons and cabbages, into spooky anatomically-correct craniums.

From his Parisian workshop, the artist painstakingly carves the sculptures over several hours, crafting the lifelike skulls using only a few basic tools.

As the morbid carvings - which Tsykalov refers to as his "Secret Garden" - might suggest, the artist's inspiration is less than cheerful.

He said: "The theme of the work is death. Everything will be in another world one day, even juicy fruit. Everything is slowly disappearing."

As well as spooking children, Tsykalov says that the work is also designed to scare up interest in ecological problems, and serve as a protest against food waste and world hunger.

Sinister skulls are the latest in a line of macabre sculptures from the artist, who has also created larger-than-life human organs made from wood, roots and soil.

His last work, 'Meat', featured nude models wielding guns and wearing armour made from sausages and raw animal flesh, in photos reminiscent of Lady Gaga's 'Rolling Stone' cover shoot from earlier this year.

Tsykalov said: "I work with meat, I work with wood and Earth. I work with non-traditional materials. I call it 'anti-material'. It is anti-modern, against the normal ways of working.

"I like to use basic, primitive but noble materials. Some people use more traditional materials like modelling clay but I prefer watermelons."

Thankfully, the short-shelf-life sculptures are only displayed in an odourless 2D form - because of the perishable nature of the materials he uses, Tsykalov's work usually appears in photographic museums. After sculpting the intricate skulls, he takes pictures of them, ensuring that they are preserved before they start to rot.

"The final product is a photograph. There is no Photoshop, no illusion. What you see is what it was like after it was sculpted."

Tsykalov, usually based in the Paris gallery Rabouan Moussion, is due to take his work on the road from February next year, displaying his skull collection and 'Meat' series together in an exhibition titled 'Hungry Eyes'.

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2011-10-24

Anita Dobson visits Hippodrome

Strictly Come Dancing star Anita Dobson was hoping to pick up some tips from the pros when she joined the audience of a dance show in Birmingham - but admitted “I think it’s back to the drawing board for me.”

The former EastEnders actress was at Birmingham Hippodrome with her Strictly dance partner Robin Windsor last night to watch global dance sensation Burn The Floor.
The 62-year-old said she was awestruck by the performance.

“It was fantastic to watch. It makes me so happy, and that’s exactly the reason I’m taking part in Strictly. “But this company would make mincemeat of me,” she laughed.

“The problem for me is keeping my posture. I’m a work in progress but I think it’s back to the drawing board about seeing this show,” she said.

The actress admitted her life had been all-consumed by her passion for Strictly Come Dancing.

“I eat, sleep and drink Strictly. It’s nerve-wracking and there’s lots to learn but I’m having the time of my life, it’s so much fun.”

Anita said she was thrilled Strictly had trounced The X Factor in the ratings and tipped pop star Harry Judd to lift the Strictly crown.

“I think he has a lot of potential,” she said.

Watching the show was a trip down memory lane for her dance partner Robin as he spent nine years with Burn The Floor.

“Burn The Floor is my second family. I’m delighted to be here to see them and thrilled to share the show with Anita,” he added.

Last night’s sizzling show was so hot the floor boards of Birmingham Hippodrome’s stage could easily have reduced to ashes.

Fast-paced and passionate, a group of up to 20 champion dancers take the audience on a journey through the history of the dance – from sultry and steamy Latin numbers to elegant waltzes.

The athletic professionals delivered jaw-dropping non-stop routines without so much as stopping to come up for air.

The show is so intense the audience have a hard time sitting still in their seats.
 
Breathtaking from start to finish, Burn the Floor certainly earned its standing ovation. It runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday.

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2011-10-19

45k benefit fraudster

A WOMAN who received more than GBP45,000 in disability benefits has been exposed as a fraudster after being caught competing in races for her local running club - despite claiming she couldn't walk.

Gillian Hulme, 55, was snared by the Department of Work and Pensions running over four miles in a training run with her club 'Potters Trotters', despite stating a back injury meant she was virtually unable to walk.

She also completed a five mile road race in Cheadle and the Cheddleton 10k road race with the ladies running club.  

The cheat was overpaid GBP 45,925 in disability living allowance, which she claimed for 10-years from February 2000-August 2010.

During that time she was paid the highest rate of mobility of the allowance-meant for people who have a severe disability and are virtually unable to walk-as well as the middle rate of care.

The latter was paid to her on the basis that she needed help getting dressed and undressed, that she was unable to prepare a main meal and that she needed someone to keep an eye on her for 'her own safety.'

Hulme appeared at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court today/yesterday (MON) and pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to give a prompt notification to a change in circumstances.

The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared. She will be sentenced at a date to be fixed.

Hulme was caught out after the DWP received an anonymous allegation stating she attended a running club and was a frequent gym user.

They carried out surveillance and discovered she was a member of a ladies running club - 'The Potters Trotters' in Stoke-on-Trent.

Footage was obtained of her on a training run measuring 4.2 miles.

It also transpired that she had completed two legs of 4.7miles and 1.7miles of four legs as part of the Potters Trotters relay team which ran in the 2010 Potters 'Arf Marathon.

Hulme, of Stoke-on-Trent, had been claiming the benefit since 1996. However she had been an active gym user at Trent Country Club since at least January 2000 and a user at Willfield Fitness Centre, a spokesman for the DWP said.

The Potters Trotters is a high level running club and compete in professional races including marathons and 10k events.

Lord Freud, Welfare Reform Minister said:"It's cases like these that show us why welfare reform is needed. We have a duty to the taxpayer and our customers to make sure that these vital benefits only go to those who need them.

"Benefit fraud takes money away from the most vulnerable. It is a crime and we are committed to stopping it by catching criminals at the front line and making sure our reforms make the benefit system less open to abuse."

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2011-10-18

Trainee causes bomb scare

AN RAF trainee thought to be suffering from post traumatic stress has admitted sparking a bomb scare at Cosford airbase.

Christopher Emsley, 21, who lives at the base, but comes from nearby Albrighton, Shropshire, triggered a mass evacuation of the area after placing the package by a perimeter fence of the airbase.

The base was placed on full alert and bomb disposal experts were drafted in to deal with the package and make the area safe.

During a hearing at Shrewsbury Crown Court yesterday (MON), Emsley admitted placing an article with intent on July 11 this year.

Mr Paul Smith, for Emsley, said: “Since the incident he has been seeing a psychiatrist on the base.

“It is thought he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after finding a friend dead about a year ago.

“He is a serving member of the RAF who placed the device on the perimeter fence of the base.

“The device was intended to be viewed as realistic. The only people who didn’t view it as realistic were the bomb disposal team.

“It is the end of his career, he is clearly not reliable and trustworthy. It’s a serious case.”

Judge Robin Onions told Emsley all options, including custody, were open.

Emsley will be sentenced at Shrewsbury Crown Court in November.

He was released on conditional bail.

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2011-10-17

WM Police pups born

THEY might look cute and fluffy now, but this litter of German Shepherd puppies is destined to grow in to a fearsome pack of police dogs.

The seven furballs, pictured here frolicking in and around some discarded police helmets, couldn't be further removed from the traditional image of a fierce, snarling police dog.

But after being born just four weeks ago at West Midlands Police's dog unit, the adorable litter is already being groomed for a life as tough crime fighters.

When they hit six weeks old, the pups will be placed with volunteer puppy walkers who will help to socialise them and get them used to different environments.

After a series of assessments, the dogs that make the grade will be paired up with an officer and begin their police dog training at 15 months old.

Breed scheme manager at West Midlands Police, Dave Raymond, said he thinks that all the puppies from this litter should make the grade.

Both of the parents are working police dogs, and Dave thinks that dad Bach and mum Cassie have produced a strong litter.

He said: "The dad is very strong and the mum is very strong - they've got a great genetic line."

"German Shepherds are all round good dogs, they're naturally guarding dogs so they can be a little vocal with their barking.

"The big challenge is getting them obsessed with toys, as that's how we do a lot of the training.

"Although it can get a bit annoying for the volunteers because they tend to go for any small objects like shoes which are left lying around the house."

If any of the dogs don't meet the standards expected, Dave said that the force finds new homes for them.

"We've got a big waiting list of people wanting police dogs as pets.

"A lot of people think 'police dog, so it would make a good guard dog', but we don't want that.

"We want them to go to a loving home where they'll be looked after."

The four male and three males have yet to be named, but the force is running a competition inviting members of the public to choose a name for the litter.

This latest batch, the first to be born under the Kennel Club's Assured Breeder Scheme, have been labelled the 'R' litter, which will be the first letter of each dog's name.

West Midlands Police Dog Unit Manager, Inspector Russ Evans, said: "The dogs we train are key members of our team so we want to ensure we do the best by them from the very start.

"We're proud to follow very high standards for breeding our dogs, so joining the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme was the next logical step for us, as this is the quality kite mark that all good breeders aspire to hold."

Bill Lambert, Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme Manager, said: "We are delighted to have the dog breeding unit at West Midlands Police as part of our Assured Breeder Scheme.

"The care provided for their dogs is excellent and the breeding premises, which we inspected prior to accepting them onto the scheme, were impeccable, and clearly achieved the standard we expect."

West Midlands Police joins Merseyside Police and Greater Manchester Police as members of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.

The Kennel Club will soon be running a naming competition through its website: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk.

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2011-10-16

Cardboard vacuum cleaner

CARDBOARD boxes normally outlive their usefulness the moment their contents have been removed - but one company has bizarrely  created a vacuum cleaner made out of its own packaging.   

The extraordinary eco-friendly machine was designed by Loughborough University student, Jake Tyler, as his final year project and is not set to be sold by one of Britain's biggest cleaning product manufacturers.

Designed with the help of engineers at Vax, Jake created the vacuum which made up from the very box that it comes in - even down to the wheels.

Jake - who has since landed his dream job at the company  - said he wanted to create a vacuum with a view to reduce its impact on the environment.

The 23-year-old, from Birmingham, who achieved a first class honours degree in his Industrial Design and Technology course, said:  "It's all a bit surreal to see my university project get internationally recognised up to the point where it is going to be sold.

"It's been crazy but very nice, it was just an idea in my head and its become a reality.

"Environmental stability was in at forefront of the design and that is why I used cardboard.

"Most consumer electrics need to be taken to a landfill site, my idea was to have something recyclable. And you can build it yourself so you feel part of the product.

"I did a placement with Vax in my second year and got on really well. So they helped and nurtured me through my final year project where I designed and built the vacuum from sketches to the final product.

The environmentally friendly cleaner is not just made from any cardboard, the panels and wheels are popped out of the sides of the box the ev was delivered in.

Vax spokesperson Jo Sawyer said: It's a high performance vacuum cleaner constructed for optimum sustainability, using recycled and recyclable materials that reduce the burden on landfill.

"The panels, wheels and floorhead are cardboard, the hose is mostly plastic. All plastic parts are made of recyclable, pure nylon plastic.

"The corrugated cardboard panels that form the body of the Vax ev are easily replaced if damaged and cost just a tenth of the price of an equivalent plastic panel.

"No glue is required either.

"The panels just pop out of the box and slot together.

"They have a flame retardant coating and are fully customisable with just a few felt tip pens you can turn your vacuum cleaner into a unique work of art."

Obviously not all parts can be made of cardboard, but those components that would not stand up to the rigours of use if made of paper have been designed to be easily made close to where it would be sold.

This means the Vax ev can be manufactured locally to order, without the need for costly tooling moulds and assembly lines, whilst avoiding long distance distribution.

Vax is now exploring a limited production run of the vacuum cleaner.

"With sustainability becoming an increasing concern for manufacturers, the Vax ev shows just what can be achieved when young designers are encouraged to think creatively and push the boundaries of product design," said Paul Bagwell, Director of NPD at Vax. "It's so important that manufacturers such as ourselves support young British designers like Jake, as they are the key to this country's future success."

Trial sales of the product are due to begin at the start of 2012.
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2011-10-13

Ejector seat for sale

IT'S the must-have for Bond fans, military collectors and adrenaline junkies everywhere - a chance to purchase your very own EJECTOR seat.  

A niche auction website are offering the chance to bid for the 'Mk6 ejector seat' originally used in a Royal Navy Buccaneer which was part of the squadron that famously bombed the Torrey Canyon oil tanker off Cornwall in 1967.

Father and son business partners Peter and Dale Grant first purchased the seat from a military goods dealer over a year ago.

After working to modify it with a stainless steel frame complete with survival pack and parachute, the pair have now put it up for sale on their site whenitsgoneitsgone.net.  

It comes in its authentic condition complete with 'original chutes, cushions, straps, harness and eject handles'.

Paintwork has also been kept as the original. Rockets are attached - including pitch rockets but minus cartridge and propellant.

Son Dale, 22, from Stratford-upon-Avon, said the bids so far had reached GBP2,500 and the seat had attracted global interest .

He said: "It would be guaranteed to turn heads in the office or look great at home. You can pull the handle and you wont shoot off. We could get in a bit of trouble if we sold that and somebody went through their living room roof.

"People have been contacting us from Canada and three from Australia- they've never heard of anything like this.

"And the fact it was part of such a big event - it's your chance to own a little built of history.

"We're expecting military collectors to be showing the most interest, one man wanted to give it as a gift to his elderly father as he flew them in the war.

"But others have said, we'll give you 100 quid for it. Others have been as high as GBP2,500 but we're still open to offers."

The Mk.6MSB was fitted to the Buccaneer jet used by both RAF and Royal Navy.

The seat in particular was fitted to XV157 which flew first with the Royal Navy from '66, including operating from the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle and RAF squadrons from '69.

It was part of the squadron which attempted to sink the stricken Torrey Canyon oil tanker in March 1967.

The supertanker capable of carrying a cargo of 120,000 tons of crude oil, but was shipwrecked off the western coast of Cornwall, causing an environmental disaster.

It came under heavy bombing in an attempt to send the supertanker to the bottom of the sea, and burn off the tens of thousands of tons of oil which formed a slick 35 miles long and up to 20 miles wide around the area.

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2011-10-12

Gypsy fraudster

A GYPSY mother-of-nine who claimed over GBP63,000 of fraudulent benefits as a single mum while living with her partner in a caravan, has avoided jail.

Chavelle Price - who is still claiming GBP600 a week in benefits - claimed she was supporting her nine children as a single mother when she was actually married and living with her husband Patrick on a travellers site which featured on Channel 4's 'My Big Fat Gypsy' Wedding.'

She was caught out when planning applications made to South Staffordshire Council to build private gypsy caravan sites in Wolverhampton were made in both her and her husband's name.

The illiterate 33-year-old was given a suspended 20 week sentence at Wolverhampton Crown Court today/yesterday (WED) and was ordered to undertake 100 hours unpaid work.

But it emerged in court that Price is now receiving GBP600 a week in benefits and has arranged to pay back the money she owes at just GBP60 a month - which will take over 20 years.

The paternal details of Price's children were also laid bare before the court - which revealed Patrick was the father of only two of her kids , Patrick's BROTHER the father of another two - while the remaining five had 'unknown' fathers.


Chris Bailey, prosecuting, said Price had claimed GBP62,972 over a 10 year period.

"The defendant claimed she was living at her parents house with her children, " he said.

"She claimed her marriage to Patrick Dunn in 2005 had lasted just a couple of weeks until he found out their first child wasn't actually his, so he upped and left.

"She claims they remained married because she is a Roman Catholic and so does not believe in divorce.

"It has to be said her claim was not fraudulent from the outset, but it seems she lived with Mr Dunn at his caravan park in Coven Heath.

"It emerged that her name also appears on several planning applications for Mr Dunn's home, including one for a toilet block that took six years to be granted.

"When that was granted she even appeared, pictured in a local newspaper in front of Mr Dunn's chalet proclaiming if a victory for all 11 of the family, including Mr Dunn.

"In interviews with police she claimed two of her children were Mr Dunn's, two were fathered by his brother and the fathers of the rest were unknown.

"It was also discovered that much of Mr Dunn's money from his business as a landscape gardener went through her account.

"She claimed she let him do this and he would give her GBP50 every now and then."

According to Mr Bailey, Price's claim to be living with her parents came unstuck when they applied for benefits and made no mention of Price or her children living with them.

"Patrick Dunn refused to be interviewed, " added Mr Bailey. 'He said 'whatever she has done has nothing to do with me'."

Simon Rippon, defending, said that Mr Dunn's reaction showed what her client had to put up with.

"It was all up to her, that reflects the relationship," he said.

"She cannot read or write, but she is a very good and loving mother of nine, as the pre-sentence report shows.

"She should have had benefit anyway, but she knows there are no excuses."

In sentencing Price Judge Michael Dudley said her actions were "crazy".

"People get fed up of reading about people who have cheated and defrauded the system," he said.

"It costs the taxpayer a huge amount of money.

"I accept that you are a good mother, you certainly convinced the writer of the pre-sentence report of that.

"But it is crazy that you now have to pay back all this money when if you had claimed properly you would have got as much and probably more.

"To repay this money will take a very long time now.

"I order you to do 100 hours unpaid work so that you can repay the community to a certain extent."

Price was also made the subject of a 12 month supervision order.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said after the case:"Benefit thieves are costing the taxpayer almost GBP1billion per year.

"This money is intended to help those most in need not line the pockets of criminals.

"We will continue to tackle this problem at the front line but also at the root by reforming the benefits system to make it less open to abuse."
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2011-10-11

Alex and Chantelle smooch

LOVED -UP ALEX Reid and Chantelle Houghton prove their relationship isn't just for the cameras after they were caught smooching at a service station.

The smitten pair were snapped by a member of the public in Marks and Spencer at Toddington services, in Bedfordshire, just hours before their live on-air engagement

They were queuing at the check-out on Friday and according to onlookers couldn't get enough of one other.

Onlooker Ethan Louie, 21, who captured the picture: "It wasn't very appropriate for a check-out queue, but I suppose you can't say their relationship is just for the cameras.

"They couldn't keep their hands off each other.

"They are clearly really into each other, but it wasn't what I wanted to see, and its not what I wanted my kid to see.

"They were really going for it."

Despite only dating for seven months, the pair got engaged on Brendan O'Connor's 'The Saturday Night Show.'

The couple were taking part in a joint interview in which they were discussing how they’re trying to conceive using IVF treatment.

Chantelle, 28, is seeking other methods other than natural ones following a battle with bulimia.

After being urged to pop the question by the host, Reid side-stepped the issue saying that it wouldn't be romantic.

But prompted a third time, 36-year-old Reid said: I haven't got a ring, but you know what, I'm going to do it."

"Seriously, nobody tell anyone! Will you marry me?'"

Giggling she answered ‘yeah’, before the pair embarked on a passionate kiss that forced the camera to move back to O’Connor.

'You saw it here,' he said, 'the whole of Ireland wishes you the best for the future.'
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2011-10-10

Lungs close street

POLICE closed a road for two hours following the grim discovery of a pair of lungs and a heart - before a butcher turned up at the 'crime scene' and pointed out they belonged to an animal.  

Shocked members of a local litter patrol in the village of Essington, South Staffordshire, made a grim discovery in a bush yesterday/on Sunday and immediately called the police thinking they could be human organs.

Forensics officers descended on the scene, while uniformed coppers set up a cordon around the entrance to a junior team's football ground where the 'remains' were uncovered.

But the roadblock was lifted after a local butcher was called to the scene and confirmed that the lungs had belonged to a sheep or a pig.

Councillor David Clifft, 49, chairman of Essington Parish Council who had been on the litter pick when the lungs were discovered at about 10am yesterday, spoke of his shock when he made the 'macabre' find.

He said: “We were just out litter picking and found the organs behind some bushes.

"They were such a size that it was difficult to know whether they had come from a human or an animal.

"There was a pair of lungs and a stomach, and they had been carefully placed there rather than dumped or fly-tipped.

"I thought it best to call the police, and when they arrived they weren't sure either.

“They cordoned off the area while they took a look at the lungs. It was all quite a shock.”

Cllr Clifft said that scene of crime officers and forensics officers quickly arrived at the scene.

He said: "I was just taken aback by the size of them, and the fact that someone had taken the time to place them there.

"I was glad that they felt the same way as well, I was worried about wasting their time."

He added that the area by Wyrley Juniors Football Club is popular with families and dogwalkers.

He said: "I just think it's a bit sick putting them there right by the gate.

"A child could have stumbled across them, or a dog.

"Imagine if the dog comes running out with that in its mouth, especially if the family was there.

"It's just a bit macabre, where they were placed and how."

Trevor Williams, aged 67, who used to work for the prison service and now lives in Long Lane, said: “I did not see the remains.

“By the time I walked along to the scene the police had taken them away.

“I was quite shocked by it all.”

Another resident from Long Lane woke up to find police just along the road from her home.

She said: “When I opened the curtains I saw the police. It was something you don’t expect to see every day.

“I’m glad it turned out to be animal remains.”

Police said they were relieved when they found out that the lungs had not come from a human.

Sgt Paul Cooke from Staffordshire Police said: “The lungs have now been discarded. We think it was either from a sheep or a pig. A local butcher came and confirmed it.

“Thankfully it was nothing serious. We had to put the cordon up to be sure though.”

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2011-10-09

One-handed guitarist

WHEN he was born with an unexplained lack of a left arm that still baffles doctors today music lover Sam Draisey seemed destined never to play any kind of instrument.

But against all odds the 23-year-old has now written, recorded and released three albums despite having no left hand at all - and is proving an extremely talented guitarist and singer-songwriter.

The inspirational musician has not let his disadvantage get in his way and learnt to pick at the strings with his good arm while using his other arm to strum the instrument with amazing results.  

And to listen to him play today, you would not notice his disability by the sound that he creates with the guitar.

Sam started playing music when he was 15, just on the coincidence that his sister was having lessons.

"My sister Emmie was learning guitar," he said. "So I had a go a it. I developed my own technique, although I had to play Emmie's guitar upside-down because she's right-handed.

"There are a few who have been like that and made it, Jimmi Hendrix played a restrung right handed guitar left handed.

"Eventually I taught myself with a left-handed guitar. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it in spite of my obvious disadvantage."

Sam has never had any limb below his left elbow and says he has never liked using prosthetic limbs.

"When I was a kid we tried some out, but I never liked them. They were always clunky and were often a different colour to my skin.

"I kept leaving them all over the place, in restaurants and the like, it was pointless.

"When I started playing we tried out one with a claw type thing on the end with two prongs that could hold a pick, but it sounded horrible.

"When you play you don't just bend your elbow, you use your wrist as well and the movement arcs, with the prosthetic hand it would scrape down the strings, it was awful."

Eventually Sam's sister got bored of playing guitar and he took over her lessons, learning to play the guitar again after he got hold of a left handed guitar.

"I played in pub bands and played bass for a bit, but I always liked doing my own thing. I can't write songs within a group, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can, I have to do it myself," added Sam.

"I sing at weddings and the like, which is singing other people's songs. I enjoy it, but I love writing my own stuff, it gives the music more passion.

"I'm a big fan of Johnny Cash and Cat Stephens and more recently I love Frank Turner, his writing is a big influence."

When he first started playing Sam says using his arm the way he does to strum the instrument caused him some pain.

"I do have calluses on the end of my arm," he said. "And it hurt when I started, but anyone gets that when they play.

"All guitar players get harder skin on the ends of their fingers as they get used to playing, so it's no different for me.

"I can strum, and I can pluck individual strings, the only difference I have is that I can't pluck two strings at once that aren't next to each other."

Sam decided to take up music full time only a few years ago, having found his course learning to become a primary school teacher at Wolverhampton University no longer interested him.

He took a place at South Birmingham College studying professional music practice and graduated in July this year.

Sam, who lives at home in Billbrook, Staffs,  with his mum, Jayne, 49, dad, Roy, 51 and girlfriend Michaela, recorded his latest album at home before taking it into college to mix and fine tune it.

When he's not writing songs, Sam organises 'open mic' nights at local village pubs and has several gigs coming up to showcase his third album The List.
 
"There are videos out there of people with one arm playing guitar, but they're just novelties, I want to be a musician, I am a singer-songwriter I just happen to have one arm."

Nils Edstrom, Live Sound Tutor at South Birmingham College, says: "To listen to a recording of Sam you wouldn't have a clue about his condition - all you'd hear was an excellent artist.

"He's done really well this year and we have no doubt he'll go on to make a lot of people happy with his music."

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2011-10-08

Monkeying around

WHILE England's national team have been causing a stir in New Zealand with some of their monkeying around off-the-field - one rugby-mad creature closer to home has been showing our boys how it should be done on the pitch.    

Thomas the Gibbon has become gripped by Rugby World Cup fever at his home at Drayton Manor Zoo, Staffs, - ever since his keepers gave him a ball this week.

And with his jet-black fur, the clashes with white-coated friend Suntayah looks like a sneak preview for what would be a pretty tasty final between England and the All Blacks.  

The three-year-old has been amazing his keepers with his skills, and has been seen throwing the ball sideways - although visitors have admitted most of his balls would be deemed a forward pass.   

Zoo visitor, Chris Collins, 23, said: "He seems to know the rules a little bit - and he looks like he likes a bit of rough and tumble with his mates.

"I think he's still got a bit to learn, his kicking accuracy isn't spot on to be honest - but he's strong in a scrum and they've been fighting over the ball a little bit.

"He's obviously an All Black, so maybe he could fill in for Dan Carter at fly half for them.

"Or maybe they have should have renamed him Tindle because he's obviously likes monkeying around."

Another visitor to the zoo, which is based at Drayton Manor Theme Park, added: "When he is playing with the white monkey it looks a bit like England versus New Zealand. I would love to see that final in real life - it would be huge.

"I hope they would take it a bit more seriously then these guys though."

Helen Pawley-Tuft, one of Drayton Manor's General Managers, said: "Zookeeper originally put the ball in the enclosure to enrich Thomas' environment.

"It’s really important to enrich the lives of the animals in our zoo with activities and toys as it not only provides stimulation by adding something new to the surroundings, but it’s also a great source of fun for the animals and their keepers too.”

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