NEWS

2012-01-27

MEP, ghosts and aliens

A ROW has broken out after it emerged a potential conservative MEP published books on aliens, ghosts and golliwogs.

Conservative MEP Roger Helmer, who represents the entire East Midlands region, was due to stand down from his post in December.

But a storm has erupted between him and the Conservative party’s head office over his expected successor, publisher Rupert Matthews, from Blisworth, Northamptonshire, who has raised eyebrows amongst members because of his unconventional interests.

The Conservative Party is being accused of being reluctant to appoint Mr Matthews because of his paranormal expertise, which stretches to him offering online tutorials on the topic.

He also attracted controversy when he published a pamphlet on ‘Political Correctness’ which featured gollywogs on the cover.

In 2009 the Conservatives party won two MEP seats in the Euro elections, given to the first two on the candidate list, Mr Helmer and Emma McClarkin, while Mr Matthews was the unsuccessful runner-up.

By convention the next on the party list succeeds if any MEP dies or resigns. In this case that would be Mr Matthews.

“Rupert Matthews runs a small publishing business and publishes a wide range of titles, largely about history, a line in children’s books and a handful on the paranormal and some political issues," said Roger.

"It is a business which makes money and he’s found a good market for books about the paranormal. The assumption that he’s therefore a nutter is absurd.

“I know him and I am confident in him but most importantly he has earned it; he has been voted into his position by voters and party members. I am unmoved about the nonsense over the paranormal.

“It’s a stand-off at the moment between me and the party’s central office; they won’t move until I move and I won’t move until they move.

“This is not because I want to dictate my successor, I want the party to respect the East Midlands party members and voters.

“I take my role seriously and I am prepared to do it until the end of the term in 2014 unless the party do the decent thing.”

But a spokesman for the Conservative Party’s central office said there is currently no vacancy to fill, and therefore could not confirm who would be a replacement.

He added: “We have to make a series of checks when there is a vacancy, if the next person on the list meets the criteria then they will be appointed.”

Mr Matthews refused to comment on the controversy, but said: “Roger Helmer has not yet resigned as a Conservative MEP for the East Midlands.

“The process of my replacing him will not begin until such time as he actually resigns.”

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2012-01-26

Cannabis factory

A HUGE cannabis farm has been found in the middle of Birmingham's bustling theatre district - just yards from one of Europe's biggest shopping centres.

Sandwiched between the UK's oldest cinema and a historic theatre, the professional cannabis factory - which could be worth up to half a million pounds - was discovered by police at a Chinese takeaway in the city centre on Tuesday evening.  

 

Cops discovered over 600 plants when they raided the Fu Moon Chinese takeaway - after receiving a series of community tip offs.

  

The unused business premises sits between the historic 378-seat Old Rep Theatre, which was built in 1913, and the Electric Cinema - which showed its first film in 1909, making it Britain's oldest cinema. New Street Train station and the city's famous Bull Ring shopping centre sit just yards away from where the raid took place.

After smashing their way through the heavily barricaded back entrance, cops were stunned to find a fully functional cannabis factory in the second and third floor of the skeleton building.

The professional set up consisted of a series of small rooms on the second floor where the young sapling plants were grown, before being transferred to the huge main room on the third floor - where hundreds of mature plants were carefully prepared for drying.

There was also a separate harvesting room where mature plants could be seen hanging to dry - with police saying it was ready and waiting to go onto the city streets.

Speaking at the scene on the morning after the bust (WED), Inspector Andy Bridgewater, of West Midlands Police, confirmed his team were hard on the heels of the cannabis factory's owners after finding personal items like laptops at the scene.

"It was one of four warrants we executed yesterday, this is the biggest hoard but there was cannabis at all of them," said the 38-year-old, who has been the city centre Inspector for two years.

"There was no-one here, but we've got good forensics from here and we are confident that we will make an arrest.

"It's a very professional set up, it's got all the stages of production. It's a big building and you can see from room to room that there's different levels of maturity. 

"There's divides been put in the rooms, it's like a factory."

Cops at the scene have said the find is at worth least GBP400,000 and admitted they were stunned to find such a large cannabis factory in the middle of the UK's second largest city.

"They are not very common in the city centre," added Inspector Bridgewater.

"Too many people pass through, you wouldn't want to draw attention yourself.

"If you're in a city centre then you're going to have more people passing by. It's near businesses and development so it's a shock."

Cops were also surprised about the location of the well-organised cannabis farm, situated in the heart of Birmingham's busy theatre district.

The Electric Theatre, which is directly next door to where the drugs were discovered, is a well-known landmark and was even used by US popstar Katy Perry for her 27th birthday party when she was in the city on tour during last October.

And Inspector Bridgewater said experts at the scene thought the farm had been there for anyway between one and two years.

"They've been here for at least six months. Judging by the structure, it's took months to put that together.

"There's at least six months of the cycle process present now but that doesn't mean it's only been here six months.

"Because they are trying to grow it quickly, it would need someone there daily."

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2012-01-25

Dog swallows ball

A TEENAGER saved her dog's life after her pet swallowed a golf ball during a game of fetch. 

Clara Hall, 19, came to her dogs rescue on Sunday after choking on the ball and rushed her four-year-old tri-colour border collie - Cookie - down to vets. 

At the time of the incident Clara was at her grandparents in Rothersthorpe, Northants, with her mother Victoria, father John and 14 year-old brother Joseph. 

Talking about the drama she said: "Joseph was playing golf with my grandad in the garden and as usual Cookie was fetching the golf balls for him but one ball bounced and she jumped up to catch it and it went straight down her throat".

Cookie was rushed into the car and to the vets by the family, while Clara mum of five-month-old daughter Avalyn, sat in the back to keep the dogs airways open.

Clara who is trained in first-aid has had previous experience of saving others, after she saved a child from choking on a crayon while at nursery.

She added: "On the way to the vets she stopped breathing and her tongue went blue. Her eyes were rolling back and she went all floppy".

"I pushed the ball up from the outside of her throat to the bigger gap in her throat so she kept breathing.

"The journey took around 15 minutes and I didn't think she was going to make it and I was crying. It's a miracle she is still alive and we are so lucky and so relieved".

When Cookie arrived at - Spinney Lodge Veterinary Hospital in Northampton -she was given an anesthetic before being treated by vet Kate Smith, who was able to remove the ball from her throat.

Ms Smith said: "I was shocked that Cookie was still breathing when she arrived. I wasn't expecting her to still be alive after what had happened. It's not normally the case in a situation like this".

Talking about Clara's bravery she added: "I am very impressed with Clara and that she had the presence of mind to move the ball from the outside of her throat to make space in the airways for Cookie to breathe. She saved the dog's life.

"Pet owners should not give or play with balls that their dogs could potentially swallow. The consequences could have been so much worse in this case".

Cookie returned home Monday morning after a short overnight stay and Ms Smith following the incident said that Cookie would not suffer from any long term damage. 

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2012-01-18

Piranha in Norfolk

A FEARSOME piranha-like fish which is more at home in deep Icelandic waters has been found washed up on a beach in Norfolk.

The scary looking sharp-toothed predator was found by dog walker Kelly Boldero on the beach at Old Hunstanton on Saturday. 

The 54-year-old took photographs of the 15-inch beast, which is actually a Ray's Bream,and posted it on social networking sites - eventually discovering that it was in fact totally harmless.

"Whilst doing a walk to help me lose weight and raise money for the local Lisa Wiles Red Wellies Charity on Old Hunstanton's beach, I came across a dead fish that looked more like a piranha than any other fish I had seen in British waters before," he said.

"The fish seemed to have a fluorescent blue look to it in the mud, but once washed looked rather plain.

"Inspection showed it to have small jagged teeth and a jawline reminiscent to that of a piranha, a fresh water fish not seen in these waters.

"I suppose it was 15-inches in length so no a small fry by any glimpse of the imagination.

  

"It looks pretty vicious to me."

Remarkably the rare fish was found just 800 metres from the site where a 55ft sperm whale was discovered on Christmas Eve.

The decomposing giant mammal, which is usually a deep sea creature, caused quite a stir in the local area - with people visiting the beach to take pictures of the beast and even using electrical tools to take teeth as souvenirs.

"The fish was found some 800 metres from the site where a whale had recently washed up," added Mr Boldero, who often walks along the coast of East Anglia in an effort to lose weight.

"I wondered if the smaller fish had followed the whale from the deeper waters and had got lost, but it seems it may be from a much larger shoal, with more fish still out there." 

Capable of growing up to 20-inches in size and boasting huge teeth, the rare fish have only been seen four times on British shores in the past 35 years and are more common to Iceland.

And Nigel Croasdale, Hunstanton Sea Life Centre general manager, said Ray’s Breams he can understand why people who see the scary-looking fish would think it was a piranha. 

"I came into work on Monday morning and an email popped up saying can I identify this fish," said the 46-year-old, who has been the Sea Life Centre manager for 16 years.

"The first time I saw it I thought 'what an earth is this creature?'

"They do have a piranha-like facial expression and look quite a scary fish. I understand why people call them saltwater piranha.

"They look vicious and have very sharp pointed teeth and look quite aggressive, but in reality it's not dangerous or harmful whatsoever."

Ray's Breams are known to swim in incredibly large shoals and Mr Croasdale says he believes they may have strayed into the shallow waters on a hunt for food.

"Fish all follow where there's food and that's probably why they've ended up here," he added.

"The chances are there are hundreds or even thousands of them out there. 

"You do find them in Iceland but their also quite widespread across the globe. They tend to favour deep waters."

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2012-01-17

Pin head Qu'ran

A MICRO-ENGRAVER who takes botox injections because his work is so precise has pocketed a cool GBP50,000 after he painstakingly engraved a chapter from the Qu'ran onto the head of a pin.

World-famous artist Graham Short, from Birmingham, spent hundreds of hours in his tiny city centre studio working to engrave 'The Word of God', a chapter from the Islamic holy book, on the miniscule pin-head.

And even though the finished piece was not exhibited publicly, an anonymous Muslim collector visiting a solo exhibition of the 65-year-old's work in Cambridge was so impressed with the engraving that she decided to purchase it.

Prior to commencing work on the piece, experienced engraver Graham visited religious leaders at Birmingham's Central Mosque to ensure the project wouldn't cause offence. 

“I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of Islam as a living faith,” says Graham, who himself is non-Muslim.

"I do like the Asian lettering, it's beautiful I don't understand it but I do like the style.

“The Arabic characters have their own intrinsic appeal, and I felt that micro-engraving the chapter on such a small scale was a homage to the intricate artwork that has been a feature of mosques down the centuries."

Graham, whose work is sought after all over the world, spent five months working on the pin and admits that working in a different language for the first time in his long career was an interesting challenge.

"It's the most famous verse so I thought I'd have a go at it," he added.

"It took longer than normal because I don't understand the lettering. When I do English words I know all the gaps between letters but in Arabic I don't have a clue.

"I printed it out and I was copying it as I worked. It went wrong a few times so I had to polish it and start all over again."

In order to keep a steady hand as he works on his 400x optical microscope, Graham has to keep his body and mind in perfect condition - taking beta-blockers to ensure his heart rate remains steady and getting botox injections around his eyes so the muscles remain as still as possible.

Graham, who is known for his miniature masterpieces after 50-years honing his craft, also works at night with his engraving hand firmly secured in vintage leather luggage straps, because the incredible detail of his work requires a minimum of vibrations from passing traffic.

The physical extremes he goes to for his art don't stop there and the 65-year-old keeps fit with long-distance swimming to help maintain a low pulse.

"I do a lot of swimming as well, the fitter I am the slower my heart rate is," he said.

"My work-shop is a small building and I don't go in till 10pm. I work at night because even the vibrations of a lorry going past in the day could cause me to make a big mistake.

"I wear a stethoscope and try to engrave inbetween heart beats. If I see a mouse, I have to go home straight away because I am scared of them and know I won't be able to stay dead still when I engrave."

After hearing Graham talk about his Qu'ran engraving at a private talk in Cambridge, a local woman got in touch with the engraver and eventually bought the master-piece for a whopping GBP50,000.

"She wanted to remain anonymous because it was an expensive purchase," added Graham.

"But she was a really nice lady. She was middle-aged and white. She was a Muslim though and I think she had the money because they had sold a family business."

Speaking about Graham's latest piece, managing director of the fine art brokers who represent the engraver's work, Rod Lacey, said: “The sale of The Word of God is evidence of a very healthy and dynamic collectors’ scene around Islamic-inspired art in the UK.

“Graham’s work sits at the crossroads of master craftsmanship and fine art – an area which boasts a very long tradition in Islamic culture – so for me, Graham working on Islamic-inspired pieces like this is his way of paying a wonderful compliment to centuries of tradition from craftspeople in the Islamic world.”

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2012-01-16

Da Vinci drawings

A COLLECTION of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous drawings are all set to go on display as they begin their year long tour of the country in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Starting at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery today/yesterday (FRI), the ten rare drawings by the Renaissance artist will also be on show in Bristol. Belfast, Dundee and Hull before 2012 ends.

The carefully selected display has been hand-picked from the Royal Collection's 600 Da Vinci drawings which are normally preserved in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and can never been on permanent display because of the damage caused by an exposure to light.

Speaking about the Royal Collection's treasured works, which have been to lent to exhibitions all over the world, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawing, Martin Clayton, said: "They are some of his greatest and most famous drawings, it's the first time they've been displayed together.

"It took a bit of time to tweak the selection because what I tried to do with the ten was to choose a selection that sum up his career.

Among the exhibition is the famous drawing 'The head of Leda (c.1506-6)' which is based on Greek mythology and was acquired for the Royal Collection by Charles II.

Also in the show, which is touring the country to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, is 'The head of an old bearded man in profile (c.1517-18)' - which critics think is one of the Da Vinci's last ever drawings.

And 44-year-old Mr Clayton, who has worked at the Royal Collection for 21 years, is encouraging people to come and see the Da Vinci display which he hopes will dispel the theory that you need to spend hours at an art exhibition.

He added:"With these ten drawings, you get a very good sense of what Leonardo was like as a man and an artist."

Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, said:  “This stunning exhibition will provide a magnificent start to 2012 and the city’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  

Leonardo da Vinci is one of the world’s greatest and most well known artists and I am delighted that Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has been selected as the first venue in the UK to display this prestigious exhibition.  

It will be the first time works by the great master will go on show in the city and with the current Leonardo fever this exhibition will attract visitors from far and wide to the city. 

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2012-01-13

9-year-old mugger

A NINE-YEAR-OLD  -believed to be one of Britain's youngest muggers - is being hunted after stealing an older teenager's mobile phone.

An 11-year-old boy was robbed in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, when he was approached from behind and pushed to the ground by the other boy, who demanded his mobile phone.

The attack happened at about 5.30pm on Thursday.

If the mini-mugger turns out to be nine, the police will not be able to arrest or charge him as he is under the age of criminal responsibility, which is 10 in the UK.

Wellingborough police sector commander Insp Nick Lyall, from Northamptonshire Police, said: “This is a shocking crime.

“It’s never good to hear of anyone having their property taken from them in the street but it’s particularly concerning when the victim and the offender are as young as they are in this incident.

“This would have been disturbing and upsetting for the young victim and I would urge anyone who has any information to let us know.

“Thankfully it is quite rare we hear of young children being victims and perpetrators of crimes like in this incident but anyone who commits a crime will be dealt with appropriately.”

Det Sgt Dan Boutler added: “This was an unprovoked and clearly distressing incident for the young victim.”

The thief was aged nine to 11 years, 4ft 3ins, with short blond hair. He was wearing a grey hooded top with black diamond shapes, the word ‘unique’ and a picture of a rhino on the front, and white trainers with a black Nike logo on the side.

One resident in the street, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s disgusting, it’s sick. You wouldn’t imagine it at that age"

"It's a shock, I can't imagine my children doing something like that and they're a few years older.

"If he can't be charged with anything then surely the parents should have some kind of punishment."

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2012-01-12

Floating office

THESE heart-stopping pictures of office rooms suspended in thin air have given high-flying business meetings a new meaning in the headquarters of a leading Danish bank,

Designed by Scandinavian architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen, the new headquarters for Copenhagen-based mortgage bank Nykredit has captured people's attention around the world.

The ten-storey glass structure is one of the Danish city's largest office buildings and features a dramatic atrium flooded with natural light providing links to all levels.

And although the open atrium is raised above the ground allowing passing traffic a view of the activities inside the building, the most striking feature of the design has to be the three suspended meeting rooms that are cantilevered off of the third and fifth floors.

Hanging 50ft above the ground floor, the private conference rooms are placed in hanging boxes clad in dark polished wood - meaning high-flying managers at the bank must have  a stomach for heights as well as a brain for figures.

Situated on the picturesque Copenhagen waterfront, the architects had to find a solution to solve the problem of heat being captured by the large glass exterior.

Eventually they came up with an answer - using water from the nearby harbour to cool the building, as well as ensuring sections of the roof and double layered facade can be opened up to allow for natural ventilation.

A spokesperson for the company said: "The most striking part of the design has to be the three suspended meeting rooms that are cantilevered off of the third and fifth floors. 

"The building also features glass elevators, balconies, and exposed stairways, creating an open and clean-looking work environment.

"Great care was taken in anticipating how the large glass exterior would capture and hold heat. Along with being cooled using water from a nearby harbour, specific sections of the roof and double layered facade can be opened up to allow for natural ventilation. 

"Not only does this building have an elegant appearance, it's also one of the largest office buildings in all of Copenhagen.

As well as the suspended meeting rooms, the building also features glass elevators, exposed staircases, balconies and walkways - creating a lively working environment.

Several internationally recognised artists have also contributed to the decoration of the building. 

Olav Christopher Jenssen created a 30 metre long mural, while a giant bronze sculpture by sculptor Per Kirkeby stands centre stage in the atrium. 

Architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen, who have 140 employees based over their four offices in Aarhus, Copenhagen, London and Shanghai, have won contracts all over the globe and fought off 20 international companies to design the permanent headquarters for the International Criminal Court in The Hague back in 2010.

Their work can also be viewed in the UK, after the company designed the new flagship Campus for City of Westminster College in 2006 and the 15,500 square metre Aberdeen New Library in Scotland.

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2012-01-11

Salad Tower

SUN man Ian Murphy went to all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant Taybarns just outside Coventry to test out engineer Shen Hongrui's theory. 

And despite getting funny looks from staff and customers, no-one told out reporter to stop building the enormous feast of food. 

According to Mr Hongrui's article in the New Scientist magazine, the trick is not to grab your favourite items but to think about the base of tower carefully. 

Taking his time at the busy salad bar, our man picked a solid base of cucumber slices and shredded carrot - using tomato chunks to build a solid outer wall. 

Since Taybarns offer a wide range of cuisines, including salad, a carvery, various pizzas and a special spicy section, we decided to really take advantage of their GBP5.95 all-you-can-eat daytime offer and build the ultimate tower. 

Using the carrot as our cement, we then piled various toppings onto our mammoth bowl, including fish cakes, jacket potatoes, buttered bread, chicken, Yorkshire pudding and even some leftover Christmas turkey. 

Even when the tower was complete, a member of staff who paused at the table to collect an empty dish didn't bat an eyelid at the giant creation. 

Instead she joked and asked if our reporter would be able to eat it all in one mouth full. 

When approached by the Sun, the manager of the restaurant declined to give his name, but said that Mr Hongrui's theory would not affect Taybarns' all-you-can-eat offer. 

"It wouldn't change our company procedure," he said. 

"People aren't going to come in and build towers like that very often."

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2012-01-10

HS2 'fantastic'

Today’s decision by the government to go give the green light to HS2 was greeted as “a fantastic day for the West Midlands” by business leaders in Birmingham but warned that the government must introduce legislation to start the project this year.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group (BCCG), said HS2, part of a larger High Speed Network, would create a fundamental change to the way people travel.

He said: “This is a fantastic day for the West Midlands. However, the imperative is to press ahead with all speed because delay will simply stall the impetus that today’s announcement has given.

“The transport secretary Justine Greening has indicated that it could be another two years before Parliament even votes on the proposition. This must not been allowed to happen. Delay would be damaging for the project and it would push it into the heart of an election campaign.

“The national interest must come first and business in Birmingham urges the government to press on with HS2 now so that it does not become bogged down in unnecessary Parliamentary procedures.

“The Government must look towards not only with pressing with the London-Birmingham HS2 link but publishing a plan soon for the route of the line north of Birmingham.

“HS2 will mean it will take just 39 minutes to travel from London to Birmingham and will help erode the north south divide by drawing investment and skilled workers away from the economic stranglehold of the south east.

“With rail growing at six per cent a year, and with no sign of abating, the Chamber applauds the Secretary of State for her decision to back the only viable solution to this looming capacity crunch. 

“We have the Victorian’s to thank for our current railway network and it has served us well, but we are now well into the 21st Century and it’s about time we left our mark on the UK’s railway network.” 

He added that HS2 has the potential to provide a huge to boost the region’s economy by creating jobs and making it easier for businesses to access markets quickly and efficiently.  In backing HS2 today the Secretary of State will help create 22,000 jobs in the West Midlands and boost the regional economy by £1.5 billion per annum. 


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2012-01-09

Cop resigns over expenses

A TOP police boss has been forced to resign after claiming £200 in unauthorised expenses for a hotel stay for himself and a female colleague.

Derek Smith, Director of Finance and Resources for West Midlands Police, quit his £121,000-a-year post after a misconduct inquiry was launched by the force.

The female colleague is also currently at the centre of an internal investigation into her conduct.

An outside force had been called in to investigate allegations made against qualified accountant Mr Smith, who was also a civilian member of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

But he resigned at the end of October, before the inquiry team from Derbyshire Police concluded its probe.

He has since offered to pay back the £200 he claimed for one night’s hotel stay, travel and other expenses.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said: “West Midlands Police’s Professional Standards Unit was made aware of an allegation of misconduct towards the end of 2011.

“The allegation concerned the use of public funds in connection with expenses, travel and accommodation.

“To ensure a totally independent enquiry, the investigation into these allegations was referred to another force – Derbyshire Police – which presented its findings in early November.

“However, in the meantime the individual concerned has decided to tender his resignation. This has been accepted as it is in the best interest of the force.

"The second individual concerned continues to be investigated under the police staff disciplinary arrangements.'

“The individual concerned remains in their current role.”

Mr Smith had spent 20 years with the force and had been Director of Finance until 2008,  which saw him hold a range of responsibilities, including managing the human resources department, the police estate and its fleet of vehicles.

His seniority saw him become part of the force’s command team and, through his ACPO role, he has advised the Government on charging for police services.

He also helped spearhead the force’s biggest ever costcutting drive involving the loss of hundreds of police officer and civilian jobs. The force needs to make £750 million of cuts and savings over four years.

In his senior role, which saw him attend conferences from time to time, Mr Smith was authorised to charge legitimate expenses to the force – including hotel stays.

But his fall from grace began after he booked into a Manchester hotel, where he was joined by a female colleague, and charged the stay to the force. The stay was not linked to any police-related event.

The £200 is understood to include the accommodation bill, drinks, food and travel expenses.

West Midlands Police has defended its decision to accept Mr Smith’s resignation, rather than pursuing the costly misconduct proceedings. 

A spokesman said: “Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, it was felt by the individual concerned, the force and the Police Authority that this person’s position would be untenable.

“This decision was agreed by West Midlands Police’s Chief Constable. The chair of West Midlands Police Authority has been fully briefed and the authority continues to work with the force on reviewing the future shape of the senior team.

“The value is around £200. The individual concerned has offered to pay this back and this will be accepted.”

The force has also confirmed that an investigation is continuing into the female worker. It is understood that there is no suggestion of any allegations of financial impropriety involving the woman.

It is also understood that the allegation of misconduct is not serious enough for her to risk losing her role.

Neither Mr Smith nor his female colleague were available for comment last night.

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2012-01-08

Shakespeare was bisexual

SHAKESPEARE has been branded bisexual in a shocking claim by a Bard expert - who says people should 'get over it'.

The extraordinary claim by Professor Stanley Wells, President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, comes after Sir Ian McKellen controversially stated there was “no doubt“ that William Shakespeare had sex with men. 

And Professor Wells has backed the Lord of the Rings star's comments and said people should "get over it".

“Of course Sir Ian is by no means the first to say so,“ said Prof Wells. “It goes back centuries, especially because some of Shakespeare's sonnets are unquestionably addressed to a male.

“Shakespeare had three children so clearly was not wholly gay. But he may have loved men as well as women.

“As the T-shirt that Sir Ian sometimes wears says, `Some people are gay. Get over it'!“ 

McKellen said: “No doubt Shakespeare was gay. 

"His predilection was evident from his works. Married, with children, he left his wife in Stratford to live in London. I'd say he slept with men.

“The Merchant of Venice centres on how the world treats gays as well as Jews, and has a love triangle between an older man, younger man and a woman.

“The complexity in his comedies with cross-dressing and disguises is immense. 

"Shakespeare obviously enjoyed sex with men as well as women.“

Within six months of their marriage Anne Hathaway gave birth to the couple's first daughter in May 1583. Two years later they had twins Hamnet and Judith.

But those who believe the Bard is bisexual say they have found plenty of evidence in his  literary works to back up their claims despite his marriage and children.

Rumours about Shakespeare's alleged homosexuality have abounded since the nineteenth century, mostly because his sonnets are addressed to both a young man and a woman.

While the identity of the young man is hotly disputed by academics, there are enough clues in the famous collection of love poems for literary experts to suggest that he may have been interested in both men and women.

Those who believe Shakespeare was bisexual point to his play The Merchant of Venice and the relationship between the aging Antonio and his young companion Bassanio. 

It is often cited as an example of latent homosexuality in one of Shakespeare's most celebrated plays.

In one scene Antonio tells his young `friend': “My purse, my person, my extremest means, Lie all unlocked to your occasions.“ 

There is also passion between men in Shakespeare's Henry V with a battlefield scene between the Duke of York and Earl of Suffolk allegedly carrying homoerotic undertones.

The passage reads: “So did he turn and over Suffolk's neck; He threw his wounded arm and kiss'd his lips; And so espoused to death, with blood he seal'd; A testament of noble-ending love.“

In sonnet 20 Shakespeare describes his friend as: “A man in hue all hues in his controlling; Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.“

The love poem seems to end with Shakespeare asking the man to save his love for him: “But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure; Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.“

The claim is set to challenge the public's widely held belief that Shakepeare was simply heterosexual, with a wife and children.

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