The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.
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Hello, welcome to Midlands Today with Suzanne Virdee and Nick Owen.
The headlines tonight: Divided families: after his son was taken
to Thailand, a father campaigns to help other parents. I realise
nobody would help so I had to do it myself.
Demands for new safety measures after a spate of drownings in the
River Severn. It has taken too many lies, he will be next?
Crops in the shops two weeks early, thanks to the fast-fading memory of
an unseasonably hot spring. And he'll train here for 2012, now
another national squad will make Good evening and welcome to
Wednesday's Midlands Today. Tonight more and more parents face the
agony of seeing a child snatched and taken abroad. There's been a
big increase in the number of children abducted and taken by one
parent against the wishes of the other. A leading charity working in
the field says cases are up by a third this year. One father who saw
his own child taken is now campaigning to help other parents
who face a similar ordeal. Our special correspondent, Peter Wilson,
has been investigating. What would you do if you came home
and found your foreign-born wife had left along with your son? Sean
Felton from Norton Canes near Cannock had been married for five
years but his Thai wife known as Kim disappeared with Jo. His father
spent six months tracking him down using a false Facebook account and
pretending to be a millionaire American playboy. I looked on
Google, I saw this handsome guy standing next to a Ferrari and
basically just set up a false Facebook account. I requested her
to be friends. He gleaned information and
eventually tracked his son down to a hut on the Thai-Burmese border.
He eventually, legally, brought his son home. He wasn't speaking Thai
or English, I think the trauma he had been through it was gibberish.
He bob obviously got to hand for, what was it like getting your son
back -- you have obviously got your hands full. He had got chipped
teeth, his fingernails had been ripped out on his thumbs, he had
bruises on his back which were permanent.
Sean is setting up a charity called Abducted Angels to give other
parents advice. Since I have been talking to people all over the
world and helping them, that has boosted me up again. The fight I
had searching for him, it has helped me carrying on an helping
all these other people. Almost three years ago, this Birmingham
mother received a text message from her estranged husband saying he
wouldn't be bringing her two sons home after his weekend with them.
Instead, he was fleeing the country to Syria. Despite all the recent
protests and upheavals, Dr Yusra Abo Hamed did eventually find them.
These CCTV pictures show the moment when she was reunited with Sami and
Rami. But the trauma the children experienced was awful. They were
extremely damaged, the little one, when we first saw him, I opened by
an arms, he wanted to come at me. And the other started to shout at
me. I felt at that moment he was too scared about his brother, that
they were going to take him away from him.
One Midlands charity, Reunite, has seen a 34% increase in reports of
children being removed from one parent and abducted abroad by
another. Tonight Dr Abo Hamed had a meeting with the British Foreign
Office but her fight to get her children back seems no nearer
In our Leicester studio now is Sharon Cook from Reunite, an
international helpline and advice centre for parents worldwide who
face these types of problems. The increase in people contacting you
this year is astonishing 34%. Why do you think it is? Unfortunately,
it increases every year and we believe it is due to mixed national
marriages. Trouble is more available to people now and more
affordable -- travel is more affordable. And people often work
for international companies, travel abroad for work and we are seeing
more people relocate to foreign countries. We are seeing a downside
of our global society, the increase of marrying into different
cultures? Possibly, yes. Without talking about specific cases, we
saw a man in our reports and a woman who still has not been able
to get her son's home. Do you think it is more difficult for women?
not necessarily, I think it is different for every parent --
difficult for every parent but it is different for different
countries. It may be more difficult for children and parents to go to
court. Briefly, are the authorities doing enough to help parents whose
children have been abducted? Again, that is difficult also. That is why
we have focused on prevention measures and tried to get the
awareness up to parents when it comes to other government
authorities. If the child is removed to another country, you are
governed by the law in that country, and that is the case. Thank you.
Thanks for joining us. Later, with Stoke City the big spenders, all
the very latest on transfer deadline day.
24 bodies have been pulled out of the River Severn in Shrewsbury in
just six years. Although the majority were suicides, others were
people who'd been drinking and fallen in. Police are now working
with pubs in the town, but relatives of those who've died
accidentally say more safety measures are needed. Cath Mackie
reports. It's a heartbreaking site. Emma
Davies brings her little boy Oliver to the river in Shrewsbury where
his father drowned. We were asked not to film the child's face. Mark
Hodnett had been on a night out with friends earlier this month and
was on his way home when he fell into the river. It is a river,
people come to see it, but it is too dangerous. It has taken too
many lives. He will be next -- who will be next? The town is pretty
much enclosed by the River Severn. 24 people have died here in the
past six or seven years. Police say up to ten were drunk and walking
home alone. The water might look idyllic today but the sad fact is
that according to the police, more people drown in the river here in
Shrewsbury than in any other town of a comparable size in the whole
of the UK. We are working with pubs and nightclubs, they are helping to
find people who are intoxicated and help them make their home way
safely. Catherine Moore-Hughes' fiance,
Josh Wreford, drowned after a night out last summer. She supports a
campaign for improved river safety including more railings. It could
have been stopped, there is no need. Do people have to take
responsibility for how much they drink? People will be drinking and
walk past the river so they should do something to prevent that
happening. We will put more fencing in where risk assessments indicate
there is a particular risk, but in reality, it presents its own
practical problems with flooding, The council say they've made other
safety improvements too. It's hoped this latest tragedy will at least
raise awareness. Oliver Hodnett will be two next week, the first of
many birthdays without his dad. I'm joined now by Peter Cornall of
ROSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents who's
outside their headquarters in Birmingham. Is this a problem
that's getting worse? Certainly with alcohol-related journeys. The
numbers of people that are drowning as a result of possibly taking a
trip home along the river after they have been out having a drink
and having a good time, that seems to be the case. What, if anything,
can be done to prevent deaths at there? I think it is a case of
trying to break the journey in a couple of places. Silage and public
rescue, but also to make people aware of the hazards of drinking
water slides -- signed age and public rescue. Getting the warning
message out as well that alcohol and walks alongside the water do
not mix late at night. It is difficult to fence off an entire
river, isn't it? Yes, and we would not like to see that. If fencing is
used, it should be used in the right place. There is an onus on
responsibility of the individual as well so it is getting the balance
right. We do not want to put a fence across the whole of the River
Severn. A spinal anaesthetic, which was
mistakenly kept in place for more than two days, has left a teenager
permanently paralysed from the waist down. Sophie Tyler from
Newport in Wales was 14 when she was admitted to Birmingham
Children's Hospital in 2008 to have gallstones removed. But an epidural
she'd been given for pain control was left in place for too long,
causing permanent damage to her spinal cord. It was depression at
first. I just lay in bed wishing that it had never happened. Or was
in that they had killed me. Because I had to live with the reality and
consequences of someone else's mistake.
Birmingham Children's Hospital said staff were deeply sorry for the
distress caused to Sophie and her family. The Chief Medical Officer
The Solihull carmaker Land Rover has released the first images of
the car on which it plans to base an all-new version of its iconic
Defender. The DC-100 will make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor
Show next month and is due to go on sale in 2015. The first Land Rover
was introduced in 1948 and the Defender name was first used in the
early 1990s, shortly after the launch of the Discovery.
Two fire stations in Warwickshire shut for the final time today
despite fierce opposition, led by the Fire Brigades Union.
Warwickshire County Council says the decision to close them was
taken not to cut costs but to improve the service. Nadine Towell
It served the local community for more than 50 years. But today,
Brinklow Fire Station in Warwickshire was forced into
retirement. Last night, a closing ceremony was held to mark the
occasion. In Brinklow and in Warwick, the retained fire crews
have been scrapped. Local people and the union campaign strongly
against the closure plans but as of 9 o'clock this morning,
Warwickshire has two few fully operational fire stations. We have
always said this is about safety of firefighters and the public. With
the reduction of people, you have not got as many people to help each
other. The fates of these fire stations
were sealed last summer when county councillors agreed with proposals
put forward by the Chief Fire Officer. It will be covered from
Nuneaton and rugby, but it is not like having your own fire station
down the road, is it? Suddenly it is upon us now and it is here so it
is a bit sad. The county council says the
closures are about improving the fire service and not cutting costs.
We are halfway through our improvement plans and we have
increased firefighter training which we said we would do and
reduced our unnecessary journeys to on wanted fire alarms by 70%, we
said we would do that. And there is 15% less house fires in and around
Warwickshire. We said we would do all that.
A third fire station, Studley, will close next year.
Still to come this evening, it's the last day of August, but did it
live up to expectations? See what you think later.
And the Brummie legend whose boxing memorabilia is being auctioned. The
fascinating life story of Gentleman The future for generating large-
scale solar power in this country has been thrown into doubt after
the Government changed its rules on subsidies. For one Birmingham
company, it means a promising new source of business has been cut off
at a very difficult time. Here's our science correspondent, David
Gregory. Building projects like this which
have been mothballed us -- our size of a slowdown.
The economic outlook for many companies is still gloomy.
Birmingham electrical contractors JT Hawkes usually wire up big, new
buildings. Usually. It stop. Doors have shut with the recession and so
we have looked for other avenues of business.
And there's one sector that appeared to have a bright future.
This is a plan view of the development. Each of these blue
strips is four rows of solar panels. It's one of Britain's biggest solar
farms to date. Normally it would take three months to complete the
wiring. But they did the job in just half that time, racing to
finish before the Government slashed solar power subsidies for
big installations. And cutting subsidies has cast a shadow over
this new line of work. I have had a company from Italy phone me, two
from Germany. Each one has suddenly said no, the client will not go
ahead. With the cutting of subsidies, it's
unlikely anyone will attempt something on this scale again,
closing off a promising new source of business for this company.
And David joins us now in the studio. So, David, why has the
Government changed the rules? There's only so many subsidies and
the Government is trying to refocus things. If you talk to the
Government department responsible, they say large-scale solar farms
could soak up the money intended to help small businesses and homes
generate electricity. They are trying to generate things away from
beget schemes to smaller schemes. - - from bigger schemes. So where can
people start? It is a bit overwhelming. It is like putting in
a kitchen or double glazing. Ask friends if they would recommend
companies, get some quotes and then also there are two different
schemes that somebody should be a part of. Also with those two you
should be up to a good start. All the details are on my blog.
background noise was a bit difficult to fight against! We will
come back to that later. Not too much solar energy around
this summer. It's been the coldest August for 17 years. Despite that,
farmers say many crops are reaching their peak two weeks early and its
all thanks to some unseasonable weather earlier in the year. It may
seem a distant memory, but this spring saw under 50% of normal
rainfall and across England it was the warmest spring ever recorded.
Temperatures, in fact, hit 28 degrees Celsius during April. Andy
Newman reports now from the fields of Worcestershire.
Runner beans, winning the race to be harvested. It may be late August
in the fields of Worcestershire, but it looks more like early
september. At Top Barn Farm near Worcester they're picking not just
beans but other crops, up to two weeks early, and its thanks to an
unusual sequence of weather conditions. We had an early spring,
a very dry spring and that has brought a lot of the crops on early.
The lack of rain has not been an issue, we can irrigate but in
general, it is the climate that has brought the runner beans on a day
earlier. And the orchards are hanging prematurely heavy with
fruit. These apples would not normally be as rosy and juicy as
this for another couple of weeks but they are ready to eat today.
More exotic crops like butternut squash have also been thriving in
the unseasonal conditions, and an added bonus for grow are trying to
diversify into new markets. It is good, to be honest. To be up to get
them on to the shells early is good for the farmer, sometimes we see a
modest increase in price and also good for the consumer. In a world
of global warming and broken weather patterns, it seems even our
plant life cannot be relied on to stick to a timetable. It means an
early autumn effectively for the farmers, let's hope winter does not
follow suit. Football now, and it's one of the
most frantic days of the season with clubs scrambling to make
signings before the transfer window shuts until January. And it's Stoke
City who've been by far the busiest of our clubs, as Nick Clitheroe
reports. After three years in the Premier
League Stoke City are becoming an established force and all the signs
are that they want to take that next step up. Two new strikers
could be on their way to the Britannia Stadium. A fee has been
agreed with Birmingham City for Cameron Jerome and this evening it
seems Peter Crouch is on his way to the Potteries for talks. It's all
left the fans hanging around the club excited but a little confused.
Frustrating really, but you have to trust the manager. We should be all
right. A big amount of fuss over a lot of nothing, really. Linked with
a lot of players and we have not seen much happening. It has been
hectic in the training ground. We have been walking to and from. We
don't know whether it will happen. Jerome's exit might not be the only
one from Birmingham City. The central defender Scott Dann has
travelled to Blackburn for a medical even though no fee has yet
been agreed by the two clubs. Across the city Aston Villa are
close to signing the midfielder Jermaine Jenas on a season long
loan and the defender Alan Hutton permanently from Tottenham but it's
all quiet at Wolves and West Brom. And if you're a fan of Villa, Blues,
Albion or Wolves there's a Football Phone-in with Mark Regan about
today's transfer activity on BBC WM Very exciting but frustrating.
With just under a year to go to the London Olympics, we already know
two of the biggest track and field teams, the US and Jamaica, will be
basing themselves in our region. Other countries are expected to
send their athletes here too. Among them, the tiny Caribbean island
state of Dominica. Ben Godfrey has the details of this latest
announcement. Which sport and where are they going? Take a look at this
because I am at Wolverhampton, the boxing club. It is all about
sparring in a nice Indoor gene. In Dominica, it is all done at hitting
eight punchbag hanging from a tree. They are coming to the area but
they are not the first, Birmingham is also receiving the US and
Jamaican team. And the boxers, the four Dominican boxers are coming
here. It is around 4,000 miles away, has a population of around 75,000
people, and the boxers are heading to Wolverhampton. Let us talk to
John Thomas, an amazing trick, how did you get the box as coming here?
We helped boxes earlier with all the equipment. The equipment you
have sent over a has inspired boxes over in that country? Yes, that is
correct. The offer has been reciprocated as well. What do you
need to do to get this gymnasium ready for the boxers? We basically
need finance because we are putting up 20 people, four boxes and we
need the finance, that is the main thing. Somebody somewhere to help
us. How important is it to the City of Wolverhampton? This is one of
the best things that has happened to Wolverhampton since been made
the city. OK, we will leave it there! That take a look around this
gymnasium or stop young lads here sparring at the moment. They
started from the age of eight and men are here as well. We have had
British champions here as well. It takes in a lot of people from local
schools. And be that there is up for big things. One more thing
about America. We have heard about boxing because one Frank Bruno, --
Sorry for the extraneous noise, lot going on there! Boxing is a great
way of getting rid of surplus energy. I will not ask any more!
From boxers of today to a past champion. The Lonsdale belt of the
Birmingham boxer Jack Hood is coming up for auction after being
wrapped in a pillow case for decades. Gentleman Jack, as he was
known, was a national hero in the Twenties and Thirties, the
undefeated welterweight champion of Britain, Europe and the Empire.
Sarah Falkland reports. In an age before television, it was
the light entertainment at thousands flocked to see. Even
royalty were fans of boxing. In 1926, one man, Jack Hood was
fighting for the British welterweight champion title.
According to Prescott is at the time, every round was an epic. It
has here it was a contest of brainy manoeuvre. No actual knock-downs
but plenty of solid hitting to satisfy the crowd.
He went on to defend his title twice, winning the right to keep
the Lonsdale belt. Now the gold and enamel treasure is up for auction.
It is very emotional. Thinking how hard he worked for it. I have known
him come from a seven mile went in the morning and skip. You never saw
the rope, it was so fast. I always wanted to skip that fast but I
never made it! He was a wonderful dancer as well. Hood's victories
were even more impressive because he could only fight properly with
his left hand. In his right hand, the bones were
very brittle. The knuckle bones used to break. Only around 20 belts
like this were ever made. They were commissioned by the bon viveur and
explorer, Hugh Lowther, Fifth Earl of Lonsdale. 11 years ago, a
similar one belonging to Leamington boxer Randy Turpin went for 23,000.
The enamel on it is amazing. And we are very privileged to sell it.
Jack Hood retired from boxing in 1935 at the age of 32. He was
landlord of a pub in Tanworth in Arden for over 30 years where he
hung his champions belt behind the Amazing to be a boxing champion
when you have got brittle bones. Unbelievable. What a prize that
would be as well. And now for a For the Midlands, the figures for
the weather will be a slap a different story. I think the August
figures will be published on Friday but we can get an overview. It has
been drier than normal this August with half the rainfall you would
normally expect for Shropshire and also quite dull with less than
normal sunshine but temperatures have been around average for the
time of year. But some as a whole for the entire country has been the
coolest since 1993 and we are just about holding on to that summary
weather. Temperatures looking good by Friday. Getting back to tonight,
it is quite cloudy across the region. We could see some breaks
and where they occur, some mist patches but temperatures will be
falling in those areas. Generally speaking, quite healthy between 10-
13 Celsius with the lows. And a dry night. Tomorrow morning is looking
dole for some places but it is during the afternoon that we see
the best of the brightness and sunshine. It is not the sunshine
that will list the temperatures, it is the change of the wind
directions. Light winds and the best of the temperatures in
southern counties. Getting on to Friday, and when the South Eastern
lease settle into the area, we will start seen temperatures getting to
around 23 Celsius. On Friday, the sunshine breaks through from the
damage will. Tomorrow night will be quite clear but the sunshine across
all parts coming in and then rain over the weekend.
A look at tonight's main headlines: There are reports that one of the
men wanted for WPC Fletcher's killing has been found in Libya.