The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.
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Hello and welcome to Midlands Today, with Nick Owen and Mary Rhodes. The
headlines tonight: Beaten senseless in his own home -
a family's fury after an 86-year- old man is attacked and left
unconscious by masked men. Very frightening. I've never known
anything like it, really. I thought they were going to kill us.
Mystery solved after the bang that rocked parts of Coventry and
Warwickshire last night. It was just the fact that it sort of went
"bah-boom" very quickly, and I thought, what can it be?
His life was saved by a helicopter - a pop legend on why the Air
Ambulance is so important. And can Cheltenham Gold Cup winner
Synchronised make it a historic double in tomorrow's Grand
Good evening and welcome to Friday's Midlands Today from the
BBC. Tonight, the moment masked intruders assaulted an 86-year-old
man and ransacked his home. Tommy Reid was left with bruising and a
dislocated shoulder. Today his relatives have been describing
their horror at the attack. Mr Reid's 80-year-old brother Bill
arrived at the scene soon after the incident but suffered an angina
attack and had to be taken to hospital in the same ambulance. He
says he's never felt hatred before but he now despises the men who
attacked his brother, as Joanne Writtle reports.
Just so worried about my eldest brother... Whether he is OK. I am
worrying about him. May Spence speaks out after her
brother Tommy Reid was knocked to the floor by three masked men who
burst into the home they share in Aston in Birmingham. I was shaking.
I couldn't stop shaking. And then the family, they all came over.
Nieces, nephews, all of that. Very frightening. I've never known
anything like it, really. I thought they were going to kill us. As if
things couldn't get worse, May's other brother Bill arrived on the
scene soon after the men had fled. But he suffered an angina attack
and had to be taken to hospital in the same ambulance. Last night, I
went to bed... Excuse me. I cried all night. Thinking of, how can you
just turn around and forgetting anything like that? You can't. You
think it will happen again. I was never born with paid in me. Never.
None of them was ever born with hate in me. We have got it now.
Back inside, this is the mess left by the raiders, who escaped with
cash after beating Tommy with metal bars and baseball bats. He's now in
hospital with a dislocated shoulder as his family try to sort through
the mess. It just makes you feel angry. Last August, there was a
burglary here when May was in hospital after breaking her hip.
This time, though, she's finding it difficult to cope. Every little
noise I have heard, due jumper. You know, do think they are coming back.
It is terrible. -- you jump. spokesman for West Midlands Police
said it was a particularly nasty attack on a vulnerable member of
the community. They've urged anyone with information to contact them.
And we've just heard that Tommy Reid has now come home from
hospital. His family says he is confused and very shaken.
Still ahead this evening, the centenary of the sinking of the
Titanic. How much to blame was the Infighting between MPs, national
newspaper coverage and a city divided, all over a mayoral
campaign which hasn't yet got the go-ahead. Birmingham doesn't go to
the polls to decide whether it wants an elected mayor for another
three weeks. But the arguments between those for and against are
already raging. A warning this report contains flash photography.
The referendum to ask Birmingham residents if they want a directly
elected mayor won't happen till 3rd May but the issue's already steeped
in controversy. Labour MPs Liam Byrne and Gisela Stuart, plus ex-MP
Sion Simon, all want to be Labour candidates. If the ex-MP won, no
problem, but the others would have to resign as MPs, which would mean
a by-election. But in last month's by-election in Bradford West,
Labour lost out to the Respect Party's George Galloway. This, the
most sensational result in British by-election history. Now Labour is
said to be thinking of banning MPs from standing as mayor, though a
spokesman said: These reports are highly speculative and therefore
we're not going to comment. will find the Labour MPs in this
city are with in touch of their constituents and the George
Galloway thing was a very small strange effect, which I don't think
would be repeated here. But whether sitting MPs should be allowed to
stand or not is not the only controversial issue. Outside the
city centre, residents have other concerns. In Perry Common,
residents have knitted a vegetable plot for an exhibition. But while
all is sunny in the garden, they feel out here in the suburbs
they're being left in the dark about the mayoral campaign. We know
that as with the normal election, there is not a high percentage of
people here prove vote. This is like, you have got to vote for
another thing you are uninformed about. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe
people don't know about it. But I don't think so. They're not alone.
In a Populus poll commissioned by BBCWM last month, 59% of 500 people
questioned didn't even know a referendum was taking place. The
issue's made the national papers. Another hot topic - the cost.
they would do the same salary as the chief executive, that would be
about �200,000. -- if they went for the same salary. Nobody is
explaining the costing. But others, like those building a new mosque in
Ward End, argue a mayor would help attract money to the city.
Pakistani communities and Asian communities, we will welcome this
system with a mayor. It is my feeling this will improve the
community. And all this controversy over something which may not even
happen. Birmingham decides in three weeks' time.
Our political editor, Patrick Burns, is outside Birmingham's Council
House now, from where a directly elected mayor would run the city.
It really is a phoney war at the moment, Patrick? It would certainly
be phoney of that referendum results -- if that referendum
result would go with the usual council leader system. That would
render this conversation beside the point. But many political observers
are saying there is nothing phoney about the tension this reveals
within the Labour Party. On the one hand, in previous parliaments,
members of the Brownite camp, like Sion Simon, who Reno's stood down
from his seat to campaign for mayor and his close colleague, -- who we
nose to down, and the deputy chairman of the Labour Party, who
is thought to be behind his barring of MPs. And on the other hand,
former Blairite MPs Gisela Stuart and Liam Byrne. So some history to
this and may be a settling of scores. If there is an election,
will it be about party politics or personal charisma? Obviously there
is a real possibility that big individual independent candidates
will emerge but there is something inherent to the job, even for party
politicians. Think of Ken and Boris in London. They are rather removed
from their parties. Many people say this is an Americanisation. That is
why they don't like the role. It has been said the Mayor of
Birmingham could be more powerful than half the people in the Cabinet.
And none of the major parties have so far decided on their candidate
for Mayor of Birmingham if it goes that far, although two independent
candidates have already said they'll run.
Two teenage boys from the West Midlands are being questioned over
claims they recorded calls made to a police anti-terrorist hotline.
The phone line at Scotland Yard was bombarded with hundreds of calls a
hacking group claims it recorded a conversation between officers. The
youths, aged 16 and 17, were arrested last night.
An inventor who hoped to turn fallen leaves into green energy
says a series of problems meant he couldn't make a go of it. One of
the problems involved the basic raw material. The council contractor in
charge of waste removal wouldn't give him the leaves from
Birmingham's parks. Here's our environment correspondent, David
Gregory. Like all the best inventions, it's
an obvious idea. Take leaves, process them and turn them into
logs you can burn. And Birmingham's parks are full of leaves, so
getting the raw material should be no problem. We were soon put right
and told that whilst the leaves were on the trees, they belong to
the city council, but we obviously needed them once they have fallen
off of the trees, and then they belong to the area. They are in
charge of street cleansing. We had to try to negotiate and that is why
we had the problem. Despite broadening his product range and
getting leaflogs into big DIY stores, Mr Morrison couldn't get
enough leaves and the leaflog disappeared from the shops.
Obviously for those who invested money in the company, this was very
bad news. And Mr Morrison will be the first to admit there were other
problems and mistakes made. But in the end, not being able to get hold
of leaves from the parks was clearly the big issue. Was it just
the fact you could not get hold of the leaves? It was a combination of
things. But not being able to... Confirm and contract the amount of
feedstock we needed in the year had a massive impact on our ability to
confidently sell leaflogs into the Mr Morrison says he still gets
emails from all over the world asking about his invention. And he
hopes to make leaflogs again, preferably in the UK.
David joins us now. Why was it so hard for Leaflog to get hold of the
leaves it wanted? Yes. The company had said that they think composting
the leaves from the parks to make compost for gardens is greener than
turning them into logs to burn, which on a small-scale release
greenhouse gases. This was a young company as well and other mistakes
were made. But we might still have leaflogs on the shelves if they had
made their position clear. compare the problems faced by
leaflog with plans for Ironbridge Power Station in Shropshire to
import millions of tonnes of wood from America to burn? Yes. You have
this small-scale thing with Leaflog taking Leeds from trees in the
local area for people to burn at home and then you have this 2
million tonnes of wood coming in for power stations from the USA.
They will get green subsidies for it. So the rules and regulations
seem to encourage a mince -- unexpected consequences. We will be
exploring back on the Sunday, it -- Sunday Politics this weekend.
We ended last night's programme with early reports of a big bang
which echoed across parts of the South Midlands. It's been confirmed
that two military jets caused a sonic boom. The Ministry of Defence
says they were responding to an emergency alert and were acting
within guidelines. Baffled residents jammed switchboards as
they called to report the big bang, as Giles Latcham reports.
It was still, it was quiet, as Warwickshire settled in for the
evening, when... Emergency switchboard lit up across
Warwickshire when residents reported hearing a large bang. Some
thought it was a gas explosion and others an earth tremor. I thought
somebody had thrown a brick at the house! We thought something had
happened to the House or a lorry had crashed. It has cracked my
window! In Harbury near Southam, homes shook and frying pans were
dropped as the bang sent villagers running into the street. We were
saying, what happened?! What happened?! We thought a house had
blown up or a caravan had gone! Or a lorry had crashed! In Kineton,
the Beaumonts feared ammunition had exploded at the nearby Army base.
My grandson with us thought there had been an earthquake or a tremor,
so it was quite exciting. I thought somebody had crashed their car and
so I went home. It wasn't scary. It was more puzzling. A bit more
mysterious. Today the explanation, and amateur footage showing one of
two RAF Typhoons dispatched to investigate when a civilian
helicopter accidentally sent a signal on an emergency frequency.
They were authorised to break the sound barrier. Underneath the path
of the aircraft you will get this big grumble following the aircraft.
It turned out a civilian helicopter had signalled an emergency
frequency by mistake. The shockwaves are shocking
Warwickshire were a false alarm. That has just about explained
everything! Later in tonight's programme, Aston
Villa's young Austrian striker Andreas Weimann on why he deserves
a chance to keep banging in the goals.
And if you're a gardener you might have enjoyed this week of April
showers, but beware! The frost is making a return. I'll have all the
weekend weather details you need to 27 years ago, Duran Duran frontman
Simon Le Bon almost lost his life in a yachting accident. He was
trapped under a capsized boat until he was plucked to safety by a
helicopter. Today, at the end of an exhaustive world tour with his band,
the pop legend visited Coventry to give his support to the Air
Ambulance Service and their plans to expand their vital work, as Ben
Godfrey reports. Pop stars Simon Le Bon and the crew
of his capsized yacht have been saved from the seas of the South
Coast... It was 1985. Simon Le Bon, one of
music's biggest stars, almost drowned in a freak accident. His
life was saved by a Royal Navy helicopter rescue. I was below
decks at the time. I was sleeping and woke up. Today, Simon became an
ambassador for the Air Ambulance Service. Based at Coventry Airport,
this helicopter responds to emergencies across Warwickshire and
Northamptonshire. I grew up with watching Thunderbirds and
International rescue, and I think as a kid, you have this idea that
if anything really bad happens, somebody will come and get you. And
this is the closest thing we have to that. This is said to be one of
the fastest air ambulances in service, but also the most
expensive. I found out it cost almost �2 million to run it a year,
which is why we need to keep the money the running in. Despite the
financial challenges, this service has ambitions to launch the
country's first dedicated air ambulance for children. We want to
set up a paediatric intensive care unit and we want to curb the
travelling times. Their latest high-profile supporter has just
completed a 70-date world tour,and Duran Duran aren't about to rest
for long. They're heading to Brazil next month for more international
dates. I love what I do. And I do it with friends as well. I am very
lucky. So the frontman is now a wingman, but the Air Ambulance
Service isn't the only charity in the skies. The separate Midlands
Air Ambulance Charity is also appealing for donations.
That brings back some memories! It's Grand National day tomorrow,
but it's also a big day for young Villa striker Andreas Weimann.
There's nothing more dangerous than a grizzly bear that's just been
wounded. And that's why Manchester United's shock defeat by Wigan
midweek could mean bad news for Aston Villa. But Sunday's game at
Old Trafford will be a dream come true for their young Austrian
striker, Andreas Weimann. Ian Winter has been to meet him.
Just when mums and dads were running out of ideas for the school
holidays, a long queue formed outside the Aston Villa shop and
plenty of went along to see which of their heroes was inside. The
same fans who have known for weeks that Aston Villa need one man up
front, and his name is Andreas Weimann. The number 26 show it has
suddenly become a very trendy fashion statement. -- 26 shirt.
Three things you never knew about him. His parents were both Austrian
hurdle champions. He moved from Rapid Vienna to Aston Villa at age
16. And he has scored two hat- tricks against Wolves. If only he
could repeat the trick on Sunday at Old Trafford. The young Austrian
striker would be guaranteed cult status with the fans. I am really
looking forward to it because I have never been to Old Trafford
myself. Not as a player or as a fan, so obviously looking forward to
that. What would it mean to score against United? Unbelievable! I
can't describe it. Probably the happiest moment of my life. He has
definitely got the potential. He is all over the pitch, he works hard,
plays with his heart. I think he will do very well. Good talent in
him and good goalscoring. exciting player? Yes. Andreas
Weimann doesn't turn 21 until August. Aston Villa fans have high
hopes for the partnership and Alex Ferguson will also be aware of
their goalscoring potential at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised will be trying to make
history tomorrow by winning the Grand National in the same year.
It's only been done once before and that was 78 years ago. So can the
Festival hero defy the stats and bring the National trophy back to
Gloucestershire? Dawn at Jackdaw's Castle. It's
usually a quiet time. But when you've won a Gold Cup then not
every morning is peaceful. Synchronised and the girl who rides
him every day have been much in demand this week. How we see taking
to the fuss? And how I do? -- how is he taking? I don't like it, to
be honest. He doesn't mind. He will have his photo taken for a while.
He knows when he has had enough and he will let you know. If and there
is good reason for the interest. Synchronised is bidding to become
the first horse in many years to win the Grand National and the Gold
Cup in the same year. It was 1934 when Golden Miller won both the
Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year. And he's still the
only horse to manage it. But this year there's been a four-week gap
between the races instead of the usual three, and the stable say
he's recovered completely from his exertions at Cheltenham. He has
come off the race really well. Jumping is the same for all of them.
You don't know who will take to the track until you get there. He is in
great shape himself, in good form, he might never be in as good as
form again. And Jonjo knows what he's talking about. He won the race
with Don't Push It, and Synchronised represents the same
combination of jockey Tony McCoy and owner JP McManus. In fact,
McCoy had the choice of Jonjo's three National runners. White-faced
Synchronised will be joined by Arbor Supreme in the middle and
Cheltenham Festival winner Sunnyhill Boy. But Synchronised has
won the Midlands and Welsh Nationals before taking last
month's Gold Cup. And McCoy, the 15-times Champion jockey, knows
winning on Synchronised really would be history in the making.
If the Gold Cup Grand National double hasn't been done for all
those years, what chance has Synchronised got? Well the stats
say no chance. Golden Miller in 1934 is only horse to achieve it.
He'd also have to become the first top weight to win since Red Rum in
1974. On the plus side, he's been defying the experts all season with
his improvement. The distance is no problem. I'll just slightly worried.
He isn't the biggest but his jumping is great. At the time when
people will have an annual flutter using an umbrella up to work out
the winner, is it a lottery? It can be. Garisson Savannah in 1991 was
first and then second. Rough Quest in 1996 came second and then first.
The last three winners have weighed 11 stones or more and three of the
top four in the weights have run in the Gold Cup. The other is last
year's winner, Ballabriggs. It could be an important factor.
heard it here first. This weekend marks the 100th
anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, when 1,500 people lost
their lives. Among the memorial events taking place will be one in
the Potteries, the birthplace of the Titanic's captain, Edward Smith.
Our Staffordshire reporter, Liz Copper, has been looking behind the
history of the man in command when disaster struck.
Edward John Smith was the most respected officer on the White Star
line, which owned the Titanic. He was known as the millionaire's
captain. He hailed from Hanley in the Potteries. This plaque, to be
unveiled this weekend, is a permanent memorial to the captain
in the city of his birth. How many sea captains can you name? What
names can you think of? Captain Smith of the Titanic. He is known
internationally and he came from here. This house lays claim to be
the place where Edward Smith spent his early years. It's currently on
the market and is attracting international interest because of
its Titanic connections. Just yesterday, we had a film crew come
from Russian television and they were here for quite a while. They
said there is a lot of interest in Russia in the Titanic and Captain
Smith. That will go out on evening television in Russia. We have also
had interest from Germany, particularly from a Titanic museum,
and they are very interested in possibly buying a property. Edward
John Smith left the streets of a crisis when he was just a teenager.
Eventually, she was to mix with high-society. As captain of the
Titanic, he has been blamed for the huge loss of life. But a debate
here this weekend will challenge whether you should be held
completely responsible. -- whether he should be held. He acted
extremely calmly. He told people what to do. He got women and
children in the lifeboats first. Many will say, he was in a
difficult position. He had risen up through the ranks and he did what
any but the odds would have done in those very difficult circumstances
when faced with a human charity. -- tragedy. -- he did what any body
would have done. Captain Smith's final actions were never accurately
recorded. All that's known for certain is that he perished as the
Titanic sank. But his place in history is being commemorated a
century on. And you can take part in the
recording of the special BBC Radio Stoke debate on Captain Edward
Smith on Sunday night from 7pm at the Mitchell Arts Centre in Stoke-
on-Trent city centre. No tickets Now for the weather. A typical week
of April showers but at times this weekend, it will feel more like
February, because it will be very cold and frosty as well.
Particularly troublesome for gardeners. This is the picture
earlier on today. It is in the South West where we will keep a few
showers at times through tonight. Further north, the cloud will break
a bit and temperatures will drop underneath the clearing skies.
Getting down to minus one degree. Any early showers in the South
tomorrow will move a way quite quickly. Then we have this edge of
fine weather. More cloud starts to move in from the North later and it
will feel noticeably colder with a brisk wind. As the skies clear
tomorrow night, the pampered us are going to plummet. Down to freezing
in Birmingham. -- the temperatures are going to plummet. A very cold
start on Sunday. Do watch out for those tender plants. More in the
way of sunshine developing for Sunday and in the sunshine, not too
bad. The more settled weather is not an end to last. This is next
week the Plough -- next week's weather system moving in. Heavy
rain on Monday into Tuesday, so a very unsettled story for next week.
And the frost returns for this A look at tonight's main headlines:
A historic visit - David Cameron becomes the first British Prime
minister to visit Burma. And an 86-year-old man is attacked