North West news round-up - 22-10-12

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A round-up of news from around the North West

The mother of a top scientist killed by a suspected car thief in Australia has spoken of her heartbreak at losing a son who ‘would have gone on to do great things’.

Sean Barrett, 36, was killed less than an hour after arriving in Perth when a stolen Toyota 4x4 ploughed into the taxi he was travelling in.

The doctor of quantum physics, originally from Salford, had travelled to Australia to speak at a conference tomorrow.

His devastated mother Jan Barrett, speaking at her Whalley Range home last night, said: “Everyone absolutely loved him and had great respect for the work he was doing.

“He was renowned in his field even though he was only 36. He had an awful lot of papers published and he would’ve gone on to write a lot more.”

Assistant police commissioner Gary Budge said the driver of the stolen car ‘proceeded through a red light at speed’.

He said the vehicle had been stolen days earlier and the occupants were wanted in connection with a series of offences.


Children from lower income families in Greater Manchester are more likely to struggle with reading than their peers, figures show.

Pupils in England aged six and seven are expected to reach Level 2 in reading by the end of Key Stage 1.

But last year nearly a quarter of Greater Manchester children who receive free school meals did not achieve this level, according to statistics from the Department of Education.

In the same year, 89 per cent of their classmates did reach Level 2, representing a 13pc gap between the two groups. The difference in reading levels between children eligible for free school meals and all other children was worst in Trafford and Wigan. In these areas, there was a 16pc difference in the proportion of pupils reaching Level 2 by the end of Key Stage 1.


A young woman is rebuilding her life after being struck down by two strokes – by the age of just 22.

Becky Beaumont was 21 when she suffered her first stroke last October and was left completely paralysed down her left side.

Her ordeal began when she woke up one morning and was unable to reach for her phone next to her bed.

Becky’s mum Julie, 50, rang for an ambulance and she was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport where doctors diagnosed the condition.

She was given clot-busting drugs, as well as intensive physiotherapy, and felt she was over the worst of it.

But in August she suffered a setback when she was hit by another stroke, this time affecting her right arm.

Fortunately it was not as serious as the first – but Becky, from Hazel Grove, is having to undergo more rehabilitation.

She has refused to let her ill-health get her down and has launched a moving blog, where she writes about her recovery.

It has already had almost 500,000 hits and Becky is also raising awareness of the condition – and the fact it can affect young people – with the Stroke Association charity.


Viewers have stuck with the BBC Breakfast show since it began broadcasting from Salford – despite high-profile criticism of the move.

Figures show that the audience share for the BBC1 programme has stayed the same since production moved north to MediaCity in April. Bosses say the average daily audience remains unchanged since the move and still stands at 1.5m. Critics had slammed the decision to take the show north, saying the programme would suffer once it was no longer broadcast from London as it would be unable to recruit top guests. Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson described Salford ‘a small suburb with a Starbucks and a canal with ducks on it’ and said that he would resign if the motoring programme was moved north.

And comedian Stephen Fry described the move to Salford as ‘insane’.


The devastated parents of tragic gas blast toddler Jamie Heaton have told how they are still ‘in pieces’ over their little boy’s death.

Kenny and Michelle Heaton, speaking for the first time since their two-year-old was killed in June, said they are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.

Jamie died when a terrifying explosion ripped apart his home in Shaw, Oldham.

A neighbour has been charged with Jamie’s manslaughter and Kenny said the couple would not be able to find closure until after the trial.

He added: “It’s not over yet. But we take it day by day. We are up and down. I could be in pieces one day, Michelle could be in pieces the next.”

Jamie died on June 26 when his terrace house on Buckley Street was flattened as he watched TV.

In the wake of the blast five houses – including the Heatons’ – were demolished and all their occupants rehoused.

The site remains empty and cordoned off.


A huge haul of fireworks has been seized stored illegally at a hardware shop.

Around 100kg of fireworks were being kept on top of a cabinet near flammable material at the premises in Shaw.

They were confiscated by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service during a visit with police and Trading Standards officials as part of Operation Treacle.

Anyone storing fireworks must hold a licence or registration and keep them in a safe manner by law.


A man whose wife died from Alzheimer’s Disease has persuaded coffee houses in Manchester to support a charity trying to find a cure for the condition.

Fred Walker, 75, was devastated when his wife Joan was diagnosed with the illness aged 67. She died after a four-year fight in 2010.

Before she became seriously ill, the pair, pictured would visit Starbucks in the Trafford Centre – and staff were saddened when they learned of her plight.

Some of them even climbed Snowdon with Fred after her death to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Now he has persuaded the store – and a number of other branches in the region – to back the charity this month. They will collect donations from customers in 14 shops.


A man has been killed after a car hit a tree on a motorway embankment.

The 80-year-old driver was pronounced dead at the scene off the M66 motorway near Bury.

His vehicle, a Daewoo Musso 4X4, left the northbound carriageway near junction two at 4.45pm yesterday.

The motorway was shut between junctions two and three for around four hours.

Police have launched an investigation. The man has not been named.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police on 101.


Firefighters were called after RSPCA officers were unable to rescue a trapped pigeon.

They managed to free the bird when it was stuck behind a mesh door at a house on Compstall Road, Romiley.

They used bolt croppers to cut a hole in the door big enough for the pigeon to escape. But it had a badly injured leg and had to be put down. Dexter Marshall, crew commander at Offerton, said: “There were no keys for the door it had been barred up for a long time. We used bolt croppers to open up a small gap for it.

“It had to come out somehow and we had the tools to do it. People associate us with automatically going to animal rescues but we wait for the RSPCA’s assessment.


A teaching assistant battered a clubber with her stiletto as she led a late-night gang attack outside a bar.

Passers-by saw Joanne Armstrong, who was pregnant at the time, repeatedly hit Sean Kelly in the face with her shoe in a ‘very violent’ assault as he lay helpless on the pavement.

Barefoot in the street and shrieking drunkenly at the top of her voice, 28-year-old Armstrong was described as having gone ‘mental’ by a witness, Manchester Crown Court heard.

The mum-of-two has since been sacked from her job at St Chrysostom’s primary school in Longsight.

The court heard she ‘wound up’ four or five unidentified thugs who followed the victim, knocked him to the ground and savagely kicked and stamped on him outside Baa Bar on Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield.

Armstrong appeared to be the ‘instigator’ of the 2.30am attack, witnesses said, even though Mr Kelly was a complete stranger.

In the aftermath, the 26-year-old victim was rushed by ambulance to hospital. He had suffered a fractured jaw and several of his teeth had been loosened.

Armstrong, of Clarence Road, Longsight, denied the charge before finally admitting it a few weeks before her trial. She has now been given an eight-month suspended jail sentence, plus 100 hours of unpaid work for the April 2011 offence.

The court heard that at the time of the attack Armstrong was in a ‘heightened emotional state’ – ‘reeling’ from the recent death of a friend and an argument with her boyfriend.


Almost 15,000 jobs have been slashed from Greater Manchester town halls over the last two years.

New figures show the region’s 10 councils have cut 14,385 staff – more than 16 per cent – since September 2010 as they battle to balance the books after massive reductions in funding from central government.

The data shows huge variation between the cuts made by different councils.

Rochdale, Oldham, Tameside and Manchester have cut around one in five employees – whereas Bury’s numbers are down less than five per cent.

Staff numbers in Stockport, Wigan and Bolton are down around 15 per cent – while Salford and Trafford are around 12 per cent down.


A crackdown has been launched against aggressive city-centre beggars – following a flurry of complaints from the public.

Town hall bosses have pledged to work alongside police in stamping out aggressive begging, in particular people using young children to solicit cash. Fifteen beggars have been banned from the city centre in just two days – with shoppers and homeless charities backing the move.

Pat Karney, lead member for the city centre, said dozens of complaints about aggressive begging had been made to the police and town hall over the past two months – a marked increase – and the authorities would be looking for help from the public to put a stop to the issue.


Sir Chris Hoy will head up a string of gold medal winners as Manchester salutes its Olympic and Paralympic heroes at a huge city centre celebration.

Six-time Olympic champion Hoy will be joined by more than 60 athletes at the party in Albert Square on Friday.

Among them will be 27 members of the triumphant British Cycling team, who are based a the Manchester Velodrome and helped propel Team GB to third in the medals table at the London Games this summer.

The town hall, who are putting on the event, are promising that every medal winning cyclist will be there – with the exception of Bolton’s Jason Kenny, who is competing elsewhere, Victoria Pendleton, who is appearing in TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, and time trial and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, who has not yet confirmed if he can attend.

The council said the belated celebration would be a chance to relive a golden summer of sport.

Cyclists Laura Trott and Sarah Storey and taekwondo’s Jade Jones will all have their gold medals on show at what is thought to be the biggest medals display outside London since the Games.

They will be joined by members of the swimming, water polo, athletics, handball and taekwondo teams as well as coaches, volunteers and torchbearers who took part in the Games.

The celebration will start in Albert Square at 5pm and will be compered by BBC commentator and former Olympian Paul Dickenson.


A toolmaker, has been awarded £450,000 in compensation after suffering a sickening hand injury in an accident at work.

David Taylor lost fingers on his left hand during the horrific incident at engineering firm Renold Chain in Stockport.

He was moving a heavy tool from a bench, with a crane and sling, when it slipped from its strapping and came hurtling towards him.

When Mr Taylor, 52, deflected the tool, his left hand became caught in the sling and it was crushed against the hook of the crane.

He pulled his hand free and was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital for an 18-hour operation – but he lost half his thumb, the tip of his index finger, his middle and ring fingers down to the knuckle and the whole of his little finger.

Mr Taylor took legal action against Renold Chain and has now been awarded £450,000 after the company admitted liability and settled the case.


Manchester MP Tony Lloyd was today due to resign from the House of Commons after almost 30 years, triggering a by-election for his seat in Parliament.

The veteran Manchester Central Labour MP will quit to seek election as Greater Manchester’s first police and crime commissioner next month.

Mr Lloyd was today expected to hand a letter to Chancellor George Osborne – in line with protocol – announcing his resignation and his intention to stand for the new commissioner post.

A Labour source confirmed that following his resignation letter, the party would move a writ for a by-election in the constituency to take place on November 15 – the same date as the commissioner elections.

Mr Lloyd is one of the region’s most senior Labour politicians and has been chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party of MPs for five years.


It was the day Georgina Myers feared she might never see – her son Noah’s first birthday.

The little fighter weighed just 1lb 9oz when he was born more than three months prematurely.

Georgina had been rushed to hospital with the potentially fatal condition pre-eclampsia.

The condition was recently highlighted in the TV series Downton Abbey when Lady Sybil died of pre-eclampsia during child birth.

In Georgina’s case doctors decided the health risks of letting the pregnancy continue were too high for mum and baby and four days later Noah was born.

Medics battled to keep the tiny tot alive. He was kept in Wythenshawe Hospital’s special care baby unit for three months.


A pioneering care home for people with learning disabilities is set to open – thanks to a little help from comedian Steve Coogan.

The Hollywood star has helped his brother Kevin raise almost £20,000 in the past 12 months to build the facility in Withington.

Faith organisation L’Arche is due to open the purpose-built home on Heathside Road for five people with learning disabilities and three live-in carers.

Kevin and Steve have taken part in a number of fundraising efforts to support the project, including taking part in this year’s Manchester Marathon.

Alkrington-raised Steve also performed a one-off stand-up gig at the Manchester Arena back in 2008.


A man has spoken of his disgust after a thief stole a bouquet of flowers from a shrine in memory of his late partner.

Hundreds of mourners turned out for a memorial service at Blackley Crematorium for popular pub landlady Paula Buckley, 48, after she lost her battle with cervical cancer.

Floral tributes were left outside her pub, The Fox Inn on Old Market Street, Higher Blackley, after the service.

But just two days later staff saw a man drive to the front of the pub before taking a bunch of flowers and speeding away.

Partner Gary Stockham, 52, said the thief was ‘the lowest of the low’ and that hundreds friends and pub regulars had been left shocked by the raid.


The first ‘parking’ centre for cyclists will open in Greater Manchester in a week’s time.

The cycle hub will open at Bury Interchange on October 29. Cyclists who want to use it need to become members and will get a smartcard that allows them inside.

It is the first of a number of similar facilities being developed at sites across the region. They are part of a bid by transport leaders to encourage more people to cycle to work.

The region has been awarded £32.5m by the government for a range of initiatives to promote sustainable travel.

Membership costs £10 a year. A further six cycle hubs are planned for Ashton, Rochdale, Sale, Wigan, Oldham and Stockport.


Plans to demolish more than 400 homes on the estate made notorious by the TV show Shameless look set to be approved by council chiefs.

The West Gorton estate has become synonymous with the Channel 4 drama after the first four series of the show were filmed in the area between 2003 and 2007.

But town hall bosses hope plans to revamp the area will rid it of its Shameless tag for good.

The 439 homes set for the wrecking ball under the next phase of the West Gorton Regeneration Project will be replaced by up to 565 energy-efficient new-build houses.

The scheme will also feature a new health centre, office building, retail development, upgrades to local railway stations and recreation space over the next 10 years.


A Manchester doctor has developed a new test for assessing whether patients arriving at A&E with chest pains have suffered a heart attack.

Dr Richard Body, a consultant in emergency medicine at ­Manchester Royal Infirmary, has been awarded a £467,000 grant to trial his method at two hospitals.

From early next year, the emergency departments at the MRI and Salford Royal will perform the test on patients.

They will be asked detailed questions about their symptoms and will be given a blood test to check for chemicals present when a heart attack occurs.

Currently people arriving with chest pains are admitted to hospital for a series of complicated tests to rule out a heart attack. The majority have not had a heart attack and admission could have been avoided if better tests had been available in A&E.