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TK Maxx and Amazon selling real fur as faux

Image caption A handbag from TK Maxx was made from fox fur, while shoes bought from the store online contained raccoon dog fur

Shops including Amazon and TK Maxx have been selling faux fur clothes and bags which are actually made from rabbit, fox and raccoon dog fur, a BBC Watchdog Live investigation has found.

Widespread concern over animal cruelty has led to real fur very nearly disappearing from most UK high streets.

Both TK Maxx and Amazon said the products were no longer available.

TK Maxx said it does not knowingly buy real fur and an error was made. It has offered refunds to anyone affected.

Watchdog Live presenter Steph McGovern visited a branch of TK Maxx – which has had a no-fur policy for 15 years – and bought a handbag made from fox fur.

And a pair of shoes purchased on the store’s website featured fluffy bobbles which were made from raccoon dog fur.

Meanwhile, two bobble hats sold by Amazon and described as “faux fur” were made with raccoon dog fur.

Rabbit fur was also found in a jumper purchased at an AX Paris outlet store and in fluffy bobbles on a pair of shoes bought from fashion label Missy Empire.

Image caption Fur farming is banned in the UK, but it is not illegal to import fur from abroad
Image caption The “fake fur” on this grey jumper’s star, bought from an AX Paris outlet shop, was made from rabbit

The tests were carried out by textile analysis expert Dr Phil Greaves. He told the programme: “All animal fibres have particular structural features.

“And it’s the actual nature and characteristic of these which determines the species of origin.

“These fibres are very distinctive once under the microscope.”

The tests came after shopper Chloe Salvi, from Edinburgh, said she was concerned about a bobble hat that she had bought on eBay. It had been described as fake fur.

“As soon as I touched it I felt something wasn’t right,” she said.

“I’ve got a cat, and it reminds me of when I cuddle her. It wasn’t the way a faux fur pom-pom should feel.”

Image caption Watchdog presenter Steph McGovern with Chloe and her real fur hat
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Raccoon dogs are wild animals native to southern and eastern Asia

Tests later revealed it had been made from raccoon dog.

“I can’t help thinking about what animal this has been taken off, just for me to have a pom-pom on a hat,” she said.

eBay does not have a no-fur policy, but the website says it expects sellers to describe products accurately.

The online auction website has asked the seller to amend or remove the listing and apologised for any distress caused to Chloe.

Consumer confidence

Though fur farming is banned in the UK, it is not illegal to import fur from other countries.

Earlier this year, a committee of MPs recommended a consultation on banning sales of real fur. It said the current labelling of fur products was “not fit for purpose”.

Claire Bass, the executive director of Humane Society International in the UK, said she would like to see a change in the law over imports, because of the conditions in which many animals are kept.

She said: “Retailers need to be do more to give consumers the confidence they need to buy fake fur and not be worrying that it might actually be fox, rabbit or mink.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCritics and supporters of the fur trade speak out

TK Maxx told Watchdog Live: “Our buyers understand that we do not knowingly purchase items containing real fur.

“Despite our robust processes, an error can occasionally occur. As soon as this is brought to our attention we remove the item from sale and review the journey of that product.

“Any customer who has purchased such an item can return it to any TK Maxx store for a full refund with our most sincere apologies.”

In response to the investigation, Amazon told Watchdog Live: “All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines, and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account.

“The products in question are no longer available.”

AX Paris, which has a fur-free policy, said the jumper was in an isolated product line and not branded with AX Paris. It said investigations are ongoing.

Missy Empire, which is also anti-fur, said it was “dismayed” to find its product contained fur and it was no longer available. It apologised to customers and said it is running further checks on other faux fur items.

Watchdog Live is on BBC One on Wednesday 14 November at 20:00 GMT.

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Show staff ‘isolate’ disabled teen and dog

Image copyright Abby Cappleman
Image caption Abby blogs about her experiences trying to access services with an assistance dog

Concert staff refused to let a disabled teenager and her assistance dog sit in seats she booked to see TV’s Supervet in case people had allergies.

Abby Cappleman, 18, and her mother Julie, who is also disabled, had to sit in isolation at the back of Birmingham Arena to watch Noel Fitzpatrick’s show.

Abby, who blogs about her difficulties accessing services, said: “We were treated like we had a disease.”

A spokeswoman told the BBC the venue “apologised unreservedly”.

In a video posted on her Facebook page Chloe the Assistance Dog, a security guard can be heard telling Abby she cannot sit in her booked seats for “health and safety reasons” because people might have “allergies”.

“Even Noel had his dog on stage at the end of the show,” said Abby.

The Shropshire teenager has Asperger’s syndrome and is supported by Chloe the shih tzu, who helps her to lead an independent life outside of home.

She had booked tickets for Fitzpatrick’s Welcome To My World tour several months ago and travelled 35 miles from her home in Telford to the event on Saturday.

Image caption Abby said it was “ironic” she and her dog were discriminated against while at Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick’s show

“I’d checked what the advice was for assistance dogs on the Arena’s website,” said Abby. “If it had said I needed to book tickets for a specific area, then I would have done.

“But it said assistance dogs were welcome, with no mention of having to book special seats.”

Abby and her mother got through security at the door but were apprehended by a member of staff who told them they could not sit in the seats they had booked.

When Abby protested, citing legislation from the Health and Safety Executive, she says they were shown to a disabled area but that the floor was “sticky and filthy”.

They were then directed to a section at the back of the room, moving two women on first to make sure they were completely alone.

Image copyright Abby Cappleman
Image caption A photo Abby took showing where she and her mother were forced to sit

“There was nobody near us at all, except for a security guard, and at one point there was four of them by us,” said Abby.

“It was really intimidating, we were trying to enjoy ourselves while four big burly security guards were hanging around us.”

Abby said at the end of the show they left as quickly as they could.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had anything that serious happen or been made to feel that way before,” she said.

“The irony is that everyone there was a dog or a pet lover.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission states that service providers should accommodate all people with assistance dogs and that failing to do so could lead to a claim of disability discrimination.

A spokesperson for Arena Birmingham said assistance dogs were welcome, adding: “We do ask customers to advise us of their requirements at the time of booking.

“Assistance dogs are only allowed within certain seating areas within the arena bowl for the welfare of the dogs, other customers and to maintain safe venue evacuation routes, should they be required.

“We understand this wasn’t properly explained on the venue’s website, and we apologise unreservedly to Ms Cappleman.

“We have been in touch with her direct and are making adjustments to our information pages to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

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Triple child murders: The lodger who destroyed a family

Image copyright Ralph family
Image caption Elsie Ralph sits with her three children (l-r) Paul, Samantha and Dawn

In 1973, a 20-year-old man murdered and mutilated his friends’ three young children. No motive has ever been established and he has never expressed regret. Now, 45 years after being jailed, David McGreavy is due to walk the streets again.

It was a crime that would destroy a family, horrify the nation and – with its gruesome details – continue to provoke furious reaction in Worcester.

Yet it has largely stayed below the radar of the British public.

WARNING: This account includes descriptions some readers might find distressing

Image copyright PA
Image caption David McGreavy was 21 when he was told he would serve at least 20 years for the murders

As far as Clive and Elsie Ralph were concerned, Friday 13 April 1973 had been unfolding like any ordinary day.

Mr Ralph was a lorry driver, Mrs Ralph was a barmaid and they lived on Gillam Street in Worcester with their children Dawn, Paul and Samantha, aged four, two and nine months.

Their lodger, Mr Ralph’s friend David McGreavy, was helpful to have around, as Mr Ralph’s job meant he was often away from home and Mrs Ralph sometimes worked evening shifts. McGreavy was good with the children and seemed to enjoy looking after them.

That spring evening, while Mr Ralph was combining a last-orders pint with collecting his wife from work, McGreavy, having drunk between five and seven pints of beer, could not stop baby Samantha’s crying.

He later said he just put his hand over her mouth, left it there, and “that was it”.

The nine-month-old was dead.

Next, McGreavy went into the room he shared with Paul, four, and strangled him with a wire. He followed this by slitting two-year-old Dawn’s throat, and battering Samantha until her skull was fractured.

He then went into the cellar and got a pitchfork with which he mutilated the dead children.

Then he took them into the garden, spiked their small corpses on to some iron railings between two back gardens, and walked out.

Image copyright Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo
Image caption Both police and public were shocked by the murders

When Mr and Mrs Ralph returned home, their children were missing. There was blood across their two-bedroom terraced home. Their lodger was nowhere to be seen. They called the police.

PC Bob Rees was the unfortunate person to shine his torch around the garden and make the grim discovery, and within two hours McGreavy was found wandering around the nearby Lansdowne Road.

When arrested, McGreavy asked “what’s all this about?” and denied any knowledge of the murders. But at the police station, he admitted killing the children.

He told officers how he did it but not why he did it.

He has never said why.

Image caption The BBC reporting from the scene in 1973

An old friend of Mr Ralph, McGreavy was an impulsive young man – he once proposed marriage to a girl just a week after meeting her – who tended to flare up after drinking, but he had given no indication he might kill.

He grew up in an Army family, moving frequently as his father took on different posts across the UK and in Germany.

He joined the Royal Navy but was dishonourably discharged after setting fire to a rubbish bin. Colleagues from those days described him as “rather arrogant” and said he always had to have the last word.

He returned from his base at RNAS Brawdy in Pembrokeshire to live in Worcester with his parents, getting short-lived employment as a labourer, a chef and a factory worker. He often lost jobs because of his drinking and cocky attitude.

His fiancée broke off their relationship on New Year’s Eve 1971 and McGreavy argued with his parents. The 20-year-old moved in with the Ralphs.

He paid £6 a week in rent and occasionally cooked and babysat.

Image copyright Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo
Image caption The children were found in a garden to the rear of Gillam Street, Worcester

Judy Lessemun and her husband Roger had lived in the road for about three years at the time of the murders. She had a job in the city centre and walked past the Ralph home every day on her way to work, and had seen Mrs Ralph with the children.

“On the Saturday morning I got up early like I did every day, about 7am, and opened my curtains and there right in front of me in my front garden were two police officers and sniffer dogs sniffing around.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what had happened. I left for work as usual and asked the policeman what he was doing and he said he was looking for a weapon, but he wouldn’t say more than that. I tried to walk my usual route down Gillam Street but it was blocked off at one end by police.

“It wasn’t until I got home that night I found out from neighbours there had been a murder. First we heard one murder and it was a child. Then people said that night it was more but we didn’t know.

Image copyright Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo
Image caption A police officer stands outside the address in Gillam Street following the killings

“I waited for [my husband] Roger to get home from work and told him, but it wasn’t until we read the paper the next day we found out it was three murders and all children. We were in a state of shock. Nobody knew what to say.

“When you walked past the house after it was chilling. You felt really cold. They were put on neighbours’ railings. Can you imagine how bad it was for them?

“Even now when I’ve walked past the same type of railings I still think about it. Awful.

“They must’ve been hung up like in a butchers. I thought ‘how cruel, how could someone be so cruel?'”

Image caption Judy and Roger Lessemun have lived in the area for nearly 50 years

At the time, Alec Mackie, now 79, was a reporter for the Birmingham Evening Mail. He attended a news conference at Worcester’s police station before the press were taken to Gillam Street.

“I was the father of three small children, slightly older than those three,” he said.

“Having been told what had happened, I was invited [by police] to go up the alleyway. I saw the tarpaulin over the fence between two properties, which was horrific, and I thought of my kids all at home tucked up in bed that morning.

“McGreavy had already been arrested, we knew that, but we didn’t say so because we wanted to get publicity for any witnesses or information. But when it became public, the atmosphere in Worcester was remarkable.

“The horrific way the children had been killed… it shocked the nation.

“Even now, when I drive past that area of Worcester, the memories always come back of that Saturday morning.”

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Det Ch Supt Robert Booth, who led the investigation, said at the time that he could not give an accurate description to the public of what happened.

“It was just too horrifying. They were brutally, brutally murdered.”

Image caption Det Ch Supt Robert Booth led the investigation in 1973

Mike Foster, Worcester’s MP between 1997 and 2010, spoke out against McGreavy’s release when the issue was raised during his tenure, and he continues to believe the killer should remain in jail.

“People still remember it as if it was yesterday. The nature of the killings and what he did with the bodies of children afterwards, that image stays with people. The horror of it makes the situation so much worse in people’s minds.

“There’s probably fewer than a dozen cases across the UK where people have the same view: the Moors murders, Soham murders, I would put them in the same bracket. When people hear the details, they are immediately struck by the horror.”

Image caption Mrs Ralph worked some evening shifts at the Punch Bowl Inn


April 1973 -David McGreavy kills four-year-old Paul Ralph and his sisters Dawn, two, and nine-month-old Samantha at their home in Gillam Street, Rainbow Hill, Worcester

June 1973 – McGreavy is jailed for life

1994 – McGreavy transferred to open prison (category D) then back to closed prison conditions (Category C)

2007 – One of a number of bids for parole refused

2009 – McGreavy told he must remain in jail under closed conditions. An anonymity order for his protection is granted

2013 – Anonymity order lifted with ninth parole review underway

2016 – Parole Board confirms McGreavy is being considered for release. Later that month it rejected his application

2018 – McGreavy is cleared for release from HMP Warren Hill in Suffolk

Image copyright Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo
Image caption Crowds gathered outside Worcester Crown Court ahead of McGreavy’s appearance on 16 April 1973
Image caption The children’s mother, now called Elsie Urry, said McGreavy ruined her life

Elsie Ralph was just 23 when police told her the news that collapsed her world.

She had to be sedated in the police station when she found out what had happened. She wasn’t allowed to return to her home or see the children.

Psychiatrists deemed McGreavy sane and fit to stand trial.

He offered no defence, no explanation and pleaded guilty. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years.

After the trial and using the name Elsie Urry, Mrs Ralph moved away from the area. She says she “just doesn’t know how to cope with it all some days” and tried to kill herself “a couple of times”.

Her marriage broke down and she has not had any further children.

She believes McGreavy, if released, will kill again, despite a Parole Board report claiming he had “changed considerably”.

“If this had happened to someone on the Parole Board, would they be thinking of letting this man go? No way. So why should I have to keep fighting to keep him in prison?

“There’s nothing to say this man won’t do something like this again.

“It has ruined my life. Why should he be released?”

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Pampered pups: Is the ‘pooch pound’ out of control?

Image copyright Victoire Frencia
Image caption Best of friends: Victoire Frencia reckons Kiwi eats better than she does

The UK’s known as a nation of dog lovers, but with ever more opportunities to spoil our best friends, is the “pooch pound” getting out of control?

“Living the life of a wealthy, middle-class dog must be wonderful. If I’m reincarnated I hope it’s as that.”

Victoire Frencia is a 25-year-old living in London and working in marketing. She’s talking about the lifestyle enjoyed by her 18-month-old dog Kiwi, rescued from Cyprus.

“It definitely falls into the category of ‘my-dog-eats-organic-and-better-than-me’, new toys and treats every month,” she says. “It is a high cost, her doggy day care alone sets us back close to £5,000 a year.”

In total, what she and her partner spend on food, toys and the rest equates to roughly half of what they spend on their mortgage – or put another way 5% of their joint incomes.

“Yes, I think it’s definitely over the top,” she admits. However, she adds: “It’s nice to provide ‘the best’.”

‘Family members’

Victoire is not alone in wanting to pamper her pooch.

Euromonitor estimates the dog food market this year is worth just under £1.6bn, about 1.7% down on 2017. However, the premium dog food sector – brands like Lily’s Kitchen, Royal Canin and The Rockster – has risen 2.2% to £379m.

Image copyright Victoire Frencia
Image caption Who could resist the appeal in Cypriot rescue dog Kiwi’s eyes?

One factor driving the market is what’s known as the “humanisation” of pets, according to Trishna Shah, senior market analyst with Euromonitor. “The idea that we’re not thinking about pets as animals: these are actual family members. These are our children,” she says.

“People almost equate their love with how much they’re spending on their pets. People are spending more on better quality products for their pets.”

Harder to put a value on are all the services available to dog owners. With nine million pooches in the UK, doggy day care, dog walkers and dog grooming in particular have proliferated, says the Pet Industry Federation, catering for people who are working.

So why do people like Victoire Frencia spend so much on their dogs?

“It’s just nice to care for something other than ourselves,” she says.

Puppy paraphernalia

Spool back a few months and Victoire’s story might have surprised me.

Now though, as the new owner of Bertie, the Portuguese Water Dog, a whole new world of puppy paraphernalia and pampering has been opened up to me.

A quick search of the internet revealed fountains flowing with Evian water, Fortnum and Mason food and a Japanese Ofurô bath designed to relax aching limbs.

Image copyright The Little Lord Barkley
Image caption Cocktail time at The Little Lord Barkley?

Not a luxurious spa holiday for humans, but just some of the services offered at The Little Lord Barkley dog hotel in Surrey.

It charges between £55 and £75 a night, and offers services including a “dog nanny” and a chauffeur-driven pick-up and drop-off in a Range Rover.

Denise Soares set up the business after finding it hard to find a “reliable, safe and happy environment” for her Dachshund.

She admits they’re at the top end of the market. “We’re not trying to get 80% of the market we’re trying to get 20% of the market.

Image copyright Crispin Luxton
Image caption Percy the Pug is one of the hotel’s VIP – very important pet – guests

“We have had clients that just wanted their dogs to drink chicken water, which means to boil the chicken in water – in this case, organic chicken from Harrods – remove the chicken and let the water cool down – then give it to the dog, our guest.”

‘All they need is attention’

However, Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko, warns against going too far.

“Dogs don’t need luxury treatments, fashionable clothes or extensive pampering.

“People may think that feeding their dogs lots of rich, tasty food is a nice thing to do for their pet, but it may not suit their dietary requirements and could actually result in an upset stomach or the dog becoming overweight, which brings with it a host of health concerns.

“Taking them for walks, providing social and mental stimulation and giving them lots of attention is all the indulgence they need.”

Image copyright Crispin Luxton
Image caption No photos please? Crispin Luxton wants Percy to be well cared for when he is away

So what persuades clients to book their dogs into a hotel like The Little Lord Barkley?

‘Peace of mind’

Crispin Luxton, 43, owns an IT consultancy in London and spends 10 days a month in Los Angeles. He books his two-year-old Pug Percy into the hotel while he is away.

Percy’s 10-day stay costs on average £450 every month. Crispin says it gives him “peace of mind when I’m abroad”, and he finds the collection and drop-off service very useful. “They’ve got it all sorted. I’m paying for the convenience.”

In general, he reckons he spends about £7,000 a year on Percy, including the hotel stays, on food, insurance, toys, coats, treats and leads.

Of course some people would say that’s over the top, but Crispin says: “I think it’s all relative. People spend ridiculous amounts of money on holidays, gardens and clothes. It’s about what you get out of that.”

He admits some of the things on offer at The Little Lord Barkley are a “bit excessive” though. “At the end of the day he’s a dog.”

Image copyright The Little Lord Barkley
Image caption Better than a muddy puddle? Fountains flowing with Evian water

So does Denise Soares ever feel the concept is slightly ludicrous? “It’s done in a light-hearted, good-spirited way,” she says.

“A lot of owners want to feel they’re giving their dogs something a bit over the top – they feel guilty because they’re away.”

‘A dog can forget it’s a dog’

Of course it’s not necessary to go to these lengths and most dogs don’t get this level of pampering.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals estimates the minimum monthly cost of caring for a dog is between £70 to £105, depending on its size and says 69% of owners underestimate this cost.

While the Dogs Trust says: “We do not encourage people to treat dogs like humans as this risks the dog forgetting what it is to be a dog and can cause him to behave in an unnatural way and even potentially develop behavioural problems.

“Whilst it is nice to occasionally pamper a pet, whether that is by grooming it, giving it the odd treat or allowing it to sleep on the bed with you, there are limits and the animal’s comfort and wellbeing should always be the priority.”

Image copyright Victoire Frencia
Image caption Kiwi looks slightly sceptical about her advent calendar

So how does Victoire Frencia respond to people who say “a dog’s a dog”, don’t go over the top?

“Each to their own. I would never let it get in the way of my dog behaving properly and doing what’s it’s told.”

With Christmas around the corner I ask Victoire if Kiwi can expect any gifts.

“Embarrassingly, yes. She’s got an advent calendar.”

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Living next door to a fracking site

Image caption Anti-fracking protests have been held regularly at the Preston New Road site

At the UK’s first operational fracking facility near Blackpool the shale gas has begun to flow. However, a series of small earthquakes continue to disrupt production, and protests by environmentalists show no sign of abating. What is it like to live next door?

Allan Wensley’s farm at Little Plumpton does not just border the Cuadrilla site – the facility sits within it.

However, since he decided to lease his field to the energy firm, his farmhouse home has been besieged by protesters and he and his family have had abuse shouted at them.

“I’ve had lots of abuse screamed at me and a few abusive letters calling me ‘money-grabbing’ and a few names,” the 56-year-old said.

“The police have had to guard my home and my family have been subjected to unpleasant things on the internet.

“However, despite it all, I don’t regret a thing. I’m convinced fracking will be a good thing.”

In 2016 Mr Wensley took his own action when the actor Emma Thompson joined a Greenpeace anti-fracking demonstration on his land.

Encouraged by his wife, he drove his tractor in circles around the double Oscar winner and Love Actually star, literally spraying her with manure.

Image caption Farmer Allan Wensley sprayed protesters including Emma Thompson with manure when they went on his land
Image caption Emma Thompson said Mr Wensley sent her a “very powerful message” after he sprayed her with manure

The protests have continued, but Mr Wensley believes people in the area are split 50-50 over fracking.

“It will supply lots of jobs in the area and I believe it will bring a cleaner, green energy for the country,” he said.

“A lot of people here want it to supply jobs and money for the area.”

The roots of Geza Tarjanyi’s determined opposition to fracking lie in the 2.3 quake that hit the Blackpool area in 2011, and which a report later said was probably caused by exploratory fracking in the area.

The next day the children’s entertainer found a 2ft crack in his wall and damage to his roof.

It was a turning point and he started a long protest campaign which has resulted in many court appearances, a hunger strike and a 15-day walk to Downing Street.

He even changed his surname to Frackman by deed poll and is now a full-time campaigner.

“Fracking is just not safe and most local people are against,” he insists.

“The opposition to this has cost me everything but it’s worth it.

“I’ve had serious threats of violence – people threatening to break my legs – but I’ll carry on.”

Image caption Rodney Knight with his dogs Ghost and Simba, which guard his home and business

Rodney Knight runs a kennels just yards from the drilling site on Preston New Road – and the semi-permanent protest camp outside.

“I didn’t want fracking here – I don’t think anyone around here does,” he said.

“But I believe that if it does take off then it will be good for the area, providing jobs and bringing money.

“I hope what they say is true and it will provide a source of energy that is green and good for the environment – this country certainly needs that.”

He says his business has been adversely affected by the campaigners and calls the protest camp a “disgrace”.

A £2,000 payment given to him out of Cuadrilla’s community fund has been spent on security cameras and a gate after he says he found protesters intruding on his property.

“It’s not the local protesters that I object to but the professional ones who just wander round the country and then move on,” he added.

Cuadrilla has donated £100,000 to local projects and given another £100,000 to the community, which voted to share it among those affected. People living within 0.6 miles of the site received £2,000 while those living further away received £150.

Image caption Tom Stanley is against fracking

Tom Stanley, a 73-year-old grandfather, said he was unimpressed by the offer.

“I thought it was just a sweetener to keep us quiet,” he said.

“But it certainly didn’t have that effect on me,” as he then joked: “I think I took it down the pub a few times.”

As he walked near Mr Wensley’s farm adjoining the fracking site, Mr Stanley added: “I’m not in favour of fracking.

“I don’t think it will bring the benefits they say and I’m convinced it will be bad for the environment.

“There’s been earthquakes and it seems to bring up toxic water.”

Image caption Protester Barbara Cookson lives during the week at a makeshift camp near the site

Barbara Cookson, 67, has lived at the protest camp for the past two years and only goes home to Liverpool at the weekend.

“A lot of the locals used to shout abuse at us as they drove past.

“But many have changed their tune since the latest earthquakes and apologised to us.”

Image caption Eliza Bradley does not think a potential fracking bonanza will reach the seaside resort of Blackpool

Five miles away in Blackpool, shoppers did not express much optimism that fracking would provide a jobs bonanza or investment in the town, which is one of the most deprived in England.

“I can’t see any money comes here if there is any,” said Eliza Bradley, 19, a shop assistant.

“I don’t think we’ll see any benefits anyway – it will just go in someone’s pockets.

“I don’t agree with it anyway – I think it’s bad for the environment and won’t really work anyway.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Drilling started at the Lancashire site on 15 October

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Escapee fooled prison guards with dummy

Image copyright Northamptonshire Police
Image caption Ross Gallagher was spotted “hopping gardens” after absconding from HMP Sudbury in Derbyshire before falling through a shed roof

An inmate escaped from an open prison after fooling guards by making a dummy in his bed, a court has heard.

Ross Gallagher, 32, was seen “hopping gardens” after absconding from HMP Sudbury, in Derbyshire, on 19 October, before falling through a shed roof.

He was caught after stingers were used to stop a stolen car he was driving.

Gallagher, from Corby, who made the dummy from clothes and a protein powder container, admitted several offences at Leicester Crown Court.

He pleaded guilty to escaping from prison, dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking, driving while disqualified and criminal damage.

He was jailed for 27 months to run consecutively with an eight-year sentence he is currently serving.

The court heard how the dummy he used “suggested someone was still in the bed” when officers looked through his cell window.

‘Loud crack’

Hal Ewing, prosecuting, told the court that Gallagher used a stolen car to make his escape, which he eventually crashed after driving down a steep verge.

He said: “He got out of the vehicle and ran off. Dogs and a helicopter were deployed.

“He was jumping over fences in back gardens. Police then heard a loud crack and then a yell of pain, he had fallen through the roof of a shed.”

Gallagher, who appeared via video link from HMP Peterborough, had 80 “substantive” previous convictions but was transferred to HMP Sudbury, on 25 April.

Judge Philip Head accepted Gallagher had intended to return the following morning and only escaped to visit his father.

However, he told him: “You had clearly pre-planned this. You took steps to disguise your absence.

“I understand you were frustrated but what you then did was self-defeating, taking matters into your own hands.”

Amar Mehta, defending, said he simply wanted to see his father and had become frustrated after being refused a prison transfer.

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Locked-up police-bite puppy released

Image copyright PAmper My Poochie
Image caption Bungle bit the officer on the hand and arm but did not inflict serious injuries, police said

A four-month-old puppy caged for biting a police officer has been released.

Bungle the chow-chow was held by Northamptonshire Police for more than four days after escaping from home – sparking anger among pet lovers who demanded his release.

He was seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act but returned earlier after his owners agreed to a Voluntary Control Order (VCO).

Police said public safety was the “priority in such situations”.

Bungle was detained after being spotted under a lorry by an officer, who was bitten as he tried to grab the dog.

Writing on social media, owner David Hayes said the pet had sneaked out of the family home in Stoke Bruerne, near Towcester, on Friday.

Mr Hayes said his 15-year-old son Joseph “broke down at school” when he found out he may not see the puppy again until the new year.

He said they were “massively regretful” about the officer’s injury but criticised the the “inflexibility” of police’s “zero-tolerance stance”.

‘Disgusting and ridiculous’

Almost 5,000 people joined a Facebook campaign demanding Bungle be freed.

On the page, the police action was described as “disgusting” and “ridiculous”.

Ch Supt Chris Hillery said the officer who seized Bungle had his “full support”.

“The dog was unattended in a live carriageway and was aggressive to those present,” he said.

“The potential risk posed by the dog at that time is not diminished by its age or that it was frightened.

“Having already bitten the officer twice, causing puncture wounds and bruising, it would have been negligent to release a dog displaying such obvious aggression without first ensuring both the dog’s and the wider publics’ safety.

“Having gone through a proportionate investigation and risk assessment, the dog has been returned with appropriate conditions to manage any future risk.”

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Baby ‘critically injured’ in dog attack

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Image caption Two Staffordshire bull terriers were taken away from the property by police

A baby is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after being attacked by a dog.

The attack happened at a property in Wykes Road, Yaxley, near Peterborough, with emergency services called at 01:47 GMT on Sunday.

The boy is said to be in a “critical condition” and has been transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

A 28-year-old woman and a man, aged 31, from Yaxley, have been arrested on suspicion of child neglect.

Image copyright
Image caption The baby was attacked at a property in Wykes Road, Yaxley, near Peterbough, in the early hours of Sunday

Two Staffordshire bull terriers were seized by officers from the property and have been placed in the force’s kennels, Cambridgeshire Police said.

The baby was taken to Peterborough City Hospital before being transferred, and the two people arrested have been bailed until 15 December.

Police would not confirm the baby’s exact age, but said he was less than a year old.

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Image caption Officers remained at the scene on Monday while they continued their inquiries

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Briton dies from rabies after cat bite

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Image caption A cat in Morocco (file picture)

A Briton has died after contracting rabies while on holiday in Morocco, health officials have said.

Public Health England said the victim became infected after being bitten by a cat.

PHE issued a reminder to travellers to avoid coming into contact with animals when in rabies-affected countries.

Rabies is not found in wild or domestic animals in the UK, but five Britons became infected between 2000 and 2017 after “animal exposures abroad”.

Some species of bats in the UK can carry a rabies-like virus.

According to the World Health Organization, the disease occurs in more than 150 countries and causes tens of thousands of death every year, mainly in Asia and Africa.

It says in up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for the transmission of the rabies virus to humans.

‘Important reminder’

PHE did not release further details about the Briton’s death.

It said that while there is no risk to the wider public, as a precautionary measure, health workers and close contacts of the person who died are being assessed and offered vaccination if necessary.

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the brain and central nervous system. It is passed on through bites and scratches from an infected animal.

There are no documented instances of it being transmitted via human to human contact.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE said: “This is an important reminder of the precautions people should take when travelling to countries where rabies is present.”

The last recorded rabies case in Britain was in 2012, after a UK resident was bitten by a dog in South Asia.

What is rabies?

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Electron micrograph of the rabies virus
  • Initial symptoms can include anxiety, headaches and fever
  • As the disease progresses, there may be hallucinations and respiratory failure
  • Spasms of the muscles used for swallowing make it difficult for the patient to drink
  • The incubation period between being infected and showing symptoms is between three and 12 weeks
  • If you are bitten, scratched or licked by an animal you must wash the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water and seek medical advice without delay
  • Once symptoms have developed, rabies is almost always fatal
  • Before symptoms develop, rabies can be treated with a course of vaccine – this is “extremely effective” when given promptly after a bite – along with rabies immunoglobulin if required
  • Every year, more than 15m people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination and this is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths
  • But effective treatment for rabies is not readily available to those in need
  • Pre-exposure immunisation is recommended for people in certain high-risk occupations and for travellers to rabies-affected, remote areas

Source: Public Health England/World Health Organization

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How Tom Hardy saved bedtime

Picture the magical scene.

It’s a weekday evening, around quarter to seven.

Someone is in their pants bouncing up and down on the sofa, shouting for cereal and genuinely loving life.

Someone else lies on the floor, eyes closed, praying for the bedtime gods to step in and make it all stop.

Another person runs from room to room in the dimly-lit house, frantically tidying away toys, heating up milk, running the bath.

Millions of parents know and love (or perhaps not) that last stretch of the day before their child’s bedtime.

Image copyright DonaldBowers

While mums and dads crawl to the finish line, daring to dream of the moment they get to sit down and watch Netflix with a gin and tonic, their beloved little folk somehow get a second, rather incredible, burst of life.

But just when you think it’s game over, in steps Tom:

“Hello,” says the actor, “I’m Tom.”

For seven whole minutes the room is transfixed by Hollywood star Tom Hardy’s intense but soothing voice. And his choice of pyjamas.

It’s the CBeebies bedtime story.

And it may have just saved bedtime.

How one superhero reader sent mums (and dads) into meltdown

A-lister upon A-lister has taken on bedtime reading duties on CBeebies each night.

From actors and rock stars to sportspeople and scientists, there have been some eye-opening celebrity readers in recent years.

Olympic athlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, singers Josh Homme, Dolly Parton and Elton John, astronaut Tim Peake (who read from space), actors Eddie Redmayne, Emily Watson and Ewan McGregor, and TV chef Nadiya Hussain have all put their own spin on the bedtime story.

But these stars all have one thing in common – young kids might not even know (or care) who they are.

When Chris Evans (the Hollywood heart-throb not the British radio presenter) read his bedtime story, it seemed pretty clear it wasn’t really for the kids at all:

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Media captionChris Evans introduces Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelley Becker

Parents also enjoyed Floella Benjamin, who presented children’s TV show Play School in the 70s (and is now a baroness with a seat in the House of Lords).

And Homme, I mean, would any toddler really know his band Queens of the Stone Age?

Homme revealed in an NME interview that he had recorded his tale the day before appearing at Reading Festival.

Up next, actor Orlando Bloom, who, let’s face it, will please a lot more adults than tots.

He was announced with this Facebook post:

One user wrote: “How on earth r u getting all these A-listers??? I think it’s brilliant (for the moms ha).”

CBeebies retorted: “They ask us now!”

The ‘Tom Hardy effect’

The bedtime slot already had a pretty stellar roll call before character actor Hardy got involved in 2016. From David Hasselhoff and Sir Patrick Stewart to David Tennant and Rosamund Pike.

Hardy asked to appear because he “really wanted to be in something his children could watch, enjoy and remember”, says producer Claire Taylor.

He proved popular. Nearly 417,000 people engaged with this Facebook plug:

Hardy’s been back four more times – including on Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

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Media captionTom Hardy’s Valentine’s Day appearance was met with delight

His appearance on 14 February was last year’s most watched bedtime story, with a TV audience of nearly 600,000.

This year’s most popular episode, with more than 400,000 TV viewers, was Doctor Who actress Sharon D Clarke who read a book on singer Ella Fitzgerald as part of Black History Month.

“It’s wonderful to be able to please two – or more – generations in one viewing,” says Claire.

“The children are soothed by a story that marks the end of their day and the grown-ups are wowed and amazed at seeing their favourite celebrity or hero doing something so unlikely.”

The CBeebies team tries to pick “a strong mix of male and female role models” who’ll be entertaining and engaging.

Claire says they’re grateful for “the Tom Hardy effect” and they love the comments “that come flooding in” each time a new celeb is announced.

How do they choose who reads what?

The programme producers have the final say – but stars are asked if they have family favourites they’re keen to read so they’ll be read “from the heart”.

Three of pet-lover Hardy’s five stories were about dogs and he even brought his pet pooch Woody along for filming.

Stories are usually filmed at CBeebies House in Salford’s MediaCity but sometimes they’re on location. Dolly Parton was filmed in Nashville.

Image copyright BBC / Pete Dadds

Claire says: “It’s amazing how nervous even the biggest of stars are at first. They’re totally out of their comfort zone so we tell them to imagine they’re reading to one child, perhaps their own.

“I remember pinching myself asking David Hasselhoff to make a ‘brum brum’ noise when playing with a toy tractor; asking Tom Hardy if he would mind cuddling up to a fluffy toy dog and getting Jessica Ennis-Hill to say ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ It can be very surreal.”

Shoots can take up to four hours and all readers get the same fee, which is often donated to charity.

What did the biggest stars read?

Image copyright BBC / Pete Dadds
  • Sir Elton John – The Dog Detectives: Lost in London by Fin and Zoa, and illustrated by Monika Suska. The singer wanted to read a “London-based book”
  • Dolly Parton – Dog Loves Books, written and illustrated by Louise Yates, which is the story of a book-loving pooch who opens his own book shop
  • Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill – wore her gold medal to read The Frog Olympics by Brian Moses
  • Orlando Bloom – We Are Together, written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. The actor wanted to read a story about inclusivity as a nod to his involvement with the charity Unicef
  • Chris Evans – Even Superheroes Have Bad Days, by Shelly Becker and Eda Kaban, which has tips on helping little ones cope when they’re feeling overwhelmed

Many thousands of mums and dads have asked for more megastar readers – although some called for a broader range of celebrities to appeal to all parents.

Referring to Hardy, one Facebook user posted: “If this was a well-known attractive female on CBeebies with the same idea that she was appealing to all the dads out there, the BBC would get slated.”

It’s also a matter of continuing debate as to whether TV before bed is good for children – though the latest research suggests it has little effect.

But just in case, here are a few expert tips – you should watch TV with your child so they can talk to you about what they’re seeing, and don’t let them watch telly right before bedtime.

Could Prince William or his brother Harry be next?

This year to date there have been just under six million iPlayer requests for episodes of Bedtime Stories, and the CBeebies team say they have a huge list of ideas for new readers.

“Kylie Minogue has been on our wish list for a very long time…,” says Claire. “Along with Thandie Newton, Stormzy, Adele. We like to aim very high, so… royalty!”

Over the festive period there are “some fantastically strong female celebrities” signed up, she adds.

Image copyright Milan Marjanovic

What happens after the closing credits is anyone’s guess.

Everyone lives happily ever after, right?

The End.

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