A week after the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery Bruce Reynolds died aged 81 the BBC has announced it is to dramatise the notorious heist.
Hollywood star Luke Evans will play Reynolds in two 90-minute films timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the raid later this year.
It follows last year’s ITV1 drama Mrs Biggs in which Sheridan Smith played Charmian, the wife of another infamous train robber Ronnie.
In the BBC drama Jack Gordon will play Ronnie Biggs.
The two films, A Robber’s Tale and A Copper’s Tale, will focus on the crime from the joint perspectives of the fugitive robbers and the detectives hunting them.
The Great Train Robbery took place on a Royal Mail train on 8 August 1963 at Bridego Railway Bridge.
The gang of 15 men was unofficially led by Reynolds, assisted by Gordon Goody, Charlie Wilson and Ronald “Buster” Edwards.
They made off with £2.6 million, a huge sum of money in those days, thought to be equivalent to £41 million today.
The first BBC1 drama shows an earlier robbery at Heathrow Airport in 1962 and the background to how the train heist was planned, rehearsed and executed, from the perspective of Reynolds.
The second, A Copper’s Tale, tells the story of Tommy Butler and the team of detectives who sought to bring the gang to justice.
The writer and executive producer of A Robber’s Tale, Chris Chibnall, said: “The Great Train Robbery has passed into modern folklore. How fantastic that such a magnificent bunch of talented young stars have come together for our first film, to tell how one gang planned – and almost got away with – the British crime of the century.”
Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama, said: “In the first of two films, Chris Chibnall’s unique drama about morality sees the infamous crime from the view of Bruce Reynolds and his gang – this is a stellar cast who will bring this notorious story to life in a surprising and revelatory way.”
As rail companies struggle to meet growing demand, the legacy of 1960s cuts has been to hold back revitalisation of the network
Survivor of Beeching’s axe: the railway viaduct between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tweedmouth on the east coast mainline.
The rail line from St Erth to St Ives is one of Britain’s finest. Its tracks hug the cliffs that loom over the sands of Carbis Bay. In the early spring, Atlantic rollers pound the beach while gulls strut in rain-spattered tidal pools.
It is a breathtaking journey – with a flaw. It is over so quickly. The St Ives diesel railcar takes only 17 minutes to cover the line’s four miles. Have a lengthy text chat and you will miss it.
And that would be unfortunate – for travellers should relish each mile of this railway gem. Fifty years ago this month, the little Cornish branch line was earmarked for closure as part of a railway restructuring that has become a byword for managerial savagery: the Beeching cuts. The story of the threatened closure of the St Ives line, and its subsequent reprieve, has much to tell us about the impact that British Rail chairman Richard Beeching had on Britain then – and today.
Published on 27 March 1963, Beeching’s report, The Restructuring of British Railways, outlined plans to cut more than 5,000 miles of track and more than 2,000 stations. Dozens of branch lines that linked villages with market towns were rated egregious loss-makers to be culled, along with great chunks of mainline.
The railways that had helped Britain become an industrial power, but which were now haemorrhaging money, were to be cut back brutally. The car would replace the train, Beeching decreed. In doing so, he ushered in an era of vast motorway expansion and cheap motorised transport. The train, deemed dirty and smoky, was earmarked for extinction. If Beeching and other transport planners of the day had had their way, only a rump of inter-city lines would have been left.
Today the makeup of UK transport looks very different from the one envisaged by Dr Beeching. Rail passenger figures have almost doubled over the past 10 years; commuter trains are crammed; young people are deserting the car for the train; and Britain’s railway bosses are struggling to meet soaring demands for seats. The legacy of Beeching – dug-up lines, sold-off track beds and demolished bridges – has only hindered plans to revitalise the network, revealing the dangers of having a single, inflexible vision when planning infrastructure.
“The crucial lesson to take from the Beeching anniversary is that you have to be flexible when planning transport infrastructure. Beeching was not,” says Colin Divall, professor of rail history at York University. “Yes, many loss-making lines did need closing down, but nowhere near the number earmarked by Beeching, as we can now see with terrible hindsight.”
Examples of the headaches imposed by Beeching’s legacy include the Varsity line that used to link Oxford and Cambridge and which the government now wants to reopen to connect fast-growing Milton Keynes with Oxbridge’s research centres. Rebuilding the disused western section between Oxford and Bedford will cost £270m and could be ready by 2017. But the track bed of the eastern section, between Bedford and Cambridge, was sold decades ago and has since been built on. How transport planners get round this problem remains to be seen.
Another example is the old Southampton to Dorchester line, which was closed between Brockenhurst and Hamworthy, (a line I worked over many times [SW]). Since then, the area has gone through a huge expansion and its roads are regularly jammed with commuters into Southampton. Reopening the Brockenhurst-Hamworthy line would certainly ease that congestion. Unfortunately, the line’s western track bed was sold off and dug up.
“There are countless examples like these,” says Christian Wolmar, author of Fire and Steam: How the Railways Transformed Britain.“Transport planners in the 60s simply could not conceive of the idea that a line, once closed, would need to be reopened. Their mindset saw trains as dirty and futureless. Reopening a closed rail line was simply not a possible option. So British Rail just sold off the land whenever it could, a policy that is costing us dearly today.”
Not every reopening has been scuppered, however. Several examples are provided in Scotland, including work to reopen 30 miles of the Waverley line that once linked Edinburgh and Carlisle but which was closed by Beeching. Its replacement, the Borders railway, which will run south for 30 miles from Edinburgh as far as Tweedbank, will be the longest new domestic railway to be built in Britain for more than a century and should be complete in 2015. Crucially, there are no problems with dug-up track bed or demolished bridges on that part of the Waverley.
The fact that routes are being reopened and other rail relaunches being planned raises a key question. Why has rail become so popular? What factors have changed to make people want to return to the train? The answer, it transpires, has more to do with the UK’s fading romance with the car than a refound love of the train.
“In the 60s, young people – when asked by pollsters – often said they would rather have a car than the vote,” says Professor David Begg, chief executive of Transport Times. “Today they are more likely to say they would rather have an iPhone than a car.”
Underlying factors for this disillusion with the car include road congestion and spiralling costs of driving, particularly for the young: car insurance has increased by 80% for young people in the past two years, for example, compared with a 20% rise for those aged 50, while numbers of those aged 17-19 who take the driving test have dropped by a fifth in the past five years. At the same time, rail companies have been aggressive in promoting cheap deals for the under-25s.
“Young people simply cannot afford to run cars and that has driven up rail passengers numbers at a rate of about 6% a year at a time when we are going through major financial depressions,” adds Begg. “It is quite extraordinary.”
Beeching’s legacy has been to thwart plans to fulfil the country’s renewed need for rail infrastructure, though there have been some benefits. There are now more than 1,500 miles of cycle pathway in Britain that have been built on old rail track, most of it generated by Beeching cuts.
A musical elegy to the lost stations from Flanders and Swann.
And then there are the preserved steam lines, including the North Yorkshire Moors and West Somerset railways. Many of these are built on track closed by Beeching and have become a key part of Britain’s heritage industry. The European Federation of Museum and Tourist Railways includes 102 passenger-carrying preserved railways in Britain and Ireland. The total for the rest of Europe is 117. The British have a love for railways that Beeching never understood.
A sense of loss that was felt at the time of his cuts is revealed by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann in their song, Slow Train, a loving tribute to the nation’s lost lines:
“No one departs and no one arrives From Selby to Goole, from St Erth to St Ives They’ve all passed out of our lives.“
A few jewels survived, however, though this was often due more to luck than good management. The Heart of Wales linesurvived only because it ran through seven marginal parliamentary seats, for example. As for the St Erth-St Ives branch, its continued existence had much to do with the whims of the incoming transport minister, Labour’sBarbara Castle, who inherited the Tory government’s Beeching legacy. She decided closure “would have involved destroying the whole character” of St Ives and refused to sign the line’s closure notice. Thus she saved a pearl of a line for the nation – and helped St Ives thrive as a trendy resort, a point that is hard to appreciate in winter inside the deserted railcar that shuttles along the palm-fringed tracks between St Ives and St Erth on the mainline.
But it is a different matter in summer, The train is filled with tourists who shun the frequently jammed road into the town. Thanks to Castle, the line has not passed out of our lives.
There are few men more vilified in British history than Richard Beeching. In popularity rankings, the former ICI boss – who was, after all, responsible for axing 5,000 miles of UK rail network – usually ranks somewhere between Richard III and Robert Maxwell.
However, in recent years others have tried to resurrect his reputation and have argued that Beeching actually saved the railways by taking his axe to the lines that were losing the most money. Had he not done so, worse cuts would have followed in later years, it is claimed.
Certainly, Beeching looks an unlikely villain. With his trim moustache and rotund features, the Sheerness-born businessman looks anything but sinister.
But Richard Faulkner, co-author with Chris Austin of Holding the Line: How Britain’s Railways Were Saved, will have no truck with any revisionist sympathy for the man. “Beeching had only one recipe for saving Britain’s loss-making railways and that was to make the network smaller and smaller. He lacked vision and we are paying for that today. Of course, he was not the only public figure* who completely misunderstood railways but he was certainly the most prominent.”
*With Ernest Marples as Transport Secretary, who had massive interests in the road haulage business at the time, the railways had no supporters even though the industry was on it’s knees after WW2 and needed massive investment not savaging.
Even in this video Beeching has the neck to say that he was ‘modifying the railways to fit them for the traffic requirements for the future’ – well, at least it demonstrated just how short sighted his plans were….
New medals and clasps will be given to surviving veterans within fortnight after government bows to years of campaigning
RAF Bomber Command crews prepare to take off in Lancaster planes in 1944.
Surviving veterans of the Arctic convoys and Bomber Command will receive new medals or clasps within a fortnight following the government’s decision to bow to years of campaigning and properly acknowledge their bravery during the second world war.
Up to 250,000 veterans will be eligible for the decorations, but those still living or their widows will receive the awards first, the defence minister Mark Francois will announce on Tuesday.
Production of the Arctic Star medal and the Bomber Command clasp will begin this week after the final designs were agreed. The former has been based on the second world war stars, and the clasp is similar to the one given to veterans of the Battle of Britain.
The decision to award the decorations was made last December following a review by the former diplomat Sir John Holmes, who was asked by the prime minister to review the rules on military medals.
He concluded the Arctic veterans, who supplied Russia with vital fuel, food and munitions during the war, should have their own medal to mark “the very difficult work they did”.
He also said veterans of Bomber Command had been “treated inconsistently with those who served in Fighter Command” and should also be entitled to a special RAF clasp.
Making the announcement, David Cameron told MPs: “Sir John has recommended, and I fully agree, that there will be an Arctic Convoy Star medal. I am very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic convoy will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very difficult work they did. On Bomber Command, Sir John has recommended that the heroic air crews of Bomber Command should be awarded a Bomber Command clasp.”
The Arctic convoys are credited with having played an important role in buoying Russia as Hitler mounted an invasion. The supplies helped the Red Army to push back against the Nazis, but this effort came at a cost.
More than 3,000 seamen were killed during 78 convoys that delivered 4m tonnes of cargo. Eighty-five merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy vessels were destroyed. It is thought 66,500 men sailed on the convoys, but only 200 are alive today.
Speaking last year, one survivor, Commander Eddie Grenfell, said it should not have taken 67 years to get the recognition of a star medal.
“I am very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very dangerous work they did,” the 92-year-old told the Press Association.
“We are pleased but not delighted. As soon as David Cameron came to power I reminded him of the promise. Only now has he got around to doing it. In the meantime God knows how many of my Arctic convoy chums have died waiting.* All because we were waiting for these bloody politicians who have never heard a shot in their lives to make up their minds.”
Arctic Convoys commemoration 22.08.11
*One Veteran who never lived long enough to see his medal awarded:
John Burns – Artic Convoy Veteran who passed away on 23rd March 2008.
Police officers investigating the 1988 Lockerbie bombing are to visit Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced.
A Pan Am jet flying to the US was blown up over Lockerbie killing 270 people
The new Libyan government indicated in December it was prepared to open all files relating to the bombing.
Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people.
Bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan agent, died last year having been released from a Scottish jail in 2009. Megrahi was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds, suffering from terminal prostate cancer.
He remains the only person ever convicted of the bombing, but Scottish police hope to pursue other suspects in Libya following the country’s revolution and downfall of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.
Mr Cameron announced at a joint news conference in Tripoli with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zeidan that officers from Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary had been granted permission to visit the country.
Scotland’s top prosecutor had previously written to the new Libyan prime minister for help and the UK government had said it was pressing Tripoli “for swift progress and co-operation” on the Lockerbie case.
In April last year, Scotland’s Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland travelled to Tripoli with the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, requesting co-operation after the fall of Gaddafi.
This was followed in May by a meeting with Libya’s interim prime minister in London to discuss further inquires into the bombing.
At the time, a Crown Office spokesman said: “The prime minister asked for clarification on a number of issues relating to the conduct of the proposed investigation in Libya and the lord advocate has undertaken to provide this.
“The prime minister made it clear that he recognised the seriousness of this crime and following the clarification he would take this forward as a priority.”
452 women and children killed in Oradour-sur-Glane massacre
Hitler’s SS Panzer Division committed the atrocity on June 10, 1944
It was to avenge death of German officer at hands of French Resistance
Nazi commander told his 200 troops: ‘Today the blood must flow’
Village left untouched since fateful day to serve as reminder of Nazi evil
German authorities believe six Nazis in their late 80s are still at large
Only one man, Heinz Barth, has ever been prosecuted for the attack
He called for the shooting of 20 male villagers and received a life sentence
Case was re-opened after discovery of documents implicating six suspects
Germany has re-opened an investigation into the massacre of 642 French villagers by Nazi soldiers in one of the darkest chapters of World war Two.
Almost the entire population of Oradour-sur-Glane, including 400 women and children, was gunned down or burned alive in a single day by SS troops on June 10, 1944.
More than 68 years later, a German prosecutor and senior police officers have visited the abandoned village in central France, which Hitlers troops burned to the ground before they fled.
German authorities believe there may still be six men still at large, all now in their late 80s, who were members of SS Panzer Division that committed the atrocity.
Germany’s investigators walk in front of the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane, central France, yesterday. An investigation for crimes of war is led by German and French authorities 68 years after the 1944 massacre
The team of investigators from Berlin (pictured) want to speak to the only two living survivors of the bloodbath, carried out in revenge for the capture of a German officer by French resistance fighters in a nearby village
The village has been left untouched since the massacre to serve both as a shrine to those who died and as a constant reminder of the unremitting evil of the Nazis.
The team of investigators from Berlin want to speak to the only two living survivors of the bloodbath, carried out in revenge for the capture of a German officer by French resistance fighters in a nearby village.
Although several probes have previously been opened into the massacre, they had to be shut down due to a lack of evidence.
But when a historian in 2010 discovered documents implicating all six suspects, still alive and now aged between 85 and 86, the case had enough evidence to be re-opened.
The documents were found in files kept by the Stasi, former East Germany’s feared and hated secret police.
The German authorities are under constant pressure from Jewish and human rights pressure groups to round up Nazi war criminals before they die.
The latest probe into the Oradour massacre comes after detectives from Berlin re-opened an investigation three years ago into another mass murder of 124 people in the French village of Maille in August 1944, but no culprits have yet been brought to justice.
The women and children were herded into the village church where SS troopers had soaked the church pews with petrol and barred all exits.
Fire grenades were tossed among the villagers and those that survived were later burned alive as a reprisal for attacks on German soldiers occupying France by members of the French Resistance movement.
More than 200 men were herded into a barn where machine gunners opened fire, shooting at their legs so they could not move then dousing them with petrol and setting them alight.
The village has purposely been left untouched since the massacre, to serve both as a shrine to those who died and as a constant reminder of the unremitting evil of the Nazis
Dortmund prosecutor Andreas Brendel told French reporters in Oradour: ‘We hope the survivors may be able to help us identify any culprits who are still alive’
Remains of a burnt out vehicles. A new village of Oradour-sur-Glane was built nearby which is now home to more than 2,000 people, while the abandoned village is popular with tourists curious about the war
The remains of the church in which 247 women and 205 children were trapped and killed by the Nazis. The middle window behind the altar is the one through which the only survivor Marguerite Rouffanche escaped
SS lieutenant Heinz Barth was the only man to serve time for the massacre
A new village of Oradour-sur-Glane was built nearby which is now home to more than 2,000 people.
Robert Hebras, 87 – was one of only six villagers who escaped the carnage – said: ‘It is a very strange moment to see German officials here 68 years later
‘But I applaud what they are doing and pray there is still time to bring to justice any of the monsters still alive did this to us.’
Dortmund prosecutor Andreas Brendel told French reporters in Oradour: ‘We hope the survivors may be able to help us identify any culprits who are still alive.’
Three trials of 30 former SS officers have taken place since 1953, but only one man, SS-Obersturmfhrer Heinz Barth, was ever convicted.
In 1953 a French military tribunal sentenced 21 Nazi soldiers to death for the atrocities they committed. They were never executed and their sentences commuted in the name of ‘national reconciliation’ between France and Germany.
The only man convicted was SS-Obersturmfhrer Heinz Barth, who gave the order to shoot 20 male victims.
Barth was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1983 and released in 1997. He died ten years later in August 2007.
Oradour-sur-Glane in a picture taken not long after the troops left and survivors were left to pick up the pieces
Robert Hebras, 87 – was one of only six villagers who escaped the carnage – said: ‘It is a very strange moment to see German officials here 68 years later’
French historian Guy Perlier told Le Figaro newspaper, ‘This illustrates German thinking which insists on shedding light on all acts committed by the German army during this period’
THE HORROR OF JUNE 10 1944: HOW MARGUERITE ROUFFANCHE ESCAPED NAZIS MURDERERS AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE
Bodies of the victims lined up following the village massacre in 1944
Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, the 2nd SS Panzer Division entered the village of Oradour-sur-Glane to avenge the death of a German officer who had been kidnapped by the French Resistance.
They marched into the town and separated the men from the women and children.
The men were taken to six barns and shed while the women and children were locked in the church while the village was looted.
The men were said to be shot in the legs before being doused in petrol and set alight.
Six men escaped although one was later found nearby and shot dead. In total 190 men perished.
The soldiers proceeded to the church and tried to set it alight. Women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows of the church, but were met with machine-gun fire.
A total of 247 women and 205 children died. Two women and one child survived; one was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She hauled herself out of a window behind the altar, followed by a young woman and child. German soldiers shot all three of them, killing the woman and child by wounding Rouffanche who escaped into nearby foliage where she stayed until she was rescued the following day.
The following is part of her testimony read out to the 1953 Bordeaux military tribunal:
‘Firing burst out in the church then straw, faggots and chairs were thrown pele-mele onto bodies lying on the stone slabs. I had escaped from the killing and was without injury so I made use of a smoke cloud to slip behind the altar. In this part of the church there are three windows. I made for the widest one in the middle and with the help of a stool used to light the candles, I tried to reach it. I don’t know how but my strength was multiplied. I heaved myself up to it as best I could and threw myself out of the opening that was offered to me through the already shattered window. I jumped about nine feet down.
‘When I looked up I saw I had been followed in my climb by a woman holding out her baby to me. She fell down next to me but the Germans, alerted by the cries of the baby, machine-gunned us. The woman and the mite were killed and I too was injured as I made it to a neighbouring garden and hid among some rows of peas and waited anxiously for someone to come to help me. That wasn’t until the following day at 5 p.m.’
Several other investigations into the massacre have been started over the past 60 years, but all earlier probes were abandoned due to lack of evidence
Mr Brendel added: ‘This time we aim to make arrests and put those responsible on trial for war crimes.’
Dortmund prosecutor Andreas Brendel said that the aim of the visit, the first by German investigators since World War Two was to identify the exact locations where the SS unit was deployed and interview witnesses to the massacre.
French historian Guy Perlier told Le Figaro newspaper, ‘ This illustrates German thinking which insists on shedding light on all acts committed by the German army during this period’.
Camille Senon, one of the survivors who witnessed the aftermath of the massacre in which her family members died, said: ‘It is considered a positive gesture by the Germans to send investigators for the first time, 68 years after, even though I would have liked to have seen it happen sooner’.
Camille Senon, one of the survivors who witnessed the aftermath of the massacre in which her family members died, said: ‘It is considered a positive gesture by the Germans to send investigators’
The remains of the village bakery destroyed by SS troops
Wide shot of the village showing the complete destruction of every single building
Survivors sift through the remains in the immediate aftermath of the 1944 raid by Hitler’s troops
1967: Campbell killed during record attempt
Donald Campbell has been killed a split second before breaking his own water speed record in his jet-powered boat, the Bluebird K7.
He was travelling at more than 300mph (483 km/h) on Coniston Water when the boat was catapulted 50ft (15m) into the air after its nose lifted.
Forty-six-year-old Mr Campbell was killed instantly as the boat hit the water and immediately disintegrated.
Donald was going into the unknown and he was well aware of the risks
He was just 200 yards (183m) from the end of the second leg of his attempt when the accident happened.
On the first leg he had reached speeds of 297mph (478km/h), which meant he had to top 308mph (496km/h) on the return journey.
Initial reports suggest he had actually reached speeds of up to 320mph (515km/h).
This means the water speed record of 276.33mph (444.61km/h), which Campbell himself set in Australia in 1964, remains unbroken as both legs of the attempt were not completed.
Had he broken this barrier it would have been his eighth world water speed record.
Divers have attempted to recover Mr Campbell’s body which is submerged in more than 120ft (37m) of water, but as yet have been unable to locate him.
Norman Buckley, chief observer for the attempt and holder of five water speed records, said: “Donald wanted to put the record so high that it would be unassailable by any foreign competitor.
“I think conditions were as perfect as I have seen them on Coniston, but Donald was going into the unknown and he was well aware of the risks.”
Mr Campbell’s wife, Tonia Bern, flew to Coniston from London late this evening.
Donald Campbell’s body was not recovered until 2001 – 34 years after his death.
On hearing the news that her father’s body had been found, his daughter Gina said she was “totally relieved”.
The boat and Mr Campbell’s remains were recovered from the water and Mr Campbell was buried near Coniston water following a funeral service.
Two months later his daughter, herself a water speed champion, vowed to restore Bluebird in her father’s memory.
Donald Campbell is still the only person to hold both land and water speed records at the same time.
And, although he is the last British man to break the world record, in 1978 it passed to Australia when Ken Warby reached a speed of 317.6mph (511.1km/h).
The nose section of Pan Am Flight 103, a 747 airliner, lies in a field outside the village of Lockerbie, Scotland
A Pan Am jumbo jet with 258 passengers on board has crashed on to the town of Lockerbie near the Scottish borders. Initial reports indicate it crashed into a petrol station in the centre of the town, between Carlisle and Dumfries, and burst into a 300-foot fireball.
Hundreds are feared dead as airline officials said flight 103 was about two-thirds full with 255 adults and three children on board.
Rescue teams have confirmed there are many casualties at the scene including townspeople who were on the ground.
The Boeing 747 left London Heathrow at 1800 GMT bound for New York’s JFK airport.
Shortly after 1900 the flight disappeared from radar screens at Prestwick Air Traffic Control Centre.
‘There was just a terrible explosion, you just couldn’t describe it’
At 1908 there were reports by the Civil Air Traffic Control Authorities of an explosion on the ground 15 miles north of the Scottish border.Details of the accident are still unclear but there are unconfirmed reports the plane has ploughed into cars and houses.
An eyewitness said the aircraft has hit a central part of the town in a residential area.
“There was just a terrible explosion, you just couldn’t describe it,” he told the BBC.
“It is just impossible to approach the town but at the time it went up there was a terrible explosion and the whole sky lit up.
“It was virtually raining fire – it was just liquid fire.”
Parts of the town are being evacuated and a hall has been converted into a refuge centre.
Dumfries and Galloway Hospital, about 20 miles away, is on emergency alert.
Ambulances from southern Scotland and Cumbria have been sent to the scene.
The RAF has sent personnel and helicopters from Scotland and Northern England, along with mountain rescue teams to help police.
The A74 has been cordoned off after police reported several parked cars on fire.
It is thought the plane would have been flying at about 31,000 ft over Lockerbie when it exploded.
In total 259 people aboard the flight and 11 on the ground died in the crash which took place 38 minutes after take-off.The debris from the aircraft was scattered across 845 square miles and the impact reached 1.6 on the Richter scale.
The subsequent police investigation was the biggest ever mounted in Scotland and became a murder inquiry when evidence of a bomb was found.
Two men accused of being Libyan intelligence agents were eventually charged with planting the bomb.
Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for life in January 2001 following an 84-day trial under Scottish law, at Camp Zeist in Holland.
His alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty.
In 2002 Al Megrahi’s appeal against conviction was rejected.
IT was a protest that led to more than 100 people being convicted of refusing to pay to use the Skye Bridge, and lasted nearly 10 years until the controversial tolls were themselves abolished.
Decade of dispute: Hundreds of people were convicted of refusing to pay to use the Skye Bridge after it opened in 1995. Main picture: Chris James
Now a new film to be screened on BBC Alba on New Year’s Day will reveal that the protesters actually had sympathisers among members of the forces of law and order who had to clamp down on those refusing to pay.
The film, An Drochaid/The Bridge Rising, reveals that one of the police officers sent to make arrests would rather have been one of the rebels, and the procurator-fiscal at a Highland court felt the tolls were an abuse of Government.
The film tells the story of those involved in the Skye and Kyle Against Tolls (Skat) campaign. It began at midnight on the day the Skye Bridge opened in October 1995, when the first tolls were charged and refused.
Some 130 people were convicted for refusing to pay, and several hundred others were charged but let off. Many continued the fight until December 2004 when the fees were scrapped by the then Scottish Executive.
It bought out the contract from Skye Bridge Ltd (SBL), the consortium headed by Bank of America, for £27 million.
Several of the leading campaigners saw the inside of a cell as the cases reached the High Court and the Court of Session. Most of those convicted have yet to pay their fines.
The tolls arose from one of the first instances in Scotland of a public finance initiative (PFI), introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Government. It left islanders paying the highest bridge tolls in Europe.
Some protesters travelled specifically to not pay the bridge tolls, including the current Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown. The former general secretary of the STUC, the late Bill Speirs, also joined Skat demonstrations against the tolls, which were imposed by Miller Civil Engineering.
Film-makers from the Glasgow-based Media Co-op spoke to leading figures on both sides of the dispute for the film, including politicians, civil servants, engineers and financiers behind the development, as well as those who opposed it and played a vital role in the removal of the tolls, such as local LibDem MSP John Farquhar Munro. His own wife Celia frequently refused to pay the tolls while driving his car.
The dispute meant a huge workload for David Hingston, procurator-fiscal at Dingwall Sheriff Court.
He became something of a hate figure, but in the film he reveals his true thoughts. “The whole of the Skye Bridge protest was stressful on quite a number of people. I was one of them,” he said. “PFI in my personal opinion is a fraud on the public. It is an abuse of Government. This vast extra workload [prosecuting Skat] impinged significantly on me, and my own health, and probably contributed to my ultimate nervous breakdown.”
But he is clear: “It has to be said that the Skye Bridge protest succeeded. I have no doubt whatsoever that had they not made a protest, we would still be paying to cross that bridge at whatever inflated rate Miller was demanding from the public.”
Meanwhile, former police sergeant Dennis Hindman, who was based on Skye during the protest and was repeatedly called to the bridge, reveals: “If I hadn’t been a police officer, I would probably have been a member of Skat and would probably have been down there protesting.”
The film also finds the man who had arguably the biggest role in organising the finance and building of the bridge: John Carson, who was regional then managing director of Miller Civil Engineering. But an internal disagreement meant he left the company and was not even invited to the opening ceremony. He walks across the bridge for the first time in the film.
The Bank of America was invited to participate, but is understood to have declined at the last minute.
BBC Alba is the dedicated Gàidhlig language channel of the BBC and is carried on the Freesat satellite – Channel 110 – available throughout the UK. For anyone who might be interested in seeing An Drochaid on New Year’s Day, it will be transmitted with subtitles!
Dallas police Chief David Brown, left, and Farris Rookstool III help Marie Tippit unveil a historical marker honoring her late husband, J.D. Tippit
President Kennedy had been shot in downtown Dallas. A police dispatcher ordered Officer J.D. Tippit into central Oak Cliff and minutes later told him to be “at large for any emergency that comes in.”
Police broadcasts described the shooting suspect as a “white male, approximately 30, slender build, height 5 foot 10 inches, weight 165 pounds.”
At about 1:15 p.m. a cruising Tippit stopped a man walking on a sidewalk along Patton Avenue near 10th Street. Within seconds, four gunshots erupt.
Yesterday afternoon, almost 49 years later, a crowd gathered at that crossing to honor the officer, slain outside his squad car that tragic day in Dallas.
“On November 22, 1963, at this intersection, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, 45 minutes after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza.”
So begins the inscription on a state historical marker unveiled today at a corner of the Adamson High School campus, an area with little resemblance to the residential neighborhood there in 1963.
“Although the intersection of 10th and Patton Streets has changed,” the marker inscription concludes, “Officer Tippit’s actions and subsequent murder at this site are remembered for setting into motion a series of events that led directly to Oswald’s arrest.”
An 11-year veteran of the police force, Tippit received posthumous honors and praise for heroism – for doing his job, sending the gunman, later identified by witnesses as Oswald, the suspected presidential assassin, toward his capture at the Texas Theatre six blocks away.
A touched nation donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the 39-year-old officer’s family. But the site of his slaying had never been publicly designated for history’s sake.
Brad Watson, a reporter for WFAA-TV, Channel 8, questioned the lack of recognition for Tippit in a broadcast two years ago. Michael Amonett, then president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, took up the cause, with help from Farris Rookstool III, a Kennedy assassination historian.
The school district provided the land. And the Texas Historical Foundation donated $5,000 to the project.
The crowd of about 200 people Tuesday included Tippit’s widow Marie; his children, Allan, Brenda and Curtis Tippit; his sister Joyce DeBord; other family members; and police officers past and present.
Standing and sitting under a cloudless sky, they watched members of the Adamson ROTC present the colors, heard the Dallas police choir sing God Bless America and listened while speakers praised the slain officer and his family.
“Officer Tippit did what hundreds of Dallas police officers do and have done every day since this tragedy,” said Dallas school trustee Eric Cowan. “He did his job, and as a result he gave the ultimate sacrifice and we as a community should — now thanks to this marker – never forget what happened on that day.”
Said Amonett: Forty-nine years ago “no one’s life was more impacted than the two families that lost their loved ones that day. … We have spent a lot of time honoring one of those families and that is right because he was our president. But we have also neglected one of those families.
“We honor Officer Tippit here today to try in a small way to right that. This has been a long time coming. I hope this is a way to say we are grateful for your sacrifice and that we are sorry for your loss.”
Dallas police Chief David Brown told those gathered that “there is no greater love than this: That a man would lay down his life for his fellow man.”
And after recounting details of the Tippit shooting and Oswald’s arrest, he said, “May God’s grace continue to bless and heal this family.”
Before the ceremony, Marie Tippit said, “It’s such an honor what they are doing for J.D. I appreciate it so much.”
Curtis and Brenda Tippit said they were thankful for the public support and recognition of their father. “It validates his service,” Curtis said. And the marker “should remind people of what police officers go through every day.”
In her brief remarks, Mrs. Tippit noted her husband “died just a few steps from here, doing his job, enforcing the law.”
And then with the help of Brown and Rookstool, she unveiled the marker, smiling as the crowd applauded.
The Crown Office has refused to comment on reports in Malta that a special closed court hearing was held there to gather new evidence about the Lockerbie bombing.
The Times of Malta said the hearing, last week, was held in conditions of secrecy. It followed a formal request by Scottish prosecutors. The newspaper said even peepholes in the courtroom door were blocked up to prevent proceedings being viewed.
Malta was key to the Lockerbie trial, because it was there prosecutors said the bomb which exploded over the Scottish Borders was placed by the only man convicted of the crime, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. And a Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, was the only witness to identify Megrahi as the man who he said bought several items of clothing which were later found wrapped around the bomb which destroyed Pan-Am Flight 103. The newspaper reported several sources said the court was reviewing evidence connected to what it said were “travel logistics.”
A number of witnesses were questioned by magistrate, Clair Stafrace Zammit. It followed “commission rogatoire” from Scotland – a diplomatic procedure where prosecutors ask colleagues in another country for judicial assistance, usually the gathering of evidence under oath.
A Crown Office spokesman said: “This is a live investigation to bring to justice the others involved in this act of state sponsored terrorism. Dumfries and Galloway police are working with US law enforcement in pursuit of lines of inquiry. In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation it would not be appropriate to offer further comment.”
The Scottish Parliament’s justice committee is due to discuss a petition on 25 September from campaigners demanding the Lockerbie case is re-examined in a public inquiry.
BBC Scotland understands the group, led by Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the 1988 bombing, claims to have substantial new evidence about what it sees as the mishandling of the prosecution case.
PC on duty at Hillsborough told inquiry officers’ statements were altered
A police constable on duty on the day of Hillsborough warned a judge-led inquiry into the disaster that there was a co-ordinated cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about failings of senior officers at the stadium, documents have revealed for the first time.
David Frost, who as a 21-year-old officer helped to treat fans in the Leppings Lane terraces, told the Lord Justice Stuart-Smith review in 1997 that his superiors made “wholesale changes” to the statements made by him and his fellow officers to “sanitise and protect themselves”.
Mr Frost told the judge how, three days after the tragedy, on 19 April 1989, he and fellow policemen were taken to a pub by a senior officer and warned: “It’s backs to the wall, boys. We’ve all got to say the same thing. Unless we all get our heads together and straighten it out, there are heads going to roll.”
The damning testimony from Mr Frost, who quit the South Yorkshire force in anger following the cover-up, was heard behind closed doors at the Stuart-Smith inquiry, set up by then Home Secretary, Jack Straw. It has been made public for the first time in 450,000 documents published last week by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The disclosure means that Mr Frost’s evidence, if it had been recognised by the judge, would have revealed a cover-up by police 15 years ago, when many more relatives of the victims would have been alive.
The panel report confirmed families’ suspicions that there had been a cover-up, but Mr Frost’s evidence to Lord Justice Stuart-Smith reveals that the inquiry judge was warned about the conspiracy back in October 1997. In the end, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith’s report found that all the new evidence he had heard added nothing to the earlier inquiry by Lord Justice Taylor.
The judge also heard that there was a suggestion that officers, including Mr Frost, were threatened with allegations that they were involved in accepting bribes from fans to allow them through the gates, and that they “feared retribution” if they later came forward to complain about the cover-up.
Mr Frost originally submitted a 16-page statement to his superiors, a vivid account of how he climbed inside one of the pens at the Leppings Lane end to help with the rescue, and gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to one man before questioning why there was no organisation by senior officers. He could not even see the “gaffers” until well after 3pm, when it is now known people were already dying. There was a “bottleneck” of police officers who were getting in the way of victims being rescued, and the communication system had failed. All of these criticisms were removed.
The 16-page original testimony from May 1989, which at times reads like a diary from the trenches of the First World War, was cut down to six pages, the most heavily redacted statement out of all the 116 police statements that were altered. Mr Frost told Lord Justice Stuart-Smith he was ordered to sign the new redacted statement but refused. The final document shows what appears to be Mr Frost’s signature, but it is clearly different from his original handwriting, suggesting that someone involved in the cover-up forged his signature.
Mr Frost told Lord Justice Stuart-Smith that he quit the South Yorkshire force, whose slogan until recently was “Justice with Courage”, because he felt he could no longer wear the uniform. Mr Frost told the judge: “Wholesale changes were made. There were queues of officers outside police stations, and senior officers sat there with their statements, and they were asked/impelled to sign things that they didn’t want to that had been changed.
“This was an attempt by senior management to sanitise and protect themselves; and any honour that the South Yorkshire Police, which I thought at the time was considerable, disappeared for me. That is why I left the force. I was medically pensioned off. I couldn’t wear a uniform after this sort of thing took place, and it is not what I believe in and I hope it is not what the establishment believes in.”
Mr Frost told Lord Justice Stuart-Smith that on 19 April 1989: “We were taken to the pub by a certain XXXX [redacted], who basically said: ‘It’s backs to the wall, boys. We’ve all got to say the same thing.’ We were taken out for a drink by this XXXX [redacted] and we were basically told: ‘Look, unless we all get our heads together and straighten it out, there are heads going to roll.’”
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith assured Mr Frost that his claims were “something which I am looking into”.
In his original 16-page statement, Mr Frost recounted every detail of his time at Hillsborough, including the opening minutes of the game. He wrote: “Peter Beardsley running along the right wing, nice footwork, leaves two players and crosses the ball. I look forward again. People everywhere outside the fence at Leppings Lane end. Best get there quick.”
Mr Frost, after breaking away the fencing at one end of the terraces, climbed inside the pens. He gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to one fan who appeared dead. “Live, live, breathe, come on.” After a “brief state of calm”, he said, “fans part, can’t believe my eyes, a pile four or five deep of bodies”.
But it is well after 3pm when he recorded: “Megaphone giving orders, it’s about time. Keep ‘em coming lads. How many dead? Bottleneck two chains of bobbies passing bodies out now meeting at the gate. ‘This one’s alive,’ I shout repeatedly in a choked voice. ‘This one’s alive.’ Fighting back tears. Broken bodies being dragged apart trapping each other [like] bags of sand.
“All out on to the pitch, makeshift stretchers and away. Notice for the first time gaffers are now about. Where have they been? Why was the organisation so late? Anyway good to see them in with the lads.
“Why did this happen? Will the body I breathed into live or as I suspect already died? Did I do it right, is it my fault? Who is or was he?
“Fit fans venting anger blaming us. ‘You’re all useless bastards.’ Yes they are right.
“I want to do something, that is why I am wandering around. Let me help, give me something to do.
“A lad barely conscious laid by the fence among the dead. Nearby a son sits by the covered body of his dead father. Try and keep the lad conscious … Please be well.” He helped lift the boy into an ambulance.
Mr Frost went back on to the pitch: “We return to the fencing, a Scouse lady comes round. We are just standing staring. She holds our arms and says: ‘Thanks, lads.’ I begin to cry. Sometime later we van up. Where is the friendly chatter now?” Mr Frost finishes his statement saying he feels he has struggled to convey what really happened: “It is impossible, I feel, to surround a reader with such a huge mental and emotional picture. Please let some good come out of all of this.”
Mr Frost could not be contacted for comment last night, but a friend said he finally felt exonerated by the panel’s report after being “rejected” by Lord Justice Stuart-Smith. The judge has refused to comment since the report was published.
It emerged yesterday that the controversial policeman Sir Norman Bettison triggered an attempt to prosecute the High Court judge who led the original Hillsborough inquiry in 1989, over claims that he was “biased” against South Yorkshire Police. And a Hillsborough-related complaint against Mr Bettison, now chief constable of West Yorkshire, was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission yesterday for investigation.
I thought that members of The Police History Society would be interested to know that The Peel Society is organising a commemorative service for the 225th Anniversary of the birth of Sir Robert Peel (5/2/1788).
It will be held at Tamworth Parish Church, Church Street, Tamworth, Staffordshire on Sunday, 3rd February, 2013 at 2.30 p.m., followed by a wreath-laying service at the Peel Statue in Market Street in front of the historic Town Hall. We are hoping that civic and police dignitaries from a wide area will attend.
Care Of Police Survivors (COPS)
‘Rebuilding Shattered Lives’ – Care of Police Survivors (otherwise known as COPS) is a UK registered charity dedicated to helping the families of police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, rebuild their lives.
A rather unusual and rare organisation within the Police service, which carries out voluntarily Civic and Ceremonial duties on behalf of the Police service of Great Britain at numerous events in both the United Kingdom and Europe.
Centre for British Influence:
We campaign for British leadership in Europe. We are neither Europhile nor Europhobe but propose Eurorealist, practical solutions to European policies affecting the UK. We want Britain to enhance its political influence within Europe.
Help for Heroes
“It’s about our men and women of the Armed Forces. It’s about Derek, a rugby player who has lost both his legs. It’s about Richard who was handed a mobile phone as he lay on the stretcher so he could say goodbye to his wife. They are our heroes”
PC David Rathband's Blue Lamp Foundation.
PC David Rathband’s Blue Lamp Foundation provides immediate financial support to personnel of the Emergency Services who have been injured in the line of duty as a result of a criminal act.
Police Survivors Support Scheme
The Home Office has established a special discretionary grant scheme for the purpose of providing financial assistance to eligible Police Survivors in England & Wales, who are in financial need as a result of losing their Special or Augmented pension.
SOUTHERN ENGINEMEN REMEMBER 4
Memoirs of a working life before joining the Surry Constabulary. This site is a mine of information for anybody who has an interest in the railway industry and specifically steam hauled trains. An excellent anecdotal historical railway website.
Surrey Constabulary History Society
The purpose of this site is to encourage interest in the policing of Surrey in what was to become the area outside the Metropolitan Police District. It covers the period before the new police and after the formation of the Surrey Constabulary in 1851 thro
The Thin Blue Line
Our aim is to raise public awareness about the true picture of policing and crime, through in depth analysis of trends & public domain statistics & the challenges of policing in the UK.
The University Of The Third Age
U3As are self-help, self-managed lifelong learning co-operatives for older people no longer in full time work, providing opportunities for their members to share learning experiences and to pursue learning not for qualifications, but for fun.
Your Right to Know – Freedom of Information
Everyone has the right to request information held by public sector organisations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Find out how FOI works, how to make an information request and what to do if your request is refused.
The working life of the Surrey Constabulary 1851-1992
Click on the below Surrey Constabulary helmet badge to read about the history of The Surrey Constabulary 1851-1992.
The Surrey Police Role of Honour.
Click on the below Surrey Police crest to read the role of honour for those lost whilst serving in The Surrey Constabulary and The Surrey Police Service.
The National Police Memorial
Click the below picture to go to the National Police Memorial website.
The Surrey Weather Forecast
Supporting Cancer Charities
Click any button above to take you to the cancer charity site of your choice
Current UK National Debt: Updated In Real Time.
The state has been wasting our money for decades. Weak politicians have bribed voters with endless amounts of borrowed cash. As a result, in 2012 the interest on the national debt will cost £44.8 billion a year. That's more than we spend on defence, and not much less than the entire education budget.
Jon Danzig is an award winning medical journalist and formerly an investigative journalist at the BBC. He has many years experience in the world of writing, broadcasting, magazine editing, photography and film making. (Click on any link to read full article.)
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Blog: Jon Danzig’s World
What Nigel Farage told British expats in Spain - 19/05/2013 Nigel Farage on Talk Radio Europe - click to hear About two million Brits live, work, study or are retired in other EU countries. Over 800,000 of them are estimated to reside in Spain alone; over one million if you include those who sojourn there for just part of each year. The numbers might now be higher, as the latest estimates * were published in 2010. In addition, many tens of thousands of British own second homes right across the European Union [...]
Jon Danzig's New Blog: 'EU ROPE' - 02/05/2013 I have a new blog about Britain's ties with the European Union. It's called 'EU ROPE' and appears on the website of the ‘Academic Association for Contemporary European Studies’ - UACES. My first posting is about Daily Telegraph readers calling me me 'a moron' because I commented in support of the European Union. Click to read: Jon Danzig's new blog: 'EU ROPE'
Lost in Las Vegas - 21/04/2013 Jon Danzig is bewildered by the city of sin Jon Danzig gets lost in Las Vegas I HAVE JUST ARRIVED IN HELL. Well, if it isn't, it's a bloody good imitation. This is the place where everything and everyone screams for your money. Signs shout buy me, try me, tip me, win me, play me, rent me, ride me, f**k me. There isn't another place on the planet that has found more ways to take your money. But in this mob run desert strip, everything is a mirage, from the [...]
The Brotherhood of Europe - 30/03/2013 On October 8th 1938, Britain's 'Children's Newspaper' ran a visionary pre-war editorial extolling the virtues of Europe as 'one Brotherhood' with a 'common interest which binds its people together'. One year later, a vicious world war ripped Europe apart, from which it took over 60 years to recover. If there's a lesson from history about this, it’s surely that ‘The Brotherhood of Europe’ should never be broken again. &nb [...]
End of the National Health Service? - 28/03/2013 Jon Danzig asks about the original aims of the NHS Britain's cherished National Health Service, 'The NHS', was born in 1948 and pioneered by the UK's post-war Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan. Next Monday, 1st April 2013, the NHS in England will undergo enormous changes to the way it's managed and funded. Some claim it will be 'the end of the NHS as we know it.' This week, at the Royal Society of Arts, LBC Radio broadcast a live debate about the futu [...]
Jon Danzig Blog: EU Rope
Brits should recognise the value in being ‘citizens of Europe’ - 21/05/2013 Jon Danzig promotes the virtures of being a citizen of Europe If you are a UK citizen confused about the value of EU membership, due to the ‘untruths’ coming from UKIP and the national press, then just follow the evidence – says former BBC journalist, Jon Danzig, in the journal ‘Public Service Europe’. Click to [...]
Europe: foreign criminals and human rights - 05/05/2013 Today The Telegraph published a story about two foreign criminals, jailed for their part in the English riots, who successfully appealed against deportation because of their ‘right to family life’ under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In response, I posted this comment: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [...]
Telegraph readers call me ‘a moron’ - 01/05/2013 Today I posted pro-EU arguments under a Daily Telegraph article about the number of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK. Clearly, my comments were unwelcome by DT readers. They called me ‘a moron’, an ‘utter idiot’ and told me ‘to get medical help.’ So much for elevated debate. This was my comment: All UK [...]
Hello Europe! - 09/04/2013 Welcome to EU ROPE, where the links between the UK and Europe will be explored and discussed. New stories coming soon. Regards, Jon Danzig