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  1. News, sport, travel and weather updates from across the West of England on Thursday, 9 March 2017.

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All times stated are UK

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Staying mild, but much cloudier tomorrow with some light rain

Watch: West weather for 9 March

That's it from BBC Local Live for the West Country for tonight.

We're back in the morning from 7am with all the latest news, sport, travel and weather news.

Cloud will once again push in from the south-west overnight across all parts bringing some light, patchy rain and drizzle along with hill fog over higher ground.

However, it will be another mild night for all. Minimum Temperature: 7C.

Skippy the bald lamb tribute

Watch: The famous lamb died on Tuesday

Skippy the lamb made international news when he was born without a fleece at a Wiltshire farm last April.

Sadly, he became ill this week and died. Vets think he had picked up an infection.

Friends stars looks to trace West country roots

Courteney Cox

Courteney Cox has been to visit Berkeley Castle near Thornbury, to trace her roots in the West. 

It's emerged she's a distant relative of the Berkeley family. She was filming there for the American version of Who Do You Think You Are? 

She was given access to manuscripts dating back to the 14th Century, related to the death of Edward ll at the castle. 

Commuters' frustration at rail link decision

Watch: Commuters' frustration at rail link decision

The dream of a fast rail link between Bristol and Portishead has gone up in smoke. 

The plan was to upgrade the old freight line for frequent passengers trains, but the costs have got out of control and now there's a slower, compromise option. 

Instead they'll settle for the cheaper option, meaning slower, hourly train services. 

Not such good news for Portishead residents frustrated by the congested roads into Bristol:  

Bristol bedblocking review calls for 'tighter controls'


Patients fit for discharge who block hospital beds for more than a month are to be assigned a worker to deal with their case, a draft report reveals.

It comes after a dementia patient spent five months at Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) despite being fit to leave.

Iris Sibley, 89, had to stay because a community healthcare provider failed to find her a place in a nursing home.

The report on her case also calls for better communication between hospitals, care homes and other agencies.

Read more on this story

Helen Bleazard: Yeovil Town Ladies midfielder extends contract with WSL 1 club

Helen Bleazard
The FA

Yeovil Town Ladies midfielder Helen Bleazard has extended her contract with the Women's Super League One club ahead of the 2017 WSL 1 Spring Series.

The 26-year-old Wales international has been with the Lady Glovers since returning in 2014.

The former Bristol Academy and Chelsea player also represented Bristol Rovers after starting her career with Yeovil.

"I never thought I would be in WSL 1 with my hometown club, so it is fantastic," she told the  club website.

More on this story.

Investigation under way after security guard trapped in van

Security van

A security guard found himself trapped in his own van earlier today in the Forest of Dean. 

An engineer eventually came to the rescue and the police were called to Lloyds Bank in Cinderford as a precaution. 

A spokesperson for G4S Cash Solution said that at no point was the security of the staff member, the cash or the van compromised. 

The vehicle has now returned to the depot to be examined. 

Security van

Police 'exhaust all lines of inquiry' in search for junior doctor Lauren Phillips

Jonathan Morris

BBC News Online

"We have exhausted all lines of inquiry down there," said a spokesman for Avon and Somerset Constabulary as the search was called off in Devon for missing junior doctor Lauren Phillips.

Lauren Phillips
Police handout

"Police will respond to any sightings and any new investigations," said the spokesman.

Dr Lauren Phillips, who works for North Bristol NHS Trust and lived in Bristol, was last seen on 23 February. The 26-year-old's car was found in Woolacombe, Devon, five days later. 

Coastguards, the RNLI and a police helicopter had been searching for her in the area.

King George VI's jacket sells for £7,100


A dress jacket which was given as a token of appreciation has sold for more than £7,000.

In 1951 King George VI had his portrait painted by the artist Maurice Codner. 

He was so delighted with Maurice's work that he gave him his Field Marshal military jacket as a reward.  

The jacket was made by Saville Row tailors Johns & Pegg in February 1940 and was found by Codner's grandson when he was clearing out his Clevedon home. 

Lee Johnson v Elvis: A little less conversation

Bristol City might be struggling in the Championship, but manager Lee Johnson still had a little time to break out the Elvis.

What do you reckon? Going to get in the charts, Lee?

Watch: Bristol City manager Lee Johnson likens his side's struggles to that of an Elvis song.

Family of canal death man 'pleased' with inquest verdict

Police divers searching Amsterdam canal

The family of a man from Gloucestershire, who died after rolling into a canal in Amsterdam in 2016, say they are "pleased" an inquest into his death has recorded an open verdict.

The body of Richard Cole, 30, from Dursley was found in a canal in the city a week after he went missing.

CCTV footage discovered by his family while they were searching for him showed him rolling into the water.  It also appeared to show him being accosted by three men.

They say they believe that if they had not "personally found" the footage "Richard would not have been found until his body resurfaced". 

It would be easy to assume that Richard died simply because he fell into the canal while intoxicated. We know that it was not as simple as this. We know we will always have unanswered questions regarding how Richard died and the family love and miss him every day

Family statement

'Hit-and-run' victim 'crawled to the kerb'

Watch: 'Hit-and-run' victim 'crawled to the kerb'

The mother of a 14-year-old boy who was knocked off his bike by a driver who failed to stop has appealed for the motorist to go to the police. 

Mitchell Ogston suffered a broken leg in the incident outside his home on Brompton Road in Weston-super-Mare at approximately 7.25pm on Tuesday. 

Melanie Ogston said even if the driver was frightened to come forward he or she should "just do so" because "Mitchell's got five or six months to recover and it will affect him afterwards as well".  

She added Mitchell is undergoing a second day of surgery, including a skin graft to his leg, 

River Tone turns luminous green

There is a simple explanation for the green colour of the river in Taunton

Man died after rolling into Amsterdam canal while drunk

Dutch police divers
Mr Cole's body was recovered by police divers

Earlier we told you about a man from Dursley in Gloucestershire who died after rolling into a canal in Amsterdam.

Richard Cole, 30, died during a night out in the city in January 2016.

At an inquest today Gloucestershire Coroner Katy Skerrett said a toxicology report showed Mr Cole had consumed alcohol, as well as amphetamines and a high concentration of MDMA.

Mr Cole's half-brother Lee Thornhill told the court that while in Amsterdam searching for him after he disappeared, he had viewed CCTV footage which showed Mr Cole being accosted by three men.

He said footage also showed a taxi pulling up and then driving off, shortly before Mr Cole was seen to roll "quite vigorously" about six feet (2m) into the Herengracht canal.

An open conclusion was recorded.

Hopes fade for missing junior doctor Lauren Phillips as search called off

Jonathan Morris

BBC News Online

An air, land and sea search for a missing junior doctor in Devon has been called off, police say. 

Lauren Phillips
Police handout

Dr Lauren Phillips - who works for North Bristol NHS Trust and had worked in Cornwall - was last seen on Thursday 23 February.

The 26-year-old's car was found in Woolacombe, Devon, on 28 February and coastguards, the RNLI and a police helicopter had been searching for her. 

Devon and Cornwall Police said: "The search has been stood down in our area now."

Making the headlines in the West country newspapers

Inquest: Dutch canal victim 'rolled into water'

Richard Cole

A man from Gloucestershire whose body was found in a canal in Amsterdam died after he rolled into the water while drunk, an inquest has heard.

Richard Cole, 30, from Dursley, went missing during a night out in the city in January 2016.  He had also taken drugs.

An inquest at Gloucester Coroner's Court today has recorded an open conclusion.  

The coroner heard CCTV footage showed him lying on the floor and then rolling "vigorously" into the canal. 

His body was recovered by police divers a week later.

Somerset racehorse sanctuary turning away new arrivals

Bruton's Racehorse Sanctuary  says it is struggling to cope with demand for its services, and is now turning away several ex-racehorses a week.

The charity says 4,000 horses leave the industry every year. 

In many cases, their owners can't afford to keep them any more, or they are of no use after they stop racing. 

The organisation near Bruton says it is turning away five or six horses every week

Gary Johnson: Cheltenham Town manager to accept one-match touchline ban

Gary Johnson
Rex Features

Cheltenham Town boss Gary Johnson says he will accept a one-match touchline ban and a £500 fine from the Football Association following his conduct in Saturday's  draw at home to Mansfield.

Johnson, 61, was sent from the dugout after Cheltenham had a player sent off.

"It is probably best to hold your hands up and say 'ok'," Johnson told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

"I've got a one-game (ban) and a £500 fine, a normal sentence for a manager sent to the stands. I accept that."

Family of Lewis Ball pay tribute

Avon and Somerset Police have released a family tribute to Lewis Ball, who went missing after a night out at the start of February. His body was found last Monday

Lewis Ball
Family photo

In a statement, a family spokesperson said:

We are all extremely proud of the man Lewis was and hoped he would live a very long and healthy life. Tragically, this wasn’t to be and we are now left with a gaping hole which can never be filled. We couldn’t have asked for a better son and brother and are devastated at what has happened.

They have also thanked the people who came out to help search for him after he went missing.

We’d like to thank the people of Bristol for doing everything they could to help us find Lewis. We'd also like to thank Avon and Somerset Police and in particular, the diving team, for their continued professionalism and empathy that they displayed throughout the search for Lewis. Bristol is a city full of caring people who have showed us great kindness and for that we are extremely grateful.

Runner setting off on marathon record attempt

A man from Radstock is about to start a record running attempt, covering 200 miles in just 60 hours.

Johnny Reynolds will finish his challenge with the Bath half marathon this week. He's raising money for a charity called  Time is Precious , set up by a Somerset couple who lost their son to cancer.

The money he raises will go towards:

  • Improving the facilities in Bath RUH Children’s ward
  • Purchasing sensory equipment for Bristol Children’s Hospital
  • A total refurbishment of Yeovil’s Children’s Ward Paediatric Cancer Care Suite
Watch: Johnny Reynolds will have to run 15 half marathons between today and Sunday.

Wiltshire Police officer suspended over sexual assault allegations

Wiltshire Police has confirmed that a male officer has been suspended after allegations of a sexual assault.

In a statement, a force spokesperson said:

Following a criminal allegation relating to sexual assault, a male member of police staff, aged 28, has been interviewed under caution and suspended from the force to ensure a comprehensive investigation is conducted into the allegation. Due to this ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further at this stage

Lunchtime headlines across the West

A microphone
  • BBC Radio Bristol The cost of building a new railway line between Portishead and Bristol Temple Meads has tripled.
  • BBC Somerset:  A Somerset charity says it is having to turn away unwanted racehorses every week.
  • BBC Radio Gloucestershire:  A group of people arrested in connection with a plot to supply Class A drugs in Gloucestershire have been bailed. The four were detained following raids in London on Tuesday.
  • BBC Wiltshire: A Wiltshire Police officer has been suspended, after allegations of a sexual assault. Wiltshire Police say a comprehensive investigation is being conducted. 

Portishead's railway future: Repeated plans to reopen the line

Disused railway line

The line reopened for freight trains to Royal Portbury Docks in 2002, but campaigners were told six years later, by Gordon Brown's Labour government, that a  return to passenger services was 'not a priority' .

In 2010, Network Rail announced it would  investigate opening the railway line  with an estimated date of 2017 when services would run.

That part hasn't happened yet.

Plans for a new station fell under the  MetroWest Phase 1 proposals , part of a series of ideas by representatives from businesses and the four local authorities in the Bristol area.

Paul Nicholls on 'jealousy' and life as the underdog

Cornelius Lysaght

BBC horse racing correspondent

Paul Nicholls

It won't be like the glory days of Kauto Star, Denman, See More Business, Master Minded or Big Buck's for Paul Nicholls at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

Jump racing's 10-time champion trainer, the winner of 40 races at the sport's showpiece event, finds himself sending a smaller than usual team of runners to line up during the most important four days of the season, with its 28 races.

The Ditcheat-based trainer, who's on course for a likely 11th title, is rated fourth favourite to collect most winners, behind the fixture's reigning champion Willie Mullins,Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott.

Click here if you'd like to read more from Cornelius Lysaght .

Jane Austen's poor sight 'caused by arsenic'

A pair of glasses

Author Jane Austen - who spent five years of her life in Bath - was virtually blind at the end of her life possibly as a result of arsenic poisoning, experts have revealed

Tests on three pairs of glasses held at the British Library showed the author's sight deteriorated considerably.

At the time, heavy metals like arsenic were used in medicines that Austen, who had rheumatism, may have taken. 

Library experts have suggested such poisoning may also have contributed to her early death at the age of 41.

Jane Austen
Getty Images

Severe accident: M5 Gloucestershire southbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Gloucestershire southbound severe accident, between J10 for A4019 and J11 for A40 Golden Valley Bypass Gloucester.

M5 Gloucestershire - One lane closed and slow traffic on M5 southbound between J10, A4019 (Cheltenham) and J11, A40 (Gloucester), because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Human trafficking inquiry - woman charged

Painting nails

A woman from Bath has been charged with human trafficking offences.

Thu Huong Nguyen, 48, of Southdown Road, will appear before magistrates in Staffordshire later.

Avon and Somerset Police, who have been involved in a slavery investigation involving nail bars in Bath, Cheltenham, Staffordshire and London, say she is facing the following accusations:

  • Between 1 January 2016 and 8 March 2017 at Staffordshire and elsewhere, conspiring with persons unknown to control other persons for the purposes of labour exploitation
  • Jointly with others between 1 January 2016 and 8 March 2017, conspiring intentionally to arrange or facilitate the movement in the UK of females to control them in labour exploitation
  • Between 1 January 2016 and 7 March 2017 at a property in Southdown Road, became concerned in an arrangement which facilitated the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property (cash in excess of £60,000)

Volunteers help search for missing doctor

Sian Davies

BBC News Online

Volunteer rescue teams have been part of the search for missing junior doctor Lauren Phillips near Woolacombe in Devon after her car was found there.

Lauren Phillips
Devon and Cornwall Police

Searches of the area have been carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police, assisted by HM Coastguard, the RNLI and the National Police Air Service.

Volunteer mountain rescue teams have also been involved, from Exmoor, North Dartmoor and later Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Tavistock. 

So far, no trace of the Bristol woman has been found. 

Severe disruption: M5 Somerset southbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Somerset southbound severe disruption, at J25 for A358.

M5 Somerset - Stationary traffic on M5 southbound at J25, A358 (Taunton), because of a rolling road-block and debris on the road.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Chance to transform your community space

Now is your chance to transform a community space

BBC Points West has joined forces with Gardeners' World to offer one community the chance to give a derelict outdoor space a new lease of life.

Both Bristol-based programmes are celebrating their anniversary years by asking people to nominate a small community area to be transformed.  

Back in 2013 staff at BBC Bristol gave a run-down roof garden a makeover into a versatile outdoor television studio, lunchtime retreat and wildlife haven.

About 40 volunteers - most of them staff - gave up a weekend to create the resource, which was designed "for fun" by Chelsea Flower Show Gold winner Paul Hervey-Brookes.

Nominations must be submitted by 26th March by emailing . Full terms and conditions can be found here .

Portishead's railway future: Where are we now?

Ashton Gate level crossing

Network Rail says the original cost proposals to reopen the railway line to Portishead were massively underestimated. 

It says costs would be £145-175m which is up from an original estimate of £58m.

One of the reasons for this is because a level crossing at Ashton Vale Trading Estate (seen above) would need to be moved to accommodate two trains per hour. 

Laying track in the Avon Gorge would also cost more than forecast.

The joint local authorities trying to reopen this line don't have the money for the minimum £87m extra needed so it's likely they will press on with a line on the current freight service, which now won't open until 2021. At least.

King George VI's jacket going under the hammer

Gifting a dress jacket in return for a painting may not seem like a great deal at first - unless it makes the artist's descendants a lot of money at a future auction.

Watch: The jacket once belonged to King George VI

In 1951, King George VI had his portrait painted by the artist Maurice Codner. He was so delighted with Maurice's work that he gave him his Field Marshal military jacket as a thank you.  

The jacket was made by Saville Row tailors Johns & Pegg in February 1940, and has an estimate of £4,000-£6,000.

It was handed into the Clevedon Salerooms by Codner's grandson when he was clearing out his Clevedon home. 

HMP Eastwood Park 'under strain' - report

A report into a women's prison at Eastwood Park in South Gloucestershire says violence has increased and the prison is "under strain".


An unnanounced visit was made by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in November 2016. Among other things, its report found:

  • Some prisoners said they felt unsafe at some time or they had been victimised by other prisoners
  • Eastwood Park had significant problems supporting women to find secure accommodation on release

However, the report did also say the prison was considered to be "generally safe", care for mental health was good and drugs issues were well managed. 

The jail was last inspected in 2013 but its propulation since then has grown to 400 inmates.

Search continues for missing junior doctor Lauren Phillips

Sian Davies

BBC News Online

Police are still hunting for a missing junior doctor who has not been seen for almost two weeks .

Police in north Devon are searching for Dr Lauren Phillips, who works for North Bristol NHS Trust, after her car was found in Woolacombe on 28 February.

Lauren Phillips

The 26-year-old formerly worked at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and has been described as a "very sweet" doctor who works "crazily hard".

Portishead's railway future: The original line

Train running to Portishead
Getty Images
A passenger train in the Avon Gorge, 1934.

On the 18th April 1867, the Bristol and Portishead Pier and Railway Company opened a railway line from Bristol to Portishead. 

The whole affair, including three tunnels, took them just three years to build .

The line survived until the 7th September 1964 when it was closed to passengers under Dr Beeching's recommendations to save British Rail money at that time.

Freight services stopped three years later, leaving the town entirely cut off from the rail network.

Three people injured in head-on crash

Fire engine lights
Getty Images

Three people have been injured in a crash which happened this morning on the A38 at Tarnock, Somerset. 

Fire crews were called out at 6.30am to the head-on collision which involved two vehicles.

Two of the injured people were able to walk free but crews had to use hydraulic cutting equipment to remove the roof of one car to free the third person.

Dementia care beds to speed up hospital discharges

Watch: Dr Martin Jones says the scheme has already saved a years' worth of inpatient bed days

Ten new beds in a care home have been commissioned by the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group in a bid to speed up hospital discharges for dementia patients.

The beds at Oakhill Mansions Care Home, in Westbury-on-Trym, will provide care to patients for up to 28 days while assessments are carried out.     

It follows the outcry over 89-year-old Iris Sibley  who spent five months in hospital waiting for a place at a nursing home.

Dr Martin Jones, from the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group, said the scheme had already "saved about 364 days of hospital inpatient bed days" since December.

Severe disruption: M4 Wiltshire westbound

BBC News Travel

M4 Wiltshire westbound severe disruption, between J16 for A3102 and J17 for A350.

M4 Wiltshire - One lane closed on M4 westbound between J16, A3102 (Swindon West) and J17, A350 (Chippenham), because of a broken down vehicle. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time