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  1. News, sport, travel and weather for the West of England on Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

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And it's good night from them too!

Get ready for wash-out Wednesday

That's it for today from your Local Live team in the West.

We'll be back tomorrow from 7am with all the latest news, travel, weather and sport.

Here's Ian Fergusson with tomorrow's somewhat damp forecast.

Wednesday will tell a pretty soggy story with wet driving conditions during rush hour.

Student who finished essay in nightclub scores top mark

Lawrence Kemp with his essay
Lawrence Kemp/PA

A student who was filmed finishing an essay for his university course in a nightclub has revealed he got a first for the assignment.

Lawrence Kemp, 21, a second year business management student at the University of Gloucestershire, was captured on Snapchat trying to finish the 2,000-word project before a night out.

He is filmed submitting the essay just one minute before the deadline and a Facebook video of his struggles has received more than 100,000 views on his page and millions more views elsewhere. 

Mr Kemp said: "I've only gone and got a first." 

Admitting he was "delighted" with his score of 81, he added: "To be perfectly honest, I had started a few days prior, but I left my last 750 words and editing to last minute. 

"I fully intended on going out as I hadn't been out in a while, but the assignment took longer than I thought. 

"So I was reluctant to join my mates until I finished, but I knew I was capable of editing work and enjoying the night."

Could new business levy help clean up central Bristol?

Aerial view of Bristol

Businesses in the centre of Bristol could pay a new annual levy under plans to create a Business Improvement District (Bid).

Bids were introduced by the government as a way of boosting town centres and local economies, and have been introduced in Bath and Weston-super-Mare. 

The money is spent on things like improving cleaning and waste collection, working more closely with the police to reduce crime, and improving the overall visitor experience.

In order for the Bristol scheme to go ahead, traders would have to vote for it. If they did, it's estimated the scheme could raise £6m over five years.

Bath and West Show organisers say decision to cancel poultry event 'not taken lightly'

Chickens wait to be shown
Getty Images

The Royal Bath and West Show says it will cancel poultry and waterfowl showing classes this year due to avian flu.

Defra lifted the event's Poultry Gathering ban on Monday but members were hesitant to push ahead with that part of the event.

Organisers say the decision was not taken lightly.   

Head of shows Alan Lyons said: "We have got responsibility for the whole poultry industry and pure breed exhibitors.

"We take our bio-security responsibility very seriously and would not want to risk being the catalyst for a wider outbreak across the South West."  

View more on twitter

Army officer: 'Rape claims are malicious'

Mr Tomkins denies the charges against him. 

Mr Bradbury said: "He said the allegations were malicious and was made up by (the complainant) to avoid her own professional shortcomings."

The trial, in front of Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett, is expected to head to Bulford, Wiltshire, on Monday after the prosecution's witnesses.

Army officer accused of rape was 'very aggressive', court martial hears

Mr Tomkins is alleged to have raped the woman following an African UN conference on 7 January 2015.

Timothy Bradbury, prosecuting, said: "It appears to have been very much a social function and one in which alcohol was freely available." 

The jury of seven British Army officers was told that by the end of the evening the junior officer was "very drunk" and Tomkins headed to her room after stopping by his own for a shower.

In a police interview played to court, the complainant said she was standing by her laptop when he approached and "instantly" began unzipping her dress. 

She said he became "very aggressive" and "took control" when she declined his advances and pushed him away. 

He came in, shut the door and pretty much walked straight over to me. There was no banter, no discussion that I recall. He did get much more aggressive and used some level of force to take things further. I just remember him being on my bed and looking at him on top of me having sex with me. The room was spinning, it was a very brief memory.

BreakingCourt martial: Married British Army officer accused of rape

A married Army officer from Bristol raped a junior colleague at a UN event, a court martial in America has heard.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Tomkins, 49, of Defence, Equipment and Support, attacked the woman in her room at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, the trial in the US was told.  

Joint Base Andrews in Maryland heard on Tuesday that Tomkins, who is based at Abbey Wood, told investigators the sex was consensual but admitted "it wasn't rose petals or Cupid's arrows, it was fairly animal". 

It is the first ever court martial that will be held on both sides of the Atlantic, in a move that allows witnesses to give evidence in the US before the court resumes in the UK next week. 

Mr Tomkins denies the charges.

Arrest after man, 68, dies in crash on A40

Police crash sign

A man has died and another has been arrested following a crash which has shut the A40 in Gloucestershire.

The 68-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash near Andoversford, while his 72-year-old male passenger was seriously injured.

A 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

The crash between a silver Peugeot Partner van and a white Peugeot 308 happened at 4pm today at the junction where the A40 meets the A436.

Police investigators are at the scene and the road remains closed with diversions in place.  

Don't forget the M32 is closed southbound tonight

The road closes from 9pm and reopens at 6am...

View more on twitter

Appeal after £500k wishing well stolen from church

Burglars have raided a church in Cold Ashton, near Bath, stealing a bronze wishing well worth £500,000.

Two other statues worth about £25,000 each were also taken between 5pm on Sunday 7 May and 11am on Tuesday 9 May.

PC Simon McFall of Avon and Somerset police said the burglary was "well-planned" and the church had clearly been targeted.

“It would have taken a number of people to carry out this crime as the statues weigh a significant amount and would’ve required several people to lift them," he said.

“They are also of a considerable size and it is more than likely that a van or other large vehicle was used to transport them."

View more on twitter

Fire service warning over heaters behind fatal Swindon fire

Sharon Soares and Blaise Alvares
Wiltshire Police
Sharon Soares and Blaise Alvares were caught in the house fire on 6 November 2016

A senior fire officer has warned of the dangers of bio-fuel heaters following a house fire which killed two people in Swindon.

Yesterday we told you how an inquest into the deaths of Sharon Soares and Blaise Alvares ruled the blaze was probably caused by such a heater, which was being used in the property because the family could not afford central heating.

We will never know exactly what happened to cause this devastating fire, but we do know that the fuel used in these heaters is highly flammable and that they should never be left burning in an empty room. We welcome the assistant coroner’s determination to highlight safety concerns regarding the use of such appliances in the home by writing to the Chief Fire Officers’ Association, and we will give every support to any future research or campaign that results from that.

Mick SteadAssistant chief fire officer, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service

Sentence extended for man jailed for toddler van assault

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

A paedophile who sexually abused a toddler in the back of a van has seen his 22-year sentence extended to 26 years after an appeal by the Attorney General's office.

Kristopher Jane, 31, from Bristol, assaulted the child while being filmed by a 17-year-old girl, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Jane appeared before the Court of Appeal today after prosecutors considered his original sentence, given back in March, to be too lenient. He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with eight years on licence.

Court of appeal
John Allan/Geogrpah

The 17-year-old teenager, who was sentenced alongside Jane to four years' detention, saw her appeal dismissed.

The pair both previously pleaded guilty to a number of sexual offences involving children at Peterborough Crown Court on 10 January and were both sentenced in Cambridge on 17 March.

PC Yvonne Fletcher's family 'frustrated' at lack of prosecution

WPC Yvonne Fletcher
Metropolitan Police

The Wiltshire family of murdered police officer PC Yvonne Fletcher say they are "deeply disappointed" and "frustrated" that a man suspected of killing her in 1984 will be freed.

We understand that some available evidence could not be used in court but are satisfied that the Metropolitan Police has left no stone unturned in its pursuit of justice in Yvonne's case. The family would like to thank the Met for its continued hard work and diligence, and also for always keeping us informed at every turn. We had hoped that the latest turn of events would finally lead to some closure for the family.

Look who's presenting Points West with Alex tonight!

Police confirm man found dead at scene of fire

Rowan House

A man in his 40s who died following a fire in a block of flats in Bristol was found dead at the scene, police have confirmed. 

The blaze broke out in a second floor flat at Rowan House in Bishport Avenue, Hartcliffe, yesterday at about midday.

Avon and Somerset police said it was currently treating his death as "unexplained" and was continuing inquiries on behalf of the coroner’s office. 

Breaking'National security' concerns lead to release of Yvonne Fletcher murder suspect

PC Yvonne Fletcher

A man arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder PC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan People's Bureau in 1984 has been released from police bail without charge because there is insufficient "admissible evidence" to charge him, Scotland Yard says. 

The Metropolitan Police has advised the family of Miss Fletcher, from the Wiltshire village of Semley, near Mere, about the development.

The work that the Met has carried out has resulted in a deeper understanding of the murder of WPC Fletcher... and the associated terrorist activity targeting Libyan dissidents in the UK and across Europe in the 1980s. We believe our investigation has identified enough material to identify those responsible for WPC Fletcher's murder if it could be presented to a court. However the key material has not been made available for use in court in evidential form for reasons of national security.

Metropolitan Police

Vinny the fox cub brings anti-hunting campaign to Bristol

The League Against Cruel Sports visits Bristol to call for a 'cruelty-free' future

The League Against Cruel Sports has visited Bristol to call on election candidates to "reject any weakening" on the hunting ban.

Theresa May has said MPs will get a free vote in Parliament on the issue if the Tories are elected in June.

Britain is meant to be a nation of animal lovers but right now a lot of animals are feeling unloved. There are moves to legalise the hunting of foxes, deer and hares, over 10 years after the nation recognised that it is nothing but a cruel sport. Dog fighting is happening right here on our streets; and those people who inflict cruelty on animals get barely a slap on the wrist.

A40 now closed in both directions

'Limited production' at factory due to strike over pensions

Workers at BMW plants across the country are striking over plans to close the company's final salary pension scheme.

Unite the union is leading the industrial action which involves workers at the Swindon factory.

Normal production is scheduled to resume tomorrow.

View more on twitter

Bristol gas leak: Work to continue for another 24 hours

We've been bringing you all the latest from the gas leak at Gipsy Patch Lane in Patchway.

Contractors working to lay a new water main ruptured a deep gas pipe causing an evacuation of the surrounding area.

Wales and West Utilities engineers are trying to fix the broken pipe, but now say they could be working in the area for another 24 hours.

Severe accident: A40 Gloucestershire westbound

BBC News Travel

A40 Gloucestershire westbound severe accident, around A436.

A40 Gloucestershire - A40 in Shipton closed westbound around the A436 junction, because of an accident.

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

A40 closed in Gloucestershire after crash

Tipper truck inquiry: Haulage boss loses licence

Scott Ellis

BBC Points West reporter

Scene of the 2015 tipper truck crash

A man linked to the firm behind the Bath tipper truck tragedy in which four people died has lost his operators licence, after failing a safety inspection at his haulage firm.

Simon Nicholls worked at Grittenham Haulage and has run a lorry business from the same farm in Wiltshire.

Inspectors told a public inquiry they found a series of problems, including vehicles being used without proper safety checks, one with the wrong number plate and evidence Mr Nicholls was driving commercially without a licence.

He told the inquiry he was test running vehicles, but the Traffic Commissioner said one was spotted on the road 53 times.

The commissioner concluded that some of the accounts he'd heard were "really quite scary".

Mr Nicholls was told his operators licence would be stopped on 2 June for a period that was yet to be determined, and that he'd lost his repute as a transport manager.

Morph goes back to his Plasticine roots

Watch: The Plasticine inventor behind Morph

Morph has paid tribute to the inventor of Plasticine, who was living in Bath when he invented the special modelling clay 120 years ago. 

Peter Lord, from Aardman Animations, said his creation owes his existence to art teacher William Harbutt — who developed the non-drying clay for his students in 1897.

Police say 198 knives given up in 10 days

Selection of knives surrendered at Patchway
Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Selection of knives surrendered at Patchway

These knives are just a selection of the 198 left in special bins in the front offices of police buildings across Avon and Somerset during the latest amnesty.

The total handed in over 10 days is an increase on the 59 knives surrendered last October in a similar operation.

We’re really encouraged with the number of knives which have been surrendered to our bins. It’s not just the number of knives surrendered which is encouraging, but the type. There were some nasty looking machetes and zombie knives left in the bins, which are usually only carried by people wanting to hurt others.

Chief Inspector Zoe ChegwynAvon and Somerset police lead for knife crime

Bristol gas leak: Engineers working 'round the clock'

Road closures at scene of gas leak in Bristol

The depth of the pipe involved in the Gipsy Patch Lane gas leak and the level of damage means repairs could take a while, says Wales and West Utilities.

Delays are expected in the area but a one-way lane of traffic from Stoke Gifford toward the A38 has been opened to keep traffic flowing.

We are still working to repair a gas leak... caused by contractors working to lay a new water main seriously damaging the gas network. Our engineering team are working round the clock to repair the damage; however, due to the depth of the pipe - up to 10 feet - ground conditions in the area and the scale of the damage to the pipe, this is a complex job and we still cannot say how long this work will take to finish.

Ryan HortonOperational manager, Wales and West Utilities

Severe accident: A4018 Bristol eastbound

BBC News Travel

A4018 Bristol eastbound severe accident, between B4051 Park Row and A38 Anchor Road.

A4018 Bristol - A4018 Queen's Road blocked and queuing traffic inbound between the B4051 Park Row junction and the A38 Anchor Road junction, because of an accident. Police directing traffic.

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

BreakingTipper truck inquiry: Driver loses licence

A man linked to the firm behind the 2015 Bath tipper truck tragedy - in which four people died -  has lost his licence to operate HGVs, following a public inquiry.

Join our election debate

Election graphic

BBC Bristol is hosting a special election debate on Wednesday 31 May with candidates from all the major political parties taking part.

We’d love for you to join John Darvall and all the candidates in the hotly contested seat of Bristol East. 

The event will take place at Hungerford Community Centre in Brislington.

It’s free to come along and ask your question. 

Simply email your name and contact number to or call 0345 900 5 949.    

Somerset A358 dual carriageway plans 'lack detail'

A358 sign

Plans to turn a busy Somerset road into a dual carriageway have been criticised by a local council for lacking detail.

The A358 upgrade between Taunton and Southfields was part of a £15bn government roads project.

Taunton Deane Borough Council said it was unable to give a full response to the plans as they lacked detail and only one option had been submitted.

A358 sign

A358 carriageway plans 'lack detail'

Local councils have been lobbying for the A358 to be made into a dual carriageway for several years.

Read more

BBC local radio headlines in the West

  • BBC Radio Bristol: The prime minister has personally promised to scrap the Severn Bridge toll if they are elected.
  • BBC Gloucestershire: A homeless man, from Gloucester, is encouraging more people who are living on the streets to sign up to vote. 
  • BBC Somerset: A retail expert says a new discount store in Taunton will benefit other stores in the town. 
  • BBC Wiltshire: Bradford-on-Avon's last bank is shutting for good today. Hundreds of people signed a petition against the closure of the Lloyds branch.

Tipper truck inquiry: Inspectors found a 'series of problems'

Scott Ellis

BBC Points West reporter

A man linked to the firm behind the 2015 Bath tipper truck tragedy - in which four people died - is at a public inquiry into safety concerns at his haulage company.

Simon Nicholl's firm operates from a farm where Grittenham Haulage was based until the brakes failed on one of its trucks in February 2015. The DVSA carried out an inspection in January.

Mr Nicholls has a licence to run three trucks from Whites Farm in Grittenham in Wiltshire.

Inspectors say they found a series of problems - including vehicles being used without proper safety checks, a truck with the wrong number plate, and evidence Mr Nicholls drove a lorry displaying the wrong driver’s licence.

They say the inspection was unsatisfactory - and that Mr Nicholls showed a lack of understanding of compliance. The inquiry continues, after which the Traffic Commissioner must decide if Mr Nicholls can continue to hold an operators licence. 

Scene of tipper truck crash
Scene of the 2015 tipper truck crash

Harmonie-Rose shows off her skills with a fidget spinner

Labour also promising to scrap tolls on Severn Bridges

Jeremy Corbyn
Getty Images

Labour's manifesto pledges to work with the Welsh government to scrap tolls on the Severn Bridge between England and Wales.  

It also promises to "deliver rail electrification and expansion across the whole country, including in Wales and the South West". 

Tolls would be axed on Severn Bridges, Conservatives pledge

Severn Bridge

Tolls on the Severn Bridge will be scrapped if the Conservative party wins at the next election, Theresa May has pledged.

Currently it costs £6.70 for a car to cross with the price increasing to £20 for some larger types of vehicles.

Highways England is due to take control of the bridges, which link England and Wales, in 2018 when the current tolls pay off the loan used to build them.

By abolishing tolls for 25 million annual journeys between two nations we will strengthen the links between communities. This will drive economic growth right across the country helping key economic centres in Cardiff, Bath, Bristol and Newport.

Theresa MayConservative leader

Wadebridge murders: Garage was a scene of 'indescribable horror'

Andrew Segal

Local Live

Lawyers for Lee and Robert Firkins say a jury got it wrong when the brothers were jailed in 2005 for murdering Graham and Carol Fisher, and believe DNA evidence could be used to clear them

They are currently serving life sentences for killing the Fishers at the couple's Perch garage, near Wadebridge, in 2003. The couple were shot a number of times after being bludgeoned with a sledgehammer. 

The garage, which has since been levelled, was described as a scene of "indescribable horror" by a judge at Exeter Crown Court during the brothers' lengthy trial.

The Firkins, from Weston-super-Mare, always denied the murders, saying previously they were seeing relatives and visiting a pub at the time.

Murder scene
Welsh striker Christian Doidge talks promotion, hummus & fairytales
Welsh striker Christian Doidge talks promotion, hummus and fairytales after gaining promotion with Forest Green Rovers.

Last bank in Wiltshire town due to close

Bradford-on-Avon's last bank is shutting for good later.

Hundreds of people signed a petition against the closure of the Lloyds Bank branch.

But the firm says most of their customers in the town now use other branches or bank online. 

Lloyds Bank

BreakingMen attend Bristol police station in connection with hate crime inquiry

The two men, both aged 22, attended Bridewell Police Station last night and were voluntarily interviewed following an assault on a 19-year-old man in Park Street, Bristol, in the early hours of Sunday 7 May.

Police say that their enquiries into the incident are continuing.

The victim was verbally assaulted before being punched in the face
The victim was verbally assaulted before being punched in the face.