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  1. Updates on Monday 4 April 2016

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

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Our live coverage across the day

Live updates for the North East have now finished for the day. 

We'll be back from 08:00 tomorrow with more news, sport, weather and travel - we hope you can join us then.

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I need to start praying - Sam Allardyce

BBC Sport

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce says his relegation-threatened Premier League side may need divine intervention after their goalless draw with West Brom.

The Black Cats had 22 shots - their most in a league game this season - but only six on target as they failed to score for the 10th time this campaign.

"I need to go back to church and start praying," Allardyce told BBC Newcastle.  

Sam Allardyce
Getty Images

"I can't ever imagine in my long career dominating a game for so long, creating so many chances and not winning it."

The 61-year-old added: "In normal circumstances it would have been two or three-nil - if we had not had the unbelievable Ben Foster in the opposition's goal."

Newcastle fan: We should have kept Alan Pardew

Newcastle fan Peter thinks they would have been better off if they had kept Alan Pardew.

Listen below:

Police seek cyclist after dog and man assaulted

A man and his dog were assaulted by a cyclist near a primary school in Ingleby Barwick, Cleveland Police says.

The man, 56, and his golden retriever were repeatedly punched and kicked after a row with the cyclist near Inglbey Mill Primary School at about 10:15 yesterday.

The attack only ended when passers-by came to the aid of the victim and the attacker rode off on his bike towards Low Lane. 

Police are appealing for those who helped or saw the icndient to contact them on 101.

Too much respect cost Falcons - Richards

BBC Sport

Director of rugby Dean Richards says Newcastle Falcons lost at Harlequins on Saturday because they showed "too much respect".

Falcons trailed by 15 points at half-time on Saturday and, despite a late comeback, eventually lost 46-25.

"It's what might have been if we hadn't gifted them the tries in the first half," Richards told BBC Newcastle.

"We showed them too much respect. So in the second half we said 'right, we're not prepared to do that' and we scored three tries."

Newcastle's defenders are unable to prevent Joe Gray scoring for Harlequins
Getty Images

Boro players' coach driver injured in crash

The bus driver who ferries Midlesbrough FC's players to and from matches has been injured in a crash after a game.

Callum Tianti was injured following Friday's game at Queens Park Rangers.

After dropping off the squad, he had just returned the coach to Tynedale headquarters in Hexham when he was involved in a head-on collision with a car. 

He was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle with a broken leg, dislocated ankle and cuts. 

Boro captain Grant Leadbitter said: “The lads were shocked to hear the news about Callum. He is very much a part of our team and we wish him a speedy recovery."

Air Products' decision is 'devastating news'

Redcar's Labour MP Anna Turley says the decision by Air Products to pull out of renewable energy is "more devastating news for jobs and industry on Teesside."

She said: "My immediate thoughts are with all of the workers and their families affected by this news who will now be very worried about the future.

"There is no doubting that Teesside’s economy is going through a very difficult time, following the loss of our steelworks and many more jobs in other local industries. 

"This latest blow risks the loss of yet more skilled jobs at a time when they are needed more than ever.

"We have received the £50m support fund to help former steelworkers retrain, but it is clear that this is totally insufficient for the needs of Teesside’s economy."

Rob Elliot: I'm trying to see positives in my injury

BBC Sport

Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot says he's thinking positively after an injury ruled him out of Euro 2016.

Listen here:

Hartlepool families urged to check on elderly after murder

Families in Hartlepool are being urged to check on elderly neighbours and relatives after a 79-year-old woman was found murdered in her home.

Mother-of-three Norma Bell, 79, was found on the ground floor of her home in Westbourne Road yesterday morning. Police were called after reports her house was on fire. 

Cleveland Police Det Supt Alastair Simpson said: “Whilst it is too early to say what the motive is or whether the suspect was known to Mrs Bell, I would remind anyone in the local area who may have an elderly or vulnerable relative or neighbour to check on them.

"Similarly, I would also remind people not to allow anyone into their home who is not known to them or who purports to be an official from an organisation without first checking their identification."

Anyone who saw anything suspicious should call Cleveland Police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Elderly woman found at home 'was killed before fire broke out'

An elderly woman found dead at her fire-hit home in Hartlepool had been killed before the blaze broke out, police say.

Norma Bell, 79, was found on the ground floor of her home in Westbourne Road yesterday morning. She had lived on her own since her husband died in 2010.

Cleveland Police Det Supt Alastair Simpson said: “Our thoughts are with Norma’s family and friends at this incredibly distressing time.

"We now know, following a post-mortem examination held yesterday, that Norma died prior to the fire in her home and we have launched a murder investigation. 

"Officers are carrying out a number of lines of inquiry including house to house and CCTV inquiries. 

"Neighbourhood officers will provide a high-profile presence in the area and will continue patrols to provide some reassurance to those living in the local community."

Elderly woman murdered in Hartlepool 'loving and caring'

The family of an elderly woman found murdered in Hartlepool have paid tribute to a "loving and caring person".

The body of Norma Bell, 79, was found in Westbourne Road after a fire yesterday morning.

Her family said: "To lose her in this manner is heartbreaking. We would urge anybody with information regarding the death of our mother to come forward and speak to police. 

"We also ask for privacy at this sad time to allow us to come to terms with this huge loss.”

Westbourne Road

BreakingElderly woman murdered in Hartlepool house fire

An elderly woman found dead in her home in Hartlepool after a fire had been murdered, police have confirmed.

Norma Bell, 79, was found in Westbourne Road at about 08:25 yesterday morning after police were called.

Norma had three biological children but had been a foster parent to more than 50 youngsters down the years.

She had lived on Westbourne Road for 27 years and would have celebrated her 80th birthday in May.

Norma Bell
Cleveland Police

BreakingGang jailed for Oriental Museum Chinese artefact heist

An organised crime gang which arranged for precious artefacts to be stolen from museums and auction houses across the UK have been jailed.

The plots saw them tunnel into the Oriental Museum in Durham, and break into the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge back in 2012. 

Tunel into the museum

Detectives say the Chinese artefacts were worth about £18m but could have fetched up to £57m - totals dwarfing the more high-profile Hatton Garden heist in London. 

Chinese art stolen

At Birmingham Crown Court, the following men were jailed:

  • Daniel O'Brien - six years and eight months 
  • Richard O'Brien Junior - five-and-a-half years
  • Daniel Wong - five-and-a-half years
  • Paul Pammen - five-and-a-half years
  • Alan Clarke - five-and-a-half years 
  • John O'Brien Snr - five years and three months
  • Danny Flynn - four years. 

A further six defendants will be sentenced tomorrow.

Seal Sands energy plants 'no longer in firm's best interests'

Air Products has issued a statement after it announced it is halting work on renewable energy plants in Seal Sands in the Tees Valley.

It says: "In previous public comments, Air Products' management has communicated the challenges with the Tees Valley, UK projects.

"Testing and analysis completed during the company's fiscal second quarter indicated that additional design and operational challenges would require significant time and cost to rectify. 

"Consequently, the board of directors has decided that it is no longer in the best interest of the company and its shareholders to continue the Tees Valley projects."

Air Products pulling out of Teesside energy plant

Air Products, which had been building a complex on Teesside, is pulling out of its energy-from-waste business.

The firm says "it is no longer in the best interest of the company and its shareholders to continue the Tees Valley projects". 

Air Products has two plants at Seal Sands, TV1 and the under-construction TV2. Air Products stopped TV1 from producing energy last November after a problem with the gasifier, saying it wanted the engineering and design issues resolved before TV2 was completed.

The company had told 700 construction workers that the halt would be temporary. As recently as last month, Air Products had denied TV1 was being mothballed, and hoped to have it fully functional by the end of the year. But it now says this 'would require significant time and cost to rectify'."

Steve MackeyBBC Tees news editor

On this day: Bowyer fined for brawl with Dyer

BBC Sport

On this day back in 2005: Newcastle fined midfielder Lee Bowyer six weeks' wages for his part in a brawl with team-mate Kieron Dyer in a game against Aston Villa.

Here's how we reported it at the time.

Bowyer and Dyer fight
Getty Images

Shop loses booze licence after serving children

A South Tyneside off-licence has been banned from selling alcohol after serving children booze.

Sims Corner, in Stanhope Road, West Park, has had its licence suspended for three months following a hearing of South Tyneside Council's Licensing Sub-Committee on Friday. 

The sub-committee heard that the South Shields shop sold alcohol to minors on two occasions during test purchase operations. 

In the latest incident, which took place in August, a 1.5 litre bottle of wine was sold to a 16-year-old. 

Stokes will bounce back... In time

Jonathan Agnew

BBC Test Match Special

"Unfortunately for Durham's Ben Stokes, whenever there is a World Twenty20, that final over will be shown. For as long as he is playing T20 cricket, it will be flying around. He will have to get over it.

"He is a very competitive and strong-willed and he is a very talented cricket. He will get over it, but it will take a while.

"Maybe one day when he is retired, he will think he has been involved in something pretty special at Eden Gardens, but it will take a long time to get there."

Lord Barnard will be "sadly missed"

More now on the death of Harry John Neville Vane, the 11th Baron Barnard, who has died aged 92 at Raby Castle.

In a short statement, his family said he died peacefully surrounded by loved ones yesterday.

Lord Barnard
Peter Walton/

Lord Barnard, who succeeded his father in 1964, held numerous titles in County Durham. He is survived by five children.

Raby Castle staff tweeted: "So much thanks for the messages of condolence we've received. Lord Barnard will be sadly missed."  

BBC Shakespeare: Child prodigy prepares to retire in Stockton

Master W.R Grossmith was one of a number of 19th Century children playing prominent acting roles in Shakespeare across the country.

Here we see him saying farewell as he prepares to step down from the stage, aged just 11.

This British Library playbill marks one of his last tours in the North East. Here, we can see him paying in Newcastle with the playbill also advertising his next venues as he prepares to wow audiences in Durham, Stockton and Darlington as part of his "farewell tour".

Playbill for Master W.R Grossmith's final performance
British Library

Man's face slashed with knife in Sunderland

Police have released this photo of the facial injury suffered by a man in Sunderland when he was attacked with a knife.

The victim was walking along a path known as Town End Hill in the Town End Farm area at about 13:50 on Saturday when he was approached by three men.      

The injured man
Northumbria Police

Northumbria Police said one of the men then attacked the victim with a knife before the group fled the scene. 

The victim was able to call for an ambulance. Emergency services attended and the man was taken to hospital for treatment.   

Man punched and robbed in Newcastle

BBC Newcastle

A man says he was punched and robbed in Newcastle.

The victim went into the Sainsbury's store in Falconar Street and told security staff he'd been approached by two men and attacked while crossing a bridge over the Central Motorway. 

Although the man didn't seem injured, he did say the men stole £20. 

Driver continues to fight for his life after horror smash

Sunderland Echo


A driver who suffered ‘life-changing’ injuries in a horror smash at the weekend is still fighting for survival.

The injured driver's overturned car in a field
Sunderland Echo

England greats praise Stokes after agony in India

Durham's Ben Stokes could not hide his despair as the West Indies' Carlos Brathwaite hit four sixes off his bowling to clinch the World Twenty20 final.

Ben Stokes
Getty Images

But the England all-rounder has received the support of former skipper Michael Vaughan and batsman Kevin Pietersen.   

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Man bitten in face by dog in Gateshead

A man has been bitten on the face by a dog in Gateshead.

The 31-year-old victim told officers the Jack Russell-type animal jumped up and bit his lip when he bent down to stroke it on Cobden Street last Thursday at about 16:00. 

The man was treated by ambulance staff.

The black and white coloured dog was on a lead and with its owner at the time.

Steel crisis: Unions set to hold emergency talks

Union leaders will meet to discuss the steel industry crisis later as efforts continue to save thousands of jobs.

Shop stewards from steelworks across the country will hold emergency talks in London to help prevent Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant from closing.

There are 450 Tata workers at the pipe mill in Hartlepool facing uncertain futures.

Steel plant

Great North Air Ambulance blood scheme 'saved lives'

Eighteen lives have been saved as a result of air ambulances carrying blood on board, the charity has said.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which covers the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, started the scheme in January 2015.

A Great North Air Ambulance Service helicopter

Since then, medics have performed 60 transfusions, a third of which were deemed to have been of critical importance to survival.

Many others have had their outcomes improved by having the intervention.

Ben Stokes thanks fans after West Indies defeat

Durham cricketer Ben Stokes has thanked England fans for their support after England lost the World Twenty20 final in India.

Stokes, who was visibly upset after the match, was widely praised for his performances throughout the tournament.

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Northumbria Police complaints dealt with 'just as John Lewis manage customer relations'

Danny Shaw

BBC Home Affairs Correspondent

A scheme pioneered by Northumbria's PCC, Vera Baird, sees complaints dealt with "just as John Lewis manage their customer relations".

The most serious and sensitive allegations - of crime, assault and corruption - are dealt with by the police's professional standards department or the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Vera Baird
BBC/Flying Colours

But the majority, about 60%, are resolved quickly "just as John Lewis manage their customer relations really", perhaps with a phone call or letter of apology or explanation, without the need to involve formal complaints procedures.    

"We've turned potential enemies of Northumbria Police back into their friends by this very simple way," she says.  

Read more here.

Hundreds of dogs shot by landowners for worrying sheep

BBC Radio 4

More than 300 dogs have been shot by landowners for worrying livestock in England and Wales over the past five years. 

That's more than one a week. Farming Today asked 43 police forces for data. 

Fifteen came back with figures, including Durham Police, which reported the second highest number of cases with 33. 

Legally dogs which pose a threat to livestock can be shot, but the incident must be reported to police within 48 hours. 

'Ben Stokes not to blame for England defeat'

BBC Sport

England cricket captain Eoin Morgan says Durham's Ben Stokes is not to blame for their World Twenty20 final defeat to the West Indies.

Ben Stokes
Getty Images

Stokes bowled the last over with the Windies needing 19 to win, only for Carlos Brathwaite to smash four sixes off the first four balls. 

Morgan said: "It's not his fault. We're all in this together, we enjoy our wins and we suffer with our losses so the pain will be shared tonight."

Stokes was comforted by team mate Joe Root, pictured, after the defeat.

11th Baron Barnard dies aged 92

The 11th Baron Barnard has died, it has been announced.

Harry John Neville Vane passed away yesterday at the age of 92.  

The former Durham county councillor also served as the Deputy Lieutenant of Durham.

He was actively involved in conservation projects at the Raby Castle estate and was vice president of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

View more on twitter

New flood insurance scheme to cut bills by hundreds of pounds

Homeowners living in high flood-risk areas of the UK should now be able to save hundreds of pounds on their insurance premiums.

A new scheme called Flood Re has been designed to cut bills for those whose homes are in danger of flooding.

Up to now, thousands of householders have been paying large additional premiums to make sure their homes and possessions are protected.

About 350,000 homes could benefit - although thousands will be excluded.

Some £24m of damage was done in Corbridge in Northumberland when the River Tyne burst its banks last year.

Cricket: Ben Stokes 'not to blame' for England defeat

Captain Eoin Morgan insists Durham's Ben Stokes is not to blame for England's dramatic loss to West Indies in Sunday's World Twenty20 final.

Ben Stokes
Getty Images

Stokes bowled the last over with the Windies needing 19 to win, only for Carlos Brathwaite to smash four sixes off the first four balls.

"It's not his fault," Morgan said of all-rounder Stokes.

Karanka urges Middlesbrough to cut out mistakes

BBC Sport

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka hailed his side's performance after they moved to second in the Championship as they held on for an enthralling win at QPR.

Boro's Jordan Rhodes bobbled the opening goal over QPR keeper Alex Smithies, only for Jamie Mackie to level with a superb effort off the bar.

Grant Leadbitter had a penalty saved by Smithies before the Boro captain found Gaston Ramirez with the ensuing corner to nod home a second.

Karanka said "We made a few mistakes to be in the position we are now in - in January we were in a really good position. Now we can't make any more mistakes. We have to keep going."  

Suspicious death after Hartlepool house fire

An investigation is under way after a woman's body was found following a fire at a house in Hartlepool.

Westbourne Road

The discovery was made by emergency services called to an address on Westbourne Road, at about 08:25 yesterday.

Cleveland Police says the death is being treated as suspicious. The woman, who was described as elderly, has not yet been identified.

Durham Police 'no longer targeting' cannabis users

Arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales have dropped by 46% since 2010, figures obtained by BBC Breakfast suggest.

Last July Durham Police said it would no longer target or investigate cannabis users or those growing the class B drug for their own use.

Chief Constable Mike Barton

Asked if this was sending out a message that smoking cannabis was acceptable despite being illegal, Chief Constable Mike Barton said: "I'm not condoning drug use. I never have.

"It's freed up our staff to deal with things that are more important."

He told the BBC his force still had "zero tolerance" for drug dealers.

Rafael Benitez: Newcastle 'must start winning' to avoid drop

Newcastle have enough time to avoid relegation but must start winning, says manager Rafael Benitez.

The Magpies lost 3-2 at 17th-placed Norwich, despite having twice equalised, which leaves them six points adrift of the Canaries.

"It is more difficult but we have to keep confident that we can still do it," said Benitez.

"We have seven games to go and we have to keep pushing. If we start winning games we still have time."