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  1. Updates on Thursday 21 December 2017

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

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Our live coverage across the day

That's all from us for today - thank you for joining us.

You can stay in touch with the latest news overnight on BBC Tees, BBC Newcastle, Look North, and online.

If you've got a story or a picture you'd like to share with us you can tweet us @BBCNewsNE, email, contact us via Look North's Facebook page.

We're back at 08:00 tomorrow.

We'll leave you with this photo of a dramatic sky above boats off Whitley Bay.

Fishing boats off Whitley Bay

Weather: Cloudy tonight with some patchy rain in places

Tonight it will be generally cloudy with a chance of some patchy rain, in the south of the area. Light winds throughout. Widespread hill fog by dawn.

Minimum Temperature: 3C (37F).

Tomorrow it will be mainly dry and rather cloudy, with hill fog over the hills. Perhaps a few brighter, sunnier spells developing later. Remaining relatively mild with light winds.

Maximum Temperature: 9C (48F).

Vicar denies plane passenger grope

A Northumberland vicar has denied groping a fellow passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Rev Peter McConnell, vicar at St Helen's Church in Longhorsley, is alleged to have sexually assaulted a male in his twenties on a British Airways plane from the United States in March.

Appearing at Newcastle Crown Court, the 63-year-old pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault.

He will return to the court for a trial due to start in August 2018.

Rev Peter McConnell

Help for homeless people at Christmas

Damian O'Neil

BBC Look North

A church in Sunderland is one of many institutions opening its doors to show some Christmas spirit to those with nowhere to stay.

St Mary's will be serving a Christmas lunch, and has been backed by fundraising efforts across the city. It includes Sunderland Football Club club where supporters were encouraged to "bring a tin" to a recent match.

The items have been donated to St Mary's and other homeless support charities. The lunch is being served on Christmas Day from noon until 1.30pm.

Why do we celebrate the solstice?

It's the Winter Solstice today which is seen by many as the turning point when the nights reach their longest in the global north, and the days their longest in the global south.

For us in the north, summer is on the (far) horizon.

The Earth rotates the Sun on a tilt - at an angle of 23.5 degrees. This tilt gives us our seasons and, twice a year, our solstices. You can read more here.

What is the winter solstice?

Severe disruption: A1 Tyne And Wear southbound

BBC News Travel

A1 Tyne And Wear southbound severe disruption, at A6127 Newcastle Bank affecting A184.

A1 Tyne And Wear - Queuing traffic on A1 Western Bypass southbound in Birtley at the A6127 Newcastle Bank junction, because of an earlier broken down vehicle. All lanes have been re-opened. Congestion to Dunston Interchange.

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

Are you dreaming of a White Christmas? Fat chance

Damian O'Neil

BBC Look North

Unless you're heading to the far north of Scotland, you're far more likely to encounter the usual dreary mix of rain and blustery wind when you get up on Christmas morning.

The recent cold snap left many of us wondering whether this year we'd wake up to gleaming fields of pure white snowy goodness, punctuated with the occasional Robin and clutches of rosy-cheeked carol singers roasting chestnuts over impromptu open fires.

But the north- east of England will instead be dominated by low-pressure conditions, which means spells of heavy rain and strong winds between Christmas and New Year.

People with umbrellas
I'm dreaming of a beige Christmas

The generosity of the bereaved

Two crematoria in County Durham have donated a total of £10,000 to local charities as a result of surplus funds from a recycling scheme.

Sands, a stillbirth and neo-natal death charity, and the North of England Children's Cancer Research Fund have each received cheques of £5,000 from Mountsett Crematorium and Durham Crematorium.

Durham County Council is a member of the Metal Recycling Scheme run by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM), which recycles metals which are left after a cremation.

Once written consent is given from a bereaved family, metals such as orthopaedic implants and materials used in the construction of the coffin are recycled by the ICCM with the proceeds donated to a charity of their choice.

Graham Harrison, the county council's bereavement services manager, said: "We're massively indebted to the generous families that have kindly donated these recycled metals to charity.

"Their consent, given at this difficult time for them, does mean that good causes continue to benefit."

Mountsett crematorium
Durham County Council
Bereavement generosity

Airline scraps North East to Norwich flight

BBC Tees

Loganair has announced today that it'll no longer run its flight from Durham Tees Valley Airport to Norwich.

Bosses say the flight 'wasn't performing in line with expectations with no signs of improving'. The service will be pulled from 7 January.

However, the route between Durham Tees Valley and Aberdeen is proving a success and Loganair says it is making a series of schedule adjustments to enhance convenience for passengers, particularly for those in the Oil and Gas industries.

Test your knowledge of 2017

How good is your memory of the stories and people in the news in 2017?

Here is the first part of the BBC News Quiz of the Year - people.


Car driven into house 'part of ongoing feud'

A car being driven into a house and set on fire was part of an ongoing feud in the traveller community, police said.

No one was hurt in the crash in Yarm Road, Darlington, at 20:20 last night and the house was unoccupied.

Durham Police are treating it as arson and are appealing for information.

Ch Insp Sue Robinson, from Darlington Neighbourhood Police Team: "We can confirm the incident is connected to an ongoing feud in the traveller community.

“The house is unoccupied and we believe that is why it was targeted.“The investigation into the incident is ongoing but we need people to come forward with information."

Seal pups drone bonanza on Farne Islands

Damian O'Neil

BBC Look North

Rangers on the Farne Islands have used a drone to help them record the second ever highest number of seal pups on the archipelago.

It was thought this year's tally would break the previous record of 2,295 pups, until bad weather brought the count to a grinding halt at 2,010.

The National Trust rangers live on the islands off the Northumberland Coast between April and December, with the annual seal count taking place over several months from October.

Using the drone this year enabled them to map the locations of newly born seals and their parents without intruding on the newborns.

Seal pup
A seal pup, earlier.

Severe disruption: A1(M) County Durham northbound

BBC News Travel

A1(M) County Durham northbound severe disruption, between J60 for A689 and J61 for A177.

A1(M) County Durham - One lane closed on A1(M) northbound between J60, A689 (Bradbury) and J61, A177 (Bowburn), because of a broken down vehicle. Traffic is coping well.

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

Your photos: Red sky in Middlesbrough

There was a stunning red sky across the North East yesterday morning and Frank Tommany took this photo from the Transporter Bridge, in Middlesbrough.

Have you got any photos you'd like to share with us?

In that case you can tweet them to@BBCNewsNE,email, or contact us viaLook North's Facebook page.

Red sky in Middlesbrough

Boy pushed off bike by thief

A man pushed a 16-year-old boy off his bike and stole it, police said.

The man approached the boy at 19:20 on Saturday outside Tesco, West Dyke Road, Redcar.

The suspect is white, aged 20-25, 6ft and of medium build. He was wearing a navy hooded top, dark Adidas bottoms.

Before he took the bike - a black and green Giant stance with red handlebars - he had an argument with a woman in the street.

Traditional Christmas dinner given an Indian twist
The traditional Christmas turkey dinner has been spiced up with an Indian twist.

Selfless student makes the rest of us feel bad

Damian O'Neil

BBC Look North

A 19-year-old sports development student from Sunderland University has won an award for clocking up more than 300 hours of volunteer work.

Matt Harris' work in helping people with disabilities has landed him a Sunderland Caring for Carers Award. It follows his previous award of Volunteer of the Year, which he won in 2016.

"I certainly don't do this for the awards", said Matt, who's from Washington, "but I was very flattered to be recognised because you're nominated through those people you're supporting. I just hope it encourages others to do the same".

Matt Harris
Sunderland University
300 hours of volunteering

Youngsters' Facebook plea aids festive charity haul

BBC Tees

Children in Redcar have given up their Christmas treat to help others.

The youngsters who take part in the weekly Park Runs normally get a selection box.

But this year some of them made a Facebook video asking people to donate toys and food to Redcar's Footprints in the Community charity instead.

The video has been watched more than 10,000 times and hundred of items have been donated.

The Four Oarsmen cut a dash

Damian O'Neil

BBC Look North

A team of four nauseatingly fit rowers - two from Northumberland and two went to Sedbergh School in Cumbria - are bearing down on the leaders in one of the most challenging races on the planet.

They set off on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December. Twenty eight teams are tackling more than 3,000 nautical miles in what's described by the organisers as the world's toughest row.

As of 08:00 this morning, they were in second place and not far behind the leaders.

The rowers face a daunting combination of adverse weather, exhaustion, hallucinations, sleep deprivation and heatstroke. The combined height of The Four Oarsmen is 26ft, and they are making their journey to Antigua in a boat that measures 25ft.

Christmas dinner will be a tasty combination of dried ration packs and whatever fish they can catch along the way.

More people have been into Space than have rowed the Atlantic
Talisker Whisky
Steaming ahead
The Atlantic Challenge
Talisker Whisky
Second place

Born in the wrong place for good schools?

There is a widening geographical divide in access to high-performing schools in England, says a report from the Education Policy Institute.

Between 2010 and 2015, London took an increasing share of the secondary schools where pupils were most likely to make good progress.

But the report says areas in the North and North East are being left behind.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said social mobility plans would help chances to be spread more evenly.

Young people in Blackpool and Hartlepool are named as having the least access to local secondary schools where pupil progress is in the top third by national standards.

Access to good schools graphic

'Hundreds' sign petition against sports club plans

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

Campaigners say hundreds of people have signed up to join their fight against plans for a sports club development in a South Tyneside park.

The Friends of Temple Park, in South Shields, are against proposals for a clubhouse and sports facilities which will fence off a site that was gifted in covenant as open space for the entire town.

The South Shields and Westoe Club says it plans to invest £6m in the development and the facilities would be open for anyone to book and enjoy.

There'll be more on this on Look North on BBC One at 18:30.

Kieran Maxwell to be remembered at special event

Colin Briggs

Look North

A teenager who touched hearts with his fight against cancer will be remembered tonight.

Kieran Maxwell, 18, died in June after a long fight against Ewing's Sarcoma.

Kieran suffered from the disease for much of his life but inspired others through his athletics and gymnastics - despite losing a leg.

Last year, a special Christmas event was held in Heighington in County Durham after his terminal diagnosis and this evening he'll be remembered again.

Kieran Maxwell

'The stuff nightmares are made of'

Sunderland Echo


A woman was beaten and smothered by an armed sex attacker who crept into her bedroom during the night.

Sunderland Echo front page, Thursday 21 December 2017
Sunderland Echo
Metro trains in the North East: The past, present and future
As a new fleet of Metro trains is announced we remember the outgoing trailblazers of the track.

Weather: Dry and bright morning ahead

BBC Weather

It will be a dry and bright morning with light winds and veils of cloud.

Remaining mainly dry through the afternoon for many, rain slow moving across Yorkshire may edge into southern areas of the region later, with thicker, lower cloud offering hill fog.

Tonight expect it to be generally cloudy with rain fringing into southern areas, with perhaps drier and colder conditions further north across Northumberland.

There will be light winds throughout and widespread hill fog by dawn.

Weather forecast, Thursday 21 December 2017

The four Newcastle city centre bars were issued with closure notices, and 11 people arrested.

Read more

Norovirus sees hospital visiting ban remain in place

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

With just four days to go until Christmas, visitors are still not allowed at nine hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside due to an outbreak of norovirus.

About 180 patients and staff at four Northumbria Healthcare sites have been affected by the bug, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever. It is highly infectious.

All of the trust's hospitals - including Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care in Cramlington, Wansbeck, North Tyneside General, and Berwick - have suspended visiting, except in cases of patients receiving end-of-life care.

Welcome to Local Live

We'll be with you throughout the day to bring you the latest news, weather, sport and travel updates from across the North East.

Have you got any photos you'd like to share with us?

In that case you can tweet them to @BBCNewsNE, email, or contact us via Look North's Facebook page.