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Fire near allotments in Sunderland

Firefighters are tackling a blaze near allotments in Sunderland.

Three crews arrived at the scene just after midday, close to the junction of Southwick Road.

Due to a lot of smoke people have been encouraged to avoid the area.

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Couple complain to police watchdog over Cummings probe

A couple who claimed they witnessed government advisor Dominic Cummings in Durham on another occasion during lockdown have filed an official complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) about Durham Police's inquiry into their allegations, it is reported.

Dave and Clare Edwards reported to police in May that they had seen Mr Cummings while out walking in Houghall Woods near Durham on 19 April - the weekend after he had returned to work.

Mr Cummings has denied making a second trip, insisting photos and data on his phone disprove the allegations. Durham Police ultimately said they would not take "retrospective action" despite finding the adviser may have made a "minor breach" of lockdown laws.

However, the couple have since put in a Subject Access Request in order to determine exactly how their complaint was followed up, the Daily Mirror and The Guardian said.

A spokeswoman for the IOPC said: "In accordance with the police complaints procedure, we have forwarded a complaint to Durham Constabulary. It will now be a matter for the force to determine the next steps including whether this complaint merits referral to the IOPC."

Dominic Cummings in London followed by a TV cameraman
PA Media

More arrests and cash seized during organised crime crackdown

Police have arrested three men and seized £20,000 as part of an ongoing crackdown on organised crime across the north-east of England.

Warrants were executed at addresses across Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool as Operation Venetic continued.

Police arrested three men, aged 32, 33 and 35, on suspicion of supplying drugs in dawn raids yesterday during searches of properties on Bishop Rock Drive and Pennine Way in Newcastle, Abingdon Road and Gresham Road in Middlesbrough and Iber Grove in Hartlepool.

A total of £20,000 of suspected criminal cash was also seized.

Northumbria police officers in briefing room
Northumbria police

In total since the operation started in March, the North East has seen more than £1.5m cash seized, as well as 80kg of cocaine, amphetamine, MDMA and Ketamine.

The arrest total now stands at 56.

Burgler jailed after breaking into cancer patient's home

A man has been jailed for more then three years after breaking into the home of a woman with cancer while she slept upstairs.

Mark Fada crept into the 76-year-old woman’s home in South Shields in the early hours of 23 September last year in search for valuables.

The 25-year-old took cash from her purse as well as bank cards, which he went on to use fraudulently three times before the victim realised what had happened.

In statement she said the burglary had left her “terrified” and caused her to consider moving into sheltered accommodation because she did not feel safe in her own home.

“I feel sick at the thought of a stranger entering my property,” she said.

“I am suffering from cancer and have recently had a hip replacement – so am in poor health. This is the last thing I need."

Fada, of Lonsdale Court, South Shields, was jailed for three years and three months at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday.

He admitted two counts of burglary, three counts of fraud, handling stolen goods and criminal damage.

This included a second burglary in the town just weeks after, where he took the keys to a Nissan Duke as well as personal belongings.

When caught, police found three iPads that had been stolen from an Evans Halshaw garage in Sunderland.

Newcastle Crown Court heard drugs were at the heart of his offending spree, between September and October last year.

Mark Fada
Northumbria Police

Metro collections support local foodbanks

Metro passengers have helped collect more than 300kg of food for people in poverty.

Foodbank collection points were set up at Nexus travel shops in North Shields, Gateshead, South Shields, Sunderland and Newcastle.

A total of 360kg of food and other toiletries were donated as well as £592 in cash.

Nexus public affairs manager, Lynne Robinson, said: "I was really touched with the generosity from customers who donated from their own weekly shopping bags because they wanted to help people who needed the food more than they did."

Food collection day in North Shields

Nexus said the items, which have been shared between five local foodbanks, will feed 42 families for a week and the cash raised will provide another 51 essential food packs.

Girl seriously injured in motorbike crash

A nine-year-old girl suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a motorbike.

It happened on the junction of Silkey’s Lane and West Percy Road, North Shields, on 31 July, shortly before 10:20 but information has only just been released by Northumbria Police.

The young girl was taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries and is now recovering at home.

A 34-year-old man was arrested and has since been released under investigation.

Any witnesses should contact police.

Man in hospital after explosion at paint factory

A man has been taken to hospital with burns after an explosion at a Gateshead paint factory.

It happened at Azko Nobel on Stoneygate Lane in Felling at about 08:00.

The injured man was given first aid at the scene and taken to the RVI in Newcastle.

Police car outside Azko Nobel site

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said the incident was still ongoing and International Paints had their own fire crew dealing with it, with their own firefighters on standby.

They said it was a chemical incident following an explosion and there was no fire.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue services on scene

Danger warning over nitrous oxide

A number of used nitrous oxide canisters have been found discarded in open spaces in Sunderland where it's believed groups of young people congregate.

Officials are warning of the dangers of inhaling the substance, which is also known as laughing gas.

Nitrous oxide has become one of the most commonly used psychoactive substances for 16 to 24 year olds, charity Re-Solv says, and inhaling the colourless gas produces a short lived euphoric high but can be extremely dangerous, putting people at increased risk of accidents.

Nitrous oxide cannisters

The substance misuse charity says that sustained use of nitrous oxide can result in nerve damage and that deaths have been linked to its prolonged and chronic use.

Sunderland City Council is urging anyone who comes across used canisters of nitrous oxide to report it to them

We are working closely with the council and other partners on this issue, and will continue to respond to reports from the public where this has been linked to anti-social behaviour.”

Insp Jamie SouthwellNorthumbria Police

Man charged with murder after assault in Bedlington

A man has been charged with murder six months after an assault in Northumberland.

Andrew Saint, 64, (pictured below) was found with a serious head injury at an address on Pioneer Terrace, Bedlington, on 23 February.

He was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and remained in hospital until he died on 13 March.

A 37-year-old man was arrested on the night of the incident but later released under investigation while investigations continued.

Yesterday he was rearrested by police and charged with Mr Saint's murder and is due to appear before Bedlington Magistrates Court today.

Andrew Saint
Northumbria police

Murder investigation in Sunderland after fight

A murder investigation has been launched after a man died following an assault in Sunderland.

The 36-year-old man, who police said had suffered serious injuries, died in hospital yesterday following an assault on Borough Road on Saturday.

A 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody.

Two other men, aged 31 and 29, who were also arrested have been released while investigations continue.

Det Insp Graeme Barr, of Northumbria Police, said his thoughts were with the family, who was being supported by specialist officers.

"This incident happened in the street as a violent altercation broke out between a group of men. Sadly, as a result of the attack, the victim suffered significant injuries and died in hospital two days later."

A number of people are believed to have witnessed the attack, so we want to hear from those people as well as any motorists passing that area at the time who may have dashcam footage."

Det Insp Graeme BarrNorthumbria Police

Tyne hospitals save a million miles using virtual appointments

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Daniel Holland

Newcastle’s hospitals saved more than a million miles worth of road journeys in just two months by using virtual patient appointments during the coronavirus lockdown.

Bosses at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital say remote consultations to avoid people having to come into hospital at the height of the pandemic also saved 60,000 hours of time and 320 tonnes of carbon emissions in April and May alone.

Council climate officials have praised the hospitals for making significant strides in their carbon reductions schemes.

Last year, Newcastle became the first NHS trust in the country to declare a climate emergency, committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Since then, it has also partnered with ebike company Z-move to replace vans used to transport medical specimens and supplies between the city’s hospital sites.

Dame Jackie Daniel, the trust’s CEO, said: “Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to test out and accelerate some of the potential carbon reduction initiatives we had planned – like virtual outpatient appointments and staff working from home – eliminating the need for many to travel to our hospitals.

“Our increase in remote outpatient consultations in April and May alone have avoided 1.2 million patient vehicle miles."

RVI Newcastle
NCJ Media

BreakingHays Travel to axe more than 800 staff

Press Association

Sunderland-based Hays Travel is to cut up to 878 jobs out of a total workforce of 4,500 people, the firm announced.

The travel company said the Government's decision to advise against non-essential travel and reimpose quarantine requirements for holidays to Spain "triggered the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of holidays".

John and Irene Hays
John and Irene Hays

Owners John and Irene Hays said: "We are devastated that after all of our efforts and the huge investment we've made we now face losing some of our valued employees, through no fault of their own.

"We are also devastated for everyone who may lose their job and we will do all we can in consultations to help them, as we focus on retaining as many people as possible and rebuilding consumer confidence through our renowned friendly and knowledgeable customer service."

Following the decision to ban travel to Spain and the changes in furlough conditions coming at the same time, we have had no choice."

John and Irene Hays

Stay away while waiting for virus test results, experts warn

Anthony Day

BBC Newcastle

Health experts are reminding people to self-isolate while waiting for results of a coronavirus test.

It comes after claims a man visited three pubs in Sunderland after being tested for Covid 19 and later found out he had the illness.

The man is said to have drank at Ryhope Cricket Club, the Golden Fleece and The Cavalier, which have all now been deep cleaned and are allowed to reopen.

According to last week's data, Sunderland currently has one of the lowest case rates in the country with just four positive tests last week.

'Suspect' named in 30-year-old murder case

BBC Radio Tees

On the 30th anniversary of an unsolved Darlington murder, it's claimed a "viable suspect" has been found.

Ann Heron (pictured) was killed at her isolated home on the outskirts of the town in 1990. Her husband Peter was arrested in 2005 and charged with her murder, but all charges were later dropped.

Investigator Jen Jarvie, who has been looking into the case on Mr Heron's behalf, says her inquiries point towards an escaped prisoner called Michael Benson, who died in 2011.

"His whereabouts were unknown to police at the time, he'd escaped from jail and had local ties. He owned a blue car at the time and his description matches.

"These things are circumstantial, but when you put them together they portray a very violent man who was on the loose."

She says she told Durham Police her theory in 2018 and claims so far Benson hasn't been ruled in or out as a suspect.

The force says while there is no current investigation into Mrs Heron's death, the case will never be closed and any credible information which comes to light will be fully considered.

Ann Heron
Family handout

Cleveland Police appoint new deputy chief constable

Helen McMillan has been appointed as Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland Police.

She joins the force from Northumbria Police, where she is currently an Assistant Chief Constable.

Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Helen is joining Cleveland Police at a time of real change and real improvement and will play a huge role in driving forward the improvements we need to make to support our communities.

She's worked for Cleveland Police before two years ago as temporary Deputy Chief Constable, and before this, in 1996 she became the first female Chief Officer in Durham Constabulary’s 177-year-old history.

Deputy Chief Constable Helen McMillan
Durham police

Helen will be a key part of delivering on our vision, set when I became Chief Constable in 2019, to ‘deliver outstanding policing for our communities."

Chief Constable Richard LewisCleveland police

Bags of drugs discovered hidden under man's hat

Two suspected drug dealers have been arrested after one of them was found carrying drugs - under his hat.

Patrols were being carried out after reports of up to 100 young people gathering around Old Eldon Square, Monument and Northumberland Street, in Newcastle city centre, on Wednesday.

Blurred-out picture of man being arrested in Newcastle
Northumbria Police

Two men were approached by community support officers in Old Eldon Square and were searched.

One of them was found with pre-packed bags of cannabis hidden under his hat.

Two men, aged 21 and 18, have been arrested and released under investigation.

Chief Inspector Steve Wykes said: “We are doing lots of work in this very area to ensure large crowds of vulnerable children aren’t gathering in the city centre.

“But arrests like this make us particularly concerned that drug dealing is going on in the very area these teenagers are socialising."

Prisoner loses terrorism release challenge

A prisoner has lost a challenge to legislation blocking the automatic early release of convicted terror offenders.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, 42, was sentenced to four years in 2018 after admitting encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.

The Sunderland shopkeeper was due to be released in February after having served half his sentence, but this was blocked after the government brought in emergency legislation in the wake of terror attacks in London.

Khan's lawyers argued this breached his human rights, but judges at the High Court dismissed his challenge.

Mohammed Zahir Khan
Counter-Terrorism Policing North East

Specialist school expansion approved

Plans to expand a Sunderland specialist school to make way for more pupils and create 30 jobs have been approved.

Ashbrooke School, which opened in 2017, caters for children with a range of complex educational needs, communication difficulties and challenging behaviours and was rated good by Ofsted in its most recent inspection.

Sunderland City Council has approved the Witherslack Group's plan to build a new single storey education building with six classrooms, an activity hall and food technology area catering for primary age pupils.

Ashbrooke school

Sport England objected to the development saying the plans clashed with policies due to the loss of a playing field. But an agent for the applicant said the development would allow the school to expand and ensure that "children get the most from their education experience"

The council’s planning authority said the benefits of improved facilities outweighed any “adverse impact” from the loss of a playing field.

The plans were approved under emergency delegated powers introduced by the council during the Covid-19 pandemic. As Sport England objected to the application, the plans will now be referred to the Secretary of State for consideration.

Sunrise lights up Barnard Castle

There's been some fantastic sunrises across the North East this morning but PC Nelson must have snapped one of the best:

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'Mum died while we were at dad's funeral'

John and Mary Boxer should have been celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary in the past week - marking 60 years of marriage.

Their family had planned to hold a big party for all the family. But they died of Covid-19 within days of each other.

You can read their full story here.

John and Mary on their wedding day
Elaine Boxer

Universities joins victims of Blackbaud hack

In case you missed it last night - The University of Newcastle was another body to make a public disclosure after being contacted by the BBC about the Blackbaud hack.

Durham University is also on the list of those affected, as is the National Trust.

"We were made aware of a security incident involving a service provider we use, Blackbaud, one of the world's largest providers of alumni database software," said a spokeswoman.

"We apologise for any concern or inconvenience caused... and we have initiated a security review."

The National Trust
PA Media

Police issue mobile home warning

As more people are thought to be looking to buy caravans and campervans this summer, Durham Police is warning people to make sure their purchases have not been stolen.

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Vigilance plea after spate of vehicle thefts

Police are warning people to be vigilant following a spate of thefts from vehicles across the Northumbria force area.

The reports involved cars parked on streets and driveways.

Some involved opportunistic thieves taking advantage of people leaving doors or windows open, in others cars have been damaged after thieves broke in to steal items left on show.

Insp Phil Patterson said: We need the public to not only take valuables inside with them and keep keys away from the front door, but also take extra time to check windows and doors are locked, as thieves will still try doors even if no valuables are on show.

“We are also asking all victims to report incidents to police as we believe some incidents may be going unreported.

"Even if nothing has been taken but you know someone has searched your car or taken spare change, it still helps us paint a wider intelligence picture and can help us proactively target suspects."

Man charged with affray after disturbance in County Durham

A man has been charged following an incident in Chester-le-Street over the weekend which left an 18-year-old man with serious injuries.

The 34-year-old local man was arrested yesterday following a disturbance in Grange Villas on Saturday.

He has been charged with affray and possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.

The man has been remanded into custody and is expected to appear by video link at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court today.

A further five men who were arrested in connection with the incident have been released under investigation.

Anyone with information, who has not already been contacted, should call 101 and quote incident reference number 524 of July 25.

Rural volunteers help fight crime in Northumberland

The work of Rural Crime Volunteers in Northumberland has been praised by Northumbria Police.

A total of 31 Rural Crime Volunteers have now been sworn in since last November.

They help disrupt local and cross-border criminal activity in outlying communities.

Ch Supt Janice Hutton said: “The volunteers work has been fantastic. They have really embraced the role and helped feed through intelligence and disrupt organised crime alongside our officers and staff."

The volunteers have been involved in a number of large scale police operations which have targeted suspects, tackled off-road disorder, drug supply, anti-social behaviour and organised criminality in rural areas.

You can find out more information about the Rural Crime Volunteers and how to get involved by visiting the Northumbria Police website here.

A team of rural volunteers with Northumbria police.
Northumbria Police

Police make arrests six minutes after 999 call

Two suspected burglars were arrested by Northumbria police just six minutes after a homeowner spotted intruders in her garage.

Officers were called to an address in South Shields in the early hours of Saturday morning after a resident reported she had disturbed burglars in her home.

The victim was woken by noises downstairs and found intruders in her garage.

Nothing was stolen and police officers detained two 17-year-olds at a nearby bus stop.

Seven attacks in 14 days on North East ambulance crews

There have now been seven attacks in 14 days of violence against ambulance crews, the service says.

The North East Ambulance Service says that for the third weekend in a row, ambulance crews have been assaulted and vehicles damaged.

The latest incident was in the early hours of Saturday morning on the A19 near Peterlee.

A crew passed a man walking up the dual carriageway in the opposite direction.

The crew stopped and offered to take him to safety but once inside he became aggressive, damaging the vehicle and assaulting the crew, punching one of them in the head .

Police arrived on scene shortly after and arrested him.

Deputy chief executive Paul Liversidge said: “We can repair and replace our ambulances, but the physical and psychological harm caused to my crews is far more serious and has a longer-lasting impact.

"Alcohol and drug misuse play a huge part in these intolerable incidents and there needs to be more done to address this appalling behaviour.”

CCTV picture of the ambulance damage
North East Ambulance Service