from BBC News for Staffordshire
Sixty dogs have been rehomed after they were recovered from a suspected puppy farm.The canines, which included Chihuahuas, German shepherds and a bullmastiff, were seized from an address in Cannock on 7 October.The Dogs Trust, which took care of the animals, received 600 calls and emails from people all wanting to give them a second chance.The public response was “amazing”, rehoming manger Emma Healey said.The raid was carried out by Staffordshire Police, Cannock Chase Council environmental health service and the Dogs Trust after the owners “declined to surrender them to the care of the council.”An investigation is “ongoing”, a council spokeswoman said.Over half of the rescued dogs were looked after in Kenilworth, while the rest were split between kennels in Shrewsbury and Merseyside.Gemma Bentley, who is adopting two-year-old Chihuahua Penelope, is pleased she can provide a permanent home.”We always said that if we were to have another one we wanted to give a dog a chance at a better home,” said Ms Bentley, from Walsall.While Tracey Sims, from Coventry, is adopting four-year-old Tessa.”Tessa is going to have the best home ever,” she said. “I think it will be really nice to give an old dog a new home.”People pick up puppies quite easily, but the older dogs don’t always get that chance.”Latest news from the West Midlands”We’ve had hundreds of visitors to the centre. It’s been amazing,” said Ms Healey from the Dogs Trust.”We have found homes for all of the dogs and more so. Some of the dogs that were here already have found homes off the back of the appeal.”Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.
A man who drowned while swimming in a reservoir on a day out “ignored” safety warnings, a coroner has said.Carl Storer died after getting into difficulties at Chasewater reservoir in Burntwood, Staffordshire, on 30 June.Cannock Coroner’s Court heard the 21-year-old disappeared under the water after going in to get a friend’s child.”People just do not seem to appreciate how cold these lakes and rivers are and how dangerous they are,” said assistant coroner Ian Smith.Mr Smith recorded a conclusion of accidental death and the cause of death as drowning.Mr Storer, from Tamworth, enjoyed a BBQ with friends and their children, aged 10 and 13, before going in to the water, the inquest heard.Emergency services attended the scene but his body was recovered a short time later.It was previously suggested by police that Mr Storer died while trying to save a young girl but the coroner said this was not the case.”Carl went in the water to fetch the children out – he was not saving their lives,” Mr Smith said.”Sadly, it appears that all concerned ignored the warnings they were given around Chasewater.”Giving evidence, Det Sgt Andy Curran, from Staffordshire Police, said there were multiple signs warning of the dangers of swimming in the water.”They would have been obvious to anybody going to the area,” he added.A tribute issued by Mr Storer’s family after his death said he would be “deeply missed”.Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.
If you want to understand why Labour confounded the polls in 2017 – preventing Theresa May from winning a Commons majority – look no further than Cheshire.Before that snap general election just the spout and lid of this teapot-shaped county were red, including the party’s most marginal constituency in Chester.In the end, their majority in the county town soared from 93 to more than 9,000.To add insult to injury, they took three more seats from the Tories – Weaver Vale, Warrington South and Crewe & Nantwich (which they won by only 48 votes).Labour were able to inspire thousands of people to go to the polls who don’t normally come out to vote. In Chester, for example, the overall turnout rocketed by 5,000 but the Conservative vote didn’t move.The city was flooded with Labour placards and doorknockers. I’m told turnout at the polling station used by the University of Chester’s 10,000 students was significantly up, which it’s thought helped Jeremy Corbyn.But Labour also seems to have benefitted from a lack of smaller competitors – in Weaver Vale, Warrington South and Chester UKIP didn’t stand in 2017, whilst there was no Green candidate in the latter two as well as Crewe & Nantwich.What about the Lib Dems?The Liberal Democrats could have a key role to play in marginal Warrington South, which was a three-way split back in 2010.Conventional wisdom might assume the Lib Dem vote then went to Labour and so could go back now. But Lib Dem support at council elections is centred on the relatively affluent suburbs and villages south of the Manchester Ship Canal, so the party could threaten the Tories too.Jo Swinson’s party has a well-worn infrastructure there, where they’ve been campaigning against the Labour authority’s plans to build 9,000 homes on greenbelt land, whilst attacking the Conservative government’s guidelines which the council must work to.If they are being optimistic, they might even be looking towards the apparently safe Tory seat of Congleton. The Lib Dems used to run the borough council there and took 31% of the vote in 2010.The Brexit factorBoth Labour and the Tories could also have much to fear from the prospect of Brexit Party candidates standing everywhere.They came a clear first in the European elections in the boroughs of Halton and Warrington, suggesting they could damage Labour in their traditional heartlands in seats like Halton, and Warrington North. Crucially it could make a key difference in Runcorn within the marginal seat of Weaver Vale.In Crewe & Nantwich many former UKIP voters seemed to go back to Labour in 2017. Will Mr Corbyn doing his utmost to keep Leave voters from working class Crewe communities onside and away from the Brexit Party and the Conservatives be enough?At the same time the Labour Party knows it needs to reach out to Conservatives in places like Nantwich. Two years ago it scored very well with a high-profile campaign about school funding.Green credentialsAnother campaign issue that the Conservatives may hope to have neutralised is fracking – opposition to it was successfully harnessed by Labour in the Weaver Vale constituency two years ago.Parts of Ince Marshes near the traditionally Conservative areas of Frodsham and Helsby have been targeted by energy firms for the last two years, and earlier this year the vehemently anti-fracking Greens unseated the Tories in Helsby at the council elections.The Conservatives have now called a halt to fracking, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats have advocated a permanent ban.All eyes on Eddisbury?One place that is not normally interesting to watch come election night is the usually safe Conservative seat of Eddisbury – the rural heart of Cheshire plus the town of Winsford – which was finely split in the EU referendum.The sitting MP Antoinette Sandbach was thrown out of her party after rebelling over Brexit and has now joined the Liberal Democrats.She got 29,192 votes last time and her new party got just 2,804. So she has a mountain to climb but we know there are a lot of Remain voters there who seem to have voted Conservative last time round. She will be hoping to unite them behind her.Labour did extremely well in Cheshire two years ago but holding on to its existing seats in the county may well be their limit this year.To take Macclesfield, a town that has been represented by the Conservatives for more than 100 years, Labour would need to repeat the 7% swing from the Tories that they managed two years ago.A hard but not impossible task, perhaps. But if they manage to paint the likes of Macclesfield red, Mr Corbyn may well end up in Downing Street.You can find out who is standing in your constituency by clicking this link and entering your postcode.
Michael O’Neill insists he will be able to juggle his new Stoke City post with Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off in March.An agreement between Stoke and the Irish FA means O’Neill stays in charge until the play-off now guaranteed after Saturday’s draw with the Netherlands.”It’s dead easy. We’re going to turn up on a Sunday and play on a Thursday,” said O’Neill.
“I can pick my squad now. I could name it tomorrow. “There are not 40 players out there we’re not picking.”I’ll be able to [prepare for the opposition]. That’s not a problem. Our opponents don’t play between now and then, they’ve already played. “We’re not going to watch individual players play for their clubs, so the work we have on the opponents, we’ll have that well in advance.”Davis has ‘no excuses’ over missed penaltyNI set for play-offs after Netherlands draw in BelfastThere has been speculation that O’Neill’s ability to fulfil his Northern Ireland role in March could be in jeopardy if Stoke – now second from bottom in the Championship – remain in a relegation fight come the Spring.However, O’Neill was insistent after Saturday’s 0-0 draw against the Dutch that he would be able to undertake both roles.”To be honest, there’s nobody better than me to judge this because I actually do the job and the reality of the situation is to put a [new] coach in with a play-off situation with three days’ preparation wouldn’t be fair to the players or the association because of what’s at stake.”We know our team, we know our best team. We have one or two players to come back in – Conor Washington and Jordan Jones – but the squad picks itself other than that.”Saturday’s game may well have proved O’Neill’s Windsor Park farewell with Tuesday’s final Group C fixture in Frankfurt now a dead rubber with the Germans and Dutch having secured qualification.
Twenty-five years ago, Simon Smith killed his three-month-old daughter – sparking an investigation into the deaths of his two other children. As he is moved to an open prison after serving decades behind bars, his ex-partner Rachel Playfair tells the story of how he murdered their baby. On Thursday 17 November 1994, Smith was looking after three-month-old Lauren on his own for the first time. At lunchtime, Rachel called home to check in, having returned to work as a physiotherapist. When there was no answer, she knew something was wrong.”Then I got the call to say that Lauren had been taken to hospital with breathing difficulties, but she was actually dead at that time. When I walked into Stafford Hospital there were a lot of police around which I couldn’t understand, and they said she had died. My first words to Simon were ‘what have you done to her?'”There was just something that didn’t ring true. How my healthy, bouncy, smiling little girl that I left that morning could suddenly be dead.”Mrs Playfair was 22 when she met Smith in 1993, and by her own admission, she was vulnerable.She had been admitted to St George’s Hospital in Stafford with an eating disorder, while he was being treated for depression following the death of his baby, and the pair developed a friendship.”He was incredibly charming and seemed very sensitive,” she remembers. “My self-esteem at the time was pretty low, I had just come out of a long-term relationship and I suppose in a way he groomed me.”He said all the right things and did all the right things and it wasn’t until after I was discharged from hospital that we formed a relationship, but during that time I became aware of his issues.”Smith was violent and an alcoholic, said Mrs Playfair, and shortly before Christmas of that year she made the decision to end things.But before she had the chance, the couple was involved in a car crash and a test at hospital revealed she was pregnant.”In the space of about three hours I had gone from someone who was going to end the relationship to somebody who was absolutely stuck.”Lauren was born on 27 August 1994. Mrs Playfair was besotted, but Smith was only “playing the part” of a doting father. And as the family returned home to Stone, in Staffordshire, it became clear things were not right.”There were times he made it quite clear that Lauren was quite an inconvenience,” said Mrs Playfair. “There were times during the 12 weeks of her life when he was physically abusive [to me],” she said, but added there “was never a time I thought he would harm Lauren”.Her threats to leave would be countered by threats by Smith that she would never be able to keep her daughter due to her previous eating disorder. And at the time “domestic violence was not something that was talked about”, so she “stayed put”, she said.When Lauren was 11 weeks old, Mrs Playfair returned to work and her daughter was looked after by a childminder during the day. On a few occasions she came home and found Smith had left their daughter in her cot with the heating on high and wrapped in blankets.”If you know anything about cot deaths, you know the risks of overheating the baby,” she said. “He knew all these risks of allowing her to get too hot.”That same week, Smith was to look after Lauren on his own for the first time. She would not survive the day. Her death prompted police to investigate the deaths of his other children – Eleisha in 1989 and Jamie, who died in 1993. Smith, a trainee assistant in a care home, admitted to police he had suffocated Lauren but insisted his two other babies had suffered cot deaths. But police led an inquiry and brought expert witnesses to court, who said the infants could have been suffocated.He was convicted of all three murders and jailed in 1996.During her pregnancy Mrs Playfair and Smith had been in contact with social services under the “next infant scheme”, due to the previous deaths of his children.While Lauren’s family praised the police work, they say they were failed by authorities at the time and more should have been done to prevent her death.Mrs Playfair, who was not able to have any more children, said she believed “Lauren was here to get justice for Jamie and Eleisha”. They felt it had been served when the judge recommended Smith’s life sentence should mean life.However, at the time decisions on the minimum length of a life sentence were made by the home secretary.The responsibility was handed to judges when the Criminal Justice Act was implemented in 2003 and Smith was told he would serve at least 24 years.In October it was confirmed he had been moved to an open prison and his release on temporary licence would happen in the following weeks.”The goalposts have been moved,” said Mrs Playfair, who now lives in Shropshire with her husband, Paul.Her father, Patrick, has since met the minister of state for justice to discuss the case and the Parole Board decision. He said he had been encouraged by the emphasis on public protection following the meeting. But the family said they have been told the Parole Board’s decision is unlikely to be overturned, so they will continue fighting to keep Smith in a secure prison.”We just want somebody to say this is wrong, it’s inconceivable that a man that killed three children should be released from prison and back into the community, regardless of what protections are put in place,” said Mr Playfair.The Ministry of Justice says public protection is its priority and offenders are returned to closed prison “at the first sign of concern”.A further parole hearing is expected to take place in the new year and Mrs Playfair aims to attend in person and read her victim impact statement. She says she fears for her own life and that of her family if Smith is released. They would also like to see laws around the sentencing of child killers looked at in the future.There is a “great disparity” between the fixed sentence given to convicted child killers and “the life sentence that’s left with the victims”, Mrs Playfair said.As she reflects on the anniversary of her daughter’s death, she added: “This time of year for me is very difficult because the sight of the leaves changing, the smell of the autumn is so evocative.”One of my last memories I have of Lauren is of Remembrance Sunday, I took her to church and I walked down this footpath and the leaves were beautiful. “It was a bright, crisp, cold, sunny day and all the smells of autumn, and just having Lauren in her pram – it’s such a vivid picture and it doesn’t take a lot for that image, the smells, the feeling to come back. And it just catches you.”So for us there isn’t any parole, there isn’t any release, even on temporary licence. This is our reality.”
Train passengers have been warned of “significant disruption” to services as workers strike over guards on trains.Rail, Maritime and Transport union members have walked out for the first of seven strikes on Saturdays before Christmas.The RMT general secretary Mick Cash said action was “solidly supported” by members. West Midlands Trains said it was running a reduced service and was committed to safety.The action affects services in the West Midlands and on London Northwestern Railway.The National Railway Enquires website warned passengers only a “very basic service” would run, with some stations not being served at all.”Please carefully consider whether your journey is absolutely necessary, as significant disruption is expected,” it said. The RMT said the strikes were “over plans by the company to bulldoze through driver-only operation”.Mr Cash said: “RMT members are standing rock solid and determined this morning across the West Midlands Trains franchise as we fight to put the safety-critical role of the guard at the platform/train interface, and the safety and accessibility of the travelling public, before the profits of the train operator.”West Midlands Trains said it was determined to resolve the dispute. A spokesman said: “There is no need for this action. We have never proposed driver-only operation. We are committed to keeping a safety-critical conductor on every passenger train.The firm added it had proposed a solution on its new trains which would see conductors “retain responsibility for safe dispatch from stations”.It is running a reduced service using managers who have guard competency.Birmingham’s NEC said its events will go ahead and advised visitors to plan journeys carefully and consider alternative transport. Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.
Former Liverpool defender Dominic Matteo has had surgery on a brain tumour, the Anfield club have said.A Liverpool club statement said the 45-year-old former Scotland international had an operation on Monday and has since come out of intensive care.Matteo made 155 Reds appearances between 1993 and 2000 before joining Leeds United.
He helped the Elland Road side reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2001 and later captained the club.”The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Dom, his family and friends and we will be offering our support to them throughout this difficult time,” said Liverpool’s statement.Peter McDowall, a presenter on LFC TV, on which Matteo is a regular pundit and commentator, posted on social media: “Horrible few days but he’s doing well. We love you Dom, more than you know.”Matteo also had spells with Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City before retiring as a player in 2009.View more on twitter
Updates from the Cannock Chase Radio News Desk via BBC Stoke and Staffordshire From: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50356143
Updates from the Cannock Chase Radio News Desk via BBC Stoke and Staffordshire From: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50356147
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BBC coverageHow to follow:Listen on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website; Text commentary on BBC Sport website; Highlights on BBC One NI at 22:20 GMTMichael O’Neill has said he told Stoke City at the outset of their talks that he would not consider leaving Northern Ireland immediately.The NI boss took over at Stoke last week but will remain in his international role until the end of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.NI are at home to the Netherlands on Saturday before their last Group C game away to Germany three days later.
“Leaving before these two games was not an option,” O’Neill explained.”That would not have been the right thing to do and I was clear with Stoke about that from the start.”While taking the NI side for the Dutch and German games was always O’Neill’s intention, he revealed it was the Irish FA that requested he remains in charge for any potential play-off matches in March.