Blakeney Point little terns have best season in 26 years

A colony of one of the country’s rarest seabirds has had its most successful season for more than 25 years, the National Trust has said.

Nesting pairs of little terns fledged more than 200 chicks at Blakeney Point, off the north Norfolk coast.

The bird has been in serious decline nationally since the 1980s, with fewer than 2,000 pairs now left in the UK.

Rangers counted 154 pairs of little terns nesting over the summer months and 201 chicks – the most since 1994.

The National Trust, which manages Blakeney Point, believes the success was in part due to fewer people visiting the site at the beginning of the breeding season, during the first national lockdown.

The little terns nested at the far end of The Point, which is further away from the mainland, with fewer visitors walking that far along.

There were fewer predators affecting the little terns this year, rangers said.

They believe this could be because the birds nested further away from the watch house, and were all together, meaning there was some safety in numbers.

Staff kept watch on the site to ward off predators using techniques such as laying out food sources away from the colony.

They also used clay decoys to encourage nesting in suitable areas of the shoreline.

Countryside manager Chris Bielby said: “Little terns have been rapidly declining in the UK for the past few decades, so it’s particularly rewarding to see so many of these tiny seabirds fledging the nest.

“The species is still very much at risk and we’ll need to keep up our efforts to make sure they have safe places to breed.

“But for now, it’s good to be able to celebrate a successful season given what a challenging year 2020 has been.”

Common terns had a similarly successful year at Blakeney Point, with 289 pairs fledging at least 170 chicks, the most since 1999.

Rangers believe the colony relocated from other nesting sites which flooded during bad weather in June.

Sandwich terns were late arrivals to the site but arrived in high numbers, almost triple that of the previous year.

Newborn baby found dead in Weston-super-Mare garden

A newborn baby has been found dead in a garden.

The body was discovered by a member of the public in a private garden of a property in Victoria Quadrant, Weston-super-Mare at about 08:50 GMT.

Police are treating the baby’s death as unexplained and are “extremely concerned” for the mother’s welfare.

Det Ch Insp Mike Buck said it was “very sad and distressing” and North Somerset Children’s Services, appealed to the mother to come forward.

Amanda Braund from children’s services said: “Please get in touch with the police by calling 999 or your nearest hospital.”

Katrice Lee: Investigation into missing toddler to be scaled back

The father of a toddler who went missing almost 40 years ago says he is “devastated” after an investigation to find her is to be scaled back.

Katrice Lee vanished on her second birthday in November 1981, near the British military base in Germany.

Richard Lee, from Hartlepool, was informed of the latest decision by the Royal Military Police (RMP).

The unit, which has apologised for earlier failings, said it would only investigate if there was new evidence.

It added that the case was not being closed.

Mr Lee, who believes his daughter was abducted, was told at a meeting on Friday that despite its best efforts, the unit had been unable to find out what happened to her.

“I’m absolutely gutted, distraught, frustrated and all I can say is that parents out there if they were in my shoes, they would do what I’m doing,” he said.

“It think it rather sad that at the 39-year point, that I’m still fighting for justice for my daughter when all the indications, even in their investigations, have almost proven that she was abducted from day one, and here we are, still struggling to get answers to the questions we ask.”

Two-year-old Katrice had been with her mother Sharon, from Gosport, at a Naafi supermarket in Paderborn, where her father was stationed, when she disappeared.

The RMP had wrongly believed she had drowned in a nearby river. A forensic search failed to find anything.

During the initial investigation it had also delayed interviewing key witnesses and failed to release a photofit of a suspect for 36 years.

Mike Hill, Labour MP for Hartlepool, said: “The full-scale inquiry into the disappearance of Katrice Lee is no more after today, and that’s devastating, disappointing, because we know, we feel it, that Katrice is still out there “

Investigators said they still receive calls from people around the world who believe they could be Katrice.

Sheffield flats evacuated over fire safety failure

Residents of a Sheffield apartment block were told to evacuate after the building failed fire safety tests.

The North Bank building on Wicker Riverside was served a prohibition notice following an inspection by South Yorkshire Fire Service on Friday night.

Apartments on the sixth up to the 10th floor were evacuated, with residents offered emergency accommodation.

Management company Love Your Block said the issues were around smoke ventilation and evacuation procedures.

More stories from around Yorkshire

Paul McCormack, from the company, said these were issues he flagged up to the fire service during a routine inspection of the property.

He said there were also problems with the cavity wall and cladding of the building.

“We are doing absolutely everything that we can to support the residents, and are having multiple conversations with the fire brigade and the council,” he said.

The fire service said it was a “difficult decision” to make this close to Christmas, but that safety was a priority.

It comes after the fire service announced last month it was inspecting all buildings in South Yorkshire over six storeys.

It is part of a government risk review programme aimed at increasing the pace of high-rise residential inspection activity which came in after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

North Bank resident Ryan Spence said residents had knocks on their doors at about 19:30 GMT on Friday, telling them to leave.

“The building has failed every single fire regulation it turns out and every person from the sixth floor onwards to the 10th floor have been forced to leave tonight or face arrest,” he said.

The building is 10 storeys high and has 132 flats, 35 of which are on the upper section affected by the evacuation.

Mr McCormack said the upper floors can be reoccupied when a full evacuation alarm system is in place, which he hoped would be by the end of next week.

This is to alert residents to evacuate in the event of a fire, rather than adhere to the “stay put” policy currently in place.

Fire wardens would now patrol the lower floors until the alarm system was up and running.

A spokesman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Following a fire safety inspection on Friday 11 December at Wicker Riverside, North Bank in Sheffield, business fire safety inspectors have issued a prohibition notice on the building for a number of fire safety issues.

“Our fire inspectors will continue to work with the business owner to support them in resolving the issues, and to enable the notice to be lifted.”

Merlins beard! Harry Potter copy sells for £68k

A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has fetched a magical £68,000 at auction.

The issue was among 500 hardback copies printed in 1997, before JK Rowling’s fantasy saga soared to global success.

Another first edition, which nearly sold for 50p in a car boot sale, drew £50,000 in an online auction at Hansons Auctioneers in Staffordshire on Friday.

A library copy featuring date stamps sold for £19,000, while a fourth sold for £17,500.

The issues were among the first 500 hardback copies printed, of which 300 were sent to schools and libraries. At the time those copies were selling for £10.99.

Charlotte Rumsey initially put a copy found in her mother’s box of unwanted things in a 50p box for a car boot sale in July.

But after watching Antiques Roadshow, she asked her mother, from Blackpool, to check the copy with Hansons Auctioneers.

On finding out the book was a first edition, a “delighted” Ms Rumsey said she “couldn’t stop hopping about”.

The copy was one of the rarer 200 that went to shops and sold for £50,000.

The bride-to-be has previously said she plans to split the money between her wedding and her mother’s new home.

In October, another first edition sold for a hammer price of £60,000.

Newham stabbing: Murder arrest after boy dies

A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death in east London.

The teenager was found fatally injured in Woodman Street, near the Royal Docks in Newham, at 18:50 GMT on Friday.

He was treated by paramedics but was pronounced dead at the scene. His next of kin has been informed.

The Met said a 25-year-old man had been arrested at a property in Newham in the early hours of the morning. He remains in custody.

The force added that while an arrest had been made, “the investigation is still in its early stages”.

Lawrence Adu said he was a friend of the boy’s uncle and had known him “all his life”.

“I just got home, I’m so shocked,” Mr Adu, who is also the boy’s neighbour, said.

“He’s a nice young man, very handsome and always laughing.”

Det Supt Paul Whiteman described the death as “a tragic loss of a young life”.

“Local officers will step up patrols in the area in the coming days to reassure the public and continue to target violent crime,” he said.

Brexit: No-deal Navy threat irresponsible, says Tobias Ellwood

Deploying Royal Navy gunboats to protect UK fishing waters under a no-deal Brexit would be “undignified”, a former Conservative minister has said.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood described the threat as “irresponsible” after the Ministry of Defence said four ships were ready for “robust enforcement” when the transition period ends.

UK-EU trade talks are continuing ahead of a mutual deadline on Sunday.

The MoD said it was prepared for a “range of scenarios” after 31 December.

Navy vessels are already deployed to enforce UK and European fishing laws for large parts of the year.

A major sticking point in negotiations has been access to UK fishing waters, with the EU warning that without access to UK waters for its fleets, UK fishermen will no longer get special access to EU markets to sell their goods.

Mr Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that headlines highlighting the threat to deploy the Navy risked distracting from the ongoing talks and were “absolutely irresponsible”.

“This isn’t Elizabethan times anymore, this is global Britain – we need to be raising the bar much higher than this,” he said.

“Being ready for the worst-case scenario and using this final 48 hours to actually get a deal, they are two very different things,” he added.

He said the focus should be on what is “already in the bag” and that outstanding issues like access to fishing waters could be sorted once a trade deal is signed.

Former Tory party chairman Lord Patten accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being on a “runaway train of English exceptionalism”.

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government justice minister, said: “Gunboat diplomacy will not be welcome in Scottish waters.”

He added that Police Scotland and Marine Scotland have responsibility for protecting fisheries there, with the option to call in the Royal Navy as back-up.

But Admiral Lord West, a former chief of naval staff, defended the threat of using the Royal Navy to protect UK waters from foreign fishing vessels if asked to do so in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

“It is absolutely appropriate for the Navy to do as it is told by the government,” he said, adding that additional powers would allow Naval officers to deal with “stormy” altercations with foreign fishermen.

What happens next with Brexit?

The MoD has said it has conducted “extensive planning and preparation” to ensure it is ready for a range of scenarios at the end of the transition period, including having 14,000 personnel on standby to support the government over the winter with the EU transition.

It said four offshore patrol boats will be available to monitor UK waters and added that it would have “robust enforcement measures in place to protect the UK’s rights as an independent coastal state”.

An expansion of powers for the Royal Navy Police, enabling officers to potentially board foreign boats and arrest those breaking the law, is one proposal in the MoD’s no-deal contingency planning, a spokesman confirmed.

According to the MoD’s website, three River Class patrol ships with a crew of 45 sailors already work “at least 275 days a year at sea enforcing British and European fisheries law”.

The Sunday deadline was set by Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after the pair met in Brussels on Wednesday, after months of talks failed to achieve an agreement.

Mr Johnson said the EU needed to make a “big change” over the main sticking points on fishing rights and business competition rules, while Mrs von der Leyen said no deal was the most probable end to “difficult” talks.

The EU has rejected Mr Johnson’s request to bypass the European Commission and speak directly to French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel about the unresolved issues.

According to EU officials, he was told discussions could only take place through the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who is meeting with his UK equivalent in Brussels.

Speaking on Friday, the PM said a no-deal Brexit was now “very, very likely” and that planning for that outcome was ramping up.

Mrs von der Leyen told reporters that the two sides were still “apart on fundamental issues”.

Meanwhile, tests of a motorway barrier system designed to deal with potential traffic disruption in Kent once the transition period ends on New Year’s Eve have been carried out.

The EU has set out contingency measures to ensure UK and EU air and road connections still run after 31 December.

St Neots rallies to help after childrens house fire deaths

More than £15,000 has been raised in online appeals for a family whose two children died in a house fire.

A three-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl died at the scene of the blaze in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, on Thursday.

Their 35-year-old mother suffered life-changing injuries after jumping from a second-floor window, while her partner, a 46-year-old man, had minor injuries.

St Neots mayor Stephen Ferguson said it was the saddest day he could remember in the town.

“During times like this I think the whole community wants to come together and do something – it’s part of the grieving process,” he added.

“There are lots of generous acts going on, and the community support group has had lots of offers of food, clothes and money.”

About 40 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze at the home in Buttercup Avenue, Eynesbury.

An investigation concluded there were no suspicious circumstances and the most probable cause was an electrical fault in a first-floor bedroom, Cambridgeshire Police said.

They added that it was not linked to Christmas lights.

Mother-of-three Simona Bagnato Ogbeni, from Eynesbury, set up one of three fundraising pages. It has raised more than £7,000.

“Everyone is really sad, but has joined together to help this family.

“Money will never give them back what they have lost but it is a way to tell them they are not alone, we are here for you.

“People keep donating and I’m really so proud that we are part of this community – it is amazing what it has done and is doing.”

Speaking on Friday, chief fire officer Chris Strickland said crews “fought tirelessly” to get the fire under control and locate the children, who they had been told were still in the house.

“It’s one of the toughest incidents you can attend as a firefighter and we’re looking after the crews who were there,” he said.

“But all of our thoughts are very much with the family and the local community and we’ll be in the area over the coming days providing support to residents.”