Families bid for private sea search to find missing Conwy fishermen

Families of three fishermen missing off the Welsh coast have sought advice from an expert nicknamed “shipwreck hunter” in a bid to find their loved ones.

Ocean recovery expert David Mearns, who found wreckage of the plane carrying footballer Emilio Sala, is helping the families with “technical advice”.

Now they are trying to raise £75,000 to pay for a private search to find Ross Ballantine, 39, Alan Minard, 20, and skipper Carl McGrath, 34.

Their vessel was last seen in January.

The Nicola Faith crew failed to return to port at Conwy in north Wales after a fishing trip on 27 January.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) are investigating but now families want to enlist a private rescue team – like one led by Mr Mearns to find Mr Sala in 2019 – that specialises in deep water search and recovery operations.

Mr Mearns, who helped find the plane carrying football player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson in 2019 in the English Channel, said he thinks if the boat sank “within sight of land, it can definitely be found”.

“So far I’ve been providing the families with technical advice about how to search for the boat and the best way to raise the funding to pay for it,” said Mr Mearns.

“Hopefully the people of Conwy and the broader fishing community can help bring these men home to their families.”

A major two-day search to find the Nicola Faith – last seen off the coast at Rhos on Sea on the evening of 27 January – was called off after several coastguard vessels, lifeboats, sonar planes and helicopters searched several hundred square miles for the 10m (33ft) fishing vessel.

MAIB have also searched extensively but a month after they disappeared fishing for whelks in the Irish Sea, the men or the boat has not been found – and the families want to raise money for private help.

Lowri Taylor, sister of Mr Ballantin, said Mr Mearns had told them they needed to “act fast and get money raised before it’s potentially too late”.

“We need the money to get the expertise of deep sea searching specialists and utilise the best equipment,” she said.

“This can build on the great work already done by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch who as a government agency have limited time, resources and funding they can put into this search.

“We’ve spoken to officials at the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and they’re happy for us to do this.

“We don’t want to tread on their toes. We just need to make sure the biggest possible effort goes into finding what happened, and finding the men on board.”

An online fundraising page for the search raised more than £7,500 in 24 hours.

Nathania Minard, the mother of Alan Minard, set up the page because families had so many “unanswered questions” about what had happened and needed closure.

“Closure is critical to enable the families to move forward, remember the good times rather than worry about what happened on that fateful day,” she said.

“Three families are distraught and desperate for answers, but mostly just want their three men home”.

Three men stabbed in group attack at Glasgow football centre

Three men have been stabbed in an “unprovoked” group attack at a football centre in Glasgow.

The assaults happened in a car park at the Greenfield Football Centre in Duror Street, in the east end of the city, at about 20:20 on Saturday.

Police said the victims had been stabbed by a group of males in an unprovoked attack that “could have left them dead”.

Three men, two aged 21 and one aged 19, were taken to hospital.

Police are treating the incidents as two attempted murders and a serious assault.

All three men were taken to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary to be treated for serious stab wounds.

Officers have been carrying out extensive inquiries and are checking CCTV images.

Det Insp Stephen Greenshields said: “This has been an unprovoked attack on a group of young people which could have left them dead.

“The injuries inflicted were severe and extremely serious. It is unacceptable that people think they can behave in such a way and think they will get away with it. Let me assure you, they will not. A team of officers is working to establish the identities of the men responsible for this crime.

“I would appeal to members of the public who were in the area at the time who may have witnessed something to contact us. Any small piece of information could assist us as we piece everything together and find those responsible.”

Additional patrols will be in the area to provide reassurance to the local community and anyone with concerns can approach these officers.

Police are following a positive line of inquiry.

Paddington stabbing: Victim was cousin of murdered teen

A teenager stabbed to death in central London has been named as the cousin of another murder victim by police.

Police found Ahmed Beker, 19, bleeding from knife wounds on Paddington Green, Westminster, at 21.15 GMT on Friday.

Despite treatment, he was pronounced dead at the scene. No arrests have been made.

Police believed Mr Beker is the cousin of Yousef Beker – a 17-year-old boy killed in a fight on Edgware Road in September 2019.

A Section 60 order is in place granting police additional stop and search powers in the area until 14.00 on Sunday.

A post-mortem examination is due to take place at Westminster Mortuary on Sunday.

Police said Mr Beker lived in the area.

Selby crash widow says tired driving still a problem

A widow of one of the 10 people killed in the Selby train crash has said attitudes to tired driving have not changed 20 years on from the disaster.

Mary Dunn’s husband, Steve, a locomotive driver, died when a high-speed passenger train was derailed into the path of his oncoming freight train.

The crash was caused by Gary Hart’s Land Rover falling on to the track after he fell asleep at the wheel.

Mrs Dunn said accident rates where lack of rest was a factor had not changed.

Speaking at a virtual memorial event, Mrs Dunn said: “What I’m really sad about and I believe Steve would be too, is the attitude to tired driving.”

She added: “Steve and I were both advanced motorists. Ironic that he was killed by someone whose standard of driving fell well short of normal.

“I really hoped that would change as a result of Great Heck, but alas it hasn’t.”

Mrs Dunn said available statistics for the number of accidents where it is “assumed or presumed that lack of rest is a causative factor” show it has not changed in the last 20 years.

She added: “Unfortunately, it can’t be proved.”

Mr Dunn was one of four railway workers and six passengers who died when an InterCity passenger service and a fully-laden coal train collided at a combined closing speed of more than 140mph at Great Heck near Selby, North Yorkshire.

It happened after a GNER Newcastle to London passenger service struck the Land Rover, which had careered off the M62 motorway and crashed onto the track.

The derailed passenger train was then hit by the Freightliner train carrying 1,600 tonnes of coal coming the other way.

Driver Gary Hart, from Lincolnshire, could not move his vehicle off the tracks and was calling the emergency services when the crash happened.

Hart, who had had little sleep the night before, denied falling asleep at the wheel but was given a five-year jail sentence after being found guilty of 10 charges of causing death by dangerous driving.

Reflecting on the day of the tragedy Mrs Dunn said the couple’s two sons, Andrew and James, had been “robbed of their daddy”.

“We went to bed as a normal family that shrove Tuesday, but woke up to our world having been devastated.”

She added: “Twenty years ago this morning an individual wrecked and took the lives of many people that is what we’re remembering today.”

Online memorial events have been broadcast from Great Heck and Newcastle station with relatives of some of those who died laying wreaths.

More than 350 people affected by the crash and other well-wishers watched virtually as an LNER passenger service slowed and sounded its horn along with a Freightliner locomotive named in memory Steve Dunn.

David Horne, managing director at LNER, said the events of that day were “embedded in our memories” and the impact it had on the “railway family” was profound.

Also speaking at the memorial, Donald Heath, a former British Rail project director, recalled being on the passenger train that morning.

He said: “I’d like to thank all those who rallied round that day.

“I have to say how lucky I was.”

Dymchurch: Digger used in failed bid to steal cash machine

A shop front was left with “significant damage” in a failed attempt to rip out a cash machine with a digger, police say.

The Tesco Express in Dymchurch, Kent, remained close on Sunday after the attempted robbery at about 02:15 GMT.

Officers are trying to trace a silver 4×4 and a flatbed Ford Transit van that were also at the scene.

The digger was believed to have been stolen from Dymchurch Beach about 30 minutes earlier, Kent Police said.

Rare Disease Day: The family who lost three children

A mum who lost all three children to a disease which has affected only 110 people in the UK has welcomed plans to light up monuments on Rare Disease Day.

Toni and Stewart Mathieson discovered their five-week-old daughter Lucy had Niemann-Pick Type C (NP-C) in 2003.

Given six months to live, she defied the odds and lived until she was four, but the couple also lost babies Hannah and Samuel to the same disease.

Mrs Mathieson is hoping to help more people understand rare diseases.

NP-C is a rare inherited neurodegenerative disease that affects infants, children and adults. It is caused by an accumulation of lipids (fats) in the liver, brain and spleen.

Mrs Mathieson said: “Lucy was incredibly sunny and caring, always smiling.

“She had huge blue eyes and she would just capture your heart.

“I remember being upset a few times during her lifetime, you know, when certain things would happen and especially after losing her brother and sister, and she would be the one to come over and pat me on the back and comfort me. That’s my memory.

“She was a beautiful child.”

Mrs Mathieson went on to become chief executive of charity Niemann-Pick UK after it provided “amazing support” and “hope” to her and her husband when they needed it.

“My husband and I were absolutely shocked and devastated to learn that our first daughter Lucy was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick disease type C.

“I didn’t know a thing about rare diseases, neither of us did.

“We weren’t expecting that at all, we just thought we’d have a lovely baby. We’d been looking forward to having a child and it was devastating.”

Events are taking place around the world on Sunday to mark Rare Disease Day, including the lighting up of monuments close to the couple’s home town of Washington.

Sunderland landmarks including Penshaw Monument, the Northern Spire Bridge, Fulwell Mill, Hylton Castle and Seaburn Lighthouse will be lit in pink, green, blue and purple; the colours chosen to symbolise rare disease awareness.

Mrs Mathieson said: “I’m very pleased to see that our local areas are getting involved in Rare Disease Day. That means a lot to me personally having come from Sunderland.

“I got to spend time with both of [the babies] and that means a lot to me. They’re very precious in my memory and very precious to us.

“We do feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to become parents. Some people would think that’s rather strange I think considering we’ve lost them and what we’ve been through.

“But I remember them so well, they brought so much love into our lives and taught us so much, so I’m very grateful for that.”

The couple hope by raising awareness on Rare Disease Day 2021 more people will understand the effect it has on families.

Mrs Mathieson said: “I think the term rare disease puts people off from learning about it and they think, because it’s a rare disease, it’s not going to affect them.

“But the truth is, there’s over three hundred million people in the world living with a rare disease and so together we’re not rare at all.

“What I’d like to see out of Rare Disease Day is that many more people take notice and understand that we are not rare – as a single disease we might be rare, but collectively we’re not.

“The reason we want to raise awareness is so that people with rare diseases have life opportunities just like anyone else, so they can access social opportunities, the right healthcare, and to make sure that they can live as full a life as possible with the treatment they need.”

Brexit: Minister lacks authority to halt work at NI border posts

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons does not have the authority to halt work on new permanent border control posts (BCPs), according to Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard.

Mr Lyons said his action on Friday was responding to “practical difficulties” caused by the NI Protocol.

He added there was a risk NI “would not be able to cope” when grace periods end.

Mr Hazzard said the decision represented a “very foolish solo run”.

The protocol is part of the UK-EU Brexit deal which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods, thus removing the need for border checkpoints in Ireland.

However, additional checks and restrictions have been placed on Great Britain to NI trade, prompting opposition from unionists.

Grace periods, which mean the checks and controls have yet to be fully implemented, will end from April.

Existing temporary BCPs are continuing to operate.

Mr Hazzard, the MP for South Down, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme “the executive collectively have legal responsibility around the effective implementation of the agreement and the protocol”.

He said he understood the acting-DUP minister’s decision had not been raised at the executive’s meeting the previous day and ministers did not have “advance warning” before it was made public on Friday.

On Friday, Mr Lyons also said he had asked officials to stop recruiting BCP staff.

It is understood officials are seeking legal advice on whether or not they can follow the orders.

Previously, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots sought legal guidance about whether he could instruct officials not to operate the BCPs, but he was advised this would be unlawful.

In response to Mr Lyons’ action, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Justice Minister Naomi Long invoked a three-minister rule on Friday which called for an urgent meeting of the executive.

This has yet to take place.

On Sunday, Chris Hazzard said the DUP had “walked off the pitch” and need to “stop playing games”.

The situation is “deeply, deeply regrettable”, he added.

Probe into murder bid and assaults at Glasgow football pitch

Police are investigating an attempted murder and two serious assaults at a Glasgow football pitch.

Officers were called to Greenfield Football Centre in Duror Street, in the east end of the city, at about 20:20 on Saturday.

Three men, two aged 21 and one aged 19, were taken to hospital.

Police said inquiries were ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

Leigh-on-Sea: Teen dead in alley attack stabbed in heart

A teenager died from a single stab wound to the heart after being attacked in an alleyway near a pub, police said.

The 18-year-old was assaulted near the Peterboat on High Street, Leigh-on-Sea, and taken to hospital by two people at about 18:00 GMT on Friday.

He died shortly afterwards and Essex Police began a murder investigation.

The force said the attack was being treated as a targeted incident and two men arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm were in custody.

Det Ch Insp Stuart Truss said: “We are making good progress with our investigation and I would ask anyone considering taking matters into their own hands not to do so, but let us investigate so we can bring people to justice.”

Officers were given additional stop and search powers in the Old Leigh area overnight.

Ch Insps Chris Bradford said: “Any death, especially in such tragic circumstances, will understandably have an effect on the close-knit community and we are aware a vigil has been organised for the young man who died.

“While we understand people wish to pay their respects, we would ask them to please do so in private at home.”

Police said extra officers would remain in the area on Sunday and urged people to speak to them if they saw what happened or had video footage.

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