Tag Archives: BBC

New hope for disabled man’s cancer battle

The failure to offer a learning disabled young man cancer treatment has been described as a shocking example of health inequalities by charities.

Ian Shaw was sent home to die, but a doctor queried that decision after seeing his story on the BBC.

Ian, 35, who has since been given chemotherapy, is now doing well.


Brexit: EU leaders agree to move talks onto next stage

Breaking News image

EU leaders have agreed to move Brexit talks on to second phase, says European Council president Donald Tusk.

This mean talks can move on to the long-term relationship between the UK and EU, including trade and security.

The first issue to be discussed, as early as next week, will be the terms of a transition period after the UK leaves in March 2019.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned this process would be “significantly harder”.

Mr Tusk, president of the European Council, tweeted the news after a meeting of the other 27 EU leaders in Brussels.

He congratulated UK prime minister Theresa May on reaching what the BBC‘s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said was a major moment in the Brexit process.

Met Police to conduct urgent review after rape trial collapse

Met Police
Image caption The Met said it was carrying out an urgent assessment into the case

The Metropolitan Police is carrying out an “urgent assessment” after a rape prosecution collapsed due to its late disclosure of vital evidence.

The trial of Liam Allan, 22, was halted at Croydon Crown Court on Thursday, and the judge called for a review of how evidence was made available by the Met.

The judge also called for an inquiry at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the The Times reported.

Police are understood to have disclosed phone message evidence at a late stage.

It is understood police looked at thousands of phone messages when reviewing evidence in the case, but it was not until it was close to trial that Met officers disclosed messages between the complainant and her friends which cast doubt on the case against Mr Allan.

‘Villain to innocent’

The CPS said it offered no evidence in the case on Thursday as there was “no longer a realistic prospect of conviction”.

Mr Allan told the BBC he was “overwhelmed” at the moment, adding: “It’s a huge amount of confusion to go from being the villain to being innocent.”

A Met spokesman said: “We are aware of this case being dismissed from court and are carrying out an urgent assessment to establish the circumstances which led to this action being taken.”

A spokesman for the CPS said: “In November 2017, the police provided more material in the case of Liam Allan. Upon a review of that material, it was decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.

“We will now be conducting a management review together with the Metropolitan Police to examine the way in which this case was handled.”

BBC appoints Fran Unsworth as next head of news

Fran Unsworth

Fran Unsworth has been appointed the new BBC director of news and current affairs, replacing James Harding, who is leaving at the beginning of 2018.

Unsworth is currently director of the BBC World Service Group and deputy director of news and current affairs.

She started her BBC career in local radio, before moving to Newsbeat. She went on to become head of political programmes and then newsgathering.

After four years at the BBC, Harding is setting up his own news media venture.

BBC director general Tony Hall described the role as “one of the most demanding of any in broadcasting”, saying he was “delighted she is taking up the role”.

“She brings a combination of excellent news judgement, authority, management knowhow, and the trust of her colleagues both in news and across the BBC,” he added.

Image caption James Harding came to the BBC from The Times newspaper

Unsworth said she was “delighted”, adding: “We are living through a period of significant change at home and abroad. In a complex world, the BBC’s journalism matters more than ever.

“I am proud to lead a team of such dedicated and talented people.”

Unsworth, who will sit on the BBC’s executive committee, will take up the role at the start of the new year.

In the past year she has overseen the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s, adding 12 new global language services including Korean and Pidgin.

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Schools warned over hackable heating systems

Playground in snowImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Concerns have been raised that hackers could attack schools’ heating systems during a cold spell

Dozens of British schools’ heating systems have been found to be vulnerable to hackers, according to a probe by a security research firm.

Pen Test Partners says the problem was caused by the equipment’s controllers being connected to the wider internet, against the manufacturer’s guidelines.

It says it would be relatively easy for mischief-makers to switch off the heaters from afar.

But an easy fix, pulling out the network cables, can address the threat.

Even so, the company suggests the discovery highlights that building management systems are often installed by electricians and engineers that need to know more about cyber-security.

“It would be really easy for someone with basic computer skills to have switched off a school’s heating system – it’s a matter of clicks and some simple typing,” Pen Test’s founder Ken Munro told the BBC.

“It’s a reflection of the current state of internet-of-things security.

“Installers need to up their game, but manufacturers must also do more to make their systems foolproof so they can’t be set up this way.”

Image copyright Pen Test Partners
Image caption Trend Control Systems tells customers not to connect its controllers directly to the public internet

The cyber-security company made its discovery by looking for building management system controllers made by Trend Control Systems via the internet of things (IoT) search tool Shodan.

It knew that a model, released in 2003, could be compromised when exposed directly to the net, even if it was running the latest firmware.

Mr Munro said it had taken him less than 10 seconds to find more than 1,000 examples.

In addition to the schools, he said he had seen cases involving retailers, government offices, businesses and military bases.

Pen Test blogged about its findings earlier in the week, but the BBC delayed reporting the issue until it had contacted and alerted all of the schools that could be identified by name.

West Sussex-based Trend Control Systems advises its customers to use skilled IT workers to avoid the problem.

But it responded to criticism that it could have done more to check its kit had been properly installed after the fact.

“Trend takes cyber-security seriously and regularly communicates with customers to make devices and connections as secure as possible,” said spokesman Trent Perrotto.

“This includes the importance of configuring systems behind a firewall or virtual private network, and ensuring systems have the latest firmware and other security updates to mitigate the risk of unauthorised access.”

He added, however, that the company would “assess and test the effectiveness” of its current practices.

One independent security researcher played down the threat to those still exposed, but added that the case raised issues that should be addressed.

“The risk is limited because criminals have little incentive to carry out such attacks, and even if they did it should be possible for building managers to notice what is happening and manually override,” said Dr Steven Murdoch, from University College London.

“However, these problems do show the potential for far more dangerous scenarios in the future, as more devices get connected to the internet, whose failure might be harder to recover from.

“And we still need manufacturers to design secure equipment, because even if a device is not directly connected to the internet, there almost certainly is an indirect way in.”

Dick Whittington panto jokes ‘too smutty’ for children

Panto posterImage copyright Manchester Opera House
Image caption The theatre said there was no intention to offend

A mum has called for a “lewd and offensive” pantomime starring the Krankies and former Doctor Who star John Barrowman to be axed.

Natalie Wood has made an official complaint about Dick Whittington at Manchester Opera House, saying it was “too smutty” for children.

During the show, she said, Barrowman fondled co-star Janette Krankie’s breasts, and also invited audience members to chant “Alice loves Dick”.

The venue said no offence was intended.

‘Finger through flies’

Ms Wood, who attended the show with 10 family members – including six children aged three to 12 – told the BBC the show crossed the line from innuendo to “raw” vulgarity.

Among the moments she took issue with was one where Wee Jimmy Krankie, played by Janette Krankie, poked her finger out of her trousers, emulating a penis.

“The main issue for us was the actual fondling of Jimmy Krankie’s breasts and all the different cheap smutty jokes,” she said.

“Normally we share the jokes from the show afterwards – these kind of jokes you would have to discourage the children from repeating and or acting out,” she said.

In her letter, she said her children had copied some of the jokes in the show.

“My children were repeating Alice loves Dick and sticking their fingers out of their trousers for a pretend penis throughout the evening.

“This is not acceptable and my children required far too much explaining about adult humour for a family show.”

Image caption Natalie Wood said the panto crossed the boundaries of humour
Image copyright Natalie Wood
Image caption Natalie Wood went to the show with 10 family members

Promoters Qdos Entertainment said: “In-keeping with the tradition of pantomime, the script does make use of double entendre and part of that is a play on the names of the characters.

“None of the humour within the show is intended to cause offence of any kind.”

Pantomime authority Roy Hudd, who has starred, written or directed in more than 50 festive productions, said there was a place for innuendo but they “should be aimed at the children”.

“You cannot do rude jokes, my yardstick for writing gags is Laurel and Hardy or Dad’s Army who made adults and children laugh,” he said.

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The Krankies – husband and wife team Ian and Janette Tough – made their name as children’s TV stars in the 80s on BBC TV‘s Crackerjack.

Now semi-retired, the pair still appear in pantomimes, and have previously joined Barrowman, who came to fame in Doctor Who as Captain Jack Harkness and spin-off series Torchwood, on stage.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John Barrowman’s show was said to be in keeping with the panto tradition by the theatre

The baby in the box

Robin King as a young boy (left) and today (right)

Robin was 13 when he found out he was adopted. Later he was told he had been abandoned – left in a box on London’s Oxford Street. Now 74, he has spent most of his life wondering who left him and why. But thanks to DNA, and the dogged detective work of one of his daughters, he finally has some answers.

When Robin King discovered he was adopted he ran away from home. He had been snooping around his parents’ bedroom when he came across his adoption papers in a holdall.

He fled to a friend’s house and the pair then cycled from London to Southend where they slept in a tent until they were picked up by the police a few days later.

“My friend’s mum had to pay for us to come back on the train,” Robin recalls.

At home, no-one ever mentioned the subject of his adoption.

“I was afraid of raising it as I didn’t want any confrontation. I think it affected me deep down,” he says.

Image copyright Robin King
Image caption Robin was adopted by Fred and Elsie King when he was four-and-a-half

Robin had been adopted by Fred and Elsie King and grew up in a poor part of Woolwich, in south London. It was just after the end of World War Two and his earliest memories are of playing on bomb sites and his mother cleaning for the “rich people in Charlton”.

He finished school with few qualifications and in his own words, “went off the rails for a while”. But in his 20s he got married, had two daughters and moved to Peterborough, where he worked as a town planner, and later as an architect.

“I would never have got to where I did today without my family. I really love my two girls, they were the only people with a biological connection to me,” he says.

Image copyright Robin King
Image caption Robin with his daughters, Lorraine and Michaela

A few years later Robin applied for a passport for work and was called by an official from the passport office. He had startling news.

“I was asked my age. Then the man said: ‘I don’t think it will bother you too much to learn that you were abandoned at the Peter Robinson store in London.'”

This was how Robin discovered that he was a foundling – and why his first name was Robin and his second was Peter.

Many years passed before Robin next made serious efforts to discover more about his past. In 1996, already in his 50s, he went with his daughter Michaela to the London Metropolitan Archive to look at his full adoption record.

He learned he had been found outside the Oxford Circus department store on 20 October, 1943. It was a dangerous time to be in London. Although the Blitz had finished, there were still intermittent attacks by the Luftwaffe. Just 10 days earlier 30 tons of bombs had been dropped on the capital.

His file said he had been adopted by the Kings when he was four-and-a-half years old and that they had thanked the authorities for giving them such as “good little boy”.

However, there were no clues as to why he’d been left. “Efforts to trace any relative of child have not been successful,” one document stated.

Robin’s daughter Lorraine decided to continue the search. Over the next 20 years she wrote to every TV show she could think of that reunited families or solved mysteries. Each time the reply was the same – without the names of the birth parents there was nothing to go on.

Lorraine then found a library archivist who searched through reams of microfilm looking for any mention of a foundling in old newspapers. She wrote to the Arcadia Group, which took over the Peter Robinson store, in case there was any mention in their archives.

“I used to have moments of inspiration when I thought, ‘I know I’ll write to so-and-so,'” Lorraine says.

Then last year she watched an episode of The One Show on BBC One featuring a people-tracing expert called Cat Whiteaway.

“I contacted Cat explaining my dad’s situation. A few weeks later she told me she had met someone she thought could help – a DNA detective called Julia Bell.”

Julia had managed to track down her own American GI grandfather using DNA and genealogical research. She had then started helping other people look for their relatives in her spare time

“My mother had been left with so many questions and this answered some of them and gave her a great sense of peace,” Julia says.

“I believe everyone deserves to know who they really are.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Robin submitted three saliva tests to DNA databases

Julia took on Robin’s case and sent off saliva tests to three consumer DNA databases – Ancestry, 23andme and Family Tree DNA.

“We had lots of theories when we started. Lots of people told me I looked American and we thought maybe I was a GI baby, but they weren’t over here in 1943,” Robin says.

Soon there was exciting news – the 23andme results had provided a DNA match.

“She was called Maria in New York. I thought, ‘Well that’s it we’ve done it!'” Lorraine says.

But it wasn’t so simple. The test showed Maria and Robin shared about 1% of their DNA, making them either second or third cousins.

“We contacted Maria and she agreed to collaborate to create a full family tree going back several generations to her 16 great-great-grandparents,” Julia says.

“Our goal was then to bring each of these lines down to recent times to try and find a likely parent for Robin.”

To give some idea of the scale of the task, if each of the great-great-grandparents and their descendants had just two children, there would be 224 people who could be one of Robin’s parents.

“We had no idea who would be the shared ancestor on the family tree. It’s like the children’s puzzle when you have to work out which is the right path that leads to the pot of gold,” Lorraine says.

Image copyright Phil Coomes
Image caption Robin and Lorraine discuss the family tree

Working as a team, Julia and Lorraine used censuses, birth and marriage indexes and wills to reconstruct the family tree.

Results from Ancestry suggested Robin had a strong Scottish/Irish connection, which helped. When they felt they might be getting close, they would look to see whether a descendant could have been in the right place at the right time.

“I was working on it every night like someone possessed. Every time I had a breakthrough I’d get excited and it spurred me on,” Lorraine says.

After a year of trial and error, and a number of dead ends, they tracked down a woman called Agnes, who had been born in Scotland and died in Canada.

“I had a strong hunch that this could be my dad’s mother,” Lorraine says.

She found a phone number for Agnes’s son Grant, and rang one Saturday afternoon.

“I explained I was researching my dad’s family tree and all the details. It went a bit quiet,” Lorraine says.

“He said, ‘That’s really strange because when my mum got Alzheimer’s she started talking as if she’d had another baby and would talk to me like I was that baby.'”

Grant agreed to take a DNA test, which Julia sent out to Canada. Lorraine suspected he would be a half-sibling, proving Agnes had had a wartime affair.

However, the results showed Grant was actually Robin’s full brother, meaning they shared both parents.

“I cried when Julia told me. I just couldn’t believe it,” Lorraine says.

Image copyright Grant Jones
Image caption Douglas and Agnes Jones – Robin’s biological parents

Grant explained that Robin’s parents were Douglas and Agnes Jones. Douglas was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and had met and married Agnes in Glasgow. The couple moved to Canada after the war ended and Douglas qualified as a psychologist. They had three more children – Karen, born 14 years after Robin, then Grant and another daughter, Peggy.

Lorraine drove over to Robin’s house to tell him the news face-to-face.

“He was a bit upset and went out the room. Then he came back and we went through it all,” Lorraine says.

Robin was surprised to discover that his parents had married in December 1942 – before he was conceived.

“If they didn’t want me, why didn’t they give me up for adoption?” he asks.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Oxford Street during the Blitz – London continued to endure sporadic attacks throughout the war

Sadly Robin can’t get them to explain it to him. Douglas Jones died in 1975 and Agnes passed away in 2014.

“I feel like it was an opportunity lost. I would have gone over to meet her if I could,” Robin says.

“I can see how Agnes and Douglas couldn’t see a way of coping with war and a baby so early in their marriage.

“But I can’t understand how you could leave a baby in central London, which was such a dangerous place at the time.”

Robin’s oldest sister, Karen, visited from Canada a few months ago. She told him that their parents had mentioned an earlier baby but said it had been stillborn.

However, around this time, Lorraine also found Agnes’s half-brother, Brian, who lives in Scotland, and he had heard a different story – that Agnes had had a baby and given it up for adoption to an Air Force couple who were unable to have children.

Though legal adoption had been possible since 1926 it remained common in the 1940s for one couple to simply agree to hand their child over to another. In September 1945, the Evening Despatch newspaper quoted a medical officer who said: “More than once children have been handed from parent to adopting parent following a casual meeting in a queue or in an employment exchange.”

Image caption Robin with his sister Karen, during their first meeting

Julia Bell believes Robin could have been abandoned after such a handover went wrong. It’s a scenario she has come across a number of times in her detective work.

“Imagine you’ve steeled yourself and no-one shows at the meeting place. You’re not going to go back with the baby – it’s going to have to be left,” she says.

Lorraine says this would help explain some puzzling aspects of the story.

“Apparently my grandma was a lovely lady, a homely mum and really nice,” she says, “which makes it hard to understand why she would do something like leave a baby.”

Then there is a birth certificate, which reveals Robin was born on 10 October at a maternity unit in Winchester.

If Agnes had been planning to break the law by leaving her baby on the street, Lorraine thinks she would most likely have given birth at home, to prevent the birth being officially recorded.

But other details remain perplexing. One is that the couple registered the baby’s birth two weeks after abandoning him – and provided details such as his father’s service number.

“I would have thought they’d put as little information as possible,” Lorraine says.

They also gave him family names – Brian after Agnes’s half-brother and Douglas after his father.

Image caption Robin and Lorraine with Cat Whiteaway (left) and Vanessa Feltz after the Jeremy Vine Show

Robin and Lorraine had finally found their family, but they were still desperate to find someone who could tell them about the day he was left.

They made an appeal on BBC’s Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2.

“We thought someone might have had a family story of finding a baby in London during the war,” Lorraine says.

“It got our search out to more people but sadly it didn’t lead to anything.”

However, the BBC was able to fill in another piece of the jigsaw. It turns out 200 Oxford Street, which was part of Peter Robinson’s department store, had been taken over by the BBC’s Overseas Service in 1941. Staff, including the writer George Orwell, made regular radio broadcasts from the building during the war.

Image caption Pictured in 1949, 200 Oxford Street was the home of the BBC’s Overseas Service during WW2 – it’s now a branch of Urban Outfitters

Trevor Hill, 92, was a junior programme engineer there at the time. And when asked if he remembered a baby being abandoned there during the war, remarkably he did – a baby wrapped in a blanket left in a box close to the front entrance.

“I worked at 200 Oxford Street and I do remember the baby in the box,” he says.

“I did Home Guard duty for the BBC so when I saw the box I was slightly worried.

“We weren’t allowed to leave deliveries or anything lying around because of security.”

Image caption Trevor Hill became a BBC announcer after working as a studio manager during World War Two

A couple of security guards went to check it – and discovered Robin inside.

“I imagine the baby was taken inside to the staff canteen where there was milk, although I doubt we had any bottles,” Trevor says.

“We thought that the child’s home might have been bombed and the mother had left it in desperation. It was typical of war time.”

Recently, Robin and Trevor met near the spot where their paths had crossed nearly 74 years before. This end of the former Peter Robinson store is now a branch of Urban Outfitters.

“It’s been a terrific experience to find someone who saw me at that time of life,” Robin says.

The two men plan on exchanging Christmas cards this year.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWatch: Robin meets Trevor. Courtesy of BBC Points West

A few weeks ago Lorraine received another tantalising piece of information from Canada – a copy of Robin’s father’s war record.

It revealed that in October 1943 Douglas, a corporal, was an instructor at No 7 Radio School in South Kensington. It’s probable he was staying in digs nearby at the time while Agnes was living near Andover.

Douglas was on leave for the week before Robin’s birth on 10 October and for four days following it. However, his file indicates he was back at work when Robin was found abandoned on Wednesday 20 October.

He was almost certainly present when the now abandoned Robin was registered as Brian Jones. He was on leave from 5 to 7 November. Baby Brian was registered on 6 November.

Image caption Douglas’s war leave record shows he was off on the day Robin was registered as Brian Jones

Lorraine and Robin know they are running out of new avenues to follow. They are waiting for a second adoption file to be opened but Robin doesn’t think it will reveal the secret of why he was left.

They think Julia Bell’s theory that an informal adoption went wrong may well be correct. However, they don’t rule out the possibility that Douglas deliberately left the baby at the BBC, while telling friends and family the baby had been adopted. It’s hard to be sure.

But Lorraine and Robin have at least found some answers.

“It means a lot to find out what my dad’s real name would have been and when he was actually born,” Lorraine says.

It turns out that Robin has been celebrating his birthday four days too early, on 6 October. That’s the date officials estimated he was born, when he was found in 1943. In fact, his birth certificate reveals, he was born on 10 October.

Image copyright Phil Coomes
Image caption The search has strengthened the bond between Robin and his daughters

Robin hasn’t decided yet which birthday to use in future, but he has no plans to change his name to Brian Douglas Jones.

As regards his nationality, he is getting used to the idea that he is not English, as he always assumed, but half-Scottish and half-Canadian.

“I am happy we went down this route,” he says.

“It’s astounding to see what Lorraine did through trial and error. But there are certain things I will never know about my past.”

Family pictures courtesy of Robin King and Lorraine Ball

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Chris Froome: Team Sky rider says legacy will not be tainted by ‘adverse’ drugs test

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome tells the BBC his legacy will not be tainted after returning an “adverse” drugs test at the Vuelta a Espana.

READ MORE: Questions for Froome after adverse test

LISTEN: ‘The ambiguity in this is huge’ – special BeSpoke podcast

Liver surgeon Simon Bramhall marked initials on patients

Simon Bramhall
Image caption Simon Bramhall worked at Birmingham‘s Queen Elizabeth Hospital

A surgeon who marked his initials on the livers of two transplant patients has admitted assault by beating.

Simon Bramhall, 53, committed the offences at Birmingham‘s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in February and August 2013.

The liver, spleen and pancreas surgeon was suspended later that year.

He pleaded guilty to two charges at Birmingham Crown Court and will be sentenced at the same court on 12 January.

He denied the more serious charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm – a plea which was accepted by prosecutors.

Tony Badenoch QC said the case was “without legal precedent in criminal law”.

Bramhall, who came to attention in 2010 when he transplanted a liver saved from a burning aircraft into a patient, was suspended when the branding was discovered by another surgeon.

Liver surgeons use an argon beam to stop livers bleeding, but can also use it to burn the surface of the liver to sketch out the area of an operation.

It is not believed to have been harmful to the liver and the marks normally disappear.

In one case it appears the organ was already damaged and as a result did not heal itself in the normal manner, allowing the marks to be seen.

Bramhall resigned after a disciplinary hearing with University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust in May 2014.

Speaking to the BBC after his suspension he admitted he had made “a mistake”.

Moeen Ali: ‘Cricket changed my life’

England all-rounder Moeen Ali visits his hometown in Sparkhill, Birmingham to reflect on his younger days and how street cricket helped him tackle his confidence.

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