News review of the year

Steve and Jan Roberts at Wigan Beer Festival
Steve and Jan Roberts at Wigan Beer Festival
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It's been a busy year in Wigan - here are some of the top stories from the Wigan Post and Wigan Observer over the last 12 months ...

JANUARY

A dazzling gold statue brightening the car park of Titan Flooring in Landgate

A dazzling gold statue brightening the car park of Titan Flooring in Landgate

1 A woman appeared in court accused of dumping her new-born son in a Wigan Infirmary toilet.
A cleaner found Orsolya-Anamaria Balogh’s baby boy with tissues stuffed in his mouth but, after being given oxygen, he made a full recovery.
The judge in the case of the Romanian 27-year-old took pity on her, accepting that at the time of the offence the balance of her mind had been disturbed by the effect of giving birth.
He spared her jail and later allowed her to be reunited with the youngster.

2 Graphic pictures of a Wigan teenager in an induced coma in hospital were posted on social media by her distressed mother to illustrate the dangers of ecstasy.
Leah Robinson, 16, collapsed after taking the recreational drug at a party.
The brave youngster later gave an exclusive interview to the Wigan Post admitting that “it was a big mistake that nearly killed me” and said she hoped that her brush with death served as a warning to others.

3 Warm tributes were paid to a brave and popular Wigan man who had long battled a rare illness that “turned him to stone.”
Adrian Berry was one of only about 1,000 people around the world to have the condition FOP which causes bone to form inside muscles, ligaments and tendons.
The Orrell 40-year-old had faced his huge adversities with great humour and stoicism and was given a great and loving send-off by family and friends.

FEBRUARY

George Sedgewick whose dad needs a life-saving operation

George Sedgewick whose dad needs a life-saving operation

1 A member of Wigan Council’s usually rock solid Labour cabinet was sacked by leader Lord Smith in a rift over the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
Coun Paul Kenny, the husband of Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, was sacked from the authority’s top table after meeting political opposition representatives and voicing concern over major homes and jobs plans.
Since then the framework has all up in the air again after newly elected Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham took charge and has different ideas about planning matters.

2 The early part of the year was a terribly sad time for two local families.
Firstly 14-year-old Louis Simpson was killed in a barn fire in Parbold.
An inquest has yet even to open into the tragedy.
Then just days later, 15-year-old Cameron Chadwick was fatally injured when his off-road motorbike crashed as he rode in through Norley.

3 Wigan police officer Cameron Hackett received a Greater Manchester Chief Constable’s commendation for helping to snare a serial paedophile.
The detective constable played a key role in the investigation which led to pervert Paul Hitchen’s being jailed for 29 years for a catalogue of sex crimes against girls and women.
He was praised for his “diligence and detective work following an initial single complaint of historical abuse” about the 35-year-old of Ormskirk Road, Newtown.

MARCH

Hacker with the stars of Jumanji

Hacker with the stars of Jumanji

1 Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, denounced and sometimes barred for alleged blasphemy when released in 1979, was given what was one of its first ever screenings in a religious building.
Leigh Parish Church and the town’s film society teamed up for the unusual and, some would say, still controversial venture.
Vicar Rev Kevin Crinks said that there had been great misunderstandings about the hit movie which, in fact, treats the real Jesus sympathetically while the humour revolves about an ordinary fellow being mistaken for the Messiah.
What the audience made of the four-letter words in the script was not recorded!

2 A dying patient at Wigan and Leigh Hospice spent half and hour in the company of Millie the marmoset, after family told the charity that he was a big monkey fan.
Millie sat on Ian Cadman just hours before he lost his battle with cancer.
In 2014 it was Wigan Infirmary which made the headlines when patient Sheila Marsh was visited by one of her beloved horses during her final hours.

3 Wigan Camra members raised their glasses to what was the 30th anniversary of their popular beer festival.
Thousands of real ale fans attended the three-day celebration at Robin Park.
One of the biggest differences between this year’s and the first event in 1987 was that there were now far more local breweries represented.

APRIL

1 A man who stabbed his wife to death the day after discovering she was having an affair was jailed for life for her murder.
Stuart Gallear had admitted to inflicting the fatal wounds but denied he intended to kill her.
But a Manchester Crown Court jury found him unanimously guilty of murder and the Hindley 51-year-old jailed for life and must serve a minimum of 17 years behind bars.

2 While many of Wigan’s projected major building projects have failed to materialise this year, one rather less expected and temporary installation certainly caused a stir.
It was the sudden erection of a 20ft golden statue outside Titan Flooring Specialists in Bryn.
The eye-catching edifice - some motorists complained it was too distracting! - had been made for the tour promoting the hit 2000 film Gladiator.

3 An elderly couple told of their terror after they were confronted by a weapon-wielding intruder and driven to a cash machine to withdraw money.
Ron and Margaret Roberts were threatened in their Lowton home before being bundled into their own car to take hundreds of pounds from their account.
A suspect for the crime was quickly identified by police as Andrew Evans and his picture issued. He went onto Facebook to protest his innocence. At the time of publication he remains at large.

MAY

1 Former Leigh MP and Health Secretary Andy Burnham made history by becoming Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor.
The odds-on favourite clinched more than half the county’s votes and immediately set about putting his manifesto pledges into action.
One of his key policies is to tackle homelessness and he headed to Wigan charity The Brick to launch his campaign.

2 Wigan residents were among the wounded as a massive terrorist bomb was detonated at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 and injuring hundreds.
Local teenager Lucy Jarvis was among the more serverly injured and is still receiving treatment months later.
Armed police could be seen on Wigan town centre’s streets in the days after the atrocity.
And the terror probe came to the streets of Swinley when armed police swooped on a man walking through Swinley and arrested him while the bomb squad examined a suspicious package.
A flat in nearby Springfield Street was later raided and forensically examined for days, while neighbours were evacuated.
Eventually the man was released without charge.

JUNE

1 Prime Minister Theresa May had called a surprise general election with the intention of enlarging her majority in preparation for the tough and complex Brexit negotiations, but the opposite happened.
There were no surprises in Wigan borough as Labour held on to all three of its main constituencies, although with Jo Platt’s replacing new Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, it meant that the area had three female MPs for the first time in its history.

2 It was announced in the Queen’s birthday honours that Trevor and Sheila Fairhurst, whose daughter Carly was killed in 2006 and who have campaigned for Victim Support and against domestic violence ever since, were to receive MBEs.
The news came just days after the Hindley couple learnt that the 19-year-old’s assailant Darrren Pilkington, who was released from prison the previous November, was back behind bars for breach of parole.

3 There was shock, distress and outrage after 18-year-old Winstanley College student Ellen Higginbottom was brutally murdered in Orrell Water Park.
Her body was discovered after concerned family raised concerns that she had not returned home from lectures.
Police later made several arrests on suspicion of murder and covering up a crime.

JULY

1 A baby captured the imagination of thousands after a photo of him was posted on social media of him wearing an outfit telling the world that he needs a new heart.
Mum Louise Sedgewick took the novel approach to raise awareness of partner Dave Hughes’s medical plight: transposition of the arteries, making little son George a Facebook star in the process.
Months later though, Dave is still awaiting his life-saving op.

2 Intrepid Chris Shaw from Pemberton announced his plans to swim the English Channel for charity.
A noble and tough challenge for anyone, but especially for someone at the time who couldn’t swim!
He is now taking lessons and hopes to accomplice the 21-mile grueller in September 2018.

3 Shocking figures revealed that Wigan’s hospitals had warded off more than 86,000 cyber attacks in little over two years.
Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust was one of many medical organisations hit by a giant ransomware attack in May from which it took several weeks to recover completely.
Computers at the borough’s hospitals were all down for 12 hours after the onslaught.

AUGUST

1 Wigan motorsport racing champ Jamie Hodson was killed in a high-speed crash while competing in Northern Ireland.
The son of bike legend Jim, he was just 35 when he was fatally injured in the first race of the Ulster Grand Prix.
There was later a huge turn-out for his funeral, which included an impressive motorcade of bikes escorting the hearse.

2 Councillors agreed to spend another £72,000 on trying to secure the former Wigan and Leigh College annexe after years of its being plagued by young intruders dicing with death, causing vandalism and lighting fires.
It brought the bill so far to £152,000 forked out on the Pagefield Building - a one-time cotton mill - to prevent tragedies, disruption to residents and nuisance to the fire brigade.
The current overseas owner of the building have so far failed to stump up the cash after the local authority passed on the security
bills.

3 Acclaimed thespian Sir Ian McKellen was the star attraction of the second Wigan Pride Festival as he returned to town where he was raised.
As well as meeting revellers in the town centre he also gave a one-man show at The Old Courts.
Organisers declared the event, celebrating sexual diversity, a huge success.

SEPTEMBER

1 Mark Buckley admitted killing student Ellen Higginbottom and was jailed for life.
A judge ordered that the 52-year-old spend at least 31 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole after what the judge called a “frankly chilling and savage” attack.
The court heard that Buckley had prowled Orrell Water Park for a victim for hours and that poor Ellen was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2 The public was given its first sneak peak inside the town’s new performance venue based at The Edge.
The 1,000-seater hall, which is part of Today’s Community Church at Wigan Pier, will be made available for public use.
Its opening ended a 30-year wait for a new Wigan performance venue.

3 An undercover trading standards investigation revealed that almost half of Wigan’s sunbed centres had been allowing children to top up their tans.
Ultra-violet beds are barred to under-18s because of the harm rays do to young skin, yet planted 15 and 16-year-olds were allowed to use them on many occasions in a council sting.
The authority pledged more undercover exercises and threatened to prosecute law flouters.

OCTOBER

1 Cash incentives of up to half a million pounds were put up by Wigan council to boost the retail scenes in Wigan, Leigh and Ashton town centres.
Loans of up to £10,000 and grants of up to £2,000 are on offer to companies to expand on the high street or invest in the towns for the first time.
All three centres have a substantial number of empty retail units.

2 Much of September and October were taken up with the trial of Becky and Gillian Reid, a Platt Bridge daughter and mother accused of murdering Becky’s lesbian partner Lyndsey Vaux.
Becky Reid subjected her 30-year-old victim to years of systematic abuse, starving her and forcing her to scavenge to such an extent that she resembled a concentration camp inmate when one final attack killed her.
The daughter was found guilty of murder and jailed for life; her mother was cleared but found guilty of assaulting another of Becky Reid’s ex-partners. Police described the case as one of “classic modern slavery.”

3 Diabetic schoolboy Taylor Banks is allergic to insulin.
So he became the first child in Britain to be fitted with a device which helps deliver the life-saving drug by bypassing the skin. The nine-year-old was only the second youngster in the world to undergo an operation fitting the gadget that takes the insulin directly into the abdomen.

NOVEMBER

1 The Wigan Post ran a poll on Facebook asking residents what they thought about the changes to the borough’s bin-emptying regime, six weeks after it was introduced.
More than 3,000 people gave voice to their opinions, the vast majority of them negative, saying that reducing collections of un-recyclables from two weeks to three was impractical and would cause serious hygiene and pest control issues.
The council has since announced plans to offer recycling lessons to those putting waste in the wrong bins - as an alternative to paying fines.

2 The council approved plans to spend £2m on having sprinkler systems installed in all of the borough’s high-rise flats.
The move came in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster which claimed dozens of Londoners’ lives because the block didn’t have sprinklers and its external cladding accelerated the blaze rather than contained it.
The authority said it wasn’t waiting for any Government cash to come through because it needed to be getting on with this potentially life-saving work “as soon as possible.”

3 Figures revealed that Wigan borough has more takeaways per head of population than almost anywhere else in the UK.
At the same time it was revealed that the borough is in the country’s top 10 as far as obesity problems are concerned, prompting some to make a connection between the two statistics.
At the last count there were no fewer than 439 fast food outlets in the area.

DECEMBER

1 The borough bade farewell to 13-year-old schoolboy Tyler Yates who lost a near lifelong battle with cancer.
Family and friends had raised more than £12,000 to send the youngster to America for pioneering treatment but it was never to be.
Later in the month he went on his final journey in a Star Wars-themed coffin.

2 Two Wigan children were orphaned and left with serious injuries after a horror crash in Haydock,
Mark and Karen Young, both 37 and from Ashton, were killed when their VW Golf was in collision with a Vauxhall Corsa.
Their 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter were badly hurt and a 29-year-old passenger in their car was also left in a critical condition.

3 Hollywood A-listers Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart were invited to Wigan by its most famous home-grown TV presenter CBBC canine host Hacker T Dog.
The trio were being interviewed by the pooch for their new Jumanji film which Black himself suggested should actually have been called Jumanji: Welcome to the Wigan before blasting out a few lines from Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle with the lyrics slightly modified.