A lot happened back inside the Durham bubble over Christmas
- After a six-day trial that reached the attention of the national press, it was announced on Tuesday that Louis Richardson, the former secretary of Durham University’s Union Society, has been acquitted of rape and sexual assault. The 21 year-old from Jersey was cleared of four charges related to two students by a jury at Durham Crown Court. The now defunct rape allegation, brought forward by a complainant who cannot be named, was said to have taken place at Richardson’s accommodation on Church Street on 20th-21st March 2014 after a night out in Klute. It took the jury less than three hours to reach their verdict. A statement from Richardson’s family said: “It has been 15 months of absolute hell for the whole family. We are relieved that justice has been done and would like to thank the jury.”
- A team of Durham University scientists announced this week that the world’s largest canyon system probably lies under an ice sheet in East Antarctica. Using radio-echo sounding data and satellite imagery, it has been suggested that the previously undiscovered system in Princess Elizabeth Land (PEL) could be over 1,000km long and, in places, 1km deep. These facts, if confirmed by direct measurements later this year, would make the canyon, albeit similar in depth, twice as long as the USA’s Grand Canyon. Lead researcher, Dr Stewart Jamieson, of Durham University’s Department of Geography, said: “Our analysis provides the first evidence that a huge canyon and a possible lake are present beneath the ice in Princess Elizabeth Land. It’s astonishing to think that such large features could have avoided detection for so long.”
- Police have confirmed that a possible sighting of Samantha Lewthwaite, aka the ‘white widow’, was a false alarm. The terrorist suspect was alleged to have checked in on Boxing Day at a hotel owned by Duncan Bannatyne, of Dragon’s Den fame, in nearby Darlington, County Durham. The former wife of 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsey is on a list of high profile targets being hunted by Interpol after she was linked to a series of attacks in Africa.
- Last month, Mark Gatiss, famed for his roles in the BBC’s Sherlock and Doctor Who, officially revealed a memorial at Darlington Police Station dedicated to fallen officers. Joined by friends, family and colleagues of those who died whilst protecting the North East, he remembered his brother-in-law, Detective Sergeant Dave Storey, who suffered a stroke one week after retiring from Darlington CID. The actor, after unveiling the sandstone memorial on the first floor of Darlington Police Station, said: “It’s a very sad occasion and everyone here has their own special memory of a loved one who is sadly no longer with us.”
- In December, Durham Constabulary announced that the force would receive £85.8 million in Government funding for 2016/17, a £0.4m reduction for the year. Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg, warning of the implications of the news, said: “Whilst this is better than expected it still means that we will see fewer officers and staff than we currently have.” Chief Constable Mike Barton added, “We have been planning for the worst and hoping for the best. This gives us a platform to build upon which I think is good news for the public and bad news for the criminals.”
- A BBC Freedom of Information Act has revealed that Bill Clinton “loves Durham cathedral”. In a rather informal conversation with former Prime Minister and Labour leader Tony Blair, the past American President told Mr Blair that he visited the world heritage site with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, during a combined trip to the cities of Durham and York. Mrs Clinton is currently favourite to win the Democrat Party’s nomination for the 2016 Presidential election.