Flintshire review of the year

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

From the tragic deaths of a wealthy couple in their luxury home to the hijack of a lorry carrying £2million worth of football kits, there was plenty to keep us talking in 2010. Reporter Andrew Boyd looks back at the people and events which made the news an eventful year.

January
- 2010 began as it would end, with wintry weather the main talking point on everyone’s lips.

Schools were closed, traffic chaos was reported as road grit supplies ran low, cars were abandoned, villages found themselves cut off and businesses complained of poor trading figures as frozen Flintshire endured its worst weather for 30 years.

The snow directly took its toll on residents of the area, as they tried to navigate their way through the conditions.

One of them, a woman in her 50s, was airlifted to safety by a police helicopter after she slipped and fell while out walking in the snow in Llanferres, near Mold, on New Year’s Day.

- Mystery surrounded the deaths of wealthy couple Paul and Jean Laithwaite after their bodies were found at their home on Deeside Lane, Sealand.

The tragedy rocked the tight-knit community where they were well-known and respected.

Their three sons, Marcus, Quentin and Jeremy, described the couple as “devoted” parents.

An inquest later revealed Mrs Laithwaite had shot her husband before taking her own life.

- There was criticism of a decision to rename a prominent Flintshire hotel.

Janet Ryder, AM for North Wales, was infuriated by the name change of the Gateway to Wales Hotel in Garden City to Days Hotel.

February
- Tragedy once more beset the region.

Teenager Danny Evans, of Connah’s Quay, died in a road traffic collision on Sealand Road on February 15.

The funeral for the Welsh champion high jumper was attended by scores of mourners at St Mark’s Church.

Danny was a rear seat passenger in a black Renault Clio which flipped over outside Yew Tree Farm.

Less than a week later, fellow Connah’s Quay resident Carl Sutton, 26, was killed on the same stretch, and calls were made for safety improvements on the road.

Following football-loving Carl’s death, his family raised almost £1,400 and used it to support poorly children in the area.

- In other news, a lorry carrying England football kits worth £2 million was hijacked in Deeside.

Police launched investigations into the incident, which saw three armed men wearing balaclavas hold up the HGV on Deeside Industrial Estate as it headed for the Umbro factory.

- Fears were growing for jobs at one of Flintshire’s biggest factories as crisis talks were held.

Five hundred workers at the Toyota plant on Deeside Industrial Estate were bracing themselves for compulsory redundancies after the Japanese firm announced there was a “surplus” of hundreds of posts across the UK.

March
- It was feared teachers in Flintshire could face the axe, as union officials said 12 high schools were in danger of being forced to make teaching staff redundant.

The news came after it emerged Flintshire high schools were overpaid £1 million in a budget error.

- During the same month, two young men from Flintshire were found guilty of smuggling £80,000 of cocaine into Jersey.

David Rhys Hamilton and Dayle David Owens, both 19, were convicted after a two-day trial at the island’s Royal Court.

- Closer to home, overnight roadworks on a dual carriageway were causing plenty of problems for residents.

Members of Aston Road, Queensferry, complained they were not sleeping while the resurfacing work was carried out through the night.

Complaints were aired of heavy drilling, grinding and wagons blasting their horns.

- A mother voiced her disgust after her young son’s prized possession was stolen.
Helen Morris, of Connah’s Quay, said she was absolutely livid following the theft of six-year-old Dylan’s beloved motorised buggy.

Dylan suffered brain damage in a horrific crash which killed his father, Carl, in 2005.

Helen, 36, said she was livid that someone could steal from a disabled child.

- The month also brought sad news when Airbus UK Broughton employee Stuart Davies, 45, was killed in a road accident near Chirk along with Hefin Jones from Cardigan.

April
- The volcanic ash crisis left airlines at a standstill, with dozens of the region’s residents unable to return home.

Sisters Linda Morris, Pauline German and Sheila Roberts, all from the Flintshire and Chester areas, were marooned on holiday in the Caribbean.

The delay meant their mother Margaret Keep’s funeral had to be postponed.

Linda said: “We have no idea what’s going on and we are desperate to get home.”

- There were no problems using her desired method of transport for speed-loving Elizabeth Williams as she defied her advancing years to prove she could handle daring speeds.

To mark her 100th birthday, Elizabeth was driven at speeds of 132mph around the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire, in a Palmer Jaguar Le-Mans-style sports car.

Elizabeth had a long love of motorsport thanks to her late husband, Alfred, who was a keen motorcyclist.

- The month brought drama as two former RAF comrades were reunited after 57 years.

Max Lomax, 75, of Connah’s Quay, visited Frank Hards in Somerset and helped save his old friend after Frank collapsed.

He kept Frank stable until ambulance crews arrived. Frank spent a week in hospital.

- Controversial plans to create a permanent gipsy camp at Dollar Park, Bagillt, were thrown out for a second time.

The latest plans saw permission sought for a change of use of the land to a residential caravan site for six families, each with two caravans and six amenity buildings.

A public inquiry would begin later in the year into the latest rejection.

May
- The General Election dominated the headlines in early May.

Flintshire stayed red as Labour MPs David Hanson (Delyn) and Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) retained their seats in the House of Commons, on a night that saw their party’s 13-year reign in Parliament come to a close.

In the days that followed agreement would be reached between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats as a coalition government was formed, headed by new Prime Minister David Cameron.

- A young man died after being attacked on a night out in Buckley.
Peter Jones, 24, suffered fatal head injuries in an incident which saw his father, Peter Jones Snr, also injured.

Members of the family have since called for law reform, following the three year, four month prison sentence handed to Peter’s killer, Gafyn Denman.

- There was further sad news as a boxing club fell silent in memory of a popular youngster.

Buckley Boxing Club member Jordan Evans, 11, died in late April in a crash on the A55 that left his three-year-old sister Lily May fighting for her life and his mum, Karen, seriously injured.

A pupil at St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School, Jordan was fondly remembered for his “bubbly personality and cheeky smile” by headteacher Derek Doran.

- There was happier news for Fusilier Danny Hughes, who enjoyed a particularly special meeting.

Fusilier Hughes, from Buckley, expressed his delight as he saw his Christmas Day baby Alfie for the first time as he returned from Afghanistan with the rest of his battalion.

June
- A murder probe was launched after Christopher Garwell, of Connah’s Quay, died following a gang attack in Chester.

Mr Garwell, 23, died in hospital following the night-time incident on the City Walls.

Later in the year, Kieran Cunnah, 18, and Jordan Andrews, 17, both of Blacon, were found guilty of manslaughter at Chester Crown Court.

- The region paid tribute to a soldier who died while on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl Alan Cochran, 23, from Pentre Halkyn, died in the Helmand on June 4 while serving with the 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

Later in the month the village church of St Mary’s was packed for his funeral, as his short life was celebrated.

- A chemical spill caused drama at a Flintshire factory, with 14 people needing medical attention.

Three employees were hospitalised after being overcome by chlorine fumes during the incident at Brookfield Foods on Deeside Industrial Estate.

- There was shock after a mineshaft collapsed near a school.

The former lead mine on land at Halkyn Mountain, Rhesycae, opened up and caused a 30ft wide and 15ft deep hole close to Rhesycae Primary School.

- Forty children had a remarkable escape when a school bus crashed into a railway bridge over a main road.

The drama in Cefn-y-Bedd involved a double-decker bus carrying schoolchildren on their way home to the Wirral after a school trip.

The review of the second half of the year will be available in tomorrow's Leader.

See full story in the Leader

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