nti

Bomb found at Tesco

HUNDREDS of shoppers were forced to evacuate a Tesco store after a device believed to be a bomb was found strapped underneath a car close to a store which sits a few miles from the headquarters of the SAS.

Police were called to the superstore on Belmont Road, in Hereford, shortly before midday yesterday to reports of a suspicious package inside the car parked close to the store’s petrol station.

Upon arrival, they immediately evacuated the store, sending hundreds of concerned shoppers spilling onto the streets.

A Bomb disposal squad was dispatched to the scene, and yesterday afternoon a robot could be seen working underneath the white van and carrying out controlled explosions.

Frightened local, farmer Fred Lewis, 55, said: “I was about to go in to go shopping and everybody was piling out. I thought it was a bit busy for this time of day but it was just everybody evacuating. Nobody knew what was going on, it was pretty scary.”

Independent councillor, and concerned resident, Glenda Powell, of the Belmont ward, added: “The store and car park have been cordoned off because there’s a bomb scare, a package has been found. Army bomb disposal are there at the moment.

“It’s very scary, the police told me they couldn’t tell me anything about it. There’s a petrol station that could go up and loads of houses around the area, I was going to walk past that area later, I won’t be doing that now.

“I’ve lived in this area for 36-years and I’ve never heard of anything like this happening. I’m shocked. You don’t expect that kind of thing to happen around here.”

Her colleague, and fellow independent councillor, Phillip Edwards added: “There are three housing estates in that area, the Tesco is on one of those so there’s 10,000 people in that area. It’s very concerning.”

The store sits just seven miles from the SAS headquarters at Credenhill.

A spokesperson for West Mercia Police, said: “A man has been arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon. We are still treating the package as suspicious and bomb disposal crews have been called in.

“Police were alerted just before 12pm to a report of a suspicious package in a vehicle in the car park.

“At this time, the store and petrol station are closed and members of the public are asked not to visit the location.

“There are currently no road closures in place and no residential properties have been affected by the incident.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “It’s early days at the moment but the safety of our staff and customers is of paramount importance to us at this stage.”

POLICE put a one-mile roadblock in place around a Tesco store where a suspected bomb was found strapped to a van in the car park.

The blockage caused traffic chaos in Hereford centre as motorists hoping to travel along the A465 where the store is located had to use alternative routes, plunging the historic city into a chaotic gridlock.

Police bomb disposal teams were called to the site and could be seen using robotic equipment to examine the white van.

Members of staff outside the store said they had not been allowed to leave since it was evacuated at around midday yesterday.

One, who would only give her name as ‘Stacey’, said staff were frustrated at the lack of info they received.

She said: “They’ve just told us to stand out the back here and not say anything.

“It’s been hours now, I could’ve been at home ages ago.

“We’ve got no idea how long they’re going to keep us out here.”

Those gathered outside the back of the store were taking it in turns to sit in a car with its engine switched on in order to stay warm.

Britain - Train Yob

Thug threw man against moving train and escapes jail

A YOB who threw a terrified good Samaritan into the side of a moving freight train leaving him “inches from death” has escaped jail. 

Drunken Daniel Worgan swung defenceless Robert Evans against one of the fast-moving train’s cargo containers after Mr Evans defended some girls he had insulted.

Shrewsbury Crown Court heard that Mr Evans “thought he was going to die” as the train passed dangerously close to his body while his leg dangled over the platform edge.

But despite lorry driver Worgan, 34, leaving his victim scared to got out alone, he escaped with a six-month suspended sentence on Thursday.

The dad-of-three, from Oakengates, Telford, Shropshire, was caught after being identified via CCTV of the shocking attack at Shrewsbury station in July last year.

In the heart-stopping footage, Worgan can be seen plucking Evans from his group of friends and spinning him around before flinging him around ten feet across the platform straight into the side of the train as it speeds through the station.

Evans bounces off the side of the train and immediately hits the floor, only narrowly avoiding falling down the gap between platform and train.

One of Evan’s distressed friends rushes to his aid and helps him to his feet as callous Worgan calmly walks away from the scene.

Mr Robert Edwards, prosecuting, said Mr Evans, from Wigmore, Leominster, Herefordshire, was with friends waiting for a train at the railway station at 11pm on July 29 last year.

Worgan made lewd comments to some girls and Mr Evans remonstrated with him.

Mr Edwards said: “Worgan threw Mr Evans against a freight train that was moving out of the station. It was only luck that he bounced against the side and didn’t fall onto the track,” Mr Edwards said.

Mr Evans said he thought he was going to die.

He now did not like going out alone and had not been on a train since.

He suffered damage to his back and cuts to his arm and hand.

Mr Mark Sharman, for Worgan, said his client was appalled at his behaviour and had been drinking. He rarely went out and on this night had been out for his birthday.

He was given a six month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work. He was also told to pay GBP500 compensation and GBP250 costs and put under a three-month curfew between 8pm and 6am.

Speaking after the sentence, Sgt Karl Anderson of BTP Shrewsbury described the incident as a “deliberate, violent and reckless act which left the victim being inches from death”.

He added: “It is clear through the injuries suffered and the trauma of the ordeal that this incident has had a substantial impact on the victim, who states afterwards he was about to die.”

Sgt Anderson rejected claims by Worgan in court that he had acted in self-defence.

He said: “Worgan stated he felt threatened, yet he was the aggressor and actually pulled the victim from his group before throwing him towards the train.

“These are not the actions of a person in fear of his own safety.”

BRITAIN-Caterina Massaro

Grandparents brutally murdered

AN elderly couple were murdered in their home in ‘brutal and savage’ knife and hammer attack by a Polish man who was staying with relatives next door, a court heard.

Italian grandparents Guiseppe and Caterina Massaro were stabbed and beaten to death at their home in Wolverhampton on Good Friday last year.

Wolverhampton Crown Court was told on Thursday how one of them would have watched their spouse being attacked.

Their bloodied bodies were discovered by their granddaughter lying side by side in their bedroom, which was in a state of ‘disarray,’ a jury was told.

It was alleged Ireneusz Bartnowski, 22, preyed on the elderly couple from next door, where he was staying with his sister and her husband and children.

The Polish man, described as psychically fit and strong, would have known the couple’s ages and frailties, the prosecution said.

Opening the murder trial Peter Grieves-Smith, prosecuting said: “The prosecution case is on the 21st April he entered their home and murdered them.

“Both suffered dreadful injuries in the course of a sustained attack – an attack that involved the use of weapons, a hammer and a knife.

“It is clear from the pathological evidence that a brutal attack was launched on both despite their age and frailty. Neither were in a position to defend themselves and the prosecution suggest the attacker intended to kill them and is therefore guilty of murder.

“Who was attacked first we can’t say but one of the victims must have seen the other being attacked and as they did must surely have known that the same thing would happen to them.”

Jurors heard Mr Massaro, 80, and his 77-year-old wife moved to the city in 1960 from Naples and bought their home on Woden Road in 1981.

They were comfortable financially but did not  own anything of particular value, Mr Grieves-Smith said.

On April 13 last year, Bartnowski was staying next door and was aware of their daily routine when he entered their home on April 21, the court was told.

He got in through the living room window using a claw hammer and stole two televisions, cash and the couple’s Peugeot after the attack and fled the house while the couple lay dying upstairs.

“The prosecution case is it was Mr Bartnowski that murdered them, murdered them both and did it on his own,” the prosecutor told the jury.

“He entered their home, killed them and stole their property.”

Gym user Bartnowski, who had a Polish interpreter in the dock with him, returned to the house on two separate occasions following the attack, looking for items to steal the court heard.

He sold the televisions for around GBP200 with the help of Wojciech Ostolski, 32, who is charged with handling stolen goods and was in the dock with the co-defendant.

The jury of six men and six women were warned about the details that will unfold in during the trial and how the elderly couple were subject to a ‘brutal and savage attack.’

“One of them must have watched while the other was attacked,” Mr Grieves-Smith added.

He described the multiple injuries the married couple sustained and said their was a ‘wealth’ of material that proved the guilt of the defendant including DNA and fingerprints found at the scene.

Mr Massarro received blunt and sharp force injuries to his head, neck and abdomen. He had two areas of skull fracturing, inflicted by the 1 ft long, 720g hammer, which led to haemorrhaging to the brain, the prosecution said. His wife had stab wounds on her neck as well as defensive injuries.

They were discovered the following day by granddaughter Lindsay Booth, who had gone to the house with another relative after the couple stopped responding to phone calls.

Mr Massaro’s body was partially covered with a quilt which extended over his head.

The trial is expected to last two-and-a-half weeks.

The case continues.

Britain’s First Farm Animal Sanctuary Faces Closure

OVER 600 rescued animals are facing the slaughterhouse after Britain’s first farm animal sanctuary was served with an eviction notice from the land it has occupied for the last 15 years.

Animal lover Janet Taylor set up The Farm Animal Sanctuary in Evesham, Worcestershire, 25 years ago when she saved her first animal by spending just GBP1 to buy a frail lamb at a livestock market.

The sanctuary, whose patron is the famous actress and active animal rights campaigner Joanna Lumley, eventually found a permanent home after Janet secured a benefactor, retired businesswoman Patricia Bernie.

Animal lover Mrs Bernie kindly bought the 67 acres of land for Janet’s specific use and allowed them to live on and use it as they pleased without any terms and conditions.

But now the registered charity, which relies on public donations to survive, has been stunned after Mrs Bernie, who lives 20 miles from the sanctuary and doesn’t visit often, served them with an eviction notice – stating she wanting to use the land for herself. Britain’s first farm animal sanctuary looks after 635 animals, including sheep, dogs, cats, pigs, horses, cattle and various poultry, and Janet admits that due to their poor health it wouldn’t be possible to move the residents elsewhere.

“We can’t move because we’ve got nowhere to move to and no funds,” said the 71-year-old former journalist,who has dedicated her life to promoting the welfare of animals, particularly farm animals that have been mistreated or abused.

“They are all rescued and we wouldn’t be able to move a lot of them anyway because they are elderly. We have a blind sheep, a three-legged sheep and a blind horse. A lot of them came with us 15 years ago.

“You can’t just uproot 600 plus animals. We are a registered charity so we rely on public funds. The worst case scenario is if we lose the case we would have to get someone to euthanise the animals.

“The farm was bought for our specific use 15 years ago by an animal lover. I located it and she bought it, there were no terms and conditions required and we have looked after the place ever since. “And after 15 years she’s decided she wants it back again for her own use. So she’s seeking an eviction order. “We have a very strong case because it was given to us with no terms and conditions and she allowed us to put all this money and effort into the farm. “Her case depends entirely on her saying she made it clear at the beginning that we were only here for a specific time, which she didn’t.”

Although a definite date has not been set, the case is due in the High Court in Bristol for mediation in February and the charity’s patron Joanna Lumley says the sanctuary deserves to stay at its home.

“I have been an admiring and constant supporter of The Farm Animal Sanctuary for 25 years,” said the 65-year-old actress, who was awarded an OBE in 1995.

“It has always struggled to keep its noble head above water placing the welfare of neglected and damaged animals at the heart of its operation, but this is a body blow that has left us all reeling. “There is nowhere for the animals to be moved to even if they were in a fit state to be relocated. “I appeal to the good nature of Patricia Bernie to show compassion and reverse her decision to eject Jan Taylor, her loyal workers and the animals they care for with such devotion. “It is a cruel option to adopt in the current financial climate.”

Janet says the sanctuary, which needs to find GBP2,000 every week just to survive, was given the farm and land for as long as it required it – but Mrs Bernie disagrees and is seeking possession of the land saying that the charity is only a licensee.

A statement from Mrs Bernie’s solicitors says: “She has owned Manor Orchard Farm since 1997 and as an animal lover herself has generously allowed The Farm Animal Sanctuary to occupy payment free on a temporary basis for 14 years.”

A solicitors from Worcester have been appointed to represent the sanctuary in an effort to prevent Mrs Bernie from going back on her apparent promise and to prevent the destruction of the animals that Janet has tirelessly worked to protect.

“She (Patricia Bernie) has been in touch occasionally but not on a regular basis. She hasn’t ever said anything isn’t a good idea, it was a shock,” added Janet.

“We are just claiming that we have the right to be here. I’d be homeless and on the wrong side of 70 to be homeless. “All my money has gone into looking after this place because we thought that’s what she wanted and we have looked after it as if it was our own.”

Media Contact Details

Name: Rachael Chew
Company Name: Newsteam International
Town: Birmingham
Country: United Kingdom
Telephone Number: 0121 616 5061
Language: English

Stephen Whitehouse

Thug threw dog out of window

A CRUEL thug faces jail after he stamped on his pet German shepherd and threw her out of a first-floor window.

Dog-owner Stephen Whitehouse, 42, subjected three-year-old Mia to the series of attacks because he was angry that the pooch had urinated on a relative’s sofa, a court heard.

The cute canine suffered a fractured leg after dropping 15ft to the ground and faces a lifetime of pain after metal plates were put in place to keep her leg together.

RSPCA experts said she is unlikely to ever be rehoused because her terrible ordeal has made her aggressive towards people.

Although Whitehouse failed to attend Wednesday’s hearing at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court, the court heard the case in his absence – finding him guilty of three charges of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and one of failing to ensure its welfare.

A warrant for his arrest was issued and he will be sentenced at a later date – with magistrates saying a custodial sentence was inevitable.

Prosecutor Mr Roger Price told the court that Whitehouse was spotted by a neighbour throwing Mia from the back bedroom window of his house in the Ashmore Park area of Wolverhampton on July 2.

She had also witnessed him striking the dog with a pole in his garden while a police officer saw him “stamping” on the animal on the same day.

Mr Price said: “The neighbour was alerted to the sound of whimpering coming from the defendant’s house and recognised it was coming from his dog.”

The RSPCA was called by police and the animal was immediately taken into care by officers.

During an interview, callous Whitehouse claimed the dog had jumped from the window and when asked why he believed the dog jumped from the window, he replied: “She thought she was a lemming”.

RSPCA Inspector Jackie Hickman told the court that since the incident, Mia has remained on heavy painkillers because of the specialist surgery she had to undergo. The trauma of her ordeal has also caused hair loss.

Insp Hickman added that it would have been better for the dog to have been put down but that this could not be done because Whitehouse refused to sign responsibility for the animal over the the charity.

BRITAIN - William McLeish

Prince William on Alex Mcleish

HE might be Aston Villa’s most famous fan but as this YouTube clips shows it seems even Prince William couldn’t believe that Alex McLeish was appointed as his beloved club’s manager last summer.

The clip, which was filmed when the Duke of Cambridge visited Birmingham in the aftermath of the August riots, has recently surfaced on several football forum websites.

During the one-minute long video, a cheeky member of the public shouts out to the Prince just before he gets into his car – asking for his opinion on McLeish’s appointment.

It is unsure whether the royal was taken by surprise by the question or understood it, but his hilarious reaction, to throw back his head and simply roar with laughter, has gone down well with fellow Villa supporters.

The decision to unveil former Birmingham City boss McLeish at Villa Park was met with a mixture of shock and anger by supporters – and the majority of the Villa faithful have not got over the Scot’s appointment over six months ago.

Commenting on the video on a football website, one fan said: “Genius, he’s a proper fan, loves the game and team and is quite knowledgable.

“Everything Randy (Lerner, the club’s American owner) isn’t. Surely he should ask granny for some extra pocket money to buy us.

“Berlusconi owns Milan and the Qatar royals have fingers in a couple of pies so I don’t see the problem. It took a millisecond for him to react when questioned though. He feels the pain with the rest of us.”

While another fan added: “It’s a shame he didn’t say ‘off with his head”.

McLeish, who has recently signed Robbie Keane on loan from LA Galaxy, has led Villa to a comfortable mid-table position in the Premier League – with the club sitting in 13th place after 21 games.

But for the majority of the team’s supporters, it seems that nothing the Scottish manager does will ever be good enough for the fans who can’t forget his ties to their fierce rivals Birmingham City.

“I’m surprised Prince William laughed, because the rest of us were crying when we found out he was our new manager last summer,” said 30-year-old Mark Taylor who has had a season ticket at Villa Park for the last decade.

“I still support the team but I can’t back McLeish as our manager. Even if he wasn’t the former manager of the enemy up the road, he is too defensive tactically.

“The fans will never come around or like him, it’s just an unwritten rule of football that you don’t cross local rivalry borders.

“McLeish is the laughing stock of the Holte End and it seems like he’s the laughing stock at Buckingham Palace too.

“I didn’t think us Brummies had much in common with the Royals.”

nti Tariq Jahan

‘Hero’ in court for wounding motorist

A MAN described as a “hero” following the death of his son during the summer’s riots has appeared in court charged with wounding a motorist.

In a three minute hearing Tariq Jahan spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address to the court.

He was charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding Shazhad Ali on the 6 July.

Wearing a black suit and white shirt Jahan,47, was bailed to appear before Birmingham Crown Court on January 13 by District Judge Shamim Qureshi.

“I am committing you to appear before Birmingham Crown Court on January 13,” said Judge Qureshi.

Jahan became a symbol of the fightback against this summer’s riots after his son Haroon was killed trying to defend his shop.

Haroon, along with brothers Shazad Ali – who is not related to the victim in the case –  and Abdul Musavir, was killed when they were hit by a car in the early hours of August 10.

Just two days after his sons death Mr Jahan gave an impassioned speech on TV, while clearly grief stricken calling for people of all faiths to abandon violence.

“I lost my son,” he said. “Blacks, Asians, Whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise go home and calm down.”

Nine men have been charged in connection with the murders, and police are continuing to investigate the deaths.

Jahan was highly praised for his intervention by West Midlands police and was honoured at the Pride of Britain awards, being presented an award by Amir Kahn.

Since the riots, Mr Jahan has said he and his family have been trying to get their lives back to normal, and they have been deeply touched by the support they have received from the public.

He said: “The community has been fantastic. I can’t compliment them enough. The letters, the cards, the memorials that have been left are unbelievable. It opened my eyes. Its comforting to know so many people remember and think about the three boys.”

He was released on unconditional bail until his next court appearance.

nti Drink Drive Tory

Tory Councillor accused of driving ‘blind drunk’

A WEALTHY licensing boss has faced angry calls to resign after being handed a 12-month driving ban on Wednesday for ploughing his car into two others whilst “blind drunk”.

Tory councillor Peter Whittaker, 60, vice chairman of Bromsgrove District Council’s licensing committee, crashed his Volvo estate into two parked cars in Feckenham, near Redditch, Worcestershire on November 20 last year, a court heard.

He pleaded guilty at Redditch Magistrates Court to failing to provide a breath sample without a reasonable excuse.

But today/yesterday (WED) the owner of the cars he crashed into slammed the sentence as “disgusting”.

Michael Abu-Zalaf, 30, said that the councillor had to be forcibly detained at the scene after attempting to flee THREE times.

He said: “He kept saying ‘I have to get away from here, I can’t be here’. ”

Michael claimed that he and his brother eventually had to SIT on Coun Whittaker until police arrived to ensure he didn’t escape.

Mr Whittaker admitted to police that he couldn’t remember how much he had drunk that evening because his glass kept being topped up by friends.

Michael added: “He was that drunk, the smell when you opened the car door was so strong.

“He didn’t realise that he had hit anything at first.”

Michael added that he has been left three grand out of pocket after his Toyota Rav 4 and Fiat Punto were “written off” by Coun Whittaker, who only received a GBP1,000 fine.

The court heard how Coun Whittaker had driven his Volvo estate in to the back of the Toyota, which was then pushed in to the Fiat.

Magistrates were told that Coun Whittaker said his only memory of the smash was the “airbags going off” before he got out of the car to sit on a wall.

But Michael claimed that the evidence heard in court did not reflect the extent of the damage nor how drunk the councillor had been.

Publishing editor Michael said both cars had been careered twenty feet down the road, with the force of the impact sending the Fiat crashing through two walls.

He claimed that Coun Whittaker had been ‘plastered’.

He said: “I had to pull him out of the car because he was so drunk he could hardly stand up. He tried to run away.”

In court, prosecutor Louise Mead said that locals had been alerted to the incident when they heard a crash outside and that efforts had to be made to keep Coun Whittaker at the scene.

She said: “There was a lot of noise, local residents went out in the street and saw Mr Whittaker sat in the driver’s seat of the Volvo before he got out.

“One of the witnesses ensured that Mr Whittaker remained at the scene.”

Whittaker was fined GBP 1,000 and ordered to pay GBP85 plus GBP 15 victim surcharge at Redditch Magistrate’s Court, Worcester today/yesterday.

Magistrates told the councillor, who owns 500 acres of farmland, that he would receive a three-month reduction in the ban if he undertook a drink-driving awareness court.

Michael, who had to fork out GBP3,000 to replace both cars, said it was unfair that he should have to pay out more than the man who drunkenly damaged his car.

He said: “I’m absolutely disgusted with the outcome, I don’t know why he was given such a light sentence.

“I’m appalled by the level of justice that’s been shown today.”

He also said that Coun Whittaker has yet to apologise, and claimed that he “blanked” Michael outside court today when he approached him.

He said: “He refused to apologise at court today, he hasn’t apologised since the incident.

“At the very least he could resign from his position on the licensing committee as a matter of urgency.

“Given the situation, I don’t think he should have any right to decide who should have a license and who shouldn’t.

“In actual fact, I don’t think he should be a councillor.”

Angry protesters gathered outside the court after the hearing to demand Coun Whittaker leave his post in light of the sentence.

As Coun Whittaker was led out to a car by two fellow councillors, they shouted: “When are you going to resign, Peter?”

Speaking outside court, campaigner Mark Anthony France, 49, slammed the sentence and called for Mr Whittaker to go.

He said: “I think it is an injustice, councillor Whittaker was blind drunk and he destroyed the property of two residents in Feckenham and I think he’s got off extremely lightly.

“I also think that his integrity as a politician is compromised.

“Myself and many others in Bromsgrove think there should be a by-election to give us the chance to elect a representative who is more sober.”

Coun Whittaker declined to comment outside the court.

murder

Double murder in Birmingham

A POLICE officer discovered the bodies of his murdered mother and father at their home in Birmingham, it has been confirmed.

Carole and Avtar Kolar’s son, a serving police officer with West Midlands Police, made the grim discovery this yesterday morning after the pair failed to respond to their attempts to contact them.

 

Described today/yesterday (WED) as ‘loving parents’ Mr and Mrs Kolar, aged 62 and 58, who had been married for forty years, were found dead at their semi-detached home in Handsworth, Birmingham after being subjected to a brutal assault.

 

At a press conference in Birmingham, police confirmed that the couple died as a result of their injuries but would not be drawn on the cause of deaths.

 

They also refused to say whether a murder weapon had been found.

 

Police said there was ‘nothing to indicate’ at this stage that the couple were targeted because their son was a officer but that they were keeping an open mind as to the motive.

 

Det Supt Richard Baker, leading the investigation, said that the Kolars were a close-knit family, and that Carole and Avtar would frequently help their four grown-up children with childcare arrangements.

 

He said: “They are a very close, loving family, that is really quite evident from going round and visiting them this morning.”

 

The alarm was raised after the couple, who were last contacted at 7.15 pm yesterday/ on Tuesday, failed to respond to calls.

 

He would not reveal the rank or name of the Kolar’s son.

 

He said: “The family are going through a really difficult period at the moment and I cannot release any specific personal details.”

 

Though det supt Baker admitted that the police currently had no suspects, he added that the key to finding those responsible lay with the local community, where the couple had loved for most of their lives.

 

He added: “The motive is still unclear, at this moment in time we have no suspects at all.

 

“We are keeping an open mind around motive and around numbers of offenders.

 

“We are keeping an open mind as to what the weapon was.”

 

Detectives from the Force CID, forensic specialists and local neighbourhood officers are at the scene today carrying out significant house to house, CCTV and forensic enquiries.

 

Forensic officers at the scene will start on the outside of the property before working their way inside overnight.

 

Det supt Baker said: “At the moment the scene obviously has a huge amount of forensic opportunities for us.

 

“It is vital in these investigations that we take every opportunity to receive any evidence we can.”

 

The couple’s other son, also called Avtar, was said to be too upset to talk by neighbours at his house in the Kingstanding area of Birmingham.

 

Their daughter Marie was not at her Quinton home when reporters called by.

weather

Spring is in the air… already

FLORISTS are reporting a boom from the unseasonably warm weather as spring flowers sprout THREE months earlier than usual.

 

The weather is proving to be a boost for shops after Christmas with many able able to sell daffodils and tulips many weeks earlier than normal.

 

But while the early season means new sales florists could be left trying to fill orders come Easter as supplies run low.

 

The temperatures are in sharp contrast to last year when the country was gripped by a sudden freeze in one of the coldest winters for 30 years.  This autumn was the second warmest for the UK since records began.

 

And cherry blossom have started to appear on trees in yet another sign of the impact this year’s mild winter is having on nature.

 

The bloom is usually a sure sign that spring is on the way and is often not seen until April – but following the mildest December for 20 years, buds have already started to emerge.

 

This blossom was seen in Beacon Park in Lichfield, where tourists were taking pictures of the pink flowers. There have also been reports of trees starting to bloom in Church Road, Pelsall.

 

The mild winter has seen spring flowers such as tulips and daffodils arrive in florists weeks earlier than usual.  But it is also having a strange effect on fruit and vegetables – with a warning about a shortage of rhubarb.

 

The mild temperatures in November followed a relatively mild September and October, which were the sixth and eighth warmest on record.

 

On October 1 temperatures  in some parts of the UK hit 27C (80.6F).

Daffodils are traditionally seen as a sign spring is on the way but many are already

beginning to sprout and flower. Chris Thomas, who runs a Flower Stall in the Mander Centre, in Wolverhampton, said the boost in mild weather meant far more daffodils were available for sale now.

 

Mrs Thomas, who has run the stall for more than 40 years, said: “We have been getting lots more spring flowers through than normal, they are early this year which is a bit unusual.

 

“People like to have them because it cheers them up after Christmas and they can look forward to spring and summer.”

 

She added that her own daffodils in her garden at home in Bobbington had already begun to appear.

 

“It’s because of the mild weather and you wouldn’t normally expect them now,” Tracey Jacobs, who runs Heaven Scent, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, said. “The mild weather has fooled things into sprouting early.

 

“Last year we had a mild spell before Christmas and then a really harsh frost.

 

“We did have a late surge for flowers and then the only option we had was to get them brought over from Holland.”

 

She added: “We have to pay a premium for flowers when they are in short supply but we still have to provide the flowers.”

 

Robert Fisher, aged 49, who runs Flowercraft, in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton said: “The spring flowers are coming earlier this time, by a couple of weeks I would say.

 

“People like to have spring flowers and its good news for us and it boosts things a bit.”

 

He added: “People have noticed they are coming earlier but when it gets to Easter, the traditional time for daffodils there won’t be any because they have come and gone