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That was the year that was - the highlights and lows

From a randy rodent to thieves stealing from grieving families, we take a look back at some of the highlights of 2014.

Santa visits to children in Marston Green and Chelmsley Wood have been saved following an appeal in the Solihull News.
Santa visits to children in Marston Green and Chelmsley Wood have been saved following an appeal in the Solihull News.

It has been another fantastic year for news, with many of our stories hitting the national headlines. From a randy rodent to thieves stealing from grieving families, we take a look back at some of the highlights of 2014.


* Residents in leafy Solihull village Catherine-de-Barnes were outraged after plans were submitted for a 4,000-plot Muslim cemetery on green belt land.

Objections flooded in from villagers, who claimed the cemetery would be too overwhelming for the small village, sparking fears over a loss of open space.

The applicant said there was a need for more Muslim burial plots in the borough and Solihull Imam Dr Issam Ghannam also spoke out in favour of the plans.

* A damning report into Solihull’s critical care unit at Solihull Hospital was published, revealing concerns that nurses did not have enough training to care for their patients.

The A&E department was also criticised in the Care Quality Commission report after the name was retained despite the removal of key services.

Health bosses at the Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group – the body taking over the running of services – welcomed the findings, saying it backed their plans for a shake-up of services.


* The family of frail dementia sufferer Ronald Cobourne demanded answers after it was revealed that Jubilee Gardens Day Centre was to close.

The future of the facility was placed into doubt following a review by Solihull Council. Mr Cobourne’s daughter, Susan McCoy, said the centre was a lifeline for her father.

* We told the story of Solihull couple Dawn and Adam Tullett who were hit by a double tragedy when their baby son died suddenly, 48 hours before the tot’s uncle collapsed.

Jayden Tullett passed away at just 15 months old from an undiagnosed heart condition. His uncle, Nigel Finch, then fell victim to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome just two days later. The couple now raise money for CRY, a charity which aims to reduce the frequency of sudden cardiac deaths in the young.


* Nearly 100 jobs were at risk at Solihull Council as part of a £2.5 million cost-cutting drive. Back office staff and management positions were at risk. The then leader of the council, Ken Meeson, said the review was needed because the local authority had received the lowest level of government grant.

* Police world cycling champ Richard Phillips-Schofield died following a velodrome crash. Tributes poured in for the Shirley athlete, who clinched two gold medals in the 2013 World Police and Fire Games. He was taking part in a British Cycling event when he fell from his bike. He passed away two days later.


* We discovered that domestic violence in Solihull was costing more than £20 million a year. The numbers of battered men and women reporting the crime had rocketed by 37 per cent in 2013/14, according to council figures. The statistics emerged after domestic violence charity Make A Better Life Trust closed its doors in March.

* It was bitter-sweet for Dorridge residents during this month – while staff at Dorridge Station were left counting the costs after vandals struck at the newly refurbished facility, local schoolgirl Alliyah O’Hare was celebrating after becoming the under-11s World Irish Dancing champion.


* A Solihull son found his mother dead in a hospital bed. Martyn James claimed the death of his mother Joan James had gone unnoticed at Heartlands Hospital for up to half an hour.

The details emerged during Mrs James’ inquest, where death by natural causes was recorded.

* Prime Minister David Cameron paid a visit to Shirley’s new Parkgate development, where he praised the new controversial shopping and housing development, saying it was vital for the borough’s economy.

* Solihull mother Sarah Harford launched a campaign to bring her partner Santino Casamassa home after a brain haemorrhage had left him hospital- bound for the past two and a half years. Santino was 25 when he became ill, which left him unable to speak, eat or walk.


* We told the story of 15-year-old Beckii Handy who became the youngest in the UK to be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Beckii, now 18, has been given the all-clear and has forged links with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which gives young cancer survivors the chance to rebuild their confidence through sailing.

* Randy by name, randy by nature. Staff at Hatton Adventure World suddenly found themselves with 100 pregnant guinea pigs after a Casanova rodent broke into the female enclosure. The rampant rodent became the proud father to 400 babies.

* Concern grew after Solihull Council announced it could close all of its 14 children’s centres as part of more cost-cutting measures.


* The heartwarming story of Jake Foster was one of this month’s highlights. The 13-year-old from Sheldon, who suffers from Leigh’s Disease has been given a new lease of life after undergoing an operation which was refused on the NHS. The local community and beyond joined together to help raise the £10,000 needed to fund the operation to relieve the unbearable pain he was suffering at the hands of the disease.

* The family of former Solihull News editor John Connor hit out at the sentence imposed on the driver who caused his tragic death. Anthony Rourke was sentenced to a one-year community order and told to complete 120 hours’ unpaid work for causing death by careless driving.

* Tory councillor for Shirley South, Peter Doyle, lost his licence after he was caught drink-driving. The father of five was banned for 18 months and he apologised for his “error”.


* There was an outcry across the borough and beyond when thieves stole 51 roses left by a grieving widower for his loved one, just a day after her funeral. Maurice Powell brought a rose for every year of marriage to sweetheart Sandra, who passed away from cancer aged 70. CCTV images caught the thief in the act at Robin Hood Cemetery.

* Teacher Jason McDermott was banned from the classroom for life after punching, jabbing and pulling the hair of students. The 45-year-old was found guilty of misconduct after a disciplinary panel heard he had a history of “recurring violence against pupils” at CTC Kingshurst Academy in Solihull.


* Meriden became the proud winner of the best village award in the Solihull Neighbourhoods In Bloom competition. Almost 2,000 flowers and shrubs were planted around the picturesque village for Meriden’s first entry to In Bloom.

* Time was running out for brave Ulrika Dandekar who desperately needed a stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer. The 21-year-old, known as Riya, was diagnosed with Anaplastic Lymphoma and was encouraging everyone to register to help find her a stem cell match.


* The month of Halloween would not be the same without a giant pumpkin story – and this year is no exception. This year Judy Cooper managed to grow one measuring a metre across. The 52-year-old took to growing flowers and vegetables to help cope with the death of her son. The mammoth squash was the first pumpkin grown by the amateur gardener, who said the size was achieved completely naturally.

* A plea was issued to young soldiers returning from Afghanistan to help stop the award-winning Solihull RAF Association from folding. The 60-year-old branch which raised more than £500,000 for injured servicemen was at risk of collapsing unless they could recruit new members.

* New reality show People Like Us hit our television screens this month. It was filmed in Chelmsley Wood and locals feared the area could be made into a “laughing stock” in the Benefits Street-style documentary.


* The decision to throw out plans for the controversial Muslim cemetery for Catherine-de-Barnes was branded “Islamophobic” by some members of the Muslim community. Coun Jim Ryan refuted the claims, stating: “I’m very respectful of the Muslim community. But whatever minority group, whatever religious persuasion, wants to put forward an application for the Meriden Gap, I would oppose. My faith is Catholic – but if the Catholic church proposed this, I would object.”

* Santa was saved by the Solihull News! Santa’s visits to children in Marston Green could have been axed were it not for an appeal in the Solihull News. Father Christmas was facing a sleigh crisis after Marston Green and District Lions lost its annual transport. But taxi company TC Cars stepped in and normal service was resumed.

* More cost-cutting measures were announced for the borough following a restructure of children’s services and announcements that police station front counters in Shirley and Chelmsley Wood were to close.


* A new £65million service station planned for the M42 is deemed to have come at the “wrong time” and earmarked for the “wrong place”, according to Meriden MP Caroline Spelman. Concerns were raised that the project, which is expected to create hundreds of jobs, would impinge on greenbelt land.

* A feel-good Christmas story – Christmas was saved for the British Red Cross charity shop in Acocks Green after kind-hearted businesses came forward to replace raffle prizes taken by heartless thieves.



Cathrina Hulse
Multimedia Journalist
Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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