A Gift of Hope

Six-year-old Brecon Vaughan is to undergo a life-changing operation this week thanks to the generosity of a young man left paralysed after a road accident.

Dan Black donated more than £20,000 to Brecon’s fund and helped his family meet the costs of the operation in the United States.

Dan’s gift of hope to Brecon marks the latest chapter in a remarkable life.

Wales This Week has been filming with Dan, aged 26, of Llanvair-Discoed, near Chepstow, for more than three years.

Our cameras have followed the highs and lows of his struggle and recovery.

Tonight we bring the story up to date as Dan goes to London’s Park Lane for the glitz and the glamour of the Pride of Britain Awards.

Wales this Week, A gift of Hope is on tonight at 8 on ITV Cymru Wales

New Call For Public Inquiry Into Child’s Death

A leading GP and writer on medical issues has called on the Attorney General to launch a public inquiry into the death of a 10-year-old boy from Wales.

Dr Phil Hammond said the UK Government had to allow a public inquiry into the death of Robbie Powell, from Ystradgynlais, and into the events which followed it.

Robbie died in April 1990 of a rare but treatable condition called Addison’s Disease.

He had been seen by five different doctors in the fortnight before he died.

Over the years there have been several investigations into the care Robbie Powell received. But none of these has provided the family with satisfaction.

When Carwyn Jones became First Minister, he wrote to the UK government for permission to include the actions of the police and CPS in a public inquiry. It refused.

So Mr Jones set up a non-statutory independent inquiry to be conducted by a leading barrister, Nicholas David Jones. Unlike the public inquiry which the family wanted, it would not be able to force witnesses to give evidence.

When the report was published in July 2012, Carwyn Jones issued an apology on behalf of the Welsh Government for the failures in the system which led to Robbie’s death.

Last month ITV Wales’ Wales This Week programme revealed that the First Minister had overseen a number of redactions to the report.

These included the removal of the inquest verdict.

Carwyn Jones refused to answer questions on individual redactions in the programme but did an interview on the report in general.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “When deciding what to redact, it was necessary for the First Minister to take into account the fact that some documentation was held under a duty of confidence, as well as the need for compliance with data protection requirements and the need to present a fair account.

“The First Minister is content that the redactions did not detract from the overall conclusions and issues that were identified.”

Opposition Leader Andrew RT Davies told the Senedd the day after the programme that the First Minister should make a fresh statement to assembly members explaining the reasons behind the removal of parts of the report.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said the Wales This Week investigation had revealed “unusual and questionable” redactions.

 

‘The Bullseye Killer’ Wins British Academy Cymru Award

 The Wales This Week special ‘The Bullseye Killer’ has won a British Academy Cymru Award (Bafta Cymru).

The hour-long documentary won a Bafta in the Current Affairs category of the awards at the Wales Millennium Centre.

The programme documented the crimes of John Cooper, one of the most notorious criminals in British history.

Cooper burgled, raped and murdered during a 15-year reign of terror, which included four executions by shotgun. And, far from keeping a low profile between crimes, he even took time to appear on the gameshow Bullseye.

ITV Wales had exclusive access to the police enquiry and the forensic science which finally trapped Cooper.

‘The Bullseye Killer’ was transmitted the night Cooper was jailed in May 2011.

Gareth Williams: Public Fascination and National Interest

Gareth Williams

Next week an inquest will open in London to answer questions about one of the most baffling of all modern spy stories.

Gareth Williams was a well-liked and extremely talented young man from a small village in Anglesey, who went to work for the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

But he died in bizarre circumstances.

Gareth’s body was found locked in a hold-all at his flat in Pimlico in August 2010. The bag was padlocked from the outside and placed in his bath.

A recent pre-inquest hearing heard, from a lawyer representing the Metropolitan Police, that it was “very difficult if not impossible” for Gareth to have locked himself inside the bag.

Gareth’s family’s lawyer Anthony O’Toole, said that if the spy had not locked the bag himself, there was “a high probability that there was a third party present in the flat” at the time.

He added: “The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services – or evidence has been removed post-mortem by experts in the dark arts.”

This is a sensitive story to cover but it is one that is both of interest to the public and in the public interest.

The coroner has said it has already “caused much public anxiety and concern”.

Two of the main lines of inquiry being followed by the Metropolitan Police appear to have come to nothing.

Early on in the investigation police issued an appeal for information about a Mediterranean couple reported to have called at Gareth’s flat. But at the recent hearing they were now described as a “red herring”.

In addition, DNA found on Gareth’s hand and thought to be key to the inquiry has now been confirmed as belonging to a forensic scientist.

An error at a forensic laboratory belonging to LGC Forensics had caused details about the sample to be incorrectly inputted into a computer leading police to think it could belong to a suspect.

Little is known about Gareth’s work but he had been on two courses which meant he could be “operationally deployed”.

Among the mourners at his funeral was MI6 chief Sir John Sawers who told the family that Gareth had done “really valuable work” in the “cause of national security”.

We are unlikely to hear anymore about that work. The Government has ruled that evidence to the inquest about his work will be heard in secret.

ITV Wales’ award-winning current affairs programme Wales This Week brought together a group of experts to review the available evidence.

One point that struck our panel was the way in which Gareth’s reputation had been pulled apart by lurid headlines in the weeks following his death.

Could someone have been feeding information and rumour which would smear Gareth’s name?

If he was a national hero, as Sir John seemed to suggest, who could be behind the smear?

One of our panelists, Miles Goslett, a journalist who investigated the case for the Sunday Times, asked: “Why was it that within 48 hours of [Gareth’s] body being discovered a newspaper was reporting the fact that not only was he gay, and stating it as fact, but also that he was possibly a transvestite? I mean, how was this relevant and, more to the point, where this so called information came from is rather unsettling.”

Another issue likely to interest the coroner is the apparent eight-day delay in someone raising the alarm that Gareth was missing. Mr Goslett described this as “extraordinary” given Gareth’s work.

Police went to the flat following a call from a personnel manager at GCHQ, who will give evidence to the inquest.

Go here to read more and to watch a clip from Wales This Week.

Dementia Film Wins Broadcast Award

Wales This Week‘s film ‘Living With Dementia’, which was broadcast on ITV Wales last year, has won a Guild of Health Writers’ Award for Best Broadcast Programme.

The award was presented at the Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street, London.

The film followed Jim McWade, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease, and his wife Maureen, and Peter Oldacre, who was looking after his wife Ann.

You can read about the making of the programme on the ITV Wales blog and watch it below.

Dementia Film Nominated For Award

“Seventy-five per cent of my life I can keep in a normal context. I have to confess that the 25 per cent is my bogey man… It’s the place where I don’t like to linger for long.”

Those were the words of Jim McWade in a Wales This Week film called ‘Living With Dementia’ which was broadcast last year.

The film followed Jim, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease, and his wife Maureen, and Peter Oldacre, who was looking after his wife Ann.

The programme was now been shortlisted for a Guild of Health Writers’ award. It is up against three items from BBC network news and a programme from BBC Radio 4 in the Best Broadcast Programme category.

You can read about the making of the programme on the ITV Wales blog and watch the film in two parts here.

Edgar Evans: Time to remember a forgotten Polar hero

He is one of Wales’ greatest explorers – but few remember his name and there is no national monument in his honour.

There is a story behind why Wales may have tried to forget Edgar Evans – but it concerns a sense of misplaced shame.

ITV Wales’ Wales This Week has turned the clock back 100 years, to 1912, when Evans stood at the South Pole with Captain Robert Scott.

Scott’s party was defeated first by the Norwegians and then by a terrible Antarctic winter which came in early and closed over them like a shroud.

Evans was the first of the five men to die. He was malnourished and a cut in his hand was festering.

On February 17, 1912, his exhausted body gave up.

The second to die, Captain Oates, had a leg wound which had turned gangrenous. His leg needed amputating. He crawled from the expedition tent in a blizzard around March 17th and was not seen again.

The remaining three – Scott, himself, Bowers and Wilson – died about 10 days later.

It took a year for the news of their deaths to reach Britain.

“People were initially very sad, then proud but then they had to try and find an explanation,” Dr Isobel Williams, author of a new biography on Edgar, called ‘Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant’, tells us.

“In some newspapers they focused on Edgar as not only failing and slowing them down but by his failure and slowing the party he caused the death of all the expedition.”

The men had left Britain in 1910, sailing from Cardiff on board the Terra Nova with South Wales’ coal lighting its boiler.

Two nights before they left, the crew had celebrated at the Royal Hotel in St Mary Street. A century later the Captain Scott Society still meets there. Its chairman, Dr Peter Lloyd Jones, says Wales contributed about half of the funds needed for the expedition.

But when news reached Britain of the men’s deaths, some began to feel a little ashamed of Evans.

Says Edgar’s grandson, John Evans, from Swansea: “I think it was based on snobbery a bit because they made him the scapegoat in the beginning.”

John is leading the campaign for a national memorial to Evans, who is described in the programme as “Wales’ leading Antarctic explorer”.

Evans had been on not only the mission to the South Pole but Scott’s 1901-1904 Discovery expedition which had helped prove Antarctica was a continent and not a massive pack of ice.

Scott’s expeditions to Antarctica, according to Tom Sharpe, curator of a new Terra Nova exhibition at the National Museum of Wales, “laid the foundations” of Antarctic science for a century to come.

And Roger Gale of Swansea Museum, where there is currently an exhibition dedicated to Evans, says: “Had Swansea had an astronaut who reached the moon and perished in the attempt I’m pretty sure there would be a commemoration of him. Edgar in his own way and his own time was journeying to the outer reaches of the world as we knew it.”

*There are currently two museum exhibitions in honour of the Terra Nova expedition in Wales. ‘South for Science’ runs at the National Museum of Wales until May 13.

Ninety Degrees South – Edgar Evans, Scott and the Journey to the Pole’ is at Swansea Museum until April 22.

Asbestos in schools a “national scandal”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health says the presence of lethal dust fibres in school buildings is a “national scandal”.

In a new report, it warns that 75 per cent of state schools are exposing children, teachers and other staff to the carcinogenic material.

Jim Sheridan MP, Chair of the All-Party Group, said: “This is a national scandal. Urgent action is needed to prevent more pupils, teachers and other staff being exposed to this deadly killer dust. We need both far greater awareness of the risks that this material poses and a programme for its phased removal.”

The report comes after more than 140 teachers died from the rare asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in the past 10 years, with research in the US suggesting over 100 people will die every year in the UK because of exposure at school.

US researchers suggest that for every death of a teacher from asbestos-related diseases, nine children will die. Asbestos-related diseases can take many years to develop so children are more vulnerable over their lifetime.

The Westminster All-Party Group’s report recommends the UK government should start a programme for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools, with priority given to those schools where the asbestos is considered to be most dangerous or damaged.

It also recommends a policy of openness in which parents, teachers and support staff are annually updated on the presence of asbestos in their schools and the measures that are being taken to manage it.

Welsh concerns about asbestos in schools were highlighted in April 2009 when occupational hygienist Robin Howie addressed a conference hosted by Nick Ramsey AM at the National Assembly for Wales.

Mr Howie claimed a hidden “horror story” was unfolding in UK schools with rates of mesothelioma “a factor of ten higher” in male teachers than in other people who do not work with asbestos. He said rates of mesothelioma in female teachers were “higher to a factor of two-and-a-half”. He added: “I think the teaching statistics are the tip of the iceberg. For every teacher exposed, then we have 20-30 children.”

Mr Howie repeated these concerns in an edition of the ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week.

In the same programme Tim Cox, of the NASUWT, said the dangers of asbestos was “one of the most important issues we’ve ever had to deal with”.

He stated. “We are talking about the long-term health of the population of Wales. We are talking about the teachers and support staff in schools at the moment but we are also talking about the children, the children of Wales, over the next 10 to 20 years, who could be affected by this terrible, terrible disease.”

Mr Cox demanded the removal of all asbestos from school buildings.

So what is the latest from the Welsh Government?

In answers to written Assembly questions on January 18, 2012, Wales Education Minister Leighton Andrews, said: “Asbestos is safe if undisturbed and schools should work closely with their respective local authorities to have in place appropriate health and safety plans for staff, pupils and visitors.”

He added: “Locating and dealing with asbestos in schools, including the removal if appropriate is a health and safety matter for schools and local authorities. Local authorities as the building owner and employer have a legal duty under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 to manage the risks arising from asbestos.”

Councils should know whether “any of their schools contain asbestos in some form or another”, he stated, and are “required to have asbestos surveys undertaken on all premises under their control, and implement an asbestos management system”.

However, it appears unclear as to how many Welsh schools contain asbestos.

“The current and projected categories of condition of school buildings were requested, from local authorities, as part of the revised proposals submitted to the Welsh Government in November 2011,” said Mr Andrews. “However, the level of detail, in terms of schools that may have the presence of asbestos was not considered at this stage of the process, since the written statement  December 2010 related to overall outline programmes and not individual projects.”