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Jail suspended for death crash pensioner

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crowncourt-1024x682A WELL known Aberystwyth man died in a head-on car crash when “age caught up” with an elderly driver and she fell asleep at the wheel.

Margaret Christopher, aged 81, had been looking for a layby to take a break when she failed to even attempt to take a left hand bend and drove straight into Dai England’s Peugeot 208.

Mr England died two days later from injuries to his heart and his central nervous system.

His daughter Rhian, a passenger in the front seat, suffered fractures to her arm, elbow and knee and spent three months in a wheelchair.

For the 48 hours after the crash doctors thought Christopher would die but she survived.

Today, she admitted causing death by careless driving. She was jailed for 14 months, suspended for two years, and banned from driving for two years.

Francis Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that on March 19 last year Christopher, then aged 80, was part way through a six and a half hour drive from her home in Southport, Lancashire, to her daughter’s home in Broad Haven. She had promised to look after her daughter’s dog while she went on holiday.

Christopher had taken two breaks, the last one in Machynleth. But as she approached Aberystwyth on the A4159 at Lovesgrove she felt she needed another one.

Mr Jones said Christopher entered a left hand bend but drove straight on and her Vauxhall Astra hit the Peugeot.

Mr England and his daughter had to be cut out of the wreckage. At the scene he was able to talk to paramedics but the 67 year old died in the University of Wales hospital in Cardiff two days later.

Mr Jones said other drivers thought Christopher had not even tried to take the bend and there was no sign that she had braked.

Rhian England remembered her father braking hard and turning to his left, but he could not avoid the collision.

Mr Jones said both cars were in good condition, as was the road surface, and the weather had been fine and visibility was good. Speed was not a factor, he added.

Christopher, he said, had no recollection of the collision and could not offer an explanation.

In a victim impact statement Mr England’s widow, Mair, said she thought about her soul-mate all of the time. They had been married for 44 years and had three children and two grandchildren.

Andrew Nuttall, the barrister representing Christopher, said she also thought about Mr England and his family every day.

“She understands very well that words give little comfort to the family. But all she can say is that she is very, very sorry.

“She really has no idea what happened. She has decided never to drive again,” he added.

Judge Huw Davies told Christopher, “Age caught up with you in a tragic way and without warning.

“You think you must have fallen asleep. There is no other explanation for what happened.”

He said Christopher had “taken a chance” by undertaking such a long journey at her age.

“That day, that drive was asking too much or your stamina. But you took the risk of carrying on,” he added.

Judge Davies said Christopher had been driving since 1960 and had an impeccable record.

But he had to pass a prison sentence that was aimed at the whole community and reflected the consequences of driving without due care.

Christopher, of Hoole Lane, Banks, Southport, was also ordered to pass an extended driving test should she ever want her licence back.

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Man accused of sexually assaulting six-year-old girls

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A FORMER Penparcau man is to stand trial accused of sexually assaulting two six year old girls.

Raymond Albert Wardall, 55, now of Blaenllynant Lodge, Queens Road, Aberystwyth, appeared at Swansea Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing before Judge Paul Thomas.

Wardall denied a total of eight charges of sexual assault and sexual touching.

He will stand trial on November 27 and was granted bail until then.

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Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian

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NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.

The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.

High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).

NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.

24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.

NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.

Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.

“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.

“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”

Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.

Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.

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​Major bequests for Aber research ​

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TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.

The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.

Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.

The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.

The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.

“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”

Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.

The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”

In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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