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Monday, October 31, 2011

How a white supremacist gang leader shed his racist beliefs and - after months of agonising ops - the tattoos that proclaimed them

By Associated Press

The tattoos that covered a man's face show the hate that was once in his heart.

Bryon Widner was one of America's most violent and well known white supremacists, and his heavily-tattooed face displayed it proudly.

But after shunning his racist beliefs, he was still unable to get work because of his facial scarring, and went through a long and complicated journey to have the tattoos removed, in the hope of starting his life anew.

The long, slow process: Byron Widner was determined to erase the traces of his skinhead past by removing all of the facial tattoos that he had accumulated

After 25 surgeries over 16 months, Mr Widner's past has now disappeared from view, leaving him a happy father and employed member of society.

It wasn't always that way, and during one of his darkest periods of despair, his wife Julie was terrified — afraid her husband would do something reckless, even disfigure himself.

'We had come so far,' she says. 'We had left the movement, had created a good family life. We had so much to live for. I just thought there has to be someone out there who will help us.'

After getting married in 2006, the couple, former pillars of the white power movement (she as a member of the National Alliance, he a founder of the Vinlanders gang of skinheads) had worked hard to put their racist past behind them. They had settled down and had a baby; her younger children had embraced Widner as a father.

And yet, the past was ever-present — tattooed in brutish symbols all over his body and face: a blood-soaked razor, swastikas, the letters 'HATE' stamped across his knuckles.

Wherever he turned Mr Widner was shunned — on job sites, in stores and restaurants. People saw a menacing thug, not a loving father. He felt like an utter failure.

The couple had scoured the Internet trying to learn how to remove the facial tattoos safely. But extensive facial tattoos are extremely rare, and few doctors have performed such complicated surgery.

Besides, they couldn't afford it. They had little money and no health insurance.

Desperate: Mr Widner wanted to have his son Tyrson, 4, grow up with a father he could be proud of

Reformed: Widner, left, and his family pray before their dinner at their home

So Mr Widner began investigating homemade recipes, looking at dermal acids and other solutions. He reached the point, he said, where 'I was totally prepared to douse my face in acid.'

In desperation, Julie did something that once would have been unimaginable. She reached out to a black man whom white supremacists consider their sworn enemy.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins runs an anti-hate group called One People's Project based in Philadelphia. The 43-year-old activist is a huge thorn in the side of white supremacists, posting their names and addresses on his website, alerting people to their rallies and organising counter protests.

In Julie he heard the voice of a woman in trouble.

'It didn't matter who she had once been or what she had once believed,' he said. 'Here was a wife and mother prepared to do anything for her family.'

Mr Jenkins suggested that Mr Widner contact T.J. Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead Marine who had famously left the movement in 1996, and has promoted tolerance ever since.

More than anyone else, Mr Leyden understood the revulsion and self-condemnation that Mr Widner was going through. And the danger.

'Hide in plain sight,' he advised. 'Lean on those you trust.'

Most importantly, Mr Leyden told him to call the Southern Poverty Law Center.

'If anyone can help,' he said, 'it's those guys.'

Love is blind: Both Mr and Mrs Widner were active white supremacists but worked for different groups

When Mr Widner called, says Joseph Roy, 'it was like the Osama Bin Laden of the movement calling in.'

Mr Roy is chief investigator of hate and extreme groups for the SPLC. The non-profit civil rights organisation, based in Montgomery, Alabama, tracks hate groups, militias and extreme organisations.

Aggressive at bringing lawsuits, it has successfully shut down leading white power groups, bankrupted their leaders and won multi-million dollar awards for victims.

The SPLC hears regularly from people who say they are trying to leave hate and extreme groups. Some are fakes. Some are trying to spread false intelligence. Many are in crisis, and return to the group when the crisis passes.

'Very rarely have we met a reformed racist skinhead,' says Mr Roy.

Over the years, Mr Roy had dubbed Mr Widner the 'pit bull' of skinheads.

'No one was more aggressive, more confrontational, more notorious,' Mr Roy said.

And yet, over several weeks of conversations with Mr and Mrs Widner, he became convinced. There was something different about this couple — a sincerity, a raw determination to put the past behind them and to seek some sort of redemption.

In March 2007 Mr Roy and an assistant flew to Michigan. Mr Roy still marvels at the memory of the guy with the freakish face walking out to greet them, wearing a 'World's Greatest Dad' sweat shirt, holding his baby boy in one arm while a little girl clung to his other one.

Over the next few days they got to see the suffering Mr Widner was going through. They listened in horror when he told them he was considering using acid on his face. 'He was in a bad place,' Mr Roy said. 'This was a guy who was fighting for his life.'

Mr Widner shared information about the structure of various skinhead groups, the different forms of probation in some gangs, the hierarchy of others.

He agreed to speak at the SPLC's annual Skinhead Intelligence Network conference, which draws police from all over the country.

Reputation: Given his viilent past, many were cautious of Mr Widner's sincerity

For his part, Mr Roy promised to ask his organisation to do something it had never done before — search for a donor to pay for Mr Widner's tattoos to be surgically removed. Mr Widner didn't hold out much hope. But for now, he agreed not to experiment with acid.

Financially and emotionally, things were getting tougher.

Mr Widner found part-time work shovelling snow and odd handyman jobs, but barely enough to support a family. The vicious postings on the Internet continued. Pig manure was dumped on their cars. There were hang-up calls in the middle of the night. Anonymous callers left threatening messages: 'You will die.' Several times, tipped off by sympathetic friends that a crew was on the way to 'take care' of them, the family fled to a hotel.

So when Mr Roy called a couple of months later saying a donor was willing to pay for the surgery, Mr Widner could hardly believe it. The unnamed donor, a longtime supporter of the SPLC had been moved by Mr Widner's story — and shocked by photographs of his face.

'For him to have any chance in life and do good,' she said, 'I knew those tattoos had to come off.'

She agreed to fund the surgeries — at a cost of approximately $35,000 — on several conditions. She wanted to remain anonymous. She wanted assurances that Mr Widner would get his GED, would go into counselling and would pursue either a college education or a trade.

It was easy to agree. These were all things Mr Widner wanted to do.

It would take up to a year to find the right doctors and schedule the operations. Meanwhile, it was clear the family had to leave Michigan. The white power web forums were wild with chatter about the race traitor couple and their family. Through local police, the FBI warned that they were in danger.

In the spring of 2008 they packed their belongings and moved to Tennessee, near Julie's father. They rented a three-bedroom house in the country and joined a church. Helped by his father-in-law and his pastor, Mr Widner found some work. The threats subsided.

Dr Bruce Shack, who chairs the Department of Plastic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, vividly remembers the first time he met Mr Widner. After seeing photographs and talking to the SPLC, he had agreed to do the surgery. But he was totally unprepared for Mr Widner's face.

'This wasn't just a few tattoos,' he said. 'This was an entire canvas.'

Family time: Mr Widner often plays video games with his son Tyrson and has cared for Mrs Widners children from a previous relationship, including Mercedez in the background, like his own

It was June 2009 and the couple had driven to Vanderbilt to meet him. Mr Shack's genial manner immediately put them at ease.

'He didn't just see the tattoos,' Mr Widner says. 'He saw me as a real human being.'
Mr Shack also saw one of the biggest challenges of his career.

Mr Shack showed Mr Widner the laser — which looks like a long, fat pen — that would trace the exact outline of the tattoos as it burned them off his face.

He explained how it would deliver short bursts of energy, different amounts depending on the colour and depth of the tattoo. It would take many sessions for the ink to fade. And it would be painful, far more painful than getting the tattoos in the first place.

'You are going to feel like you have the worst sunburn in the world, your face will swell up like a prizefighter, but it will eventually heal,' Mr Shack told Mr Widner. 'This is not going to be any fun. But if you are willing to do it, I'm willing to help.'

Mr Widner didn't hesitate. 'I have to do it,' he said, as Julie held his hand. 'I am never going to live a normal life unless I do.'

On June 22, 2009, Mr Widner lay on an operating table, his mind spinning with anxiety and hope. A nurse dabbed numbing gel all over his face. Mr Shack towered over him in protective goggles and injected a local anesthetic. Then he started jabbing Widner's skin, the laser making a staccato rat-tat-tat sound as it burned through his flesh.

Mr Widner had never felt such pain.

Hunted: Given his history, Mr Widner and his family are targets of death threats and attacks on their home

Fear: Widner's stepdaughter Isabella, 9. The family say they feel safe, as several police officers live nearby, but there are risks in publicly denouncing the violent world of white supremacism

Not all the times he had suffered black eyes and lost teeth in bar brawls, not the time in jail when guards — for fun — locked him up with a group of black inmates in order to see him taken down. His face swelled up in a burning rage, his eyes were black and puffy, his hands looked like blistered boxing gloves. He had never felt so helpless or so miserable.

'I was real whiny during that time,' he says.

'He was real brave,' says Mrs Widner.

After a couple of sessions, Mr Shack decided that Mr Widner was in too much pain: the only way to continue was to put him under general anaesthetic for every operation. It was also clear that the removal was going to take far longer than the seven or eight sessions he had originally anticipated.

They developed a routine.

Every few weeks, Mr Widner would spend about an hour and a half in surgery and another hour in recovery, while Mrs Widner would fuss and fret and try to summon the strength to hide her fears and smile at the bruised, battered husband she drove home.

It would often take days for the burns and oozing blisters to subside.

Mr Shack and his team marvelled at Mr Widner's determination and endurance. The Widners marvelled at the team's level of commitment and care.

Even nurses who were initially intimidated by Mr Widner's looks found themselves growing fond of the stubborn former skinhead and his young family.

Slowly — far more slowly than Mr Widner had hoped — the tattoos began to fade. In all he underwent 25 surgeries over the course of 16 months, on his face, neck and hands.

On October 22, 2010, the day of the final operation, Mr Shack hugged Mrs Widner and shook hands with Mr Widner. Removing the tattoos, he said, had been one of his greatest honours as a surgeon. But a greater privilege was getting to know them.

'Anyone who is prepared to put himself through this is bound to do something good with his life,' Mr Shack said.

In a comfortable yard in a tidy suburban subdivision, Mr and Mrs Widner smoke Marlboros and sip energy drinks as they contemplate the newest chapter in their lives.

Only a few trusted friends and family members know where they live — they agreed to be interviewed on condition that the location of their new home not be disclosed.

This time, they moved because they had deliberately exposed themselves to danger. After much consideration, the couple had agreed to allow an MSNBC film crew to follow Mr Widner through his surgeries.

The cameras didn't spare the details, capturing Mr Widner writhing and moaning in agony. Mr Widner didn't care. If anything he felt that he deserved the pain and the public humiliation as a kind of penance for all the hurt he had caused over the years.

Facing life anew: Mr Widner allowed MSNBC to film his tattoo removal for a documentary in hopes of inspiring others

But there was a deeper motivation for going public with his story. There was a chance that some angry young teenager on the verge of becoming a skinhead would see Mr Widner's suffering and think twice.

Maybe he would realise that, as Mr Widner says now, 'I wasn't on any great mission for the white race. I was just a thug.'
They moved the day after the documentary — 'Erasing Hate' — aired in June.

Mr Widner's arms and torso are still extensively tattooed. He is in the process of inking over the 'political' ones, like the Nazi lightning bolts. His face is clean and scar free, and he has a shock of thick black hair. With his thin glasses and studious expression, he looks nerdy, Mrs Widner jokes.

His neck and hands have suffered some pigment damage, he gets frequent migraine headaches and he has to stay out of the sun. But, he says, 'it's a small price to pay for being human again'.

The move took a financial toll. Mrs Widner had to pawn her wedding ring to buy groceries and pay the rent. But Mr Widner has found some work — construction and tattoo jobs. He got his GED and they both plan to start courses at the local community college.

They say they feel safe. Several police officers and firefighters live nearby; the FBI has visited and the local police know their story.

Still they can't help but worry. It's one thing getting out of the white power movement as others have done, fading into obscurity. It's another to publicly denounce the violent world they once inhabited.

Mr Widner has constant nightmares about what injuries he might have inflicted — injuries he can only imagine because so often he was in a drunken stupor when he beat someone up. Did he blind someone? Did he paralyse someone? He doesn't know.

But there are moments of grace. After a recent screening of the documentary in California, a black woman embraced Mr Widner in tears. 'I forgive you,' she cried.

All smiles: After the screening of the documentary by filmmaker Bill Brummel a black woman embraced Mr Widner in tears. 'I forgive you,' she cried.

Recognition: Widner and his wife Julie are applauded after the screening of a documentary film featuring their family

They've thrown out everything to do with their racist past, including photographs of Widner and his crew posing at Nordic fests and of the white power conferences Julie used to attend. And yet there are reminders all around, and not just the remaining tattoos. Tyrson's name — inspired by the Norse god of justice, Tyr — troubles them for its connection to the racist brand of Odinism his father practised with the Vinlanders. But how do they ask a four-year-old to change his name to Eddie?

The child tugs at his daddy's Spiderman T-shirt, begging him to come play video games. 'OK, buddy,' Mr Widner says. 'Let's go shoot a few bad guys.'

With that, the man who once brandished his hate like a badge of honour scoops up his son and turns on his Xbox.

Mr Widner plays the role of Captain America. The bad guys are Nazis.


'I want to have a hysterectomy': Pregnant Man Thomas Beatie reveals his giving birth days are over

By Rachel Quigley

Exclusive: Thomas Beatie and his wife Nancy will appear on The Doctors tomorrow with their three kids to talk about life after pregnancy

The 'Pregnant Man' Thomas Beatie is putting his giving birth days behind him.

In an exclusive interview with The Doctors, in which Mr Beatie talks about becoming a man, giving birth and life after childbirth, he reveals that he has given birth to his last baby and is considering having a hysterectomy.

Having been born a woman, Mr Beatie legally became a man in 2002 but did not have his female reproductive organs removed.

He hit headlines around the world as the first 'pregnant man' with his bearded face and protruding belly.

He now has three children with his wife Nancy - Susan, Austin and Jensen.

It was his wife who breastfed their babies as he had his removed in the operation.
His male hormones also stopped him from producing milk.

Transformation: Thomas Beatie, shown left when he was pregnant with his first child in 2008, shows off his muscular physique in July, a year after giving birth to his third child, Jensen, also pictured,

Brood: Thomas Beatie now has three children, Susan, three, Austin, two, and Jansen, who turned one earlier this year. He gave birth to all three naturally

But during each pregnancy, he had to go off his male hormones for the health of the child.

The transgender dad will reveal on The Doctors tomorrow that the impact going off the hormones had on his body is more than he wants to go through again.

A hysterectomy will help stabilise him medically as a male, according to RadarOnline.

Mr Beatie and his entire brood will come together to talk about their non-traditional family and how they have coped with the death threats, the stares and the struggle to make ends meet after his business suffered because of prejudice against his decision to become the world's first transgender dad.

He will talk about how people have reacted to the transgendered dad and his family and also discusses the medical complications that come from years of hormone treatments and bearing three children.

Happy families: Mr Beatie talks about life after birth and said though he loves his three children, he thinks his giving birth days are over

Husband and wife: Thomas and his wife Nancy, right, discuss their struggles of trying to live a normal life

A day out: Thomas Beatie and his family have a day at Grona Lund amusement park in August this year

Though he discusses how difficult it was to get his body back to its pre-pregnancy state, Mr Beatie was pictured earlier this year with beginnings of a six-pack - though there was evidence of stretch marks on his taut physique.

Mr Beatie was born as a woman, Tracy Lagondino, in Hawaii in 1974, but says he always felt like he wanted to be a man.

When he was in his twenties began having testosterone injections, giving him facial hair, a lower voice and altering his sexual organs.

In 2002 he had a mastectomy and legally became a man - but he chose to keep his vagina, uterus and other female sexual organs so the couple could have children, as his wife had had a hysterectomy.

The couple moved to Arizona from their home in Bend, Oregon, after their house was repossessed last year.

He said his successful T-shirt printing business, Define Normal, folded because of his fame. He said: 'We tried to keep up with regular orders, but we lost a lot of customers because of prejudice, and then the economy took a huge downturn.'

In March Mr Beatie revealed he had filed for bankruptcy and was desperately seeking a job to get his family off welfare handouts and pay his $5,000-a-month mortgage.

He tried to appear on celebrity dance show Dancing with the Stars this year but was pipped to the post by transgender contestant Chaz Bono.

He told TMZ that Cher's daughter-turned-son 'stole his thunder' as producers did not think there was room for two transgender contestants.


A new home at last for the blind Great Dane and her devoted guide dog

-Couple decided to take in Lily and Maddison after reading about them in the Daily Mail
-Dogs can now look forward to holidays in France and the Lake District

By Daily Mail Reporter

Happy ending: Len Williams and his wife Anne with blind Lily and her guide dog Maddison. The couple have taken in the two dogs after reading about them in the Daily Mail

It’s the happy ending that Lily the blind great dane and her trusty friend turned guide dog Maddison deserve.

When the Daily Mail featured the heart-warming tale of the two great danes, who were looking for a new home, more than 2,000 dog lovers responded by offering to take them.

Now Lily and Maddison are moving from the Dogs Trust centre in Shrewsbury to live with the Williams family 35 miles away in Crewe, Cheshire.

Lily, six, was barely a puppy when she was struck down by a condition that caused her eyelashes to grow into her eyeballs, damaging them beyond repair.

Thankfully her friend Maddison, seven, became her new eyes and led her everywhere.

The two have become inseparable and Lily follows Maddison, almost touching her as they walk so she knows where to go.

But in July their owner could no longer cope with them and they were sent to the re-homing centre.

Forever friends: Lily, left, being guided while walking with Maddison right. The pair have been inseparable since Lily lost her sight

Anne Williams, 52, and her husband Len, 53, a retired fireman, fell in love with the dogs when they read about them in the Mail and their offer was accepted by the trust.

Mrs Williams, a business manager for an insurance company, said: ‘We've always had two dogs together, I like them to have company and so taking on two of them wasn't a daunting prospect.

'My daughter moved out five months ago, taking her two English setters with her, so the house has felt a little quiet without them.

Playful: Lily's lack of sight has heightened her other senses so she can often tell if Maddison is nearby without the pair touching

‘We live in the countryside and I miss having a reason to go for a walk - I can't wait to take the dogs out with us. We've also got a lovely big garden so it's the perfect setting for two huge dogs.’

The couple plan to take the great danes on holidays to France and the Lake District and ensure they both enjoy life with their new family.

Louise Campbell, manager of the Dogs Trust in Shrewsbury, said: ‘This is the happy ending we were all hoping for and everyone is delighted for Lily and Maddison.

‘The Williams family were the perfect match and we know they'll give the dogs all the love and fuss they so deserve.’


BBC staff are trained on correct way to announce death of Queen in bid to avoid another embarrassing gaffe

By Daily Mail Reporter

Presenters Edwards and Witchell lead the mock preparations for the Queen's death

BBC staff are being trained on the correct way to report the Queen's death in a bid to avoid another embarrassing gaffe.

The Corporation was heavily criticised in the wake of the death of the Queen Mother after veteran Peter Sissons went on air in a grey suit and burgundy tie.

Staff at the organisation's College Of Journalism have been shown mock videos featuring Huw Edwards announcing that the Queen has passed away.

A BBC source told the Sunday Times: 'Like all news organisations, the BBC has plans in place.

'We provide training to ensure staff understand what would be expected.'

BBC chiefs hope the Royal funeral training will avoid a repeat of the faux pas by former newsreader Peter Sissons, who in 2002, pronounced the Queen Mother's death, dressed in a grey suit accompanied with a burgundy tie.

In the aftermath of her death, the BBC switchboard received numerous complaints from audiences over the handling of the announcement, worsened by rival broadcaster ITV, were presenters adhered to the traditional black tie attire for the broadcast.

The BBC has since changed its policy and reporters will be instructed to wear dark coloured suits, with the male broadcasters in white shirts and black ties as a mark or respect.

Fashion faux pas: Sissons was later criticised for not wearing a black tie as he announced the death of the Queen Mother

Sissons' gaffe is not the first time the BBC has come under fire from the royals, with Prince Charles famously caught slating Witchell during a press-call at the ski resort of Klosters in 2005.

Witchell, who has been the BBC's royal correspondent for the last 13 years, riled Prince Charles after asking him how his sons, Princes William and Harry felt about his decision to marry Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles.

Caught in the act: Prince Charles berates BBC journalist Nicholas Witchell

Staff were informed of the change in BBC schedule that will coincide with the Queen's death.

Following the announcement, the national anthem will be screened in the backdrop whilst television screens display a picture of the royal.

Meanwhile, with the funeral expected to take place 12 days following her passing, the BBC will suspend all comedy shows across its channels until after the burial.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pippa 'set to sign book deal' for guide to being perfect party hostess

By Mail On Sunday Reporter

Party tips: Pippa Middleton is said to have been offered a deal to pen a book on how to be the perfect party hostess

Pippa Middleton is said to be close to signing a book deal on how to be the perfect party hostess.

The 28-year-old became a global celebrity after her sister Kate married Prince William and now it appears she is in talks with literary agent David Godwin about a book, which would be certain to become a lucrative bestseller.

When The Mail on Sunday contacted Mr Godwin, 63, at his home in St Albans, Hertfordshire, last night he said: 'It's a private matter and I really can't comment.'

It is reported Pippa has had two meetings with publishing executives at HarperCollins and has also had discussions with other publishing houses.

Advisers to Pippa believe it could become an international success, and predict it might make more than £1 million from royalties and spin-off projects.

The book, as yet untitled, is believed to include tips on etiquette, what food to serve at a party and how to decorate a room.

It will feature a section on children's parties, inspired by the blog edited by Pippa, The Party Times – part of her parents' mailorder service, Party Pieces.

The sisters' parents, Carole and Michael, were widely criticised for appearing to promote their party business on the back of the Royal Wedding earlier this year.

Pippa's advisers will also be careful to avoid the pitfalls of Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's former butler, whose book on hosting parties, Entertaining With Style, was published in 1999.

Pippa and Kate's parents Carole and Michael have previously faced criticism for using the royal wedding to help back their party business

Pippa's book is expected to have a casual tone similar to her blog. In one entry, she writes: 'The key to creating a wonderful party lies not in spending vast amounts but in planning – from choice of venue, entertainer and party theme to the selection of food, decorations and the birthday cake.'

t is thought the book could be published just before Christmas 2012.


He carried rolls of bank notes in his shell suit... he wore his oddness as a badge: It's all over now, then for Sir Jimmy

Sir Jimmy Savile, the DJ known to a generation as the man who made their dreams come true, died yesterday at the age of 84. Tributes poured in for the DJ, famed for his tracksuits, jangly gold jewellery and cigars, and catchphrases such as ‘Now then, now then’ and ‘How’s about that, then?’, who died just days before his 85th birthday.

Born in Yorkshire, Sir Jimmy was the youngest of seven children of bookmaker’s assistant Vincent Savile and his wife Agnes. He never married and remained devoted to his mother, whom he called The Duchess and who lived with him until she died.

In 1958 he became a DJ on pirate radio station Radio Luxembourg, later joining Radio 1. But he will perhaps be best remembered for Jim’ll Fix It, the long-running series he devised and presented which saw children write in to have their wishes granted.

As celebrities past and present remembered Jimmy, his friend and official biographer Dan Davies writes a poignant tribute on the entertainer who had a heart of gold.

By Dan Davies

Watching Jimmy Savile pay for lunch never failed to make me smile. During our many meetings over the past few years, we dined lavishly in the Athenaeum Club in London’s Pall Mall, a bastion of the British establishment.

We’d also dine in less salubrious surroundings, such as Ossie’s cafe in Marylebone – ‘next door to the Golden Hands massage parlour,’ as Jimmy helpfully pointed out.

At the Athenaeum Club, he’d reminisce about the many extraordinary chapters of his life, clearly right at home surrounded by the great and the good. Then the bill would arrive and he’d pull a thick roll of banknotes from the pocket of his blazer – it was the only time I’d see him wear anything other than his trademark shellsuit – peeling off a few and slipping them to the waiter.

I first interviewed Jimmy in 2003, and after several further conversations he called me out of the blue three years ago and invited me to take a cruise with him on the QE2. He knew I’d been going through a difficult time and generously said: ‘Come on, it’ll cheer you up.’

I flew to Cadiz and we sailed for four days until we reached Southampton. I watched him charging around the boat like an unofficial entertainment officer, putting me to shame with his energy despite being almost 80.

I’d been intrigued by him since childhood, when I watched the programme Jim’ll Fix It being filmed in West London, but the trip, and our many other meetings, showed me sides of his character which belied the larger-than-life image of the guy with the outlandish outfits, the cigars and the copious amounts of jewellery.

He was kind to me on that journey, and I saw his kindness to others. Our fellow passengers included a couple with a daughter who had Down’s syndrome. I saw him approach her and begin chatting. After a few of his jokes, she positively lit up.

A few years ago, I began to write a biography of Jimmy, which I have not yet finished. We saw one another regularly and became friends, although I often wondered if some of the well-rehearsed, colourful anecdotes he liked to tell served as a mask to prevent anybody getting too close.

Larger than life: Sir Jimmy Savile was a close friend of Prince of Wales, who has pair tribute to the star, known for his wacky outfits

Charity run: Jimmy Savile shares a joke with the late Princess Diana at the London Marathon in 1988

In fact, I had made a mental note to call him yesterday, when I found out he had passed away. Our birthdays were just one day apart; his on Halloween and mine today. He said he was ‘a full warlock’ while I was merely ‘half warlock’.

He knew people regarded him as odd, but he revelled in it. He wore his oddness as a badge of honour. He said the reason he became famous was because he was different. Even those who never met Jimmy feel they knew him to some degree. He was what can only be described as a Zelig-like figure who popped up at pivotal episodes in the story of post-war Britain.

He had a colossal impact on popular culture, from his earliest days as one of the first professional DJs to his time presenting Top of the Pops and beyond.

Tragedy: Jimmy Savile has died at his home aged 84, pictured here with his signature cigar and gold jewellery

He was equally well known for his tireless dedication to charity work, raising £40 million for various causes including Stoke Mandeville Hospital, for which he spearheaded the campaign to build the new National Spinal Injuries Centre.

James Savile was born in Leeds in 1926, seventh child of a bookmaker’s clerk and Agnes, the woman he called The Duchess. At the age of 18, he became a Bevin Boy, conscripted during the Second World War to work as a coal miner. He told me he was involved in an accident down the mine which injured his back. He didn’t explicitly say so, but I wondered if that was where his passion for helping those with spinal injuries came from.

The accident meant he could not join the RAF, which had been his original ambition, so instead he became a local impresario, running ‘record dances’ with an adapted gramophone. He was at various times a scrap metal dealer and a keen competitive cyclist.

TV legend: Savile with one of his famous Jim'll Fix It medals

He took part in the first Tour of Britain cycle race in 1951, part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. He told me it gave him his first taste of showbusiness, as at the end of each of the numerous stages, he would get up on stage and regale audiences with stories of coming last. When his bike finally broke down he intended to head back to Leeds but by this point had become such a personality that the race organisers insisted he join the commentary car instead. He was retained as a race commentator for years afterwards.

Jimmy had grown up in dance halls, being trailed along by his parents, and claimed to have been the first person to use two turntables and a microphone.

During the 1950s he became a star figure at Mecca, which had ballrooms around the country, managing the Mecca Locarno ballroom in Leeds and going on to train a generation of DJs. He pioneered the lunchtime bops, loved by schoolchildren, and his Monday evening records-only dance nights were a favourite with teens.

By 1960, he was Radio Luxembourg’s star DJ, and travelled to America to meet Elvis. On his return he donated the proceeds from signed photos of him with the King to the Duke of Edinburgh’s National Playing Fields Association, marking the start of an association with the Royal Family which eventually led to him working as an unofficial mentor to Prince Charles and, later, as a peacemaker during Charles’ split from Princess Diana.

Indeed, Charles appears to have counted him among his most trusted confidants, a claim backed up by the testimony of Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, who wrote: ‘Savile’s opinions carry weight in both camps. As the unofficial court jester, he articulates opinions that courtiers can only think.’

He never spoke of his Royal connections, however. ‘I’m the man who says nothing,’ he would say. ‘Anything to do with matters Royal is a no-go area.’

On New Year’s Day 1964 he presented the first edition of Top of the Pops from a disused church in Manchester.

By that stage, he was already far older than most people involved in the music industry, but as a Svengali-like figure, fledgling pop stars such as the Beatles, Tom Jones and Van Morrison flocked to him for advice. In July 2006, he presented the final edition of the programme.

He remained a fixture of television for 30 years and became known to a new generation of children with the show Jim’ll Fix It, in which he made children’s wishes come true and which ran from 1975 to 1994. With his catchphrases ‘How’s about that, then?’ and ‘Now then, now then, now then’, he seemed to become more of a caricature of himself as the years passed.

Yet he continued to be involved with projects which seemed totally at odds with the popular perception of him. In 1988, he was named as the head of a new task force charged with turning around Broadmoor, Britain’s most notorious high-security psychiatric hospital, home to Ronnie Kray and Peter Sutcliffe. He had been volunteering there alongside his work for Leeds General Infirmary and Stoke Mandeville and in his new role he achieved a great deal.

Famous friends: Savile, seen here with Prince Charles and Frank Bruno in 1998, was a close friend of many royal family members

Reality star: Savile went into the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2006 to fix dreams for some of the famous housemates

When I asked what he made of the more notorious patients, he said: ‘I’ve met all of them. I talk to all of them.’ He made no distinction between having the ear of senior Royals and the trust of some of Britain’s most disturbed killers. ‘There’s no such thing as important people or famous people, they’re just people,’ he said.

He remained a lifelong bachelor, and his relationship with his mother was the most important of his life. Following her death in 1973 he continued to revere her memory.

He once allowed me to stay in the room he kept as a shrine to her in his house in Scarborough, which, although a slightly odd experience, was also a compliment. I slept under a crimson bedspread with a JS crest at its centre.

When I was with him, my aim was to find out what it was that drove him and why he chose to dedicate himself to helping others.

He would often talk of his ‘interest in people’ and his willingness to ‘listen and help if I could’. He would tell me it stemmed from a simple wish to make people smile.

I always wondered if there was something hidden in his past which would explain it, but he remained an enigma until the end.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm royalty, get me out of here! Prince Philip faces Bushtucker Trial in front of nearly 100,000 people on last day of Australia tour

-The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh joined in giant BBQ at the end of 11-day royal visit before boarding a plane home

By Emma Reynolds

Bonzer barbie mate: A cheerful Prince Philip gamely joins in a record-breaking Aussie cook-off wearing a suit and Panama-style hat

He may be 90 years old, but Prince Philip was ready for any challenge the Aussies could throw at him on the final day of the royal tour Down Under.

The Duke of Edinburgh gamely flipped a steak as he joined in a record-breaking barbie in Perth before he and the Queen bade goodbye to Australia.

But Philip could not be persuaded into sampling the chef's barbecued shellfish at the end of the 16-day state visit, telling him, 'I'm not in the mood'.

Poised in pink: The Queen looks stern-faced as she stands in the glaring sunlight beside her husband and Perth Mayor Lisa Scaffidi for the national anthem

Satisfied chef Vincent Garreffa said: 'We had a ribeye steak and a pork cutlet which were waiting to be turned, and he did us proud.'

The prawns, crayfish and scallops the chef offered up were a step too far for the intrepid prince, however, who kept out of the glaring sun under a Panama-style hat.

Nearly 100,000 people joined in the barbecue on the banks of Swan River, where the hungry hordes devoured 130,000 sausages, 8,000 loaves of bread, 60,000 litres of sauce and 150,000 drinks.

The prince was presented with a book of barbecue recipes for his troubles, which may come in useful for stately entertaining after the Prime Minister's summer's picnic for the Obamas proved something of a damb squib.

The Queen, who was tempted this week by kangaroo stew, was again feeling peckish after TV chef Anna Gare showed her some Turkish lamb sausages with onion marmalade and tomato and pear chutney.

Ms Gare, Ben Elton's sister-in-law, said afterwards: 'The Queen was gorgeous, she totally sparkled. She was very interested in the type of sausages we had. She said she had such a lovely time in Perth.'

The Queen has received a rapturous welcome during her 11-day tour and tens of thousands of people gathered in Perth for a final glimpse of the royal couple.

Her Majesty told the crowd: 'We have been overwhelmed by your kindness and support.

'Once again we will return to the United Kingdom with fond memories of our time here and the warm Australian welcome we have received on our 16th visit to this beautiful country.'

The Queen also chatted to five schoolgirls who helped at the barbecue.

Chloe Dann, 11, said the Queen asked what they were cooking.

'I told her we cooked some sausages with some spices and stuff on them.'

See ya later: The adoring crowd wave goodbye to their Queen as she boards a flight home from Perth

Thanks Bruce: The monarch offers a gloved hand to the governor of Western Australia, Malcolm McCusker, as her 11-day tour comes to an end

Myra Agnew was hoping to see the Queen for a second time. 'Twenty-three years ago my daughter Catherine gave her flowers and we came with flowers today and tried to give them again but we were one barricade behind and couldn’t get forward,' she said.

But Mrs Agnew was still pleased to have gone to the event. 'The Queen is part of our history, no matter what people want to say,' she added.

'She’s a magnificent person and a lot of people admire her for what she does and I do think we all need to belong somewhere.

'We are part of the Commonwealth and I think it’s a good thing.'

British pride: The Queen receives David Cameron at the banquet she hosted to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

The trip had political significance as the Commonwealth leaders' summit agreed yesterday to put royal daughters on the same footing as sons. Those in line for the throne will also be allowed to marry Roman Catholics for the first time in 300 years without giving up their claim.

Some predict the 85-year-old Queen's visit will be her last, but Buckingham Palace dismissed rumours it was a farewell tour.

A royal source said: 'The Queen and Duke have really enjoyed themselves. The Queen has been bowled over by the reaction.'

The main purpose of the tour was to allow the Queen to open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and she presided over the launch ceremony before hosting a lavish banquet in honour of the world leaders.

Her visit ended with a low-key farewell on the tarmac at Perth International Airport.

The couple's chartered British Airways jet was flying the sovereign's Australian standard from the pilot's cockpit window, as several hundred well-wishers gathered behind a wire mesh fence to see them off.

As the monarch's motorcade arrived, Governor General Quentin Bryce and her husband Michael greeted the royal couple as they emerged from their Range Rover.

The two women chatted for a few minutes before the head of state was introduced to federal and state representatives.

The royal couple climbed the plane's steps and the Queen clung on to the brim of her hat in the blustery weather while the pair waved goodbye.

A cheer went up from the spectators watching from 100 metres away and senior members of the royal household followed the Queen on to the plane.

They are due to arrive back in the UK in the early hours of tomorrow morning.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Furious Greeks lampoon German 'overlords' as Nazis with picture of Merkel dressed as an SS guard

-Street poster depicts German Chancellor wearing a swastika armband bearing the EU stars logo on the outside

By Daily Mail Reporter

Attack: A street poster in Greece has depicted Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform with a swastika surrounded by the EU stars. The accompanying words describe her as a 'public nuisance'

Greeks angry at the fate of the euro are comparing the German government with the Nazis who occupied the country in the Second World War.

Newspaper cartoons have presented modern-day German officials dressed in Nazi uniform, and a street poster depicts Chancellor Angela Merkel dressed as an officer in Hitler’s regime accompanied with the words: ‘Public nuisance.’

She wears a swastika armband bearing the EU stars logo on the outside.

The backlash has been provoked by Germany’s role in driving through painful measures to stop Greece’s debt crisis from spiralling out of control.

Greeks are furious at the deal, even though it means the banks will write off 50 per cent of the country’s debt and Socialist prime minister George Papandreou said Greece had ‘avoided a mortal national danger’.

Opposition parties blasted the landmark agreement, with conservatives warning it condemned the country to ‘nine more years of collapse and poverty’.

But it is the fury of ordinary Greeks which is raising eyebrows.

Greek government officials who agreed to the belt-tightening moves have been portrayed in cartoons giving the Nazi ‘Sieg Heil’ salute.

And German visitors flocking to ancient tourist sites are being met with a hostile welcome from some Greeks.

Berlin’s interference has revived historical enmities and evoked comparisons to the massive destruction of Greece at the hands of Hitler’s Germany more than 65 years ago.

Cartoons have sprung up depicting the European Union’s ‘troika’ as ferocious soldiers in Second World War uniforms.

Satirical: Cartoons appearing in Greek newspapers have drawn comparisons with the Nazis

Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos is a regular target in the liberal daily Eleftherotypia and is often shown in cartoons making a Nazi salute.

One shows a German soldier watching over Venizelos as he barks at a Greek citizen to pay more taxes.

In another cartoon, a young Greek answers a German soldier asking why there were no names on a list of Greece’s newly formed labour reserve, saying: ‘They are empty as you exterminated the Communists, the Jews, the homosexuals, the gipsies and the crazies last time.’


'Why didn't you take a taxi?': What Eamonn Holmes asked girl who was raped as she walked home from a night out

-ITV confirm his comments have sparked viewer outrage
-Woman waived her right to anonymity for live TV interview
-Star criticised for 'flippant, dismissive' remark

By Daily Mail Reporter

Controversial: Presenter Eamonn Holmes has been accused of 'victim blaming' following his remarks to rape victim Hannah Cant on live TV

TV presenter Eamonn Holmes has been criticised for telling a rape victim: 'I hope you take taxis now.'

Viewers of ITV's This Morning have reacted with outrage, claiming that Holmes appeared to blame the victim for making herself vulnerable.

He made the controversial remarks during an interview with Hannah Cant, 20, who was raped by a stranger when she was 18.

She had been walking home from a night out in Chippenham, Wiltshire, when she was dragged into a car and subjected to a sex attack by soldier Jonathan Haynes.

She had the presence of mind to tear out strands of her own hair and spit in the car to leave her DNA at the scene after seeing a similar tactic used on TV show CSI.

She took the brave step of waiving her right to anonymity to appear on This Morning to speak about her ordeal a month after Haynes was jailed for at least 11 years.

Holmes, 51, introduced the interview, saying: 'She was on her way home from a night out with her friends and walking home - didn't take a taxi.

'It's that old thing, I always say. Why were you tempted to walk home?'

Brave: Hannah Cant appeared on This Morning to talk about being raped aged 18

Miss Cant explained she had been with a friend and had walked the last two streets alone to her home as she had done many times before.

She said: 'I thought it would be OK.'

Holmes said: 'But it wasn't.'

Miss Cant went on to speak of how she feared she would die during the ordeal, and then feared for her life after her attacker warned her not to go to the police.

At the end of the interview, after thanking her for appearing, Holmes said: 'I hope you take taxis now. Everywhere you go, coming home at night.'

He then turned and asked his wife and co-presenter Ruth Langsford: 'How many times do I tell people who I know to take taxis?'

Hundreds of outraged viewers took to social media websites to protest, accusing the presenter of 'victim blaming'.

Interview: Mr Holmes told Miss Cant she should have taken a taxi home before turning to wife Ruth Langsford, right, and asking 'How many times do I tell people to take taxis?'

Philippa Willitts wrote on the blog of the women's rights site F-Word: 'The moral of the whole story was that, frankly, none of this would have happened if she hadn't dared to be outside, near her house, when a kidnapper and rapist was around.

'The victim-blaming attitude encompassed in that one sentence is as astounding as it is offensive.

'The truth is that women cannot win with attitudes like Eamonn Holmes's around. If we don't blame the perpetrator, things will never, ever change.'

Others took to Twitter, expressing their views using the tags #victimblaming and #patronisingfatherfigure.

@absinthetweets wrote: 'Hard to believe that Eamonn Holmes comment. Just hand-to-mouth-shocked-face awful.'

Another commentator wrote online: 'I can't believe that they would ruin a brave woman's (most likely) harrowing interview by making such a flippant, dismissive and stupid comment.'

Holmes apologised on air earlier this month after This Morning viewers complained at him branding celebrity guest Jonathan Wilkes 'retarded'.

A spokesman for ITV confirmed they had received 26 complaints from viewers about Eamonn Holmes' comments since they were broadcast on Tuesday morning.

But she said: 'Eamonn was in no way suggesting that the victim was in any way to blame for this horrific attack.

'His interview was carried out with the utmost care and compassion and his comments were intended to highlight safety advice.

'Hannah was happy with the interview and not in any way offended by Eammon's advice.'


Pensioner kills neighbour's cat with air rifle as it was chasing birds away

-Retired builder admitted 'losing control' before the shooting
-Bird lover fined £400 for potshot at five-month old Hartley

By Nadia Gilani

He said that he had thought the ginger and white cat was feral.

A retired builder shot his neighbour's cat with an air rifle because it was chasing birds in his garden, a court heard.

Eric Reeves, 68, shot five-month old Hartley after 'losing control' on August 8 at his home in Bradenham near Dereham, Norfolk.

Reeves admitted a charge of causing unnecessary suffering but claimed he had not realised the cat belonged to his neighbour, Nicholas Townley.

The cat survived and managed to walk back to his owner's home, King's Lynn Magistrates court heard.

Jonathan Eales, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA said: 'Mr Townley examined the cat and found bleeding coming from his right-hand side and when he tried to clean the wound the cat was sick.

'Mr Townley took the cat to see a vet who told him the cat had a puncture wound which would have been caused by a fall or an air gun pellet.

'As Mr Townley didn't think it was a pellet, the cat was given antibiotics', it was reported in The Daily Telegraph.

An X-ray later revealed that the air gun pellet had punctured the cat's intestine.

Mr Townley found his pet in distress the next morning and took it back to the veterinary surgery but it died on arrival.

Reeves later went to see Mr Townley at his home where he admitted to the shooting.

He explained that he shot the animal as he was having problems with feral cats scaring birds from his garden.

The court heard that Reeves feeds wild birds that come to his garden and when he saw the cat, he 'lost it'.

Ian Graham, defending said: 'He has shown a lot of remorse and is horrified by the pain the cat suffered.

'He is a bird lover and likes to spend his money on bird feed.

'He also used to have a cat himself. He has no bad attitude towards animals or cats and offered to pay for the vet bills but that offer was rejected.'

Reeves was ordered to do 100 hours' unpaid work and pay £400 in costs.

RSPCA inspector, Dave Padmore said: 'This sends out a clear message that it is unacceptable to go around shooting animals.'


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Swaggering arrogance of child sex attackers: 12-year-old brandishes burger on his way into court

-Victim: They pushed me to the ground and then they jumped on top of me. I was screaming, 'Get off me, get off me'
-Judge: I see this case as a case of bullying, albeit with an overtone of sex which is used by the young and inexperienced as a form of bullying
-Boys sent back to the same school as their victim

By Daily Mail Reporter

Sick: The boy convicted of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl raises his arm in an arrogant salute as he arrives as court

Strutting into court with a fizzy drink in one hand and a burger in the other, he raises his arm in the air in an arrogant salute.

This is one of the 12-year-old boys convicted of leaping on top of a schoolgirl and sexually assaulting her yards from the school gates.

The 12-year-old victim was wrestled to the ground by a group of four boys after bending down to tie her shoelace as she walked out of school.

A youth court heard that she screamed for help while the gang, who were 11 at the time, laughed as they groped her breasts and groin, and one boy exposed himself.

The sickening three-minute attack in South London was witnessed by a sixth former who walked past, ignoring the victim’s cries for help.

Eventually another classmate saw what was happening and chased the boys away.

The victim described her ordeal over video-link to the court in Camberwell.

She said: ‘It was like they planned it, one grabbed my arm and pinned it against my back.

‘They pushed me to the ground and then they jumped on top of me. I was screaming, “Get off me, get off me”, but they didn’t listen. They were all laughing, they thought it was funny. They started licking my face. It felt horrible and slimy. I was screaming, “Stop it, stop it”.

‘But they didn’t stop until another classmate came round the corner. He punched one of them and the others ran off.’

The victim, who fled in tears after the attack, added: ‘I felt dirty to be touched like that. It was horrible.’

Callous: The three 12-year-old boys looked relaxed as they turned up at court wearing trainers and hoodies and snacking on junk food

A magistrate said the boys’ behaviour was ‘extraordinary’ as he found three of them guilty of sexual assault. One was convicted of a further charge of indecent exposure. Another 12-year-old boy pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

None of those involved can be named because of their ages. District judge Richard Blake said: ‘I see this case as a case of bullying, albeit with an overtone of sex which is used by the young and inexperienced as a form of bullying.

‘You are all 12 and should have known that this was not a proper way to behave.’

The district judge removed bail conditions to allow the four boys to return to school. All four will be sentenced next month.

Guilty: A magistrate found three boys guilty of sexual assault and one of a further charge of indecent exposure. Another 12-year old pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing


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