50 YRS AGO & TODAY | 1 YEAR AGO | LAST WEEK | IMAGE COLLECTION | EYEWITNESS@DS98 | MANCHESTER PEOPLE
PENNINES PARANORMAL WEBSITE STEALS THE SHOW
IF YOU FANCY AN ALTERNATIVE to stories about Metrolink, building developments, crime and black pudding competitions, how about ghouls, UFO's, phantom helicopters and poltergeists? Well, a website based just to the east of Manchester has been gaining enormous hit rates by featuring such topics, and in particular, a webcam aimed at the Longendale Valley, said to be one of the UK's "hotspots" for paranormal activity.
The website is run by Glossop housewife Debbie Fair, and was featured in an article by Pam Marsden in Saturday's MEN. That evening, the "Longendale Lights Skywatch" took place between 7 and 10pm. Visitors to the website were invited to look at the webcam picture to see if there were any paranormal manifestations. The Longendale Valley has been the scene of reports of jumping lights, WW2 planes and phantom helicopter crashes. I had a look but wasn't sure if those strange shapes in the sky were just due to lens flare or image compression faults. Have a look at www.phenomena.ndirect.co.uk and see what you think.
"HAT MAN" HUNTED AT MANCHESTER AIRPORT
HE'S MIDDLE-AGED, OVERWEIGHT, and unremarkable looking, he wears a hat, and he enters building society offices and threatens employees with a gun before making off with cash. The "awayday" robber has so far targeted 30 or so building societies in central England and adjoining regions, including Lancashire, Manchester and Cheshire.
So far, despite security camera appearances on Crimewatch UK, and this morning on GMTV, attempts to track him down have come to nothing. Police think he may live on one of the Spanish "Costa's" and that he swoops into the country on charter flights to carry out his raids, and then out again. They're now carrying out surveillance at airports, including Manchester. Anyone with information is asked to phone 01785 234952
FACE RECOGNITION SYSTEM DEVELOPED AT MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY
IT COULD BE VERY USEFUL INDEED in helping to intercept the "hat man" - a computer system that can analyse still or moving pictures of faces and carry out positive identifications. It's been developed by Kevin Walker and Gareth Edwards of Manchester University, and fixes upon certain points on the face in order to match identities.
It doesn't matter if people try using disguise, or scrunch their face up while on security camera - the system can pick them out. It could be used to intercept banned football hooligans, or perhaps hold an online identification parade. Would all middle-aged men please send a 400 x 600 pixel image of themselves to Greater Manchester police at the following e-mail address...
GM POLICE FAIL TO RULE OUT POSSIBLE AXING OF X-CARS
THEY WERE A MEDIA SENSATION, when shown on BBC TV - the fly-on-the-wall documentary about Manchester's X-Cars attracted record numbers of viewers, including myself. Bobbies that talked and dressed like guys you'd meet down the snooker club drove high powered cars kitted out with video cameras, and targeted so-called "joy riders" - youths who steal cars, drive them at dangerous speeds and frequently crash them, causing injury or death to themselves or others.
Spokesmen for the X-Cars say they have a good record in catching offenders and in preventing crime, but now, Greater Manchester Police say the X-Cars may have to go under cost-cutting plans. I think it would send out the wrong message to car thieves city-wide if the X-Cars were disbanded, and I don't think they will be.
INNOVATIVE MEASURES TO DEAL WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
THE WORD "OFFENDER" IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF modern-day official speak - PC-approved (Politically Correct, not Police Constable!), and as innocuous and non-judgemental as it's possible to be about someone who, for example, smashes the window of your new car, drives off in it and possibly drives it into a wall - many people have more flowery and less printable words to refer to youngsters like this.
Well one of them - who cannot be named as he's below sixteen - has been banned from Salford, in an attempt to deal with his "offending" behaviour. After a police swoop on car thieves in the Langworthy Road area, he has been told he must live with relatives out of the area. Quite how they'll ensure he doesn't re-enter the district and "re-offend" I don't know, maybe they could try out that face recognition system under development at Manchester University, and put up lots of cameras along Langworthy Road - as long as they don't all get stolen.
And another idea being tried out by Greater Manchester police is a system that releases smoke into a car if broken into by a (I won't use that word again) car thief. A pager also notifies the owner that his/her car has been broken into. The smoke is harmless - if there were any danger to the health or welfare of the thief, the car owner could be prosecuted. I've often thought I'd like to try "netting" a car thief, using a system like this, but the way things are nowadays, I'm not sure that I wouldn't be the one to end up in Strangeways, rather than the thief!
CRACKED PAVEMENTS IN MANCHESTER AND WILMSLOW CAUSING GRIEF
I WOULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED IT but according to a report by the Pedestrian's Association, many pavements in the area - particularly in Wilmslow and Manchester - are in need of repair. BBC 1's local news report featured shocking close-ups of protruding man-hole covers and uneven flagstones - they went a long way to get these pictures - their front doorstep to be precise, on Oxford Road, Manchester. Councils are apparently having to pay out thousands of pounds in personal injury claims.
Are we turning more and more into an American-style "litigious society"? Or should Councils make properly maintained pavements or should I say "sidewalks" a top priority?
BURY BLACK PUDDING EATING COMPETITION
YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN'T GOT A RINGSIDE SEAT? Well, I haven't either, but today at the JD Wetherspoons Robert Peel Pub in the centre of Bury, there will be a black pudding eating competition. I presume the object is to eat as many portions of the celebrated north country delicacy as possible. 300 black puddings have been donated by a local supermarket for the event, which has been organised by Richard O'Neill of Bolton Street Business Club. Sounds like something from the era of Gracie Fields or George Formby, but if it had been an "EXECUTIVE VOL-AU-VENT" eating competition, it probably wouldn't have attracted the publicity, would it?
BRITAIN BASKS IN RECORD TEMPERATURES - BUT HERE IT'S CLOUDY
I CAN HARDLY BELIEVE IT, yesterday was sunny with blue skies here, but I was out of Manchester. This morning, camera at the ready, I pulled back the curtains and what did I see? - milky white skies and just a faint hint of hazy sun! If they could just move Manchester down to around somewhere near Watford or Milton Keynes, I'd have perfect weather for photos with bright saturated colours and deep blue skies. At the moment, all I can do is resort to a blue-coloured graduated fill in Adobe Photoshop, but that would be cheating, wouldn't it? EWM temperature at 11.30am today 73/23. Just returned from a superb meal at Fellicini's restaurant, Didsbury, and this is what I saw as we left. Current EWM temperature 65/18.
PREVIOUS EYEWITNESS UPDATE FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 1998