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'Sophisticated and organised' gang sought over burglaries

Detectives investigating a spate of high-value burglaries have released CCTV images of men who might hold important information.

Homes across Dinnington, Brunton Drive, Heaton and Gateshead have been targeted in the past week and due to the "similar nature" of all the incidents they are being treated as linked.

During the latest, in Fenham last night, thieves made off with an estimated £30,000 in jewellery.

Police believe the total value of items stolen during all the burglaries is nearly £100,000.

CCTV image
Northumbria Police
CCTV image
Nortjumbria Police

Det Ch Insp Paul Knox said: "This is very serious offending by a sophisticated and organised criminal gang.

"They have been prolific over the past week and there will be a number of people who would have crossed paths with this gang.

"They aren't from the area, they have Irish accents and it is likely they are staying in some sort of hotel or caravan park.

“We think they could be staying in South Tyneside, and travelling up to the Newcastle area, so we need people across the North East to think about whether they could have encountered these men."

Turkish baths revamp enters final stage

Stephanie Finnon

BBC Newcastle

The renovation of Newcastle's Turkish baths at the City Pool has entered the final stages before the reopening later this year.

The £7.5m scheme to modernise the baths was launched two years ago by leisure charity Fusion Lifestyle.

The 91-year-old building was threatened with closure in 2014, but it is is due to reopen in the summer with a new gym, pool, Turkish baths, spa and cafe.

Newcastle Turkish baths
Fusion Lifestyle

Breezy with rain likely later

Abbie Dewhurst

Weather Presenter, BBC Look North

The early part of the day will see most places staying dry with the best of any sunshine east of the Pennines.

Cloud will thicken as the day goes on bringing some spells of rain from the North West.

There will be a brisk south to south-westerly wind, keeping temperatures to about 13C (55F).

Weather map
BBC

Overcrowding fears at Newcastle's Stack entertainment hub

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

Big changes planned for the Stack shipping container village in Newcastle city centre could be scuppered amid fears of overcrowding, fire hazards, and excessive numbers of rowdy drinkers.

The popular social hub in Pilgrim Street wants to reconfigure its restaurant-style upstairs offering so that patrons can drink alcohol in that section of the venue without having to order food.

But according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, those plans have been met with objections from city authorities, who warn that it will result in more noise and anti-social behaviour on the former Odeon cinema site.

Stack, Newcastle
BBC

Newcastle City Council documents also reveal that the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has "concerns relating to excessive numbers of patrons on site leading to overcrowding", with their investigations uncovering "inadequate" fire escape routes and "defective" technology that manages the venue's capacity.

The collection of bars, food vendors, and shops opened last August and has proved popular with pop-up features like Hadrian's Tipi and the Enchanted Garden.

Councillors will rule next week on whether Stack's latest plans can go ahead at a meeting of the local authority's licensing sub-committee.

Angela Wallis, of the council's environmental health department, has warned the committee: "There is ample research demonstrating that vertical drinking - even when seats are available for use - results in faster consumption with inebriation a more likely outcome.

Stack's owners, Danieli Holdings Limited, have been approached for comment.

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Weather remains dry tonight, but rain expected tomorrow

The weather tonight
BBC

It will remain largely dry tonight, with clear spells and mild breeze from the south.

Western areas will have more cloud and the chance of patchy drizzle.

Tomorrow morning will be dry again, but rain will spread from the North West later on.

Contractor appointed for Tyne Tunnel road scheme

A contarctor has been chosen for a major highways improvement in South Tyneside.

As part of the scheme, an additional lane will be installed on the A19 northbound approach to the Tyne Tunnel.

Construction firm Galliford Try will carry out the project. The company has previously delivered the Lindisfarne and Arches schemes.

Work starts next month.

Exit booths and Tyne Tunnel entrance in Wallsend, Newcastle
Getty Images

Finance manager sentenced over £100,000 fraud

A finance manager has been handed a suspended prison sentence after stealing more than £100,000 from a company.

Sarah Taylor, of Cheviot View, Gateshead, took the money from Samuel Grant Taylor Ltd over a two-year period.

She had full access to all the funds coming in and out of the business as well as the company's credit card.

In a bid to cover her tracks, the 35-year-old would move large sums of money around into different accounts.

Taylor has been sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, must complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay a victim surcharge of £140.

She will also be forced to repay the full amount she stole if she comes into money in the future.

Sarah Taylor
Northumbria Police

Staying mild with some sunny spells

Abbie Dewhurst

Weather Presenter, BBC Look North

Today will be largely cloudy, especially in more western areas, with the odd patch of drizzle possible.

It will be dryer the further east you are, with some sunshine at times.

It will stay very mild with light westerly breezes.

Maximum temperatures should reach about 16C (61F).

Weather map
BBC

Sunderland takeaway fire under control

A fire which raged through a Sunderland shop early this morning has been brought under control.

Twenty firefighters dealt with the blaze at Dixy Chicken on Holmeside.

The road has now reopened, but people are being asked to avoid the area.

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Welcome to our live coverage

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage.

We've got all the news, sport, travel and weather through the day.

If you want to get in touch with any news or send us photos you can tweet us, contact us via our Facebook page or email us.

Tyne & Wear fire authority allowances frozen

James Harrison

Local Democracy Reporter

Fire authority chiefs have agreed to freeze their allowances for the next financial year.

The decision, agreed by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, means all members will be able to claim a £2,500 basic allowance.

They can also claim further ‘special responsibility’ top-ups of up to £12,798 for the chairman of the authority, with separate payments also available for the authority’s vice chairman and leader of the main opposition group.

This is in addition to any allowances members of the authority already receive in their role as members of the Tyne and Wear local authorities.

Tyne And Wear Fire And Rescue Service Hq
BBC

A report for the meeting recommended keeping the payouts at their current levels as a ‘detailed review was undertaken only recently’.

But some used the meeting as an opportunity to call for the payments to be cut in light of savings the fire authority is being forced to make.

Gateshead councillor Daniel Duggan said: “I have concerns about the idea of rolling [the allowances scheme] over when the authority is under a great deal of financial pressure.

“I think the idea of a cut to allowances needs to be considered.”

Staying largely mild and dry

Abbie Dewhurst

Weather Presenter, BBC Look North

It should be a largely mild and dry day.

There will be large amounts of cloud at times, but the sunshine will break through.

A gentle south-westerly wind will see maximum temperatures rise to about 14C (57F).

Weather map
BBC

Football gossip: Newcastle interested in Eyibil

BBC Sport

Newcastle United and West Ham are keeping an eye on Mainz attacking midfielder Erkan Eyibil.

The 17-year-old from Turkey has been dubbed the new Mesut Ozil. (Turkish Football)

East coast rail services disrupted

Stephanie Finnon

BBC Newcastle

Rail services on the East Coast Main Line were brought to a halt earlier after a report of trespassers on the line.

No services were able to run between Newcastle and Durham and the road beneath the viaduct in Chester-le-Street was also closed.

LNER said passengers could face some delays for the rest of the morning.

Investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Welcome to our live coverage

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage.

We've got all the news, sport, travel and weather through the day.

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Football gossip: Benitez offered extended contract

BBC Sport

Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has received a written offer to extend his contract at the club beyond this season. (Chronicle).

Rafael Benitez
Reuters

Football gossip: Newcastle interested in signing Brahimi

BBC Sport

Liverpool and Newcastle are both interested in signing 18-year-old Middlesbrough left-winger Bilal Brahimi, although Ligue 1 side Rennes also want the Frenchman. (Teamtalk)

Cathedral vigil for New Zealand mosque shooting victims

Stephanie Finnon

BBC Newcastle

Hundreds of people attended a vigil for the victims of the New Zealand shootings at St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle last night.

Church leaders said they wanted to bring the city together to "stand as one".

Those there said they had been deeply shocked by the events in Christchurch.

The multi-denominational service was led by the Dean of Newcastle, the Very Reverend Geoff Miller, who described the turnout as "truly inspirational".

'Lessons have been learned' over missing body

BBC Newcastle

Durham Police say "lessons have been learned" after a man's body went missing for more than a week after he died.

The body of Thomas Clark, from Stanley, was initially taken to the University Hospital in Durham, but then moved to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

However, when his family wanted to see his body nobody initially knew where it was.

Durham Police says it was an unfortunate mistake following a change in procedure, which now means the bodies of people from the Stanley area are taken to Newcastle instead of Durham.

Severe accident: A167(M) Tyne And Wear northbound

BBC News Travel

A167(M) Tyne And Wear northbound severe accident, at A193 New Bridge Street.

A167(M) Tyne And Wear - A167(M) in Tyne and Wear entry slip road partially blocked northbound at A193 New Bridge Street, because of an accident. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

BreakingAaron Armstrong 'killed himself days after the death of Sophie Gradon'

Duncan Leatherdale

BBC News Online

A man killed himself days after the death of his beauty queen Love Island girlfriend, a coroner has found.

Aaron Armstrong, 25, died on 10 July, 20 days after the death of Sophie Gradon who appeared on the 2016 series of the ITV2 dating show.

South Northumberland coroner Eric Armstrong said a mixture of alcohol and cocaine taken by Mr Armstrong before his death was partly to blame.

Miss Gradon's inquest has been postponed for further investigation.

It had been due to be held on Thursday but the coroner agreed to the deferment.

Northumbria Police said they were still treating her death as non-suspicious and are preparing a file for the coroner.

Aaron Armstrong & Sophie Gradon
INSTAGRAM

Responding to media reports that new information had come to light, a force spokeswoman said: “There's no new evidence.

“The family have been sent the coroner's report ahead of the inquest and they've requested more time to read it."

The coroner said Mr Armstrong’s thinking could have been “muddled” by the death of Miss Grayson, whom he had met out on a night out in Newcastle in May, and the fact he discovered her body.

The coroner also said a combination of alcohol and cocaine taken by Mr Armstrong before he hung himself “prevented him thinking rationally”.

Miss Gradon, who was crowned Miss Newcastle and Miss Great Britain in 2009, died at her family home in Medburn, Ponteland.

The day before he died, Mr Armstrong posted an emotional message to Miss Gradon on Instagram saying: "Not a minute goes by without your gorgeous smile being a picture in my mind."

The coroner concluded that Mr Armstrong, having consumed alcohol and cocaine, took his own life by hanging.

Sophie Gardon
Getty Images

Football gossip: Cascarino believes Newcastle striker has been the ‘best signing this season’

BBC Sport

Ex-Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino believes Newcastle's Salomon Rondon, who is on loan from West Brom, has been the best signing in the Premier League this season. (Talksport)

Salomon Rondon
ALLSPORT/Getty Images

Mainly overcast with the chance of some rain

It will be a fairly cloudy day with the possibility of a few spots of rain.

There will some patches of mist and fog for high ground too.

There should be a few bright or sunny spells more likely east of the Pennines.

Maximum temperatures should reach about 12C (54F).

Weather map
BBC

Welcome to our live coverage

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage.

We've got all the news, sport, travel and weather through the day.

If you want to get in touch with any news or send us photos you can tweet us, contact us via our Facebook page or email us.

Newcastle bids to host Harry Potter 'giant wands' exhibit

Newcastle could host a unique arts installation featuring giant "Harry Potter wands" after the city was revealed as a shortlisted venue.

The Wizarding World Wands tour will travel to four locations across the country with eight cities so far on a shortlist.

Harry Potter wands arts installation
PA

The others are Dublin, Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds and Reading.

The nine wands, each standing 15ft (4.5m) tall, were first displayed in London in 2018.

Each belongs to a character from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film franchises and create a light show along to music from the films.

Fans of the movies are being invited to cast their vote for where the wand should visit.

Groundhog Day for Newcastle United

This is amazing - Newcastle's league record this season compared to the same stage last year - exactly the same.

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'I am not a racist', Beardsley tells crowd

Peter Beardsley has insisted he is "not a bully and not a racist" following his departure from Newcastle.

Beardsley, the former England and Newcastle forward, left his role as the club's under-23s coach this month following an internal investigation into accusations of bullying.

A formal complaint against Beardsley was made by midfielder Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, who has since left the club, in January last year.

Newcastle have not revealed the outcome of their probe but the matter is stil lbeing investigated by the Football Association.

Peter Beardsley
Getty Images

The 58-year-old spoke at An Evening with Peter Beardsley event in Gateshead, which was reported by The Mirror.

He said: "I'm not a bully, and I'm not a racist.

"Everybody in the city of Newcastle has been amazing, for 15 months, they've been amazing.

"I know what I am and everybody who knows me, my family, my friends, knows what I am. I'm comfortable with what I am. It is what it is, I'm just ready to move on."

Gateshead fire fanned by strong winds

Strong winds meant a fire at a business premises in Gateshead took hold very quickly, the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has said.

The blaze, at the former Mascot Services, led to a power cut in the area, and a number of nearby properties were evacuated on Saturday afternoon.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service group manager, Adrian Jackson, said: "The fire took hold very quickly due to the strength of the wind and was highly challenging for our firefighters."

An investigation into the cause is ongoing and the building remains cordoned off.

Home Office cash for Medomsley abuse inquiry

Local Democracy Reporting Service

James Harrison

Durham Police received special funding to help cover the cost of the investigation into historical abuse at the former Medomsley Detention Centre, the Police, Crime and Victims' Commissioner has revealed.

Last week five ex-staff members at the youth detention centre were convicted as the result of Operation Seabrook, launched in 2013.

Ron Hogg told a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel the force had been given a sum, which had not covered the whole cost but which was "welcome".

He said: "We calculated all activity and what the additionality was that we would have to put in and we received a seven figure sum in return.

"My view was the cost was justified because this was about delivering justice."

Medomsley
BBC

Following the meeting, the Home Office confirmed it provided £1.3m in "special grant funding".

City centre road reopens after earlier accident

The collision happened on Mosley Street in Newcastle City Centre, earlier.

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Small firms urged to help trap modern-day slavers

BBC Tees

A conference to help small business owners spot the signs of modern-day slavery is being held at Durham County Cricket Club.

It is being sponsored by Durham Constabulary and the force's crime and victims' commissioner Ron Hogg.

Organisers say people who work in roles such as window cleaners, taxi drivers and hotel receptionists can often be well placed to spot the signs of exploitation.

It is estimated that incidents of modern day slavery have increased by nearly 20% in four years.

Severe accident: A167 Tyne And Wear southbound

BBC News Travel

A167 Tyne And Wear southbound severe accident, between A167 and A184.

A167 Tyne And Wear - A167 in Tyne and Wear closed and queuing traffic southbound between the A167(M) Swanhouse Roundabout junction and the A184 junction, because of an accident involving 2 vehicles.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time