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Isle of Man TT: ‘Riders know the risks’, says event’s boss as organisers hope everyone leaves alive | UK News

The boss of the world’s deadliest motorsport event says riders have to accept risks, while insisting the Isle of Man TT is doing more than ever to improve safety.

This year’s two-week motorcycling festival began on Monday with new safety measures after six competitors died last year – equalling a tragic record.

But any talk of banning the event is dismissed on the island despite 266 fatalities now on the mountain course in the 116-year history of the races.

Clerk of the course Gary Thompson
Clerk of the course Gary Thompson

“We try to manage risk much better than was done in the past,” clerk of the course Gary Thompson told Sky News.

“The riders sign on, they know that risk. And, almost for them, that’s the challenge. For us, we manage that risk without taking away that challenge.”

The risks don’t bring great financial rewards compared to other sports. Riders compete for the thrill on a circuit winding through towns and villages on narrow roads past houses.

Padding on lamp posts offers minimal protection. But to manage the hazards, there is now GPS tracking of every competitor and a digital red flag system.

It is a celebratory fortnight for the local economy. The TT races can attract 40,000 visitors – around half the population of this British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea.

Pic: Isle of Man TT races
Pic: Isle of Man TT races

‘A lot of people think we’re idiots’

And Peter Hickman – who has won nine TT races – told Sky News: “I’m not forced to be here. I want to be here. It’s an obvious risk.”

Risks helped him set the course record in 2018 and he will continue to take them – undeterred by the fact only one year in the last 85 has seen no deaths in races.

“A lot of people think we’re just crazy or idiots,” Hickman said as he prepared for the first day of racing. “You take your brain out and put your helmet on.”

Peter Hickman
Peter Hickman

“It’s very, very much the opposite effect. So you’ve really got to use your brain.

“And you’ve got to take the risk when you want to take the risk – or if it’s necessary.

“So, for example, I hold the outright lap record here and I’m constantly getting asked, ‘Are you going to break that record?’ And my answer always is ‘only if I have to’.

“And by that I mean, I win the race at the slowest possible pace. Because the slower I win the race, the less risk to me.”

Pic: Isle of Man TT races
Pic: Isle of Man TT races

And the challenge of winning at the world’s oldest motorcycle event remains exhilarating for the 36-year-old.

“Life is short as it is,” he said. “I would rather go away doing something like this.”

The hope of organisers is that everyone leaves alive.

Read more:
Dad and son among racers who died in 2022 event
Rider defends Isle of Man TT
Organisers wrongly identified competitor who was killed

Even as we’re interviewing the Isle of Man TT medical chief at a hospital, a helicopter lands with a rider injured on the first morning of the competition. His condition was unknown.

Dr Gareth Davies
Dr Gareth Davies

Complex network of medical staff on hand

Dr Gareth Davies said: “We have a system whereby there are trackside medics that will be at the rider’s side within a matter of seconds.

“And then we have three different helicopters to support the racing, three response cars, and then about five or six different ambulances. So there’s quite a complex network of medical staff there.”

How can medics contemplate a sporting event that is so perilous?

Dr Davies said: “In our daily working lives, we see people going to work that are killed, just travelling on a push bike or an accident on the way to work.

“We see people who may be undertaking climbing or other sporting activities. So it’s not alien to see people injured.

“From our point of view. I think we very much see the racing as a huge challenge, a huge sort of celebration of the human spirit, and we’re here to support them.”

Additional reporting by Tyrone Francis, sports producer

Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney hope for return to EFL after 15-year wait | UK News

Fifteen years after sinking into the fifth tier of the football league and two years since the arrival of stars from Hollywood – Wrexham’s promotion hopes could rest with Boreham Wood.

The North Wales-based club has been in the fifth division since 2008 but in November 2020 was bought by Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia co-creator Rob McElhenney.

Their involvement has given the club international recognition as the subject of an FX documentary released on Disney+ in the UK – Welcome To Wrexham.

It’s gained big-name sponsors in Expedia and TikTok and has even been a featured team on FIFA 22 and 23.

On Saturday, Wrexham face a crucial match.

Win and they will be back in League Two next season after a long wait. Lose and it will be a nerve-wracking game at Torquay on 29 April as they would have to hope for a win there to be automatically promoted.

Such is the significance of the match that fans have travelled from all over the world, including one fan who has left the US for the first time.

One person who knows the club’s owners well is Maxine Hughes, a US-based journalist originally from Conwy in North Wales who acts as their unofficial Welsh translator.

She told Sky News they “understood Wrexham right from the beginning”.

“They saw the town, and Wales as something they could easily get on board with,” she said.

“I think for Rob particularly, Wrexham reminds him of where he grew up.”

Wrexham co-owner Rob McElhenney (left), Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, and Glenn Howerton celebrate after the final whistle in the Vanarama National League match at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Picture date: Tuesday April 18, 2023. Pic: PA
Wrexham co-owner Rob McElhenney (left), with It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia co-stars Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, and Glenn Howerton

According to Hughes, the club’s owners have “fallen in love with Wales” and they “have this incredible respect for Wrexham AFC supporters”.

“I’ll always be grateful to Rob and Ryan for giving the Welsh language the boost they’ve given it,” she added.

‘It’s about a community’

Wrexham’s 3-0 win over Yeovil on Tuesday, which was watched by McElhenney’s comedy co-stars at the Racecourse, mean they need three points from two games for automatic promotion.

Phil Parkinson’s side will face a strong challenge though as Boreham Wood are unlikely to give them the three points on a plate.

When the two sides met in October last year, it ended in a draw – although this time Wrexham will hope to go a step further with a home advantage.

Wrexham came close to winning promotion last season after it finished second in the league, but missed out in the play-offs.

Their bid for promotion comes after Wrexham’s women recently reached the Adran Premier – the top flight of women’s football in Wales.

Could the team’s top scorer Paul Mullin be involved in securing a victory? He has scored 36 goals for Wrexham in the league so far this season.

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Boreham Wood are currently in sixth place on the table having won two of their last five games.

If Wrexham secures a victory on Saturday, their wait will finally be over and fans would have a moment to remember at the Racecourse.

But Hughes added that “the growing success of Wrexham AFC isn’t just about Rob and Ryan”.

“It’s about a community, who have stuck by that team through thick and thin,” she said.

“And I think that’s why the story if Wrexham has captured the world, it’s the people who make Wrexham what it is, and what it is becoming, and I’m in awe of the community of Wrexham every day.”

Wakanda Forever: Stars of Black Panther sequel say they hope actor Chadwick Boseman ‘would be proud’ | Ents & Arts News

After feeling “completely deflated” by Chadwick Boseman’s death, Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright – who star in the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever – have said they hope “he would be proud” of the new movie.

Two years on from Boseman’s death from colon cancer, aged just 43, the absence of King T’Challa himself on the black carpet at the London premiere was acutely felt as fans and photographers saw the stars out in force in Leicester Square.

Wright, who returns as Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister, told Sky News that he was at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts throughout the shoot.

(left to right) Martin Freeman, Florence Kasumba, Danai Gurira , Letitia Wright, Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong'o and Tenoch Huerta at premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Leicester Square
(L-R) Martin Freeman, Florence Kasumba, Danai Gurira , Letitia Wright, Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong’o and Tenoch Huerta at the London premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

She said: “I lost my brother, so for me, the most important thing was about thinking why? Why are we moving forward? What would he have wanted?

“And I feel very strongly under the guidance of our director that he would be proud of this. He would have wanted to see the next generation motivated and inspired, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Nyong’o, who plays King T’Challa’s former lover Nakia, admitted returning to the set was hard.

“At the beginning, when Chadwick died, I was just completely deflated and I had no idea how we could come back to Wakanda.”

Crediting the sensitive way in which director Ryan Coogler takes the story forward, she said “[he] pivoted the story to embrace that loss, he made it about exploring grief and how we move on from tragedy”.

A new addition to the franchise, I May Destroy You actress Michaela Coel, said she was a huge fan of the original and “the passion it ignited” in her.

Chadwick Boseman (left) played T'Challa in the Black Panther film and Ryan Coogler (right)
(L-R) Chadwick Boseman played T’Challa in the 2018 Black Panther film, with director Ryan Coogler

She told Sky News: “I was giving cuddles, handing out tissues and making people laugh where I could.”

Joining the franchise as Aneka, a captain and combat instructor, she also credited filmmaker Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole in how they incorporated the great loss that everyone felt.

Read more:
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Coel said: “A lot of women carry the heart of this movie but it’s written by two incredible men.

“What really blows my mind is how they were able to take their grief, process it and funnel it into a script that we could feel and understand…. it’s incredible and so respectful.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in cinemas from 11 November.

Princess of Wales tells addicts ‘recovery is possible’ in message of hope and support | UK News

The Princess of Wales has warned the shame of addiction is stopping many people getting help – and told sufferers “recovery is possible”.

Kate, patron of addiction recovery charity The Forward Trust, said addiction is “a serious health condition” and “not a choice”.

Her message of support for the Taking Action on Addiction campaign comes on the first day of Addiction Awareness Week.

She said: “Addiction is a serious mental health condition that can happen to anyone, no matter what age, gender, race or nationality.

“Attitudes to addiction are changing. But we are not there yet, and we need to be. Still the shame of addiction is stopping people and families asking for help and people are still tragically losing their lives.

“And so today, during Addiction Awareness Week, I want to share a message of support to those who are continuing to suffer.

“Please know that addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to become an addict.

“The charities leading the Taking Action on Addiction Campaign, along with others, are working across the country delivering life changing work to help people recover and move forward.

“They are here for you. So please ask for help. I know this was not a choice. Recovery is possible.”

Read more:
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Led by The Forward Trust alongside a number of charity partners, the Taking Action on Addiction campaign aims to reframe existing perceptions of addiction, build awareness of the causes and nature of addiction, improve understanding, reduce prejudice and enable more people to get help.

Mike Trace, chief executive of The Forward Trust, said: “At a time when addiction is growing across the UK it is crucial, we build awareness of its causes and act quickly to stop this tide, to get in early to reduce the impact on families and children, and make sure that people are able to access the support and treatment that we know makes recovery from addiction possible.”

Leah Croucher’s family says hope she was alive has been ‘brutally extinguished in the cruellest and harshest of ways’ | UK News

The family of Leah Croucher have said their “faint glimmer of hope” of her being alive has been “brutally extinguished” after the teenager’s remains were found in the loft of a house.

In a tribute to their “bright, funny young” daughter, the 19-year-old’s family said they knew the “heartbreaking news” of her death would “come one day” but they are “devastated” to have been proven right.

“The deepest, darkest grief that we, Leah’s family and friends are experiencing over the past weeks shows us that glimmer was actually, foolishly, a shining beacon of hope, which has now been brutally extinguished in the cruellest and harshest of ways,” they said.

“It has been a long way to fall back to reality.”

Leah’s remains were found last week, more than three years after she went missing on her way to work at a finance company in Milton Keynes.

Items belonging to the teenager, who was a European Taekwondo champion, were also found in the same property in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, a few minutes from her home.

Her family described feeling a “pain almost too big to bear” following her disappearance, but added: “There is little that compares to the deep chasm Leah’s death has brought to us”.

“Leah was a bright, funny young woman who was a kind, loyal, helpful and caring soul,” their statement continued.

“Her smile lit up the room, and her laugh cheered all who heard it. Leah had a wonderful sense of humour, who found joy in everything she did.”

 Leah Croucher
Leah Croucher was a Taekwondo champion

‘We will soon be able to lay Leah to rest’

They added that while their “lives are darker”, they have taken “solace” in believing Leah “will only finally die when the last of us who remember her dies”.

“We will soon be able to lay Leah to rest, as she deserves, and say our final goodbyes, be able to grieve at Leah’s graveside and lay flowers for her,” her family added.

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“We have missed Leah for so long already, and now have the rest of our lives to mourn her, as well as the memories we will never be able to make.

Writing to Leah directly, the family said: “We hope soon that we will be able to look at pictures of you again, but they are too painful to even think about at the moment.”

“Give Haydon a big kiss and a big hug from us baby, we miss and love you both so much, but hope that you are together now, looking out for each other as always.

The tribute was referring to Haydon Croucher, Leah’s brother, who died on 24 November 2019, nine months after she went missing.

 Leah Croucher
Leah Croucher went missing on her way to work at a finance company

Who is the prime suspect?

The prime suspect in Leah’s murder investigation has been named by police as convicted sex offender Neil Maxwell, who was found dead on 20 April 2019 after he took his own life.

Police started searching the property on 10 October this year after receiving a tip-off from a member of the public.

Neil Maxwell
Neil Maxwell, who had keys to the house where Leah’s body was found, took his own life

Officers had visited the house on two earlier occasions but insisted this was the first time Leah’s disappearance was linked to the address – despite conducting about 4,000 house-to-house calls.

It has since emerged Maxwell was the only person with keys to the house, which was unoccupied when police were conducting their inquiries.

He was wanted in connection with a sexual assault and used false names and changed his mobile phone and vehicles to avoid police.

‘We hope they will soon find loving homes’: Giant rabbits rescued by RSPCA | UK News

A group of giant rabbits is recovering well after being rescued by the RSPCA.

The Flemish giant rabbits were found in small hutches on an allotment in Ashington, Northumberland, earlier this month.

They were in cramped and dirty conditions and had been left to breed with each other.

The largest rabbit weighed more than 8kg – the same as a medium-sized dog such as a Jack Russell or King Charles spaniel.

Its ears were 7in (almost 18cm) long.

Flemish giant rabbits are popular pets but they are also still bred for their fur and their meat.

The RSPCA said it is believed these rabbits were being bred to be eaten.

Around half of them were adults and half were babies – two of the adults were of average size but their litters were crossed with the giant rabbits, so the babies (or kits) are likely to grow into large rabbits.

‘We hope they will soon find loving homes’

Inspector Trevor Walker, who helped to rescue the rabbits, said: “These poor rabbits were living in cramped and dirty conditions which would have been very unpleasant for them especially in the heat.

“Luckily a vet found they are all in good condition, although one is on medication for weepy eyes and a wound on the back of his neck, but we hope they will soon find loving homes.”

Anyone interested in adopting the rabbits can look on the RSPCA’s website for the Find A Pet section.

Mr Walker said: “They will make good companion animals, as they have nice temperaments.”

Pet owners struggling with cost-of-living crisis

The RSPCA is seeing an increase in rabbits needing rescue and adoption, with some pet owners unable to care for them due to the increasing demands of the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Walker said: “We would really urge people to do their research before taking on a pet, and also to make sure you get your pet neutered at an early opportunity to prevent unwanted litters of animals.

“All of these rabbits will be neutered, micro-chipped and vaccinated before finding new homes.”