E-scooter riders risk penalty points and pricier car insurance

by ANTONY CLAY

AS e-scooter sales rocket during 2020, a leading insurance comparison website is warning riders could be risking points on their driving licence if they take their motorised scooters out on the road.

Quotezone.co.uk is warning anyone who buys or hires an e-scooter and uses it outside of any of the trial areas or on public roads could end up with a £300 fixed-penalty notice and six points on their driving licence —- which could in turn push premiums up by as much as 25 per cent.

E-scooters, also known as motorised scooters and which are a type of Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV), are powered stand-up scooters that use a small engine, usually powered by an electric motor with some capable of speeds exceeding 30mph.

Halfords predict UK sales could soar 30 per cent annually on current yearly sales of around 50,000 units, as they have the potential to provide a cheap, greener way to travel which allows for social distancing and provides an alternative to public transport.

There could be further growth in sales if organisations such as the London Cycle Campaign prevail — it is calling for e-scooters to be legalised and permitted on public cycle tracks.

Quotezone.co.uk conducted research from a Freedom of Information request which revealed Londoners accounted for more than two thirds (68 per cent) of all recorded injuries nationwide involving e-scooters, suggesting commuters in the capital view motorised scooters as a cheap and easy way to navigate London’s congested roads.

The figures cover 2018 and 2019 and show that men between the ages of 25 and 64 make up half of all casualties. Men also account for 80 per cent of all injured e-scooter riders. One fatality was recorded in May 2019 and 56 other accidents were noted over the two years involving e-scooters, 16 of which were classified as serious.

Greg Wilson founder of insurance comparison website Quotezone.co.uk, said: “For those thinking of investing in an e-scooter this Christmas, you need to be aware that you can’t use them in public spaces unless via rental schemes. You don’t want to run the risk of adding points to your licence and potentially increasing the cost of your car insurance premium.”

Motorists flouting laws due to lack of consistent police guidelines

by ANTONY CLAY

A ROAD safety charity has said there should be clearer guidelines on the use of police technology to encourage use of mobile safety cameras and dash cams in prosecuting motorists using handheld mobile phones and not wearing seatbelts.

The UK’s largest independent road safety charity found that nearly two thirds of police forces contacted were not using mobile safety cameras to prosecute motorists spotted committing these offences, as they incorrectly thought it was illegal.

The findings, which came from a Freedom of Information request, revealed that out of the 44 police forces, only 16 of them used images from the cameras to pursue these offences as a matter of routine, with a further four doing so occasionally.

In addition, not all forces have adopted Operation Snap which seeks to integrate dash cam footage into the prosecution system.

With 70 per cent of drivers thinking mobile phone use behind the wheel has got worse in the last three years and 90 per cent seeing it as a threat to their personal safety, IAM RoadSmart believes more must be done to utilise available technologies to improve road safety and reduce the number of road casualties.

Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Clearer guidelines must be created so that police forces can be confident that they can enforce laws with the equipment available to them today — laws which were specifically designed to reduce the number of road casualties.

“Our research showed that the use of mobile safety cameras to pursue phone users and seatbelt offenders varies from one force to another. What we need are clear and consistent guidelines on what the cameras can be used for, what training staff need and how the images can be used as evidence.

“Stiffer penalties are only part of the enforcement jigsaw and fear of being caught must be increased so that resources are not wasted, or drivers think they can get away with flouting the law.”

The strange case of the infamous farm slayings

Jeannette Hensby holds a copy of her book ‘The Abdy Farm Murders

A horrendous murder in 1912 proved to be an investigation full of surprises for a true crime writer. Chase reporter ANTONY CLAY tracks down Jeannette Hensby

A TRUE crime writer opened up a web of mystery in her bid to get to the bottom of a vicious double child murder that took place in Rotherham more than a century ago.

Her search for clues to a crime which sparked widespread revulsion has seen some surprising twists and turns akin to the plot of an Agatha Christie novel.

Jeannette Hensby, of Rotherham, investigated the slaying of two Kimberworth cousins, one aged ten and the other seven, on November 15, 1912.

Amy Collinson and Frances Alice Nicholson went missing after a Christmas concert rehearsal at the Old Chapel at Kimberworth, Rotherham.

Their bodies were found the next day under a hedge with their throats cut.

In The Abdy Farm Murders, Jeannette has revealed that a 24-year-old labourer called Walter Sykes was hanged for the murder but that local people believed that Amy’s foster father, Arthur Collinson, was the real killer.

Local people have always suspected Collinson as the murderer, particularly given the evidence that the older victim had been raped days before the murder. He was also the police’s prime suspect before Walter Sykes was found.

As in her previous book, The Rotherham Trunk Murder, Jeannette tried to discover whether there was a miscarriage of justice in a shocking crime which prompted a special edition of the Rotherham Advertiser newspaper.

Jeannette made an appeal through the Advertiser’s Letters page for information on the killing of the girls and found that the case is still being talked about today.

Amy lived with her family at Abdy Farm, Kimberworth Park, and Frances lived on Wortley Road — now Upper Wortley Road — close to Keppel’s Column near Wentworth. Abdy Farm stood on the site now occupied by Redscope Primary School on Kimberworth Park Road.

The girls set off for a concert rehearsal at 5.30pm but didn’t go straight home afterwards, instead playing in the street with other children. At 8.30pm, Amy’s parents sent Frances’s two brothers to look for them but to no avail. The two sets of parents started a search, helped by police, but nothing was found.

At first light next morning, Frances’s mother Dora Nicholson went to Abdy Farm to resume searching and she and Amy’s mother, Sarah Collinson, made the grim discovery of the two girls’ bodies.

A post mortem examination also revealed that Amy had been raped, probably three days before the murder.

Jeannette said: “I can’t remember when I first heard about the case. I have always vaguely known that the girls got murdered there.

“Belonging to Masborough Heritage Society, quite a few of them suggested I write about it.

“I have always been interested in reading about true crime, especially where there is a lot of mystery, but in terms of writing it’s important to look back at old cases where there are no relatives still alive.

“But it takes a lot of work to do it.”

Jeannette started work on the book, studying archived copies of old newspapers and official court records.

She now believes that the evidence convicting Walter Sykes was sketchy at best and the police investigation inadequate.

Jeannette said: “Once Walter Sykes had confessed the police did not want to look for someone else, even though he withdrew his confession later. I don’t think it was properly investigated after he confessed.”

She found that the evidence placing Sykes at the scene was not good and that reports of a drunken man at the location of the killings were never properly looked into.

Amazingly the story took some surprising twists after a report about Jeannette’s book appeared in the Rotherham Advertiser.

A supposed death bed confession to the double child murder was revealed by a Rotherham pensioner after reading the report. Bernard Cruise said that his dad Jim heard Arthur Collinson admit he had killed two young girls and let an innocent man hang for it a century ago.

Bernard Cruise who supplied stunning new evidence

Evidence was given in the first edition of the book which suggested Mr Collinson was unlikely to have carried out the killing, but now Mr Cruise said his dad heard evidence first-hand to the contrary.

Mr Cruise said that his dad lived next door to Collinson on Park Street, Masbrough, and one day, when Collinson collapsed, Jim Cruise rushed round to help.

Mr Cruise said: “Collinson said to my dad ‘I cannot meet my maker knowing I have killed those two bairns and let that lad hang for it’.”

Mr Cruise said that Collinson’s wife, who had given him an alibi, quickly ushered Jim Cruise out of the house.

Records appear to show that Collinson actually died some time later in Scunthorpe in 1947.

Mr Cruise said that the conversation took place during the Second World War years and he remembered Collinson babysat him on occasion.

He said: “He was very morose. He was cruel to his dog Queenie and kicked her quite savagely at times.

“His son used to come to visit his dad but he left his daughter at our house.

“All Collinson was bothered about were his geraniums. He had a greenhouse full of them.”

The killings took place before Mr Cruise was born but he said he was told that thousands of people attended the girls’ funeral.

Jeannette was surprised by the revelation and revisited her murder investigation to try and work out how Collinson could have killed the children.

She said: “This from Bernard threw a whole new light on it.”

The author even added an extra chapter to her book thanks to surprising new information from other sources — including the victims themselves.

Jeannette said: “Kevin Turton, who wrote about the case 20 years ago, and a member of the murdered girls’ family, Carole Wynn-Jones, both came to see me, and what they had to tell me turned the case completely on its head.

“Carole’s information came from her grandfather, who was one of the boys who searched in vain for the girls on the night of the murder, and also from a spiritualist medium who gave messages from the two dead girls from beyond the grave.

“It was completely fascinating and it made me rethink everything about the case. It tied my brain in knots trying to make sense of it all, but I do think that this new information takes us much nearer to the truth about what happened than we were before.”

The new information was that one of the boys who searched for the girls later realised that he had got his times wrong which meant that Collinson could indeed have had the chance to kill the girls. The boy was said to have been haunted by the realisation throughout his life.

A quirky twist to the tale came via evidence supposedly from beyond the grave. The murdered girls supposedly sent a message via a psychic saying that Sykes was innocent. A spiritualist, on seeing a photograph of Collinson, claimed he was “evil” and had killed others as well.

Jeannette said: “The murder of Amy and Frances is such a fascinating case, although so tragic of course, and so well-known in the area that people have had their own opinions about who the murderer was ever since the night that they took place in 1912.

“The vast majority, including me, think that the wrong man was hanged.

“I like to research cases that have some mystery about them and then, using all the available evidence, reconstruct the most likely version of what happened, and who the murderer was. That is what I did with the murder of Amy and Frances.

“Of course, with such an old case, you can work only with the records that are available, mainly the Rotherham Advertiser in this case, and then form your opinions based on what those records suggest.”
Jeannette has also written a number of books about infamous murder cases.

  • The Abdy Farm Murders is available online from Amazon.

Survey highlights strong support for ban on cyclists wearing headphones

by ANTONY CLAY

ROAD safety charity IAM RoadSmart is highlighting the findings from a recent survey which revealed that the majority of road users from around the world support banning people from wearing headphones while cycling.

The charity is calling for urgent debate on the issue while changes to the Highway Code are being considered.

In the survey, conducted across 32 countries by the E-Survey of Road Users’ Attitudes (ESRA), two-thirds of the 35,000 respondents internationally were in support of introducing a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.
Support was a little higher in the UK where 68.2 per cent of people said that they were in favour of the ban.

Across Europe, support for the ban on cyclists wearing headphones varied. Spain felt most strongly about the introduction of the policy with nearly 80 per cent of all road users surveyed in that country voting in its favour. Finland, however, felt least strongly, with only one in three believing the ban would be a good move.

The European average was 66.5 per cent in support of the ban, with even cycle-loving Holland and Denmark showing small majorities in favour of new controls. This was matched in countries further afield, with most respondents supporting the ban on cyclists wearing headphones across North America, Asia and Africa.

Internationally, female road users were more in favour than males of a ban on headphones or earbuds while cycling, and this was true across all of the continents surveyed.

Unsurprisingly, those aged 18-24 were most against the introduction of any controls on their personal listening habits and internationally an average of only 53.5 per cent of this age group supported the ban.

Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, said: “It’s clear that the majority of road users are very concerned about distracted cyclists wearing headphones or earbuds while riding. These findings were consistent right across the world in this substantial survey.

“Being plugged in to either headphones or earbuds is the ultimate distraction, as it completely shuts you off to your surroundings, creating a potential road safety risk to yourself, pedestrians and other road users around you. This is even more critical with the popularity and increasing prevalence of noise-cancelling equipment.

“There are plans to update the Highway Code being discussed as we speak, so now is a great time to have an informed debate about the best way for cyclists to avoid potentially fatal distractions.”

Private driveways best place to lower car insurance

by ANTONY CLAY

MORE than half of all motorists use a private driveway at night to keep their car insurance premiums down, according to new figures from Quotezone.co.uk.

The leading insurance comparison website found 56 per cent of motorists keep their car on a private driveway and receive average premiums of £653 per year — over £140 cheaper than keeping it on the road, at £794.

While carports provided the cheapest option, £562, only 4,000 motorists used one for overnight parking.
Parking on a road away from home proved the most expensive place to park at night, coming in at an average of £1,063.

Quotezone.co.uk’s findings are based on car insurance premiums for more than 850,000 drivers, collected over a period of 12 months, up to the end of October 2020

Greg Wilson, founder of Quotezone.co.uk, said: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that parking your car off the road is likely to result in cheaper insurance premiums than if you parked on the roadside. After all, cars parked on the road have a higher risk of being sideswiped by a passing vehicle or rear-ended by another motorist attempting to park. Cars parked on the road are also more attractive to would-be thieves as they don’t have to come onto your property to gain access to the vehicle.

“However, many motorists might be surprised to realise just how much they could save by parking off the road. Only 13 per cent of people use their garage to store their car. If you currently use your garage for extra storage or a home office then now might be the time for a clear out, to see if you can unlock some savings.

“Most cars now come with alarms, immobilisers and trackers but you can take extra precautions by not leaving valuables in plain sight for opportunistic thieves, choose well-lit areas or add outdoor lighting. Dash cams can be ideal for those who have to park their cars on the road and CCTV cameras can help for secure or unsecure garages and driveways.”

Haute cuisine for our feathered friends

Robins can be attracted to a bird table by providing mealworms

Now the weather is getting colder, it’s time to think about feeding the garden birds. Birdwatcher ANTONY CLAY serves up some advice.

ONE of the best ways to get close to nature is to feed the birds in your garden. This incredibly popular activity across the UK brings wild creatures close to you and helps them survive as the weather gets colder and bleaker during the winter months.

To see wild creatures up close and personal, and knowing that what you are doing could mean the difference between life and death for them, is very satisfying.

Like feeding the ducks in the local park, it can also introduce children to the wonders of nature and steer them away from computer games and TV.

Staring out at the birds can be a fascinating experience: seeing the relationships between different species, seeing how they react to their own kind, finding out what they prefer to eat and what they don’t.

You can also learn what’s out there and find out how to distinguish a great tit from a blue tit, a blackbird from a starling, a dunnock from a house sparrow. Ask most birdwatchers and they will tell you that watching garden birds is probably what got them into birding in the first place. It is certainly how it started for me.

The good thing about feeding the birds in your garden is that it takes relatively little effort. You could just throw out some bread or scraps left over from your meal e.g. meat fat and mashed potato goes down well, in my experience.

Or you could hang a feeder from a tree branch and fill it with peanuts.

Great tits are usually one of the commoner visitors to a bird feeding station

Years back this was pretty much how you fed the garden birds but nowadays it can almost become a Cordon Bleu dining experience for our feathered friends if you indulge them in every culinary offer available from supermarkets, garden centres and nature reserve shops, not to mention the many online suppliers of bird grub.

You can now stuff the birds with mealworms, suet nibbles, suet balls, coconut halves stuffed with fat, Niger seeds, sunflower seeds, special seed mixes, insect or fruit-laced fat blocks… The list can go on and on.

And how they choose to dine can also be an opportunity for you to show off to the neighbours. You could have a simple flat bird table on a pole or you could have a multi-layered table, with separate feeders hanging down the side, or a metal post with arms from which peanut holders and fat holders can dangle like decorations on a Christmas tree. You can also hang the feeders from every possible branch in the garden, or even stick feeders to your window.

The feeders can be metal or plastic, be designed to favour species like the tits but keep away the greedy starlings, and even be made to deter the local squirrels (should you want to).

Feeding the birds can be a lot of work but, no matter how much you want to fork out and how extravagant you feel you can be, the most important thing is to feed them in one way or another. In bad weather, many birds will perish through lack of food, particularly the smaller species like wrens, tits, goldcrests and finches, so getting a food source easily becomes absolutely vital to them. They will even come to rely on it which means that you have to continue feeding once you have started.

There have been scientific studies showing that the British habit of feeding garden birds has had a significant effect on wild bird populations with more individuals surviving over the winter to breed in the spring and summer, boosting populations at a time when many species, even well-known ones, are seeing their numbers in trouble.

Given that man has taken so much away from the natural environments of our birds, feeding them could be seen as a small price to pay and a great way to boost nature.

I have found in recent years that ‘my’ birds at home have become slightly more picky. The occasional blue tit samples the peanuts but the nuts now mainly seem to be consumed by, of all things, the local collared doves.

The raiding parties of starlings ignore the peanuts completely but just love fat and, in particular, mealworms. They can polish off a whole feeder of mealworms in minutes, literally, though how they find the time to eat in-between bickering with each other baffles me.

Feeding the birds is to some extent quite experimental. They will like certain foods and not others and if something seems perennially unpopular then don’t bother buying it again. Birds in different areas may like different things. Perhaps my local birds’ lack of enthusiasm for the humble peanut is because they aren’t used to them where I live. Having said that, I would suggest that peanuts are one of the more popular bird foods elsewhere.

You have to remember that there are some species which don’t like to feed at bird tables at all so putting some food on the ground is also important. Dunnocks, perhaps better known as hedge sparrows, are one example of this kind of bird. Ofcourse, if the worst weather happens, even these ground feeders will feed at a bird table if they are desperate enough.

An elaborate bird table

If you have not put food out before it might take a while for the birds to discover your offerings so don’t be put off if nothing turns up to feed immediately, or even for a few days. Once they know it is there, however, the birds should be regular visitors if you keep putting food out.

You should see bird table regulars like blue and great tits, house sparrows, robins, starlings, blackbirds and even wood pigeons, but you might also get surprise visits by birds you don’t expect like nuthatches, siskins, jays or willow and marsh tits.

Buy a bird identification guide if you don’t have one. There are plenty on sale, some better than others.

Ofcourse a big influx of small birds might also attract the attention of a bird of prey like a sparrowhawk but that’s nature, and it would be a splendid sight to see one. Not quite so hot for the small bird on the receiving end of its talons though.

Putting water out in a suitable container is as important as placing food. Birds need to drink and they need to bathe to keep their feathers in tip-top condition, particularly during winter when they need to keep warm.

Another very important thing to remember is hygiene. Birds, like people, can pick up infections and in recent years many small birds have suffered from a number of ailments which may come from sharing dirty feeders.

Every now and again thoroughly disinfect and clean all feeders and bird tables, even replacing them every few months if you can afford it. Don’t leave food hanging around for a long time, particularly on the ground as it could attract rats and other pests.

You can have a lot of fun feeding the birds in your garden, and the birds will certainly appreciate it in their own way. We are a nation of animal lovers and showing our appreciation of wild creatures is a great thing to do through designing our gardens for wildlife, supporting groups caring for the environment and, at its most basic and pleasing, just watching the birds feed on the food you have given them. It’s a simple but worthy delight.

Vital tips to keep you safe this winter

by ANTONY CLAY

NOW that we have entered the bleak midwinter proper, snow and ice are on the cards so it is worth getting your car ship-shape for the season.

But drivers also need to know how to react in challenging conditions in order to keep themselves — and other road users and pedestrians safe.

Here are an array of winter driving tips to help you survive winter on the roads:

  • Visibility — don’t drive off without cleaning your windows or side mirrors.
    Ensure you use a good quality scraper and newly bought de-icer and switch on your internal heater settings to clear away mist and condensation.
    Always switch on the car’s air conditioning and set up the heater to recirculate the air around the car rather than pulling cold air in from outside. This will help the car warm-up more quickly and the windscreen to clear more quickly.
    Whatever you do, do not pour hot water on to your windscreen as this is likely to freeze up straight away or cause the glass to crack.
  • Tyres are key in winter — most UK drivers travel on summer rubber all-year-round but winter tyres and all-weather tyres are a far better option in conditions below 4 deg C.
    Many tyre dealers and car manufacturers, including Jaguar and BMW, now offer a service which will see them store your summer rubber during the winter months so that the car can ride on winter tyres when needed.
    The added control winter tyres offer in snowy or icy conditions has to be experienced to be believed.
    For owners of rear-wheel-drive cars, which suffer from loss of traction in ice and snow, winter or all-weather rubber could be the difference between getting to their destination or abandoning their vehicle.
    Top winter tyre brands: Continental ContiWinterContact, Pirelli Sottozero, Dunlop SP Winter Sport.
  • Tread carefully — even with your tyres sorted, it is essential that you drive to the conditions.
    Always exercise caution if the temperature drops below 4 deg C.
    On snow, setting off in second gear will help to keep your revs low and result in greater traction when setting off from a standstill.
    Once up and running, drive carefully to avoid the need to brake abruptly — it’s likely that you won’t stop quickly anyway. Slow down early for junctions and keep moving whenever possible to avoid getting stuck on inclines.
    In icy conditions remain alert and be aware of areas where ice may have developed, in particular exposed locations and areas prone to standing water.
    Also, make sure you increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front. Stopping distance on ice increases by up to ten times.
  • It may sound like overkill to many, but in the worst weather conditions it is worth carrying a winter survival kit that extends beyond de-icer and an ice scraper.
    A shovel, torch, blanket, jump-leads and tow rope should all find a home in your car at winter.
    Ensuring that your mobile phone is fully charged and that some warm weather clothing is kept in the car might also be a wise precaution.
    Many of the problems associated with travel during snow could be avoided if people planned in advance.