From the pageantry of the Queen’s jubilee to the Olympic summer of sport, 2012 has been a year that will live long in the memory. Andy Walker and Hannah Bryan look back on some of the stories that have made local, regional and national headlines


THE year began in tragic circumstances, when taxi driver Michael Atherton gunned down his partner and two other women in a New Year’s Day massacre. His body was also found by police at the scene in Horden, near Peterlee, east Durham.

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The Northern Echo: Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and her niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, were shot dead by Michael AthertonGunned down: Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister, Alison Turnbull, 44 and her niece, Tanya Turnbull, 24

The body of 19-year-old Darlington soldier Private John King, who was killed in Afghanistan, was flown home. Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral.

The Northern Echo:
Hero: Private John King

Darlington FC began the year in crisis mode, as chairman Raj Singh called in the administrators.

Bishop of Durham Justin Welby – who would go on to enjoy a momentous year – spent a day as guest editor of The Northern Echo.


DAVID RATHBAND, the police officer shot and blinded by gunman Raoul Moat, was found dead at his home in Northumberland. He was 44.

The Northern Echo: CHARGES: Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan are charged with the murder of Chris Brown and attempted murder of David Rathband, pictured above.
Tragic loss: David Rathband

Hambleton District Council chief executive Peter Simpson was put on gardening leave from his £106,000-a-year job, after concerns were raised over what council officials called “serious management issues”.

Terry Dixon, from Middlesbrough, admitted smashing an egg over the head of the town’s MP, Sir Stuart Bell, at a Remembrance event in November last year. He was later fined £40.


THE family of York University chef Claudia Lawrence marked the three-year anniversary of her disappearance. Her father, Peter, said he hoped to persuade the Government to introduce legislation to help the families of missing people deal with their loved one’s personal affairs.

The Northern Echo: Claudia Lawrence, missing since March 18
Missing: Claudia Lawrence

Raymond Scott, the self-styled international playboy, who was jailed for handling a priceless Shakespeare First Folio, was found dead in his cell at Acklington Prison, in Northumberland. He was 55.

The Northern Echo: FANTASIST: Raymond Scott
Found dead: Raymond Scott


THE re-lighting of the blast furnace at the former Corus plant in Redcar marked the resumption of 150 years of steel-making on Teesside.

The Northern Echo: The first slab of steel is produced at SSI UK on Teesside.
First slab of steel after rebirth of steel-making on Teesside

A manhunt was launched following the deaths of pensioner Colin Dunford, in Middlesbrough, and Julie Davison, in Whitby. Both were killed in their own home. James Allen, from Middlesbrough, was named as the prime suspect and later arrested and charged with two counts of murder.


THE search for County Durham schoolboy Ian Bell, eight, who went missing in April after falling into the River Wear near his home, came to a tragic conclusion when his body was found.

The Northern Echo: A new picture of missing boy Ian Bell
"Beautiful happy-go-lucky boy": Ian Bell

More than 300 people attended the funeral of the youngster, described by his mother, Claire Hedley, as a “beautiful, happy-go-lucky boy”. There was a new beginning for Darlington FC, as a fans’ takeover brought to an end a number of periods of administration. The deal saw the club leave the 25,000-seat Northern Echo Arena, tumble into the Northern League and eventually agree a ground-share with Bishop Auckland.


OLYMPIC fever began to build, as the flame relay passed through the region. Hundreds of torch-bearers enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, including 14-year-old Kieran Maxwell, from Heighington, near Darlington, who lost a leg to cancer.

The Northern Echo: Good News: Kieran Maxwell
Torchbearer Kieran Maxwell

Persistent rain failed to dampen the spirits of the thousands who lined the banks of the Thames for a pageant to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Thousands of boats formed a flotilla to salute the monarch, while thousands of jubilee lanterns were lit around the Commonwealth. The event was tinged with worry, when the Duke of Edinburgh was hospitalised with a bladder infection and was unable to attend the remaining jubilee events, including a spectacular concert in front of Buckingham Palace.


ALL eyes turned to London for the extravagant opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, which heralded the start of a summer of sporting achievement.

The Northern Echo: Pictures from the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Danny Boyle's opening ceremony wows the world

Danny Boyle’s four-hour Isles of Wonder production cost an estimated £27m and was described by one commentator as a “love letter to Britain”.

Away from the Olympics, July saw the confirmation of a longawaited £4.5bn deal that will see the next generation of high-speed inter-city trains built in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, bringing thousands of jobs. Council cuts saw the closure of Darlington Arts Centre, despite a determined campaign to save it.


TEESSIDE rower Kat Copeland made history as she became the first North-East female to win an Olympic gold medal. The Olympics drew to a close, with Team GB’s 29 golds helping to secure third spot in the medals table. The Paralympians picked up the baton, also securing third place, with a combined medals tally of 120.

The Northern Echo: Kat Copeland, left, and Sophie Hosking in tears on the Olympic podium.
Golden girl: Kat Copeland, left, with rowing partner Sophie Hosking

The Duke of Edinburgh spent a further five nights in hospital, following the recurrence of his bladder complaint.

St Aidan’s Academy, in Darlington, was among the first schools to challenge the results of its students’ GCSE English exams.

Frankel – the world’s greatest racehorse – wowed 30,000 spectators at York’s annual Ebor Festival.


AN independent panel’s report into the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, in which 96 Liverpool football fans were killed, showed that police attempted to shift the blame for the deaths on to the victims. The report led to a flood of apologies, including one from Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Northern Echo: A harrowing image from the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy
Cover up: Hillsborough disaster

September 25 became known as the “day of the deluge” after prolonged heavy rainfall led to flooding on a large scale. Hardly anywhere escaped – a stretch of the A1 in North Yorkshire was closed to traffic for two days, while a block of flats in Newcastle had to be demolished after its foundations were hit by flood water.

The Northern Echo: A1 floods
Day of the deluge: A1 is closed to traffic for two days

Mowden Park Rugby Club, in Darlington, announced an ambitious £6m plan to revive the town’s mothballed football stadium. A deal for the purchase of the stadium was duly completed and it is hoped to stage rugby matches there before the end of this season.


CLEVELAND’S top police officer Sean Price became the first chief constable to be sacked for 35 years, after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

He had been suspended on full pay for more than a year, but was dismissed without notice following the conclusion of an eight-day disciplinary hearing over allegations relating to a recruitment process. Mr Price has always denied any wrongdoing.

Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell died aged 74.

The Northern Echo: NOTHING TO REPAY: Sir Stuart Bell
Sir Stuart Bell MP

Meanwhile, sexual assault allegations surfaced against DJ Jimmy Savile, who died in 2011. The scandal resulted in a complex ongoing police investigation, which has received more than 450 complaints and seen a string of high-profile arrests.


BISHOP of Durham Justin Welby was confirmed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury and will replace Dr Rowan Williams in March.

The Northern Echo: CHRISTMAS WISHES: Bishop of Durham the Right Reverend Justin Welby
Bishop of Durham Justin Welby

A record low turnout marred the election of police and crime commissioners, who have replaced police authorities as the mechanism for controlling force budgets.

Following a turbulent four-week trial, James Allen was convicted of the murders of Colin Dunford and Julie Davison and sentenced to a minimum of 37 years in prison. 

Peter Lawrence travelled to the House of Commons to hear the second reading of the Presumption of Death Bill, designed to ease the heartache of the families of missing people.


THE pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness.

Two Australian DJs made a prank call to the hospital and were put through to a nurse who disclosed confidential information about the duchess’ condition. The nurse who took the initial call, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead three days later. 

Northallerton GP Derek Keilloh was struck off the medical register after a tribunal found him guilty of misconduct over the death of Iraqi detainee Baha Mousa in 2003. His family said they had faith in his “honesty and integrity”.

A petition to keep 480 civil service jobs in Darlington gathered more than 1,000 signatures.