MARCH began with emotional scenes at the funeral of much-loved police officer, PC Gavin Smith.

He was given a full police funeral at Durham Cathedral. About 30 fellow officers made their way through the cobbled streets, forming a guard of honour around his coffin which was draped in the Union Flag with his hat poignantly placed on top.

The father, from Bishop Auckland, was well-known for his appearance on the Channel 5 TV series, Police Interceptors. He died, aged 34, of cancer in his home surrounded by loved ones.

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Speaking after the funeral, Inspector Ed Turner, of the Roads Policing Unit said: “It’s a huge honour for us to pay tribute to Gav in such a beautiful scene and in an environment which really showcases his life.

“And that’s what he wanted – he lived life to the full and we really wanted to send him out. It’s an honour for us as police officers from a relatively small team to come together and celebrate his life.”

Plans were unveiled to modernise Darlington’s Victorian station as part of the celebrations to mark 200 years since the birth of the railways.

It is hoped a multi million-pound scheme will see the station at Bank Top transformed into a modern hub by 2025, just in time for the anniversary.

Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council and chairman of the Tees Valley Transport Committee, said: “Our ambitious rail vision will maximise the economic potential of the Tees Valley, secure investment and create jobs.

“We hold the same convictions as our forebears, that fast efficient passenger and freight rail services are key to our future prosperity.”

The project, a collaboration between the council and Tees Valley Combined Authority, will build on the £200m investment in the surrounding area, including the National Biologics Centre, Business Central and the Feethams leisure development.

Mid-March saw a terror attack in central London, which killed four people and injured about 40 others.

A knifeman mowed down pedestrians before stabbing a policeman to death.

The attacker drove a grey Hyundai across Westminster Bridge, crashing it into railings then running through the gates of the Palace of Westminster where he stabbed Keith Palmer, a 48-year-old husband and father.

Eyewitnesses described the scenes of terror as the attacker was shot several times while approaching a second officer within yards of the Houses of Parliament.

Among those surrounding PC Palmer in an attempt to save his life was North-East boxing coach, Tony Davis.

Mr Davis, from Darlington, was among the first to the scene, leaping over a fence and rushing to the injured policeman. He tried to keep PC Palmer alive by giving him CPR and using his raincoat to stem the blood.

When asked if he felt afraid during the attack, Mr Davis said: “Not at all – you immediately see that people need assistance and your instinct is to just go and help.

“I feel like it is important for me to share what I saw – if we can learn from what has happened and we can improve things and do things differently as a result, then I have done my bit.”

In regional news, North Yorkshire Police were called to Bedale High School as students staged a mass protest against toilet break restrictions.

About 40 students took part in the action. Some of barricaded themselves inside the toilets, others took the protest outside and one student set off the fire alarm.

The year 11 student who set off the fire alarm told The Northern Echo: “In the last couple of days this has been building because the school has stopped us from using the toilet apart from at morning break and the first half of lunch.

“A large group of girls decided to stage a protest by missing their first lesson and blocking themselves in the toilet.

“They later went out to the field, and others wanted to join but were stopped by teachers, so I set off the fire alarm to get everyone outside.”

Parents also took to social media to condemn the school’s new ‘undignified’ toilet rules.

A statement issued from the school said: “The school has reminded students that toilets are freely accessible during specific periods at lunchtime and break time but that students who need toilet during lessons, or need access for medical reasons, will be given access on request.

“Toilets are therefore accessible at all times.”

There was outrage when a thief stole a collection box that was raising money for cancer-battler Bradley Lowery.

The thief was caught on CCTV as he made off with a tin full of donated cash from the counter of The Lunch Box on Yoden Road, Peterlee.

The footage was shared across social media as the community and the man responsible was later jailed for 12 weeks.

Later that month Bradley was chosen to lead out England’s football team at Wembley as mascot alongside his footballing hero and ‘best friend’, Jermain Defoe, in the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

Lynn Murphy, campaign manager for Bradley Lowery’s Fight, said Bradley “loved every minute of it”.

She added: “When he came off the pitch he was over the moon, and when Jermain scored that really topped the day off.”

Meanwhile, a crash between two cars following a police pursuit resulted in the death of a teenager.

Sixteen-year-old Brandon Morris was passenger in a silver Ford Focus when police signalled the car to pull over. When the car did not stop, a chase ensued until the driver collided with a Nissan Qashqai at a crossroads near Albert Park, Middlesbrough.

Six people were taken to James Cook University Hospital and despite efforts to save him, Brandon was pronounced dead.

Lee Harvey, 29, of Lismore Gardens, Thornaby, appeared at Teesside Magistrates Court. In April he was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court to seven and a half years in jail after he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, two charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and driving without a licence or insurance.

At the end of the month, three teenage boys were praised for coming to the aid of a 77-year-old grandmother.

The three friends, Ryan Chapman, Rhys Dakin and Logan Jackson, were walking through the West End of Darlington when they noticed a house with the lights off and front door open.

Fearing a burglary, they alerted a neighbour and went to investigate where they found the woman collapsed in her kitchen.

Ryan called 999 while the other boys did their best to comfort her. An ambulance and police cars were at the scene in minutes.

“We tried talking to her but got no response,” said Rhys. “It all happened so fast and it was quite scary at the time.”

Paramedics arrived and took her to hospital, and the woman's son said later: "They could have just walked past and done nothing, or they could have taken advantage of the situation because her purse was in her bag nearby. Instead, they acted responsibly, did all the right things, and probably saved my mother’s life.”