TEN years ago this week, Electrolux announced it was close its plant in Spennymoor with the loss of 500 jobs.

The closure saw production move to eastern Europe. Unions had been trying to agree a partial restructuring of operations in Spennymoor, which would have meant only 200 jobs going.

However, a matter of days before Christmas, the whole workforce was told they would be made redundant.

Critics said the decision to move after being based in Spennymoor for 50 years was “short sighted”.

Jeff Morland, a regional officer with Unite, said: "This the worst possible Christmas present.

"The company's decision to move production to Poland where workers are paid a quarter of a British wage will not be profitable in the short run."

Worker Jimmy Hodgson, 54, told The Northern Echo: "It was the last thing we expected. It's bad enough for us, but at least I have no mortgage. The people I feel worst for is the young lads."

Meanwhile in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, more details emerged about the disappearance of canoe man John Darwin, who faked his own death in order to cash in life insurance and start afresh with wife Anne in Panama.

Darwin had obtained a false passport using the name of a dead child, after scouring graveyards and North-East papers for a suitable name.

He settled on John Jones, a baby he came across who was born five months before his own date of birth, and got hold of a copy of the child's birth certificate.

John Jones' sister, Frieda Woods, 55, said: "It's terrible to think that this man may have used my brother's name in his scheme.

"I feel terrible. It's such a shock when I heard Darwin was using the name John Jones, I did think 'that's my brother's name'.”

Elsewhere, a truck driver was airlifted to hospital on December 11 after his lorry careered down a bank, flipped onto its side and spewed bitumen across the road.

The truck crushed a stone wall before spilling its load into the gutter.

The crash happened on the A694 at the junction of the B6309, at Ebchester, near Consett.

The driver, from Darlington, was trapped in his cab for about an hour before he was flown to hospital by helicopter with chest injuries.

The bitumen spread along 50 metres of the road and footpath and at times was a metre-and-a-half wide.

Then-Derwentside district councillor Eric Turner said: "There have been so many accidents there over the years. It is something of a notorious blackspot."