APRIL began with a dramatic fire that destroyed vehicles and caused damage at a North-East haulage yard.

Three heavy goods vehicles and three trailers were completely burnt out, while two lorries and one trailer melted in the blaze at the John Dickinson Transport depot, near Barnard Castle.

Firefighters were called to the yard at 1.51am and an investigation later concluded the blaze was not suspicious.

Paul Dickinson, son of business owner John Dickinson, described the event as a “painful experience”.

He said: “It was an unexpected fire and has caused us quite a few complications but they are all surmountable with a little bit of time.”

Also that month, a beat bobby who counts a former Prime Minister and an American president among the dignitaries he has served retired after more than two decades.

PC Keith Todd patrolled the streets of Sedgefield since 1995 - when he joined Durham Police following a 20-year stint in the British Army as a Royal Engineer advanced diver.

The father-of-three became a well-known figure in the community and during his service was part of the team to provide a uniformed presence to the then Sedgefield MP and former PM Tony Blair – and even took part in the security for President George Bush’s visit to the town in 2003.

“I have had a very enjoyable career in Sedgefield but look forward to a new chapter in my private life with my growing family,” said PC Todd, of Darlington.

“I will be sad to leave this community I am very fond of and have some great memories to cherish.”

The refurbishment of a historic tramway was said to be on track as its original Victorian features were in the process of being restored.

Carriages from the Saltburn Tramway were carefully being put together in anticipation of its reopening.

Components from the time Britain’s oldest water balanced tramway was first built were found and restored whenever possible, including original cast iron fittings.

Councillor Carl Quartermain, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council’s cabinet member for tourism, culture and communications, said: “The tramway is simply iconic and a wonderful part of our tourism offer. It’s fantastic to see this refurbishment coming together so well so it can be enjoyed for many generations to come.”

As the month progressed, North-East TV presenter Ant McPartlin said he was “truly sorry” after being involved in a drink-driving crash.

The £130,000-a-week star was banned from the road for 20 months and fined £86,000 after pleading guilty to driving while more than twice the legal limit.

McPartlin, 42, told police he was “ashamed and mortified” after crashing his car while drink-driving with his mother in the passenger seat.

Speaking on the court steps following sentencing, McPartlin said: “I just want to say I’m truly sorry for what happened.

“High standards are expected of me, I expect them of myself.

“I’ve let myself down, I let a lot of people down. And for that I am truly sorry. I’d like apologise to everybody involved in the crash and I’m just thankful no-one was seriously hurt.”

There was drama in Darlington as cattle escaped from a field and were loose along Coniscliffe Road.

Council workers were praised for preventing a potential accident by rounding up the animals into a front garden of a house in Darlington.

However, the woman who lived in the house demanded compensation for the front garden to be cleared after it was ruined.

After the incident, Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for leisure, local environment and transport said: “Without their quick thinking who knows what could have happened – Coniscliffe Road is a very busy road and thanks to them no one was injured.

“A member of staff from our street scene team has visited this afternoon and we have arranged to clear the debris, tidy the garden, plant bulbs and sow grass seeds where needed.”

And a North Yorkshire community came together to celebrate the triple-gold achievement of Jack Laugher at the Commonwealth games.

Jack completed his Commonwealth gold medal hat-trick after triumphing in the men’s synchronised 3m springboard with Chris Mears in Australia’s Gold Coast.

Back in his Ripon hometown, his parents Jackie and Dave were watching the action from the comfort of their living room before being whisked away to a surprise celebration party at the Ripon Spa Hotel.

Mr and Mrs Laugher were escorted to the bash by one of the most successful British swimmers of all time, Mark Foster, and were greeted by rapturous applause and a sea of England flags and Jack Laugher masks as they entered the hotel.

Clearly moved by the occasion and their son’s incredible achievement, Mrs Laugher said they would never get used to seeing Jack winning gold medals. She said: “We were very nervous for him, he was so wanting the hat-trick of golds and we went through every emotion with him.”

Similar celebrations were had in the North-East, as Middlesbrough-born swimmer Aimee Willmott returned from the Commonwealth Games with her own gold medal.

The 25-year-old fought back tears as she was greeted by friends, family and supporters at the Neptune Leisure Centre after her return to the UK.

Ms Willmott said: “I didn’t expect that at all – I thought it was a little bit strange that my coach and my dad asked me to come along in the middle of a session, but to walk in and see all my family and friends and my old swimming coach and PE teachers, it was just really nice."