FEBRUARY began with some tragic news, as tributes flooded in for a 20-year-old student who died in an incident outside a Durham nightclub.

The Northern Echo: Police investigators at the scene outside the Missoula nightclub in Durham where 20-year-old Olivia Burt died Wednesday night

Friends of Durham University undergraduate Olivia Burt described her as “an all-round lovely soul” hours after she became trapped under a barrier and suffered fatal head injuries.

Desperate attempts were made by doormen and, minutes later, by paramedics to resuscitate Miss Burt, who was from Hampshire, and had started at the university in October, but she was pronounced dead outside the venue.

Professor David Held, master of University College, Durham, said: “The staff and students of University College, Durham acutely feel the loss of Olivia Burt. She came to Durham with glowing references from her school where she was regarded in the highest possible terms.

“Those students close to her have lost a wonderful friend, whom in their shock they grieve for, alongside her family and friends.”


The Northern Echo: POPULAR: Hannah Hauxwell signing copies of a book from her Innocent Aborad series at Dressers in Northallerton in 1991

Tributes were also paid to Daleswoman and celebrity Hannah Hauxwell after she died aged 91.

Miss Hauxwell first became known in 1970 when she featured in a newspaper article titled ‘How to be happy on £170 a year’.

Filmmaker Barry Cockcroft followed it in 1973 with an award-winning documentary for Yorkshire Television (YTV), Too Long A Winter, chronicling the tough working conditions of farmers in the Pennines.

Miss Hauxwell, seen singlehandedly managing the remote Low Birk Hat Farm at the top of Baldersdale and living without electricity and running water, became the centre of national attention.

Books and other television appearances followed, including more Cockcroft films charting her trips overseas.

Following Miss Hauxwell’s retirement in 1988, Durham Wildlife Trust took over land at Low Birk Hatt and created Hannah’s Meadows Nature Reserve.


The Northern Echo:

TOUR: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Sunderland

The month of February also saw various members of the Royal Family pay special visits to the region.

Hundreds of people turned out to welcome Prince Charles to Durham at the beginning of the month.

Dozens of flag-bearing pupils from the Chorister School lined the path to Durham Cathedral, where The Prince of Wales had a guided tour of Open Treasure, before attending a concert honouring Sir Hubert Parry, one of his favourite composers.

The prince’s main duty of the day was to officially open the £10m exhibition, aimed at conserving and making accessible the cathedral’s most precious artefacts.

Prince Charles said: “I’m very glad indeed to have this all too brief opportunity to come and visit Durham Cathedral and this splendid city. I feel it’s longer than I would have liked since I was last here.”

While the end of the month saw The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge pay a visit to Sunderland.

William and Kate visited and officially opened the Fire Station, one of the area’s most notable buildings, which has recently been converted into an arts centre.

They ended their trip by visiting the striking Northern Spire bridge, where William was invited to put in one of the final bolts onto the bridge.

Chatting to a group from Young Asian Voices at the Fire Station Arts Centre, Kate asked if one of the girls would draw a henna design on her hand.

The duchess seemed delighted when Shajida Begum, 18, drew a black flower with a swirl.

Miss Begum said: "I said 'Would you like a design?' and she was like 'Yes, if you don't mind'.

"She was saying that it was really pretty.”


The Northern Echo:

Meanwhile, a gang of thieves blew up a cashpoint in an audacious early hours attack – only months after a similar raid in the same town.

The criminals escaped with an undisclosed sum of money from the free-standing cash machine outside Heron Foods at Cockerton Green in Darlington, leaving the street scattered with debris and stray bank notes.

Detectives investigated whether the raid and one outside Matalan, off Neasham Road, in October were connected.

In both cases, the suspects were believed to have used a highly flammable gas to cause the cashpoint to explode so they could gain access to the drawers of cash.


The Northern Echo:

Also that month, singer Cheryl returned to the region and spoke of her passion for helping children as she celebrated the opening of her new centre.

Opening The Prince’s Trust Cheryl’s Trust Centre in Newcastle, she said: “This is obviously really a heart thing for me because this is where I’m from. I would like to help kids all over the country if I could but I want to start in the heart of Newcastle because that is my home town and where I grew up.

“About seven years ago I had a really big desire to want to do this and here we are now today with the Prince’s Trust.”

Cheryl said she could still relate to young people in the North-East. She said. “There’s a saying ‘you can forget what people said to you throughout the years but you never forget how they made you feel’. I have never forgotten how I felt as a teenager.”


The Northern Echo:

And witnesses described the scene after a house explosion blew a man out of his upstairs window.

Neighbours said the scene was “like a war film” after they reported their homes shook as the explosion blew out part of the building’s eaves, several windows and left a large crack down the front of the building.

In a statement, Durham Police said that a “loud explosion may have been heard” and nearby homes were evacuated.


The Northern Echo:

The final day of February marked the beginning of what was to be the biggest snowfall the UK has seen for decades, named fondly as the ‘Beast from the East’.