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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Angus & The Mearns

Monifieth sperm whale: Marine animal expert gives full briefing on findings so far

March 26 2018

The marine animal expert behind an autopsy on a 45ft sperm whale which washed up near Monifieth has given a full update on his findings so far. Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), carried out a post-mortem on the huge mammal after it washed up on the shores of the Barry Buddon firing range last Wednesday. With the aid of staff and students from the St Andrews’ Sea Mammal Research Unit and fellow marine rescuers, he began the procedure on Friday and concluded it on Saturday. Contractors from Cupar-based FTM Plant Hire used diggers armed with swing-shovels to the beach to roll the sea creature from its location on a rocky section of the shore to the sands further inland for burial. And in what is believed to be a world-first, the workers used their machinery to crack open the whale's skull during the autopsy - allowing for a brain sample to be analysed which could indicate if there was any possible issues in its brain function. The sea creature is believed to have drifted off course as it travelled from either Norway or the north of Scotland to equatorial waters for breeding season. The North Sea is a poor environment for the species, which prefers to feed on fish and squid in deep underwater trenches. With no signs of a ship strike or marine entanglement, human interference in the whale's death has been virtually ruled out. And Dr Brownlow said that, thus far, there are also no signs of a disease having killed the animal. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/angus-mearns/624009/video-watch-as-complex-operation-to-probe-death-of-and-bury-tay-sperm-whale-gets-under-way/ No marine debris or plastic were found in its stomach, where there was 300-litres of seawater believed to have been taken in during the stranding itself. More findings may come to light as Dr Brownlow analyses samples taken on the beach  in a laboratory. Giving an update to SMASS followers online after spending several days in Tayside dealing with the remains of the sperm whale, Dr Brownlow said: "It’s not often I wish I’d packed crampons for a post-mortem, but I really could have used them on the sperm whale necropsy this weekend. "This sub-adult male stranded on the beach at Monifieth, measured 13.8m (45ft) long, 7m (23ft) in girth and probably weighed over 30 tonnes. "Simply getting a blubber measurement from the flank necessitated climbing up the side of it- in this case by hauling myself up using post-mortem knives like ice picks. "And getting these measurements was just the start of what turned into two days on the beach undertaking the post-mortem. "Initially we had problems even moving the animal - it was simply too big for the plant machinery we initially brought, and, positioned where it was, a couple of hundred meters into the intertidal, we just ran out of time as the tide returned. "In the end it was early Saturday morning before it could be dragged to the high water line where we could finish the post-mortem, and eventually bury, the animal. "Undertaking a post-mortem on something this size is obviously logistically challenging, and many thanks are due to Martin Smith and his team from FTM Plant who were so competent with their machinery that they were able to use a 22-tonne JCB like a dissecting scalpel. "As a result, in addition to a range of visceral samples, we were able to get a sample of brain tissue. "I think this is the first time in the UK that we’ve been able to remove the head –itself something slightly larger than a transit van- during a sperm whale necropsy, and this will enable us to rule out some potentially neurological causes for the stranding." Dr Brownlow added: "In general, the animal was in good body condition, with no indications for entanglement or ship strike. The organs were pretty autolysed - sperm whales decompose incredibly quickly once dead - but they too didn’t show any indication of disease. "The stomach contained about 300 litres of seawater - likely swallowed during the stranding - and some fish and squid bones which we will analyse to see what, and potentially where, it had been foraging. "No significant marine debris or plastic was found in this case either. Obviously we will need to wait to see what else we find from our lab analysis, but it is plausible this animal stranded in the Firth of Tay due simply because it made a navigational error. "Once in shallow waters with large tidal range, animals of this size are at great risk of stranding, and doing so is almost always fatal. "We will keep you posted with any updates, but for now I would just like to thank all who helped with this post-mortem, especially BDMLR (British Divers Marine Life Rescue) and staff and students from the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) in St Andrews who turned out in force to help. "I literally couldn’t have done this without your assistance, so many many thanks, and I hope you eventually manage to get the smell out of your gear!" https://www.facebook.com/Strandings/posts/1606278879462893

Angus & The Mearns

VIDEO: Watch as complex operation to probe death of and bury Tay sperm whale gets under way

March 24 2018

A huge, complicated operation to carry out a post-mortem on and bury a 45ft sperm whale which washed up on the banks of the River Tay got under way yesterday. Sea life experts, animal rescue teams and contractors arrived on the beach of the Barry Buddon firing range at 10am on Friday morning - just two days after the massive mammal washed up dead on the shore. Facing a race against time before high tide, samples were taken and a post-mortem was started on the whale by Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS). Contractors from Cupar-based FTM Plant Hire had brought diggers armed with swing-shovels to the beach to roll the sea creature from its location on a rocky section of the shore to the sands further inland. The firm was expected to move the animal during low tide last night and to proceed with burying it this morning. Workers had attempted to roll the animal inshore on Friday afternoon but only managed to move it about 66ft before deciding that a bigger machine was required for the task. The operation was given the go-ahead following consultation between Angus Council and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa). The beach at Barry Buddon is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and an EU Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Dr Brownlow said the samples gathered during yesterday's examination of the whale would help them determine the cause of the its death, adding that disposing of the whale at the Angus beach is a “very difficult” task. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/angus-mearns/624142/video-how-did-45ft-sperm-whale-which-washed-up-near-monifieth-die/ He was helped by a number of students from St Andrews' Sea Mammal Research Unit and fellow marine rescuers. The post-mortem will be concluded today, should the whale be successfully shifted. Dr Brownlow said there doesn't appear to be evidence of "human interaction" in the mammal's death and added that some of the wounds could have been sustained during a fight with another male. He added: "It probably weighs in excess of 35 tonnes. And doing a post-mortem on it is going to be quite a challenge, there is no two ways about it. "We try to work out what happened, why is it this animal has come here. "We have not managed to finish it (the post-mortem) today. These whales are incredibly difficult to shift. "We know quite a lot already. It doesn't seem to have any evidence of any direct human interaction. So there is no evidence of an entanglement, there is no evidence that it has been some ship strike. "Interestingly if you look at the head end of it there are some bits that do look like its been fighting with other males - what I think looked like teeth marks on its rostral. "So we're kind of piecing this all together to try and learn what happened." He added that the whale may have taken a wrong turn on its way from feeding around Norway, Orkney and Shetland to equatorial waters, but ended up in the North Sea - an environment which is difficult for the species to navigate. A Sepa spokesman said: "Given the location of the whale and the area’s various environmental designations, such as a special area of conservation (SAC), Sepa has advised the local authority that a number of partner organisations should be consulted, including the Scottish Natural Heritage and Ministry of Defence, prior to a final decision on disposal. "While the whale does not pose any immediate risk to the environment, Sepa officers will continue to monitor the situation and work with the local authority to find a suitable disposal option." Angus Council said arrangements had been made for the safe disposal of the carcass.

Angus & The Mearns

VIDEO: How did 45ft sperm whale which washed up near Monifieth die?

March 24 2018

A probe into the death of a massive sperm whale which washed up near Monifieth on Wednesday is under way. Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), began a post-mortem on the 45ft sea creature at the beach on Barry Buddon firing range on Friday. After taking samples from the whale with the help of staff and students from the Sea Mammal Research Unit and fellow marine rescuers, he will investigate its organs and attempt to discover the cause of death. Dr Brownlow will look for signs of disease and contaminants in the mammal's body. There are also signs that it may have sustained injuries in a fight with another male sperm whale. There is no evidence of "human interaction" such as a marine entanglement or a ship strike. Dr Brownlow explained to The Courier that the most likely theory is the sperm whale went off course while travelling from Norway or the north of Scotland down to equatorial waters. He said: "What I suspect happened - we're basing this on what we've learnt from other sperm whales that have come into this area. "Male sperm whales tend to feed north of Scotland off the coast of Norway. They naturally eat sort of fish but particularly squid. "What we think happens is that when they are coming back south to go back down to more equatorial waters for breeding season, they don't turn right basically but they end up in the North Sea rather than going down The Minch or the Atlantic. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/angus-mearns/624009/video-watch-as-complex-operation-to-probe-death-of-and-bury-tay-sperm-whale-gets-under-way/ "The North Sea from here is not a good environment for a sperm whale. It is quite shallow. That makes it difficult for them to navigate. "But what we think happens is that they come into these firths on the east coast of Scotland because there is a theory that they can navigate or can navigate in part by using the earth's magnetic lines. "Then what happens is they try to get back to the Atlantic by going west using these lines as a sort of navigation. And unfortunately they don’t realise that Scotland is in the way." For more information, watch the full interview in the video above or click here.  

UK & World

Social workers involved in St Helena child abuse inquiry take legal action

March 23 2018

Two social workers who say an inquiry report into allegations of child abuse on the British overseas territory of St Helena destroyed their professional reputations have taken legal action.Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, who worked on St Helena and made cover-up allegations, have sued the Foreign Office and the senior barrister who led the inquiry.They say they “stand by the accuracy and honesty of their disclosures” and say conclusions were reached on the basis of an inquiry which was procedurally unfair.Lawyers representing ministers and inquiry chairman Sasha Wass QC dispute their claim and say the litigation should not proceed.A judge was on Friday considering issues in the case at a High Court hearing in London.Barrister Neil Sheldon, who is leading a legal team representing Foreign Office ministers, asked the judge, Master Victoria McCloud, to halt the litigation and dismiss the claim launched by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama.The inquiry had been set up by ministers following corruption and cover-up allegations which had been raised in newspaper articles and leaked documents and made by Ms Gannon and Martin Warsama.An inquiry report published in December 2015 concluded that: St Helena did not “attract sex tourism”; said allegations that the island in the South Atlantic was a “paedophiles’ paradise” were not true; reported “no corruption at all”; and found no evidence of any attempt by the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the St Helena government or police to cover up child abuse.The report said: “We stress that there was no ‘cover-up’ as alleged by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, rather an ignorance of proper safeguarding procedure.”Nicholas Bowen QC, who represents Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, told the judge the conclusions of the Wass Inquiry “destroyed” the professional reputations of his clients.He said the inquiry process was “procedurally” unfair and said Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama were entitled to “just satisfaction” for their loss.Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama say their claim should not be dismissed but say evidence should be analysed at a trial.


‘Everyone did an incredible job’ — autopsy carried out on beached sperm whale in Tayside could be world first

March 26 2018

An autopsy carried out on a 45-foot sperm whale beached in Tayside could be a world-first, a researcher involved in the effort has claimed. The infant whale, which was found dead on Barry Buddon beach near Monifieth on Thursday night, was examined by experts on Friday and Saturday before being buried under a large mound of sand. Due to the incredible skill of digger operators from Cupar-based FTM Plant Hire, a brain sample was taken from the huge mammal before it reached decomposition. According to Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, this may never have been done before following the death of a beached whale and may lead to greater understanding of the fascinating creatures. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/angus-mearns/624142/video-how-did-45ft-sperm-whale-which-washed-up-near-monifieth-die/ He said: "I have been doing this for 10 years and have never seen this. "It's more than likely it has not been done before this quickly anywhere in the world. "It may have an impact on future research worldwide. It's so very rare to manage to do this. "The digger operator, Martin Smith, used the shovel of the digger with the precision of a scalpel to crack open its skull in the exact location we needed." https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/angus-mearns/624009/video-watch-as-complex-operation-to-probe-death-of-and-bury-tay-sperm-whale-gets-under-way/ Dr Brownlow was joined by a number of students from the St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit and fellow marine rescuer volunteers. It is hoped the autopsy will allow experts to understand how the whale came to be stranded on the beach, which is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an EU Special Area of Conservation. He added: "It's just amazing to gain greater insight into these incredible animals. "They decompose ridiculously quickly and the whale was already falling apart on Saturday. "A post-mortem on a sperm whale is just so difficult logistically. The head is massive. "We will be able to rule out a few possible reasons for its beaching from this sample. "It can now be analysed for any possible issues in its brain function which could have caused it to navigate off course. "I want to thank everyone involved in the effort. Everyone did such an incredible job."

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Perth & Kinross

Bridge of Earn murder trial: Jury hears closing speeches

December 9 2015

A Polish teacher found dead in her former partner’s Perthshire garden sustained 19 stab wounds, a murder trial has heard. Graphic autopsy photographs of Agnieszka Szefler’s body in a Dundee mortuary were shown to the jury at the trial of Mohammed Ali Abboud, who denies killing the 27-year-old at his home in Bridge of Earn in January. The trial at the High Court in Edinburgh heard that 11 of the stab wounds were to Miss Szefler’s back. The jury heard closing speeches on the seventh day of Abboud’s trial. A special defence of self-defence was withdrawn by Abboud’s legal team this morning. In her closing speech, advocate depute Sheena Fraser told the jury: “Agnieszka Szefler had no chance. “I suggest this was a brutal attack on a defenceless young woman who was packing her belongings to move on with her life.” Ms Fraser said there was “clear, direct, eyewitness evidence” from Abboud’s neighbour Chloe Forbes-Kindlen that he had stabbed Miss Szefler twice in his back garden. Ms Fraser continued: “We heard from the pathologist Dr Brownlow that she couldn’t see how some of the back injuries could be self-inflicted. “The wounds were indeed inflicted by the only other person in the house at the time, Mohammed Ali Abboud." Defence advocate Ronnie Renucci told the jury in his closing speech: "Suspicions are not enough, ladies and gentlemen. "Murder is the most serious charge you can have, but it is always an emotive one. "But you must put emotions to one side and consider the evidence." Mr Renucci said Abboud's position had remained consistent throughout his police interviews. He said: "If the Crown are correct, Mohammed Abboud, a mature family man of 57, with no history of domestic violence, suddenly and inexplicably, out of the blue launches a sustained attack on her.It makes no sense." The Crown case concluded this morning and no defence witnesses were called. In earlier evidence, forensic pathologist Dr Helen Brownlow, 37, confirmed the cause of Miss Szefler’s death was “stab wounds and sharp force injury”. Dr Brownlow detailed a number of injuries to Miss Szefler’s body, including a “gaping” 58mm wound to her upper chest. Abboud, 57, denies biting Miss Szefler repeatedly on the body, striking her repeatedly on the body with a knife or similar instrument, pursuing and straddling her, and again striking her repeatedly with a knife or similar instrument on January 23 at Horsemill Place, Bridge of Earn. Abboud is then alleged to have washed blood from the knife and placed it under Miss Szefler’s body to give the appearance she was in possession of it. It is then alleged that Abboud repeatedly struck himself on the body with a knife to give the appearance that he had been assaulted by Miss Szefler. Lord Uist is expected to deliver his charge to the jury on Thursday.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk