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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...


Hundreds backing petition to save Menzieshill High School memorial tree

September 30 2015

Hundreds of Dundonians have pledged their support for a threatened memorial tree dedicated to two tragic former Menzieshill High School pupils. The tree was planted outside the school alongside a remembrance plaque in memory of 15-year-old Pamela Tully and fellow pupil Ian McShane. It is at risk of being destroyed when the school closes next year, with Dundee City Council refusing to confirm if it will be saved. The authority has agreed to move the plaque to a new site but has so far failed to make such assurances for the memorial tree. Former classmates of the duo have set up an online petition calling on the council to ring fence the tree. The petition has sparked an immediate response, with 560 signatures being gained in just four days. Pamela’s grateful mother, Isobel Tully, 58, spoke of her hope that the tree could still be saved and thanked her daughter’s classmates for raising awareness of the plight. She said: “It (the petition) was launched last Thursday. which was actually Pamela’s birthday. I had been in tears all day Thursday and Friday because I just didn’t expect that people would really get behind this. “There’s been people from as far afield as Germany, Belgium and even Canada who have signed it and I’m absolutely delighted. “I think the girl that set it up was only aiming for 100 signatures so to get over 500 is fantastic. I’m just so grateful. “A lot of people think it’s just a silly tree but it’s devastating for me and for her schoolmates Pamela was their pal.” Isobel and Pamela’s friends will meet this week to discuss their plans for the future. Among their ideas is the possibility of making a bird table out of the tree if they cannot find another solution. A spokeswoman for Dundee City Council said: “Officers from children and families service have been discussing options directly with Mrs Tully.” Pamela and Ian’s tree was planted following a fundraising campaign by their school friends. Pamela died from a rare form of leukaemia in 1993. Fellow pupil Ian died a year later. The Menzieshill memorial tree petition follows on from a similar fight over a memorial tree in Perth. Perth and Kinross Council came under fire after an ancient pine tree that acted as a tribute to former Perth Academy pupil Callum Owen and his brother Ethan was removed in 2013 to make way for a sports pitch. The brothers were killed in a car crash, along with their mother, in 2009. The Courier revealed in June that Menzieshill High was to close. Pupils and future generations will attend the new Harris Academy.

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.


Dundee mum with ‘heart of gold’ loses her battle with cancer

October 22 2015

A 37-year-old Dundee mum has lost her battle with cancer. Pamela Barbour, a dinner lady at Longhaugh Primary School, died on Monday at Roxburghe House, surrounded by her loving family. She had battled stomach cancer for nearly two years. When Pamela’s condition deteriorated, a holiday to Greece with her partner had to be cancelled. Ari Khalil had planned to ask his beloved partner of 10 years to marry him while they holidayed but Pamela had to be admitted into Ninewells Hospital’s cancer unit. Working at the school up until four months ago, Pamela also looked after her three children Tommy, 17, Jodie, 16, and seven-year-old Katie-B. Ari, 28, said: “We were going to go on holiday and I was going to ask her to marry me, but she was too unwell to go. “For 10 years I have had such an amazing time with her she was so strong.” Tommy paid tribute to his mum, saying: “She had such a big heart and would always put us first. “Everyone always said hello to her when she walked past everybody knew her.” Her dad, John Barbour, spoke of his “caring” daughter. “She had a heart of gold and would do anything and everything for anybody who needed help,” he said. “Pamela was always such a loving, caring person and even when she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, she still put everyone before herself. “She died very peacefully with her family around her and still, she was making sure everyone else was all right.” Her mother Catherine, 58, said: “Pamela would always have a smile on her face she was the light of any party and could talk to anybody.”


Dundee teacher wins Children’s Book Award

May 30 2016

A Dundee secondary school teacher has won the prestigious Children’s Book Award 2016. Pamela Butchart, a philosophy teacher at Harris Academy, teamed up with London-based illustrator Thomas Flintham to create My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat. The duo’s work came top in the 'books for young readers category', shortly before being crowned the overall winner. My Head Teacher Is a Vampire Rat tells the wacky story of a group of kids who decide that their new head teacher is a vampire. He is said to be quite scary, has the blinds down in his office all day and has banned garlic bread at lunch. After winning the award, Pamela was interviewed for national TV and radio channels along with Thomas. Pamela said: "I'm absolutely delighted. "I left Dundee on Friday and have travelled all over the UK for interviews and festivals. "It has been an absolute whirlwind, like a dream - it doesn't feel like real life. "Winning the young readers category was amazing, but when we won the overall award it was a proper squeal. "All the kids I teach have been so supportive and they've been tweeting me to congratulate me. "It's amazing to look at all the famous names on the award, such as J.K Rowling, and think that it has been in their house. "Now it will be in mine, in Dundee!" Reviews have described Pamela’s book as  “fast-paced, irreverent and full of explosive illustration”. The author is sharing the limelight with the likes of J.K. Rowling, who won the Children’s Book Award in 1997 for her first Harry Potter novel. https://twitter.com/Pamela_Butchart/status/736623682089521152     https://twitter.com/Pamela_Butchart/status/736622175919181824

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

Perth & Kinross

Dog owner ‘devastated’ after pets are found dead in septic tank

September 17 2015

A Tayside woman was left “devastated” when her two beloved dogs were found drowned in a septic tank. Pamela Stewart had offered a £1,000 reward and launched a search party to find Storm and Max, her American cockadoodles, who went missing in Perthshire. She raised fears that the pair had been stolen to be used as bait in dog fighting or to be sold on due to their valuable, designer breed. But the animals were discovered inside a septic tank on a new-build housing estate near Errol, close to where they vanished. Pamela’s friend, Susan Gibb, who bred the dogs, said that despite the bad news, it was a relief to know they had not been stolen. Susan, from Errol, said: “They were found in a septic tank in the middle of some waterworks near the new-build houses just outside Errol. “Both dogs had drowned and Pamela is devastated. She feels so guilty because she let the dogs off the lead and then they disappeared. But it is not her fault, at all. “At least now she has closure and we know that the dogs haven’t been taken away to be abused and tortured. “I think if they hadn’t been found we would always have wondered what happened to them.” Pamela had been walking Max and Storm who were brother and sister in the woods on the circular path between Errol and the Grange on Friday. They ran ahead of her and disappeared round a bend. When they did not return, she spent three hours looking for them, but there was neither sight nor sound of them. She then launched an appeal to find them through social media and a search party of 10 spent hours combing the countryside. Susan added: “They are only 14 months old and had not been near water before, so they didn’t stand a chance. “We really do appreciate everybody’s help in sharing the posts on Facebook and coming out to look for them after they went missing.” A tribute posted from the Missing Pets Dundee and Angus group, which helped to publicise the appeal, said: “It is with a heavy heart that we inform you all that Storm and Max have been found under very sad circumstances. They were both pulled from the water and, sadly, had not survived. “Their family would like to thank everyone who shared, looked and went out of their way to search for their babies.”


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

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

UK & World

‘Breaking Bad-style’ murderer of police officer Gordon Semple jailed for life

December 12 2016

Stefano Brizzi, 50, has been jailed for life for strangling a police officer during a bondage sex session and then attempting to cook and eat parts of his body. Brizzi admitted he was inspired by his favourite TV series Breaking Bad as he tried to get away with killing 59-year-old PC Gordon Semple by also dissolving his flesh in an acid bath. Last month, the former Morgan Stanley IT developer was found guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to two after a jury at the Old Bailey had deliberated for more than 30 hours. The estate where Semple’s remains were found (Jonathan Brady/PA) Semple was a “caring and gentle person” and “much loved” by his family, who were left devastated with the news of his murder, the court heard. The trial had heard that Brizzi met his victim on gay dating app Grindr and arranged a “hot, dirty, sleazy session” at his flat near London’s Tate Modern gallery on April 1. According to Brizzi, Semple died when a dog leash he had been wearing slipped as they played a “strangulation game”. But a pathologist concluded that while strangulation was a possible cause of death, it would have taken minutes rather than moments, as the defendant had claimed. Stefano Brizzi has been jailed for life (Metropolitan Police/PA) In the days after the killing, Brizzi was caught on CCTV buying buckets, a perforated metal sheet and cleaning products from a DIY store. He then set about dismembering the body, stripping the flesh, burning some in the oven and mixing some with acid in the bath. Semple’s long-term partner, Gary Meeks, reported him missing when he failed to return to their home in Dartford, Kent. Neighbours complained about the stench coming from Brizzi’s flat and eventually called police, who came across the grisly sight of “globules” of flesh floating in the bath, bags containing bones and a part of Semple’s head, and pools of human fat in the oven. Pc Gordon Semple was strangled (Metropolitan Police/PA) Following his arrest, Brizzi admitted killing and trying to dissolve the body of the policeman because “Satan told me to”. Brizzi denied trying to cannibalise parts of Semple by cooking and then biting into a rib found in his kitchen bin. But at his sentencing, the prosecution said an expert odontologist had since confirmed that even though Brizzi claimed not to remember it, he had in fact tried to eat human flesh. Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC handed crystal meth addict Brizzi life in prison with a minimum of 24 years. Brizzi was also sentenced to seven years for obstructing a coroner, which will run concurrently. CCTV footage showing Brizzi purchasing supplies like buckets after Semple’s death (Metropolitan Police/PA) The judge said there were “terrible features” of the case and that Brizzi’s drug addiction had ruined his life. He told Brizzi: “Regret you express now for Mr Semple’s death has to be seen against what you did over a number of days to his body.” The defendant sat in the dock with his head bowed throughout the hearing.