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Everton back in Europe

It's more than four years since their last appearance in Europe. But tonight Everton are back. They kick off their Europa League campaign at home to German side Wolfsburg in the group stages. A huge crowd is expected at Goodison Park. Chris Hall reports.


Sarah McClay's family make statement after inquest verdict

The family of a woman who was killed by a tiger at an animal park in Cumbria have released a statement. 24 year old Sarah McClay was pounced on in the keeper's corridor of the tiger house at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria before she was dragged by the back of the neck into a den and then to an outside enclosure. An inquest today delivered a narrative verdict.

Her boyfriend David Shaw has released a joint statement with Miss McClay's mother, Fiona.

"Sarah's death has been difficult for us all and we hope that today's conclusion will help us move forward in some way.

"While this inquest has been a necessary step and has allowed us to understand some of the events on the day in greater detail, it cannot bring Sarah back to us

"Our thanks go out to all of Sarah's friends, colleagues and well-wishers who have stood by us and who have offered their emotional strength to us. Your support has helped us through this traumatic time."

Glasgow-born Miss McClay had worked at the park for more than two years and was well experienced with working with big cats which she saw as a "privilege".

Her mother, a 50-year-old housekeeper from Linlithgow, West Lothian, said it was her daughter's "dream job" after she had visited the park as a child.

Giving evidence, she also said Miss McClay was "a meticulous person to the extreme" who did not have any health or money problems.

Mrs McClay said her daughter would not have blamed the tiger for the attack and would not want it to be killed.

Colleagues spoke of her "bubbly" personality, her passion for the job and her ability to engage with people, especially children.

A post-mortem examination showed among Miss McClay's unsurvivable injuries were deep puncture wounds to the neck, the back of her body, both arms and her left foot.

Park owner and founder David Gill, who designed the tiger house, told the jury how he jumped out of a digger 80 yards away and ran towards a fence on the side of the enclosure where he saw the tiger sitting over Miss McClay.

He said he struggled to get a clean shot on Padang and had targeted the top of the animal's shoulder when he fired his rifle and the tiger darted back into the house.

In a statement issued today, Mr Gill said: "Sarah McClay was a dedicated and valued member of the animal caring staff at the park.

"Her enthusiasm and friendly character were appreciated by everyone she met. Sarah was committed to the aims of the park, to conservation and to preservation of rare species as seen for example in the red squirrel project she helped to develop and run.

"Her tragic and untimely death has affected all of us at the park and she is greatly missed.

"On behalf of myself and everyone at the park I wish to convey our condolences to Mr Shaw, Fiona McClay and all of Sarah's family and friends."

A Merseyside Police officer has denied "trying to hide something" at the Hillsborough inquests

Inspector Keith Wilkinson was one of 14 mounted officers from the Liverpool-based force brought in to provide assistance to South Yorkshire Police for the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. A lawyer for the families acting for seven of the bereaved families suggested there were a number of changes between his two accounts of events. The fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans heard that Mr Wilkinson made one report nine days after the disaster in April 1989 and typed a statement himself the following January. In the second account, the court heard, the witness made more references to alcohol and claimed his horse had been hit on the head. Peter Wilcock QC suggested the jury would hear evidence that a number of Merseyside police officers made a second statement on 11th January 1990. He asked the witness: "Can you remember making this statement at the same time in the same afternoon in the same building as other officers from the Merseyside mounted police?" Mr Wilkinson replied: "I can't. I can't remember that." He agreed that he had never been involved in anything as tragic as the Hillsborough disaster. The barrister continued: "How is it that, in that context, you cannot remember one of the only two statements that you have ever made about it? Are you trying to hide something?" He responded: "There is nothing to hide." Mr Wilkinson denied someone told him to make the alterations. "If it is in my statement, then it is what I remember or remembered at the time," he said. He said he had no criticism of any officer he observed on the day of the disaster. Earlier, Mr Wilkinson told the court that he had surmised that his horse was struck and did not see the animal being hit.

Questions remain unanswered after tiger death verdict say family

The family of a woman animal keeper mauled to death when a tiger walked through an open door say they still have questions unanswered following the conclusion of an inquest into her death. Sarah McClay, 24, was pounced on in the keeper's corridor of the tiger house at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria before she was dragged by the back of the neck into a den and then to an outside enclosure. The animal was supposed to never have access to the corridor but male tiger Padang walked straight through a door to where Miss McClay, from Barrow-in-Furness, was as she carried out her cleaning and feeding duties in the house. An inquest jury in Kendal ruled in a narrative verdict that Padang got to Miss McClay by entering two open internal sliding gates within the house and then an open door that led on to the corridor. Systems were in place at the park in Dalton-in-Furness in to ensure that animals and keepers remained apart at all times through indoor and outdoor compartments connected by lockable self-closing doors. But when staff members rushed in after the attack on May 24 last year they found the door to one of the tigers' dens ajar and not locked. Two internal sliding gates were also open which allowed Padang and his female companion, Alisha, to move in and out of a light den and a dark den to the outside enclosure. The court heard that a bolt on the top of the dark den door - which had been the one open immediately before the attack - was found to be defective in the hours following her death as the scene was examined but it could not be said if that damage had occurred before the fatality. An environmental health officer for the local authority told the jury that the top spring-loaded bolt could not be held back and it would bang against the frame when it tried to close, which left a gap of between 20mm and 25mm. The jury found that one or more of the bolts on that door extended so as to prevent it from closing into the frame. A criminal health and safety at work investigation is being held by Barrow Borough Council which licenses the park. Following the hearing, Miss McClay's boyfriend, David Shaw, 25, told reporters he had a theory as to why the door to the corridor was open but he said he was not willing to share it at this stage. He said: "We will see how things move forward. We are aware that the council in Barrow is still conducting their investigation and it would be wrong of us to say anything before they have concluded that investigation. "There are always questions that we would like answered. We know full well that we will not be able to answer some of them ever but there is the chance that some answers may come out in the investigation in time."

Sarah McClay's family say they still need answers Credit: ITV Granada


Five questioned over cathedral theft

Chester Cathedral Credit: PA

Police are questioning five people in conection with the theft of an 18th century icon from Chester Cathedral. Four men and a woman were arrested at a property in Edleston Road in Crewe. Officers also found a number of items including the 18th Century Greek Orthodox icon "The raising of Lazurus" which had been stolen from Chester Cathedral on 18 August 2014. Chief Superintendent Andy Southcott said: "I am absolutely delighted with the police investigation ....which has led to officers arresting outstanding suspects and the discovery of other items of interest. We hope that following this discovery, an extremely important icon can be reunited with its owners. We will also of course continue to investigate the other paintings to establish where they have come from. Cheshire Police takes heritage crime seriously and will continue to work with the community and other agencies to tackle the issue."

Five questioned over Chester Cathedral theft

Police arrested five people in Crewe Credit: PA

Five people have been arrested in connection with the theft of an icon from Chester Cathedral. Four men and one woman were detained at a property in Edleston Road in Crewe. Police recovered a number of items including the 18th Century Greek Orthodox icon "The Raising of Lazurus" which had been stolen from Chester Cathedral on 18 August 2014.

Chester Zoo hopes new arrival will help breeding programme

Kifaru Credit: Chester Zoo

Staff at Chester Zoo hope that a new arrival from Germany will boost their rare breeds programme. Twenty-nine-year-old Kifaru - an Eastern black rhino - is settling in to his new home after travelling from Hannover Zoo. Staff in Chester hope their new arrival will sire a number of new calves and bring vital new blood to the European population of Eastern black rhinos – a species classed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild.

The zoo’s curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said:“With a species that’s as highly threatened with extinction as the Eastern black rhino, all individuals in the European breeding programme are important.“As so few individuals exist, it is essential that we achieve successful breeding from as many of the rhinos in zoos as possible. Kifaru has only sired three calves previously; this means he has a great opportunity to add to the dwindling numbers of black rhino which makes him one of the most important rhinos around. Any offspring he may go on to produce here would bring vital genetics to the European population. “This population is vital as an insurance policy against further declines in the wild and the more successful the population is, the better that insurance policy can be.“We have one of the best records in the world when it comes to breeding rhinos, so fingers crossed we can encourage Kifaru to work his magic with our females.”

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