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Sinead James: ‘I heard a loud bang and a scream from Lola at around midnight’

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“I WISH i did everything different, i wish i never had him in my house, i wish i never met him.”

These are the words sobbed by Sinead James in the witness box at Swansea Crown Court on Tuesday (Mar 28).

Lola’s mother, Sinead James, 30, was the first defence witness to take to the stand in the murder trial of two-year-old Lola James from Haverfordwest.

James is accused of allowing or causing the death of her child, by failing to protect Lola from murder-accused Kyle Bevan, 31.

The court heard how James had very little experience of relationships that did not involve domestic violence, citing that two out of her three children’s fathers had been verbally and physically violent towards her.

This was backed up with evidence provided to the court last week from health visitors, social services and medical doctors.

In January 2020, James ended the relationship with her former partner, a man who was physically and emotionally violent towards her. Following the breakdown of this relationship, James sought mental health help from her doctor and was prescribed an antidepressant.

The following month, James entered a new relationship with Kyle Bevan, one that progressed extremely quickly – with Bevan living at her residence full-time within a month.

The court heard how James had interventions from social services shortly after the birth of her first child, and had attended a number of courses, namely the freedom course, which offers victims of domestic violence better understanding of abusive situations and how best to protect both herself and children.

This course was offered again following the breakdown of her previous relationship.

James admitted to the court that although she attended a few of the classes, she quickly realised that the materials were that of the same of the one she had previously completed so saw no need to carry on.

James described her relationship with Bevan, stating that the first couple of months were brilliant, but then things started to change.

The court heard of a number of incidents in the lead up to Lola’s death where Bevan had been verbally abusive and smashing up the family home, punching headbutting door frames and the sofa, and an incident where the defendant smashed a light switch with a hammer.

When asked whether James thought that the children were in any danger following these incidents, James replied that she never had any concerns for the children’s safety as Bevan hadn’t physically assaulted her like her previous partners so she did not consider the relationship one of domestic violence.

This is something that the Crown Prosecution argues should have set off alarm bells.

Caroline Rees KC, brought up all the accounts of Bevan smashing up the house, shouting in James face, punching door frames, sofas and smashing the light switch with a hammer.

Ms Rees asked the defendant if any of these occasions gave her any concerns.

She said: “Looking back to past relationships that were abusive and violent, and you had interventions to help, with various agencies working with you to teach you spot patterns of domestic relationships.

“One point of those is to stop you falling into those patterns and protect the children – did you learn?”

James replied : “No obviously not, I didn’t think Kyle would end up like this, I didn’t think my child would end up dead either.”

The court heard how the day before Lola’s fatal accident, James had spoken to her domestic violence officer and a suggestion was made to her to check Bevan’s name under Clare’s Law.

This was a subject that was broached by James with Bevan, however he refused to engage with the proceedings by withholding his date of birth.

Something the prosecution argued should have been a red flag.

On the night of July 16, James went to bed at around 8pm, leaving Bevan downstairs with two of her children.

James described being awoken by a loud bang and a scream from Lola at around midnight.

The defendant got up to investigate, however she found Bevan sat on Lola’s bed cradling her. Bevan told James that Lola had fallen from the ladder of the bunk bed and had banged her head and that he was dealing with it.

She went to the toilet and upon leaving the bathroom, she saw Lola laying in her bed, cuddling a Moana teddy and she reported she said: “Night mummy, love you.”

James claims she saw no visible injuries to Lola’s head or face at this time, despite the fact that she did not enter the bedroom.

James told the court how at the time, she believed Bevan’s explanations for the injuries to her children in the weeks leading up to Lola’s – all of which were explained away as the dog knocking the children over or clumsy play.

However in hindsight, she agrees that there was a pattern that she should have spotted.

The defendant added: “Yeah, but you don’t realise how hard it is when you’re going through it.

“I didn’t see it as a domestic violence relationship until the day my daughter was brought to hospital.

“The domestic violence I’m used to is getting beaten while you’re sleeping.”

James told the court how Bevan had promised to protect her and her children from her former partner who had made threats to come to her home and kill her in front of her children.

She said: “I’m petrified of every man, not just him, he said he would protect me and my children as Stephen had threatened to come to my house and kill me in front of my children.”

James sobbed in the witness box: “He never protected me or them, he killed my child.

“I wish i did everything different, i wish i never had him in my house, i wish i never met him.”

Community

Pembrokeshire embraces future with new e-bike scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL, under the chairmanship of Thomas Baden Tudor, has announced an exciting new initiative aimed at boosting sustainable transportation across the region. The council has introduced a “pay as you go” electric bike (E-Bike) service, now available in Haverfordwest, Fishguard, Goodwick, and Tenby as part of a 12-month trial that commenced on 8th April 2024.

The scheme, managed by Zeus Mobility, features the Zip bikes—electrically powered bicycles designed to make cycling less strenuous and more accessible to a broader demographic. Each location will start with 10 E-Bikes, with plans to increase the fleet to 50 by summer. The service will include three main charging stations and numerous satellite bays for convenient access and returns.

Priced competitively, the E-Bikes can be hired for £3.00 for the first hour, with subsequent time billed at 5p per minute. Daily and weekly rates are also available, offering users more flexibility for longer trips. The bikes are aimed at reducing reliance on motor vehicles, promoting healthier living, and contributing to national decarbonisation targets.

Councillor Tudor tested the new bikes himself, describing the experience as “brilliant fun for the whole family” and encouraging all residents and visitors to give them a try. The initiative is part of a broader effort by the council to offer eco-friendly travel options that align with environmental objectives.

To use the E-Bikes, riders need to download the Zipp Mobility app, which allows for bike unlocking, ride tracking, and payment. The app also provides information on bike locations, parking bays, and cycling routes within the county.

Funded by a £150,000 grant from the Swansea Bay and South West Wales Metro, the project focuses solely on this E-Bike trial, aiming to make Pembrokeshire a leader in sustainable travel. For further details on hiring and operating the E-Bikes, residents can visit the Cycle Pembrokeshire webpage or contact the team directly via email at [email protected].

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20mph U-turn: Some roads will return to 30mph following public outcry

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IN a recent shift in policy, Transport Secretary Ken Skates announced that some roads in Wales will revert to a 30mph speed limit following significant public opposition to the Welsh Government’s £34 million initiative to impose a default 20mph limit. This move addresses the concerns consistently raised by many citizens.

The controversial policy, initially rolled out across Wales under former First Minister Mark Drakeford and his transport minister, Lee Waters, aimed at enhancing road safety. However, it has since faced backlash, illustrated by nearly half a million signatures on a Senedd petition opposing the change.

“We’ve put our hands up to say the guidance has to be corrected,” Skates stated, acknowledging the widespread dissatisfaction with the policy’s implementation. He emphasised the need for targeted 20mph zones, particularly in sensitive areas such as near schools, hospitals, and densely populated housing estates. Yet, he admitted that certain routes should not have been included under the stricter speed limit.

Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart welcomed the revised approach but highlighted the financial burden of changing road signage, urging the Welsh Government to assist with the expenses. Stewart praised Skates’ “pragmatic approach” and stressed that the government should not impose the financial strain on local councils, which are already facing tough budgetary decisions.

The policy has had its proponents, particularly among cycling groups and safety advocates who argue that the lower speed limits contribute to safer community spaces. Despite this, many have called for a more nuanced application of the speed limits rather than a blanket reduction.

In response to the backlash, Skates is set to present the planned adjustments in a forthcoming statement to the Senedd. The changes will allow local councils the autonomy to restore the 30mph limit where deemed appropriate, potentially affecting up to 10 roads in Swansea alone.

Leaders from other councils, including Huw Thomas of Cardiff, expressed relief over the change. Cardiff, where the majority of roads were already under a 20mph limit, saw a favourable reception of the policy. Nonetheless, the decision to empower local governments has been largely welcomed.

The Welsh Conservatives, through their transport spokesperson Natasha Asghar, have voiced strong opposition to the original policy, criticising its expansive application. Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth called for a more carefully considered implementation, supporting the principle of 20mph zones but criticising their inconsistent enforcement.

Responding to comments made by Ken Skates, Labour’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport on potential changes to the 20mph guidance, Natasha Asghar MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister said: “The people of Wales have rightfully taken significant issue with Labour’s 20mph policy and ‘correcting guidance’ will not be enough to ease concerns.

“The Welsh Conservatives are the only the party to have consistently voted against the ridiculous 20mph policy involving 97% of previously 30mph roads and a £9 billion hit to the Welsh economy.

“The Welsh Conservatives want to see this policy scrapped and have given the Labour Government a number of opportunities to vote to do so. A more targeted approach is needed with the support of the Welsh people.”

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Miracle pup finds her forever home after heart-wrenching journey

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AERIAL, a remarkable six-legged spaniel, has captured hearts worldwide, culminating in her adoption this week. Found abandoned in a Pembrokeshire car park and famously nicknamed after Disney’s Little Mermaid due to her unique condition, Ariel’s journey from despair to joy is nothing short of miraculous.

In September 2023, the then 11-week-old puppy was discovered outside a B&M store in a neglected state. Suffering from severe physical anomalies including two extra hind limbs and an additional vulva, Ariel faced daunting challenges. A subsequent medical examination revealed a more complicated internal scenario: a missing kidney and a malformed pelvis that jeopardised her mobility.

Despite the grim prognosis, Ariel’s plight touched many, leading to a worldwide fundraising campaign that raised approximately £15,000. These funds enabled her to undergo critical surgeries at Langford Vets Small Animal Referral Hospital, Somerset, where surgeons successfully removed the surplus limbs and preserved her four functional ones.

“Both procedures went well, and remarkably, Ariel was walking and eating by the next day,” explained Mikey Lawlor, founder of Greenacres Rescue, where Ariel was rehabilitated. “It was crucial that we avoided any post-operative infections, but she’s been in the best hands,” he added, reflecting on the complexities of her care.

Ariel’s recovery was supported by numerous vet visits, specialised surgeries, and extensive physiotherapy. Her resilience and endearing character garnered media attention globally, from radio and television appearances to newspaper features, highlighting her inspirational battle for a normal life.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Ariel has been officially adopted,” announced a recent post by Greenacres Rescue. “Her journey of transformation from a discarded pup to a beloved family pet has been extraordinary.”

The post also extended a heartfelt thank you to June, Ariel’s dedicated foster mother, whose relentless support was pivotal during the rehabilitation process. “June’s care and energy have been instrumental in Ariel’s recovery,” the rescue centre noted.

Surgeon Aaron Lutchman, who led Ariel’s medical team, remarked on her progress, “She’s bounced back and is a happy little dog. We hope she goes on to lead a fabulous life.”

As Ariel embarks on this new chapter with her adoptive family, her story remains a profound testament to the power of community support and the unwavering spirit of animals overcoming adversity. Greenacres Rescue encapsulates this sentiment in their message, “Ariel is symbolic of everything we stand for—love, hope, and the chance for a new beginning.”

For further updates on Ariel and other rescue stories, follow Greenacres Rescue on their social media platforms.

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