Police enlisted to guard 20ft snowman from teenage thugs

Police have been enlisted to protect a 20ft snowman to stob yobs from destroying it.

Residents in Clough Fold, Lancs., decided to put heavy snowfall in their town to good use by creating a giant sculpture and using it to raise money for an air ambulance service.

An original 12ft snowman was destroyed by drunken teenage thugs, but locals refused to be deterred and built an even bigger snowman in response.

But this time they were taking no chances, enlisting the local police force to keep an eye on the bohemith, which is dressed in a top hat and scarf with flashing red eyes.

Retained fire-fighter Jan Czugalinski said the snowman had become a popular attraction, with people stopping to have their photograph taken next to it and donating to a collection bucket.

She said a milkman who saw yobs destroying the original creation threatened to call police but one cocky teenager responded with: 'What will we get done for? GBH on a snowman?'

'We decided to rebuild it even bigger and guarded it over night,' Ms Czugalinski said.

PC Trevor Syrett said: 'We are keeping a watch on it. It is for a good cause.'

Moroccan referee knocked unconscious by football during match

A referee was rushed to hospital with serious head and neck injuries after being struck on the head by a football during a Moroccan league match.

In the 38th minute of the game between league leaders DHJ El Jadida and struggling FUS Rabat, visiting midfielder Fussiste Souiyat unleashed a ferocious 35-yard half volley at goal.

Despite seeming destined for the net, the shot thudded into official Khalid Ramsis near the edge of the area.

The referee immediately fell to the ground unconscious, causing panic among players and fans alike.

Medics were on hand to perform first aid before moving Ramsis to nearby Mohammed V hospital after an on-pitch delay of almost ten minutes.

Later, the injured official was transferred to a medical department in Casablanca.

I'm allergic to Christmas: Every December when the tree goes up, Lisa goes down with a bout of 'pine flu'

For most of us, putting up the Christmas tree and the decorations is guaranteed to produce festive cheer.

But ever since Lisa Smith was a teenager, she has dreaded the annual tradition - not because she is a Scrooge, but due to a mysterious illness it brings on.

Every Christmas the festivities have coincided with constant sneezes, streaming eyes, a pounding headache and a nose as red as Rudolph's.

She has just had to put up with it, but this year she has finally discovered the reason - she is allergic to Christmas, particularly the pine in trees.

'From the moment the first Christmas trees went up in the shops, I'd plunge into what felt like a constant flu,' said Miss Smith, a swimming instructor.

'Even on Christmas Day, I'd find it impossible to feel excited about opening presents and would sneeze, cough and blow my nose throughout dinner.'

It was her fiancé Phil French, 27, a City worker, who suggested she may be allergic to Christmas.

'I thought this was a ridiculous idea,' she said.

But after research on the Internet she discovered it really was a condition.

Christmas trees are the trigger with their pine needles and strong-smelling sap, but decorations covered in dust from being stored away all year can also cause problems.

She went to her GP who confirmed the diagnosis.

'She said my symptoms mirrored those of a severe hayfever sufferer. She was certain the main trigger was pine sap,' said Miss Smith, 26, from East London.

She is not alone. According to an American study, one in seven people experience some form of respiratory allergy to Christmas trees.

Dr Mike Smith, a specialist in preventative medicine, said: 'Like all plants, live Christmas trees hide mould, contain sap and release spores into the air, which can trigger allergic reactions.'

Miss Smith now avoids real Christmas trees and uses a seawater nasal spray called Sterimar.

She said: 'This will be the first time in over a decade I'll be able to have a normal Christmas.

'It will be a relief to open my presents and have a Christmas dinner without feeling unwell.'

American police detective pulled out his handgun after he was targeted in a snowball fight.

This is the terrifying moment that an American police detective pulled out his handgun after he was targeted in a snowball fight.

Washington police are investigating the incident, when the off-duty officer drew his gun in the midst of the light-hearted battle.

About 200 people from a Washington D.C. neighbourhood had gathered to brave a snowstorm for a massive snowball fight.

'It was pretty fun,' one unidentified participant told reporters. 'But when the gun came out, it just changed the tone of the thing a little bit.'

The plainclothes officer became angry when his car - a maroon Hummer - was hit by snowballs.

He got out of the SUV and yelled at the crowd, before pulling out his gun and showing it to the crowd.

Eyewitness Matthew Bradley told Washington City Paper: 'We showed up to see a snowball fight already in progress. Two factions along 14th Street along the intersection.

'It was pretty friendly, mostly OK. At one point, there was one interaction with the police that I saw. A cop got stuck in the snow. People stopped and helped him out.

'A couple moments later, at the intersection, there was this big maroon Hummer. A small faction of people decided to target it with snowballs. They're throwing snowballs at the Hummer.

'It turns out the driver of the Hummer is a detective. He gets out. He's waving a walkie talkie. It's not going well. Then he starts waving a gun.

'He hadn't identified himself at this point. There was a point where things cooled off a bit, more police showed up, and he identified himself at that point. The name was Detective Baylor.

'There was a point where it got really tense. The experience for many people was snowball fight kind of fun...and then there's a guy with a gun.'

Uniformed police arrived on the scene to investigate reports of a man waving a handgun. The detective only calmed down once his fellow police officers arrived. Later in the incident, the detective went into the crowd and grabbed a man who he thought threw a snowball at him.

Assistant Chief Pete Newsham said: 'We have to see what the entire circumstance was. But just a snowball fight, not in my mind, that doesn't seem a situation where we would pull out a service weapon.'

The officer, who has not been named, has been placed on desk duty pending the results of the investigation.

Boy, 4, lucky to be alive after he is crushed between two escalators

A four-year-old boy had his young age to thank after surviving a horrifying accident that saw him crushed between two escalators.

Doctors said that had Stevie Webb been older, his neck would have been snapped when he was bent double in the foot-wide gap between two ramp-style travelators.

The incident occurred when Stevie's mother turned her back and he sneaked between the two walkways, which were moving in opposite directions, in the Savacentre in Colliers Wood, south-west London.

In seconds his clothes were caught and Stevie was whipped round backwards so hard his head was level with his ankles.

His horrified mother hit the machine's emergency stop button before dragging him free with the help of a friend.

The force of the impact and twisting motion left Stevie with discoloured eyes and face because blood vessels burst under the skin.

Doctors told Stevie's parents that had their son been any older, and his bones more set, the force of the accident would have snapped his neck.

It is expected to take at least a month for Stevie's complexion to return to normal.

An investigation has now been launched at the Savacentre.

Stevie's father Darren Webb, 39, from Mitcham, Surrey, said his son's injuries were so severe he resembled the blue-purple alien characters from the film 'Avatar'.

He said: 'It's left him looking like an extra out of that new Avatar film. He doesn't have any white left in his eyes and it could be months until the colour in his face goes back to normal.

'The doctors said he'd been incredibly lucky because his neck and body were so contorted. It's only because he's so young and supple that his neck didn't break.'

Mr Webb was in the centre's car park waiting to pick up his family when the accident happened. He immediately rushed unconscious Stevie to St George's Hospital, Tooting, less than a mile away.

But Mr Webb said he was planning on taking legal action against the centre after its manager refused to take responsibility for the accident, claiming the boy's mother was not watching him at the time.

Mr Webb, who has spoken to centre manager Eric Sante and watched CCTV footage of the accident, said: 'I'll put my hands up and agree my child was playing while his mum's back was turned - but four-year-olds do that sort of thing.

'There was no kind of protection or barrier to stop this from happening but the shopping centre manager still wants to make out that this is our fault.

'It's unbelievable - my son nearly died.'

Mr Sante said: 'Mr Webb came in on Monday screaming and demanding to see CCTV footage which we let him do.

'I sat him down and apologised but told him I was in no position to accept responsibility for what happened.'

He added the CCTV footage showed Stevie playing next to the travelator while his mother was on the phone.

The incident has already been referred to the shopping centre's legal team.

MB Trust, which manages the area where the walkways operate, said it was officially checked twice a year and the most recent check was in November.

Juliet Bray, marketing director of MB Real Estate, an arm of MB Trust, said: 'It's a horrible incident and I can't imagine how upsetting it must have been for the parents and the little boy.

'I'm confident that we've done what is needed to make it safe. I'm very moved and I know that all of my colleagues are too and they will take every step necessary to make sure this doesn't happen again.'

The travelator is situated near to the shopping centre's Sainsbury's store.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: 'We would like to express our sympathies to the Webb family for this incident. We have been in contact with MB Real Estate who confirmed that they are taking every possible step to prevent something like this happening again.

'As soon as our colleagues at the store were made aware of the accident they began to give first aid and also called an ambulance.'

Drunk boy, 4, found in street at 1.45am sipping a beer, wearing a dress he'd stolen from under neighbour's Christmas tree

A drunken four-year-old boy was found in the middle of the night wearing a little girl's dress he had stolen from beneath his neighbour's Christmas tree.

Hayden Wright was discovered in the street outside his Tennessee home at 1.45am sipping from a freshly opened can of beer.

The youngster's mother, 21-year-old April Wright, claimed he had broken through a childproof door to escape her house in Chattanooga.

Hayden rang the doorbell of a house a few doors down from his, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office report.

He then broke into another house through an unlocked front door and stole five Christmas gifts from under their tree.

One of the presents was a brown dress, which the boy was wearing when police found him.

Mrs Wright said she woke up at 1.45am and panicked when she realised her son was missing.

'[The] biggest concern was him being out there, getting kidnapped, getting run over, the alcohol, having to have his stomach pumped,' Wright told NewsChannel 9.

Wright is in the midst of divorcing her husband, who is currently in jail. She suggests he is partially to blame.

'[Hayden] runs away trying to find his father,' Wright said. 'He wants to get in trouble so he can go to jail because that's where his daddy is.'

Hayden was treated for alcohol consumption at a nearby hospital.

'He got [the beer] out of my father's cooler in the back and how he got it open I don't understand because it was one of those tab beers,' his mother explained.

Child protective services have told Wright she can keep custody of her child.

Iraqi fighters use £15 software to hack into spy plane footage

The Pentagon has closed a security breach that allowed insurgents to hack into data feeds from pilotless 'drone' aircraft that provide real-time video of war zones, a US defense official said on Thursday.

The comments followed a report in the Wall Street Journal that revealed Shi'ite fighters in Iraq used software that cost as little as £15 ($26) to intercept the video feeds, potentially allowing them to monitor US military operations.

'It is an old issue that was addressed and fixed,' a US defense official said when asked about the article.

The article said US military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem last year after apprehending a Shi'ite insurgent who had digital files of drone video feeds on his laptop. More files were found on other militants' laptops in July.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to discuss details of the article, or intelligence matters more broadly. But he defended the expanding use of drone aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan, which provide 'eyes in the sky' to track enemy movements and keep US troops out of harm's way.

'Every capability comes with its advantages, disadvantages, benefits as well as potential weaknesses,' Whitman said.

'As you develop those (technologies) you have to be mindful of how the enemy can counteract any technology that you have.

'That's why you always have a constant review process in place to not only improve that capability but address any vulnerabilities it may have.'

Publicly-traded companies that manufacture the pilotless drone aircraft and sensors include Lockheed Martin Corp.

Knife woman shot by U.S. police after walking into school playground

A woman was shot dead by American police after walking into a primary school playground wielding a big knife, it emerged today.

She was hitting herself over the head with what appeared to be either a large butcher knife or meat cleaver, witnesses said.

‘It was really scary, she was like bleeding to death,’ said Devin Walski, 11, who was ordered indoors by worried teachers at the school in Modesto, California.

‘I was afraid for all my friends in my classroom, and the little kids,’ added Devin, who had been walking to a music lesson when the drama began.

When police arrived minutes later, the unnamed woman, who is in her 50s, allegedly charged two of the officers.

At least one of the officers pulled out a gun and shot her.

Witnesses heard four shots fired but police did not reveal how many times she was hit.

She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The school, which was put under lockdown at 2pm yesterday when the woman was seen, was not opened again until more than an hour afterwards.

At that point, children were led out of the classrooms in groups to their parents who were waiting for them in front of Catherine Everett Elementary School.

‘I was hoping it wasn’t this school,’ said Rhiannon Green, describing her fears as she drove to pick up her two sons, ages 9 and 5, at Everett Elementary. ‘

I just want my kids out.’

Police Sergeant Brian Findlen credited teachers with ‘quickly locking down and getting students into locked classrooms.’

Police did not know what connection, if any, she may have had with the school.

The officers who opened fire have been placed on routine paid administrative leave while Modesto police and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office investigate.

No students or staff members at Catherine Everett Elementary School were injured in the incident.

Girl arrives in Israel to find security officers have shot her MacBook

Tightened airport security is something most of us have grown accustomed to when travelling abroad.

But imagine one girl's surprise upon arriving in Israel and being told that Israeli security officers had put three bullets in her MacBook.

According to her blog, 'Lilysussman' arrived in Israel where she was questioned and searched for about two hours.

'They had pressed every sock and scarf with a security device, ripped open soap and had me strip extra layers,' she wrote.

The intrepid traveller was then told to wait. 'Since they had asked for friends' and families' phone numbers I assumed they might be calling to verify my answers to questions or confirm I really had extended family in Tel Aviv,' she wrote.

According to the blog, an announcement was then made in Hebrew, Arabic and English, which Lilysussman understood as saying: 'Do not to be alarmed by gunshots because the Israeli security needs to blow up suspicious passenger luggage.'

After a few moments Lilysussman said a man came outside and introduced himself as the manager on duty, saying, 'I’m sorry but we had to blow up your laptop.'

The laptop had in fact been shot three times, but the hard drive was miraculously undamaged.

According to Lilysussman's blog, the officers have agreed to replace the laptop.

Holy cow! Is white cross on calf’s forehead a divine sign from above?

A calf has been born with a white marking on its forehead in the shape of a cross.

Jersey Holstein calf Moses caused a stir with his appearance on a dairy farm in Sterling, Rhode Island.

His owner, Brad Davis, told WFSB-TV that he believes the marking may be a message from above – but admitted he was not sure what that message may be.

Following the calf’s birth on December 1, Davis admitted he hadn’t noticed the cross at first, but was stunned when he did.

The 45-year-old said: ‘I almost fell over. I felt like I should be on my knees.’

Although it is not unusual for Holstein cows to have white markings on their heads, the cross shape is agreed to be unique by livestock experts.

Jesus on an iron

The Lord, it appears, is not only always with us - He can also help make sure we've got a nicely ironed shirt at the same time.

Or so reckons Mary Jo Coady, who spotted this likeness of Jesus Christ on the burnt bottom of her old iron.

Mrs Coady, 44, from Massachusetts, immediately told her two daughters. 'They were like, "Mom, that's Jesus looking at us",' she said.

The medical secretary said her faith had been renewed by the find, which reassured her that 'life is going to be good'.

And, unlike many people who try to cash in by selling 'images' of Christ they have spotted on anything from a potato crisp to a dirty window, Mrs Coady intends to keep her old iron - and buy a new one for everyday use.

Top of the class: Child prodigy who is about to take his maths A-Level... at the age of TEN

At the age of ten Yi Fan has already passed GCSE and AS maths exams with flying colours and is about to sit his A-level.

So although he's half the age of most degree-level maths students, his primary school had no choice but to draft in a university professor to keep up with him.

And while his parents are naturally proud of his prodigious talent, they are already wondering whether secondary school education will hold him back.

'Yi began talking about fractions when he was just three,' said his father Mizi Fan, 46, a senior lecturer in civil engineering at Brunel University in West London. 'His teachers realised in Year One that the curriculum was just not challenging for him.

'Now I find it very difficult to keep him challenged. I don't know where he will go to school because I think a normal secondary school would be a waste of time for him.'

Yi's mother Aihe, 45, a housewife with a degree in engineering, said: 'He has always been eager to learn and very inquisitive. We have never had to push him.'

Yi, whose parents met at university in China before they moved to Britain 16 years ago, beat more than 100,000 children to win a national primary school maths competition last year.

The schoolboy, from Watford, is currently ranked among the top 100 Year Nine pupils in the country, even though they are three years older than him. He gained top grades in his maths GCSE and AS-level and will take the A-level next month.

He also excels in English and physics, is preparing for his grade seven piano test and has just started to learn the oboe. With so many opportunities open to him, Yi - whose elder brother Xin, 16, achieved 11 A*s in his GCSEs this year - remains unsure what he will focus on in the future.

'I haven't really decided what I want to do when I grow up,' he said. 'I just want to carry on learning as much as I can. I am not so good at football and am not in the school team. I will keep working at it but you can't be good at everything.'

Kevin Sullivan, deputy head of Knutsford School in Watford, said he had never seen a student like Yi in a career spanning 35 years.

'Yi's needs can be met for most subjects, though we have had to think hard to find maths work to challenge his ability,' he said.

'We purchased a maths computer program which would challenge an able child for years but Yi finished it in a couple of sessions.'

Mr Sullivan got in contact with Alan Davies, a professor of mathematics-from Hertfordshire University who specialises in helping exceptionally gifted children.

He now provides Yi with regular tuition tailored to his talents. 'I am impressed by Yi,' he said. 'I haven't found anything that has given him difficulty.

'He is easy to work with because he is able to follow a mathematical argument without too much difficulty. He also sees different ways of approaching ideas.'

Drug smuggler who swallowed 67 packages of cocaine

A drug smuggler swallowed 67 packages of cocaine in an attempt to get through British customs.

Student Fidelis Ozouli, 30, risked his life trying to hide the 1kg haul of the class A substance in his stomach.

He later claimed he did not know the packets contained drugs.

Officers at Manchester Airport became suspicious because Ozouli looked unnaturally bloated.

They carried out X-rays on his stomach and discovered a quantity of cocaine equivalent to two bags of sugar.

It is one of the largest amounts ever found internally by UK customs officers.

The drug, hidden inside scores of condoms, was 78 per cent pure and had a street value of £250,000.

Ozouli left officials and a court baffled by claiming: 'I didn't know they were drugs.'

He added: 'I just did not know what they were. I thought I was swallowing something else to take into Britain as a favour for a pal.'

At Manchester Crown Court, Ozouli, who is from Nigeria but lives and studies in London, pleaded guilty to importing class A drugs and was jailed for ten years - but continued to deny knowing what the haul was.

Judge Thomas Gilbart QC told him: 'I do not accept your evidence and do not believe it is credible.

'The story is fantastical and I don't believe a word of it.

'This was a calculated decision on your part to solve your money worries.'

Ozouli, of Kennington, South London, was stopped by UK Border Agency officers on his arrival at Manchester from Switzerland on September 5.

He claimed he was on a business trip from Zurich on behalf of a pharmaceuticals company but inquiries revealed he had taken a lengthy and unusual route back to the UK from countries in Africa.

He was arrested and the case was passed to customs officers who interviewed him. Later he was taken to a nearby hospital where he was X-rayed to ensure all the packages had been recovered.

Mike O'Grady, assistant director of criminal investigation for Revenue and Customs said yesterday: 'Forensic tests showed that the purity of this cocaine is significantly above what we would normally find.

'Swallowing any drugs puts the courier at risk, but with purity levels this high he was putting himself at considerable risk of death.

'Criminals dealing in drugs with high purity levels are thinking solely of increased profits, to further fund their illegal activity.

Mr O'Grady added: 'They show utter disregard for the damage drugs do to individuals and communities.

'Customs is working closely with our partners in the UK Border Agency, police and other law enforcement agencies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency to protect the public from the significant and damaging effect drugs have on our communities.'

The biggest ever recorded haul of cocaine found in a smuggler's stomach in Britain was 1.5kg found inside 39 packages in 2003.

'Shrek' raider told by police he should never have become an armed robber... because he's so ugly everybody would recognise him

A big-eared bank raider nicknamed Shrek was jailed yesterday after being warned he is too ugly for armed robbery.

David Holyoak, 33, is such a dead ringer for the cartoon ogre that his distinctive features make it easy for police to spot him.

He was caught after a string of raids across Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

As Holyoak, of Whitefield, Greater Manchester began three-and-a-half years in jail one police officer said: 'This man only needs to look at himself in the mirror to realise armed robbery is not for him.

'With his big ears and rotund features he stands out a mile and the officers would have no trouble spotting him. He must be a total liability when he is part of a gang.

'He has already been dubbed Shrek and must be one of the ugliest robbers in the country.'

Holyoak was part of a gang who robbed a Halifax bank in Longridge near Preston in Lancashire and threatened the cashier with a sledge hammer.

The gang smashed the glass security window, before climbing through to the other side of the counter to steal cash from the tills.

The men then fled the scene in a Fiat Punto with £6,000.

A gang, including Holyoak, struck again at a post office in Bury, but their get-away car crashed into a tree.

At Bolton Crown Court, Holyoak, Lee Kirwan, 28, of Whitefield, Benjamin Anderson, 29, of Lower Broughton, Salford and Michael Lee Parr, 22, of Whitefield all pleaded guilty to robbery.

Parr, who also admitted a 70,000 raid at a jewellers was jailed for eight-and-a-half years, Anderson got five-and-a-half years and Kirwan was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

The girl who sneezes 12,000 times a day

Lauren Johnson is a typical 12-year-old girl - except that she can't stop sneezing.

It is so bad that she sneezes up to 20 times a minute, or 12,000 times a day.

The non-stop sneezing began two weeks ago when Lauren from Virginia in the U.S. caught a cold.

Lauren can't go to school and is even struggling to eat.

The only relief she gets is when she falls asleep each night. Her condition has left doctors baffled.

During a five-minute interview on the Today Show in the U.S. Lauren sneezed hundreds of times, her speech interrupted every few seconds.

The 12-year-old - dubbed the 'Gesundheit Girl' said: 'I can't stop.

'I thought it wouldn't last this long but it's been two weeks now.'

She said she is not in pain - simply in discomfort.

'It's primarily the sneezing,' she added.

'Maybe I'll get a raw nose from the tissues but that's it.'

One expert believes she is suffering from a syndrome known as 'machine gun sneezing', in which victims sneeze incessantly.

Lauren told the Today Show that she felt 'miserable'.

'It's been a long two weeks. I've seen my friends here and there but I haven't been to school.'

Her mother, Lynn Johnson, has spent the past week going to a variety of doctors looking for a diagnosis and relief for her daughter - and has now gone on television in a bid to find a cure or a specialist who can help.

They have tried 11 different medications so far.

'Life for her has stopped. Everybody is baffled. Nobody really knows how to treat it,' Ms Johnson said.

She added: 'It turns off when she sleeps. Only in a deep REM sleep it turns off.'

They tried hypnosis but it did not work.

Lauren has also seen a therapist in case a psychological factor is triggering the physical reaction.

She has been unable to go to school because it puts other students off - and she struggles to eat between sneezes.

Lauren told a local news website: 'The hard part is missing school and when people stare.

'It's very hard.'

Doctors believe it may be that she is suffering from an 'irretractable psychogenic disorder' that could be triggered by stress.

Her mother added: 'There's less than 40 cases ever documented ever in the entire world. Nobody really knows how to treat it, what's going to work, and even in the cases where it might have worked or turned the sneezing off for awhile, a lot of times it comes back again and then you're right back to where you started.'

Neither Lauren nor her mother say she is stressed out.

Her sneezing is not contagious.

World's smallest mother to risk giving birth for third time

The world’s smallest mother is about to give birth for the third time - despite warnings she is risking her life.

Stacey Herald, who is just 2ft 4in tall, was told that becoming pregnant could kill her, but bravely defied doctors to have two babies half her height.

The 35-year-old from Dry Ridge, Kentucky in the U.S. suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which causes brittle bones and underdeveloped lungs, and means she failed to grow.

Now Mrs Herald, who uses a wheelchair, and her husband Will, who is 5ft 9in, are eagerly awaiting the birth of their third baby, due in the next four weeks.

Currently as wide as she is tall, she cannot hold her daughter because her belly gets in the way, and has to rely on her husband to do most things around the house.

She admits being pregnant is ‘uncomfortable’ and leaves her bedridden for weeks on end.

By the time the new addition, a boy, is one he will already tower over his mother.

But despite all the obstacles, the mother and father, a trainee priest, say they want even more children.

The couple met in 2000 while working for a supermarket in their home town and were desperate for a family after marrying in 2004.

But doctors warned Mrs Herald a baby would grow so large inside her tiny body it would eventually crush her organs, strangling her from the inside out.

Mrs Herald said: ‘It broke my heart that I couldn’t have kids.

‘All my life my parents had told me that I could do anything. Then there were these doctors telling me that we couldn’t be a complete family. It really hurt.’

Eight months later, the couple were thrilled when they discovered they were expecting and decided to go ahead even though family and doctors begged them to reconsider.

Mrs Herald, who had decided not to take contraception, said: ‘They all told me that I would die. They begged me not to have a baby.

'Even my mother said,” You know you won’t survive right?” ‘I told her: “It’s a miracle that I am here, that I have life, why couldn’t this be a miracle too?”’

After 28 weeks, doctors performed a cesarean section and daughter Kateri was born, weighing just 2lbs and 1oz in 2006.

She grew well but there was heartbreak for the family when they discovered Kateri had inherited Mrs Herald’s condition and would also never grow to a normal height.

But the young family resumed life as normal, before Mrs Herald fell pregnant a year later.

She said: ‘It was kind of like the last time, everyone screamed: “What are you doing?” at us.

‘The doctors told me I was pushing my luck. But we just prayed that God would bring us through it.’ However this pregnancy took its toll on the little mother.

She said: ‘It was hard, I got so much bigger faster. At my worst point I remember bursting into tears, because I looked like a beach ball with a head and little feet.

‘I spent weeks unable to do anything for myself because my stomach was so big. At one point I dislocated my arm when I was moving from my chair into bed, because I just wasn’t used to the weight on my arms.

‘I’ve always been able to do everything but this time I just couldn’t and I found that really upsetting to have Will help me wash and go to the toilet.

‘Also he was trying to look after a 16-month old, so it was tough on both of us.’

Doctors tried to let the second baby stay in her body for as long as possible, letting her pregnancy go to 34 weeks before wheeling her into theatre.

Daughter Makaya who, at 18 inches was more than half her mother’s body length when she was born, weighed 4lbs and 7oz.

Now both girls are bigger than their mother who is 30 weeks pregnant with her first boy.

She said: ‘It’s getting tougher and tougher to move.

‘At the moment because I’m getting really big again I can’t hold my youngest daughter because my belly gets in the way and I can’t get my arms around her.’

Mrs Herald added: ‘All my babies are miracles, but we haven’t thought about if we’re going to have some more, as they”re a real handful right now.

‘We didn’t plan to have more than two kids, we just think that they’re a great gift to the world, and when I look at them I see Will and I feel so full of love, it’s tough not to want more.’

Qantas pilots forget to lower the wheels in botched landing at Sydney airport

Two Qantas pilots have been suspended after a Boeing 767 came within 700ft of landing at Sydney airport before they realised the wheels had not been lowered.

The airline has launched an investigation into the incident and the pilots are due to be interviewed by air safety investigators on Friday.

The flight from Melbourne was forced to do a second lap above the airport on October 26 after a cockpit alarm went off as the Boeing prepared to touch down, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.

Investigators are understood to be looking at possible human error and a communication breakdown between the first officer and captain about who was lowering the undercarriage, according to The Australian.

It quotes a former Boeing 767 pilot as saying that a crew on an instrument approach would normally start lowering the undercarriage when the plane was between 2,000ft and 1,500ft from the ground in order to ensure that the aircraft was stable and configured to land by the time it was down to 1,000ft.

In visual conditions, the former pilot said, the aircraft needed to be stable by 500ft, but lowering the gear at 700ft or even at 1,000ft was still far too late.

According to the International Air Transport Association, problems with landing gear resulted in 15 per cent of airline 'hull-loss' accidents last year.

Qantas said flight safety was never at risk but it had stood the pilots down pending the bureau's inquiry into whether human error was to blame.

'This is an extremely rare event, but one we have taken seriously,' the airline said in a statement.

'The flight crew knew all required procedures but there was a brief communication breakdown. They responded quickly to the situation... the cockpit alarm coincided with their actions.'

The ATSB said: 'Passing 700 feet on approach into Sydney, the crew commenced a missed approach due to the aircraft being incorrectly configured for landing.'

The bureau's air safety spokesman Ian Sangston said the 'too low gear' alert sounded because the landing gear had not been lowered, but said it was too early to speculate on the cause.

The incident follows the revocation last week of the licences of two US pilots who overshot their destination by some 150 miles (240 kilometres) while distracted.

Sangston said the ATSB was also investigating an incident in which the autopilot briefly disconnected on board a Jetstar flight between Japan and the Gold Coast as it passed through stormy conditions on October 29.

'My understanding is that there was some sort of problem with the information being provided to the pilots,' Sangston said.

Qantas' budget offshoot Jetstar said early indications were that the Airbus A330's airspeed sensing system was momentarily impaired, and several parts had been replaced on the aircraft before it was allowed to resume flying.

The error messages were similar to those reported from an Air France Airbus A330 jet which mysteriously plunged into the Atlantic in May, taking the lives of all 228 people on board.

But Sangston said the ATSB was yet to examine the black box data from the craft or interview the crew and it was 'only conjecture' to draw parallels.

Meet the birds with a backpack guaranteed to deliver their parcels on time

These pigeon couriers could be members of the last avian postal service in the world - and give Royal Mail a few ideas.

The birds, from the U.S. city of Fort Collins, Colorado transport digital images of intrepid white water rafters to be processed in what is known as the 'Pigeon Express'.

They fly from the top of the Cache La Poudre River down to a base at the bottom where thrill-seekers can collect their snaps.

The concept harks back to the days before the telegram.

The birds are owned and trained by Rocky Mountain Adventures, who fly 19 pigeons five times every day, usually travelling a distance of between 20 and 40 miles.

Using the pigeons is quicker than driving down from the river and it solves the problem of producing photographic memories for the white water rafting tourists. It takes them just 20 minutes.

'We began this as an interesting solution to the problem we encountered with the distance from the bottom of La Poudre to our base 30 miles away back in Fort Collins,' says David Costlow, the head pigeon keeper at Rocky Mountain Adventures.

'We realised that we needed something that could fly like an eagle and thought "bird" and that quickly became "pigeon". And now we believe we are flying the only pigeon postal service in the world.'

Through research, he found a professional pigeon racer in nearby Greeley, who introduced him to a breeder in Fort Collins.

Between the two, he obtained pigeon chicks and plenty of advice on feeding, training, and general pigeon care.

Carrying the digital chips in a lycra bag that weighs only grams, the pigeons are meticulously trained over a period of seven months, with some needing over a year of 'homing' training.

'We take the birds on at four months and make them realise that Fort Collins and Rocky Mountain Adventures is their home,' explains David. 'Once they do that it is plain flying.'

As they are high in the Rocky Mountains, all the pigeons unfortunately run the risk of being lost in the line of action, says David.

'We have lost some pigeons to hawks and eagles up here in Fort Collins,' he adds.

'We lose five on average every year. But we've only lost seven digital chips in the last 14 years.'

World's biggest and most expensive cruise ship ever

It took six years and cost over 800million pounds to build.

And now the Oasis of the Seas will finally be launched into the ocean with the maiden voyage set for December.

The ship was handed over to the Royal Caribbean cruiseline in the Finnish port of Turku by shipbuilder STX on Wednesday this week.

It measures a staggering 16 decks high, or 65 metres (213 feet) above the waterline, and measures 1,180ft long and 154 ft wide and has the capacity to accomadate 6,360 passengers and 2,160 crew members.

Guest who spend time aboard the record breaking vessel can expect a whole new world of entertainment including an aquatic amphitheater - called the Aqua Theatre - which serves as a pool by day and a dazzling ocean front theater by night and a rock climbing area.

Included in the ship's vast expanse are seven themed 'neighbourhoods': Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Each of which includes extraordinary elements such as the first park at sea, a zip line that races diagonally nine-decks above an open-air atrium, an original handcrafted carousel and 28 multilevel urban-style loft suites boasting floor-to-ceiling windows.

Richard Fain, the chief executive of Royal Caribbean, told reporters the new ship had attracted strong pre-bookings despite the global financial crisis and said the aim was to lure new customers who have not cruised before.

There are however still spots left for the ship's maiden voyage in December.

'Part of the thought process of the ship is to overcome the old myths people have about cruising. It's very hard to look at a vessel like this and think that cruising is secondary when you can choose rock-climbing, surfing or zip-lining,' Fain explained.

The Oasis of the Seas, which will be sailing mainly in the sunny Caribbean, catering to younger, more active passengers with children offering a wider selection of activities, including 21 swimming pools, an aqua park, a carousel and a science lab.

Hundreds of builders and cleaners were still putting the final touches on the ship on Wednesday, installing carpets and cleaning the surfaces of the ship, docked at the Turku shipyard some 100 miles northwest of Helsinki.

Although the shipyard employees are still busy working on Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas, which is to be ready in autumn 2010, Fain and Landtman admitted the global downturn had drained cruising companies' willingness to order new vessels.

On Wednesday evening, some 1,000 VIP guests will be dining and partying on board the Oasis of the Seas, but details about the guest list have not been disclosed.

The vessel is scheduled to leave Finland on Friday when it will set sail for its home port of Fort Lauderdale in the United States, where it will arrive in about two weeks.

Oasis of the Seas will make its four-night maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Labadee in Haiti on December 1 and there are still some places aboard the ship's first voyage to be filled.