The family of a grandma tragically found dead in woodland next to the M56 has paid a touching tribute to the woman who was the ‘heart and soul of the family’.
Lillian Ferguson, 71, had been to visit one of her daughters in County Cork, Ireland, for Christmas and landed back in Manchester on New Year’s Eve.
The grandmother to 25 and mum-of-five was supposed to catch the tram from the airport to her home nearby in Wythenshawe.
Unfortunately, Lillian didn’t make it home that night and didn’t catch the tram. Instead, she was captured on dashcam footage walking onto the M56 slip road at junction five. Her family believe she may have become confused and got lost as she tried to make her way home.
Greater Manchester Police launched a missing persons investigation, making several appeals to help trace Lillian and bring her safely home. She was seen leaving the airport and walking in the direction of the motorway shortly after midnight.
Lillian was a single mum and foster mum to her sister’s children. She moved to England from County Clare in Ireland in the mid 1980s as she embarked on a new life. Her family say she always worked hard to make sure they were always provided for.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Lillian’s daughter Suzanne, 40, also from Wythenshawe, said the family’s loss of an ‘inspirational’ grandma has left a ‘huge void’ in their lives.
Suzanne told the news publication: “She has 25 grandchildren and always had time for all of them, she was amazing. She was inspirational.
“My mum came over here with nothing. When she left Ireland it was just the clothes on our backs. She was also a foster mum; not only did she bring up her five children, but she took in my auntie’s three children when she died.”
She went on: “She was such a remarkable woman and we are all proud to say she was our mum. Even when she went missing she was in Ugg boots and a Burberry scarf, she always looked so glam.
“She had been to visit my other sister for a break over Christmas and was going to be back with us for the new year. She’d normally get the tram from the airport as it is the next stop, just a stone’s throw away. Her friend was waiting for her at the stop and they would walk back together.
“My mum has walked back from that airport so many times because we live minutes away. I think she must have thought the trams weren’t running with it being New Year’s Eve.
“She must have taken a wrong turning, if she had carried on forward down the road, she would have been to the Etrop Grange Hotel, but she has turned left and come onto the slip road onto the motorway at junction five.”
The family say they don’t know the reason Lillian took an unfamiliar route home that night but suspect it may have been linked to her epilepsy, which sometimes caused her to experience memory lapses.
They say the headlights from cars or fireworks to mark the New year may have caused her to become confused. Suzanne continued: “She was found in a dangerous wooded area to the side of the motorway.
“She had scrambled through trees and ended up at high fence where there was a secure car park. That’s where she was found. We were all so confused because she’s never taken that route before. We still can’t understand how or why she got onto the motorway.
“We were out searching those areas, but we would have never found her in that area. We know she was definitely trying to get back home.
“She had been caught on dashcams on the slip road. So many people shared my mum’s photos and contacted the police with sightings.”
Suzanna thanked the public for helping the police trace her mum. She added: “If it hadn’t have been for them, the people of Manchester, who posted it or reported it, we may have never found her. We are so thankful to those people. We couldn’t have coped with never finding her.
“It has been so amazing to see how highly people thought of her on social media. So many people who I don’t even know are messaging me. If she didn’t know she was loved then, she certainly will do now.”
The family are now waiting on a post mortem to establish the cause of Lillian’s death.
Constance Marten told to say baby died of cot death as tragic details revealed in court
The couple deny all charges
Constance Marten’s partner, Mark Gordon, told her to say the baby was a victim of cot death, the Old Bailey has heard.
On Monday (February 19th) jurors were played more of a police interview with Ms Marten, recorded on March 1st last year, just hours after her baby’s body was found in a shed in Brighton.
Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, went on the run with their newborn daughter Victoria after their car caught flames and was abandoned by the motorway in Bolton in January 2023.
Fire crews recovering the vehicle discovered evidence of a birth in the back seat of the car.
As reported by the BBC, the court heard how the couple slept in a tent as they evaded authorities, in a bid to keep the baby after Marten’s four other children had been taken into care.
The jury heard Marten tell officers in the interview that she had considered handing herself in to police a couple of weeks after Victoria had died.
The couple are accused of her manslaughter by gross negligence – both deny the charge.
Marten told Gordon to say he was not present when their baby died because she wanted to protect him, ‘because obviously he’s my husband,’ she said.
She also told detectives that he advised her to say Victoria was a victim of cot death. She said: “Mark advised me to say that it was cot death… and that I wasn’t holding her.
“He advised me to say that I lay her down and then when we woke up she was on her front and she’d passed away.”
She went on to explain that what happened was not a cot death and that Mr Gordon might try to tell them it was ‘in order to protect’ her and her ‘interests’.
In the interview, Marten explained how Victoria died.
Warning: some readers may find the following information distressing.
She said she was feeling ‘extremely tired’ and had fallen asleep hugging Victoria, who was in her jacket. But she said the baby ‘wasn’t moving when I woke up’.
Marten wept as she told police how she came to realise their baby was not breathing. She said they had both tried to resuscitate Victoria but that there was no response to their attempts to revive her.
She said: “I tried to breathe in her mouth and pump her chest. So I wrapped her in a scarf and cradled her for a few minutes. I didn’t know what to do.”
Asked by a detective whether they called for help, Marten replied: “No because she was definitely not alive. I mean she wasn’t alive, so who’s going to help?”
In another police interview conducted on March 2nd, 2023, Marten said that they wrapped Victoria’s body in a black scarf and put her inside a supermarket bag. She explained: “It’s not particularly graceful but that’s all we had.”
She also said her and Gordon would take Victoria’s body out with them, saying: “We always carried Victoria with us… just because I didn’t want to leave her in a tent… a bit strange.”
She told detectives the bag became too heavy to carry and so they sometimes left it inside the tent they were sleeping in.
Marten said she and Gordon were both ‘distraught’ when Victoria died.
Asked how she was feeling after the birth of their daughter, she said: “I was feeling fine. I was elated to be with her actually. To be with one of my children. With Mark, together and parenting.
“It was a really nice Christmas period. I was very happy actually. Until all the media attention – that’s my experience.”
The court heard how the couple married in Peru seven years before Victoria’s death but that the marriage was ‘not recognised over here’.
As well as manslaughter, Marten and Gordon, of no fixed address, are also accused of four other offences: cruelty to their baby; concealment of the baby’s birth; causing or allowing her death; and perverting the course of justice by concealing the body. They deny all charges.
The trial, taking place at the Old Bailey, continues.
Survey finds hedgehog sightings in UK on rise after years of decline
Have you taken steps to make your garden hedgehog friendly?
Hedgehog numbers may finally be on the rise after a survey found sightings of the tiny, spiky creatures in gardens had increased.
Readers of the magazine Gardeners’ World were asked to record the wildlife in their gardens and reported that sightings of hedgehogs had gone up by 2%.
Great news for the little spiny animals after the magazine’s previous annual survey had found them to be in decline.
According to last year’s reports, the hedgehog population had fallen by 30%-75% across the UK countryside since 2000, reports the Guardian.
Their decline in numbers in British gardens is thought to be caused by habitat loss and fragmentation – as hedgehogs like to travel around but walls and fences stop them from doing so.
There are also concerns that pesticides could be killing off the insects they eat as well as hedgehogs ingesting poisonous pellets left out for slugs and snails.
The survey, which is conducted annually by the magazine, asked respondents whether they had seen a hedgehog in their garden in 2023.
Last year, 33% of respondents reported they had seen a hedgehog in their garden compared to 31% the previous year.
When the respondents were asked how their sightings had changed from 2022, 21% said they had either seen them for the first time since they had then, or more often.
Recent campaigns have called for residents living in urban areas to leave their gardens ‘messy’ with longer grass, plants and logs for hedgehogs to nest and hunt for insects to eat.
British wildlife lovers have even been creating ‘hedgehog highways’ by making holes in the bottom of fences for the little creatures to be able to wander around.
Of those who took the survey, 77% said they had taken steps to make their gardens more wildlife friendly, including strimming less, avoiding the use of slug pellets and maintaining ‘messier’ more natural gardens.
In urban areas, 18% of respondents said they had seen hedgehogs in the last year, up 2.7% from 2022. While in rural areas, 43% of respondents had seen hedgehogs in their gardens – up 1% form the previous year.
Fay Vass, the CEO of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said: “Valuable as the Gardeners’ World survey is, we need to remember that these figures are only a snapshot.
“Populations change year to year, and these findings might not necessarily represent the underlying trend.”
But, she said data in the State of Britain’s hedgehogs 2022 report – which BHPS published with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species – suggested that urban populations were just about stable and may even be beginning to recover in some areas.
Ms Vass continued: “Our ‘State of’ report is the most comprehensive overview of the UK’s hedgehog population and although the results give us cause for cautious optimism, urban populations are still much lower than they should be.
“Therefore it’s essential that we continue to gather more data to understand how these populations, and rural hedgehogs, are changing year on year and that community action – like making gardens havens for hedgehogs – continues.
“To help, become a Hedgehog Champion and make your garden as hedgehog-friendly as possible.”
Kevin Smith, editor of BBC Gardeners’ World, said: “It’s wonderful to witness an increase in sightings.
“Our ongoing efforts to educate people about wildlife-friendly gardening, such as creating openings in fences and providing secluded spaces for nesting and hibernation, are helping turn our gardens into the havens that hedgehogs have long enjoyed.”
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16-year-old dangerous driver arrested after police dog catches him hiding in children’s play area
Well done PD Hully!
Police Dog Hully has been praised after tracking down an underage driver who made off up a motorway embankment.
At around 2.15am on Monday, February 19th, Roads Policing Unit officers out on patrol spotted a suspicious Peugeot Expert van on Mount Road in Gorton.
The van drove off away from police and made its way down Hyde Road, before turning onto the M60 in the wrong direction and into oncoming traffic.
As police pursued, the vehicle pulled onto the hard shoulder between junctions and the suspect abandoned the van and ran off up the embankment.
GMP’s Tactical Aid Unit were called in to find the offender.
PD Hully tracked along the embankment and all the way to a children’s play area where the suspect was then found, still holding the keys to the van.
The 16-year-old male, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving, failing to stop and taking without owner’s consent. He remains in police custody for questioning.
Sergeant Paul Holt from GMP’s Tactical Dog Unit said: “This job was another great example of the cross-collaboration between several departments in GMP’s Specialist Operations.
“PD Hully and I turned out to this incident knowing that we had to find the suspect after showing total disregard for other people’s safety by travelling down the motorway in the wrong direction.
“On this occasion, I am happy to report that no one was injured during this incident, and we are delighted that we can get another dangerous driver off the roads in Greater Manchester.”