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Schoolboy gets new life-changing bionic arm funded by plumber

He welled up as he was gifted a Black Panther-style ‘Hero Arm’

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Dionne and Robin Sparks & ITV

A young schoolboy given a new life-changing £13,000 bionic arm shook hands with the plumber who funded it.

Seven-year-old Alex Sparks was born without a right forearm and had been on an NHS prosthetic waiting list for more than three years.

After spending birthdays ‘wishing’ for it to grow back, his parents, Dionne and Robin, decided to fundraise for a motorised prosthetic arm for him.

When James Anderson, a 52-year-old plumber from Burnley, founder of Depher Plumbing Services, heard about the fundraiser, he fulfilled the target by making a single payment.

Dionne and Robin Sparks

James met Alex in his hometown of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire where the youngster got to try out his new arm by doing a ‘high five’, a ‘tickle’ and a ‘squeeze’.

Watching in amazement as the motors in Alex’s arm whirred, James said: “Wow! That’s absolutely amazing mate! Honest to God.”

Alex had never enjoyed wearing prosthetics until he tried the Black Panther themed ‘Hero Arm’ and his family say his face ‘lit-up’ as he was able to make it move.

The device, made by Open Bionics in Bristol — a company that 3D prints prosthetic limbs — uses sensors to register muscle movements in the upper arm and turn those into hand motions.


Alex told ITV News about ‘loads of things’ he now wants to do with his new bionic arm, saying: “I want to brush my teeth, reel-in a rod when I fish and play with two hands.

“Play catch and learn how to draw with this [bionic] hand because I can draw with [the other] hand.”

James’ Burnley-based social enterprise firm Depher, has helped many elderly and vulnerable people in need.

Originally setup to give free plumbing work to elderly and disabled individuals, it now provides wider support and food parcels.


The plumber explained he chose to pay for Alex’s arm as he could see the schoolboy’s ‘strength in his eyes’.

He said: “When I saw that he needed this so he could go fishing with his Dad, go bike-riding and play football – just do the normal things that a child would do with his mates outside – I immediately fell in love with it.

“You could see the strength inside of him, You could see the strength in his eyes. It was a no brainer. I transferred the money to the bank and said, ‘there you go, it’s done’.”

In a mobile phone video of the touching moment, James shows Alex the receipt and asks: “Do you know what that means?” Alex replied: “No.” 

James then says: “That means I’ve just paid for your new arm. So, hopefully, sooner rather than later you’re going to go fishing with your Dad.”

To which Alex cheers and fills up with tears of joy.

Dionne and Robin are now hoping Alex’s new arm will bring him a brighter, happier future and allow him to do all the things he would like to do in life.

His dad Robin said:  “We’re looking forward to him becoming an independent and outgoing seven year old.


“One that he doesn’t always have to keep looking back towards where his mum and dad are for help. Where he could just go forward and enjoy his life.”

The family are extremely grateful and can’t thank James enough as Dionne described James as an ‘incredible man’, adding: “He’s just helping so many people, whether it’s his food banks or his plumbing.

“He’s just one man helping loads of people. The world definitely needs more James Andersons. It really does.”

Alex’s new bionic limb is a little longer than his arm allowing him room to grow until he reaches his mid-teens, where he will need a replacement arm to match his size.


Stagecoach hiring over 100 new bus drivers for Bee Network with £31k salaries

Fancy a career change?

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Stagecoach Manchester is hiring over 100 new bus drivers to work from its Oldham depot, following the second phase of the Bee Network launch in March.

You can apply for a range of roles, from positions with no experience required to fully qualified bus drivers.

Successful applicants will receive full training as part of the job, and trainees will get paid to train. Then after only 12 months’ service at Stagecoach, drivers can expect to earn up to £16 per hour, which equates to £31.6K per year, before overtime.

As well as that, drivers that already hold a PCV licence may be eligible to receive a £1,200 joining bonus.


There’s also a host of other benefits available to all Stagecoach employees, like 28 days paid holiday, generous pension and free Stagecoach bus travel for successful applicants and a companion.

Rob Jones, Managing Director at Stagecoach Manchester said: “Expanding our offering in Oldham means we’ll be investing more in the economy and supporting our local community, as well as strengthening our workforce.

“Whether you’re looking for a career change or you’re a fully qualified, experienced bus driver, there’s a role for everyone here in Oldham.

“We’re looking for personable and dedicated drivers who are ready to help us build on the success of the Bee Network and connect the people of Oldham and Greater Manchester with the places and people that are important to them.”


Phil Cornwall, bus driver at Stagecoach Manchester, said: “I’ve been a driver at Stagecoach for 25 years and I couldn’t recommend it more.

“From the perks to the people to the passengers, it really is a great place to work.”

To apply, head to the Stagecoach website HERE.

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Two men charged with murder after torso discovered in Salford nature reserve


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Greater Manchester Police

Two men have now been charged with murder, following the discovery of a human torso in Kersal Dale.

As well as that, more suspected human remains were also discovered this morning, Monday April 29th, in an alleyway close to the railway lines off Worsley Road, Eccles.

This follows earlier discoveries of human remains over the past three weeks, at Kersal Dale, Blackleach Reservoir and Colliery Wood, all in Salford.

Greater Manchester Police

Michal Jaroslaw Polchowski (25/04/1956) and Marcin Majerkiewicz (10/04/1982) both of Worsley Road, Eccles, have been charged with murder.

They are set to appear at Tameside Magistrates Court this afternoon.

While formal identification is still ongoing, the remains found at Kersal Dale are believed to be of a local man in his 60s. The remains found at the other three locations are still to be tested, but police are confident they belong to the same victim.

ACC Sarah Jackson said: “We have had large numbers of officers, staff and specialists working diligently on this investigation over the last three weeks. It has been very much a large, collective effort, with the victim and family at the heart of it from the outset.

“We have specially trained officers deployed to support the family as they come to terms with this tragic news. They are aware of this morning’s further discovery and will continue to be kept up to date with how we are progressing.

“Despite the charges brought today, our work is far from over.

“The scenes we already have established in Bury and Salford will remain in place for much of this week whilst our searches and enquiries continue. Local officers will continue to patrol the impacted areas to provide reassurance.

“We will continue following every line of enquiry to recover and reunite the victim with his family, bringing a dignified end to this terrible scenario.

“I’d like to thank the communities of Salford and beyond for their cooperation throughout this investigation. I know this incident has come as a shock, and the support we’ve had from those in the area is very much appreciated.”

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More human remains discovered in Greater Manchester as police identify victim

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N Chadwick / Geograph

Detectives investigating the discovery of a torso in Kersal Dale have found more human remains around Greater Manchester.

GMP released a statement on the weekend, revealing they had opened four scenes for extensive searches – one of them at a warehouse in Bury, and three in Salford.

Searches took place at Blackleach reservoir, where human remains were found, and a dog walker found a package containing human remains at Colliery Wood.

Officers believe they have now identified the man, who they believe to be a man in his 60s that lived in Salford, and his family have been informed.

Two suspects have already been arrested in connection with the murder probe, with officers saying they are thought to have lived with the victim.

Greater Manchester Police / Facebook

Detective Superintendent Lewis Hughes, Senior Investigating Officer for this investigation, said in a statement at Blackleach reservoir yesterday, Sunday April 28th: “We have continued to make significant progress in our investigation into human remains being found in Kersal earlier this month.

“From day one, our priority has been to identify the man and his family so that we can give them the support and the answers that they need.

“Thanks to meticulous forensic work, we are now confident we have identified the man. Formal identification hasn’t yet taken place, but we believe he is a man in his 60s and lived in Salford.

“Specially-trained family liaison officers have met with his family this afternoon to give them the devastating news, and we will do all that we can to support them at this awful time.

“We believe he is known to the two suspects we have in custody. They have remained in custody for questioning over the weekend, as we work to establish how the victim met this tragic outcome.”

He continued: “We have painstakingly worked to follow up every line of inquiry in this investigation. Over the last couple of days, we have acted on information and had four scenes in place for extensive searches – one of them is at a warehouse in Bury, and three of them are in Salford, including here at Blackleach reservoir.

“Today, we have found some human remains at the reservoir here, and last night a dog walker found a package containing human remains at Colliery Wood. Forensic tests will continue to establish whose remains these are, but we are very confident that this is also the victim in our investigation.

“We have also been searching a house in Winton where we believe the victim and the two suspects lived. We have found evidence that the victim is likely to have died there – most likely in late March.

“While this is significant progress, we know there is still some way to go to complete this investigation. I also recognise details of this case will have been distressing for the people of Salford and beyond – including the officers that are diligently working on this investigation, and most importantly the man’s heartbroken family.

“Local officers will continue to patrol the affected areas, and we will provide updates when we have more information.”

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