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‘Like a wound that isn't healing’ — an inquest into another possible mould death in Greater Manchester
Plus: pressure builds on Greater Manchester Police
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s briefing. We hear that a break in the weather is in the post, and not before time. The entire Mill team have been a bit down, looking out on a St Ann’s Square cast seemingly into permanent twilight. So we’re glad our weatherman says a brief few days of sunshine are in the offing later this week. It is only a few, mind, so we all ought to make the most of it.
Over the weekend, we caught up with the Tyshkuls, a family we first met last March when they arrived in Manchester as refugees from the war in Ukraine. The piece centred on Darina, a 19-year-old student with dreams of becoming a graphic designer, and even more vivid dreams of returning home. “Ukraine is just good ground. There’s two seas, mountains, deserts, forests, I love it,” she told us. “I never wanted to move from Ukraine. My friends wanted to, but I never did.” Read the full story, plus our other two pieces on the Tyshkul family, below.
And in far less important, but kind of nice, news: Jack, who is currently writing this newsletter in the voice of The Mill and therefore referring to himself in the third person — which always feels a bit weird — celebrates his 25th birthday today. “Celebrate” feels like a generous adjective, seeing as he forgot to book the day off, but nevertheless he feels it necessary to highlight it is his birthday today, and that he is at work.
Now, onward: This week, we’re looking at what could be the second death in Greater Manchester related to mould in the last two years and rounding up another bad weekend for Greater Manchester Police. We also recommend interesting journalism from VICE, The Sunday Times and The New York Times about growing up in Whalley Range, the staggering increase in cocaine consumption in Manchester, and Alessia Russo, the former Manchester United striker on her way to becoming one of the biggest stars in the England squad.
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🌤️ This week’s weather
This week’s forecast comes from our local weatherman Martin Miles, who says finally, we will get some warm and sunny weather this week.
Tuesday 🌦️Cloudy with light rain and drizzle. Brightening up slowly during the afternoon. Max 19C.
Wednesday ⛅️ Warmer with hazy spells of sunshine and light winds. Max 23C.
Thursday 🌤️ Dry and very warm with hazy spells of sunshine. Max 27C.
Friday 🌦️ Cooler and breezy with sunny spells and showers. Max 22C.
Weekend 🌦️ Fresher with mixed weather as low pressure will dominate. Temperatures will be in the high teens.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Is this Greater Manchester’s second mould death in two years?
Top line: This week, an inquest will be held into the death of Luke Brooks, a 27-year-old from Oldham whose death may be linked to mould in his family’s rented home. The case echoes Awaab Ishak’s, a two-year-old who died because of a respiratory condition linked to mould in his family’s flat in Rochdale. If Luke’s death is found to have similar causes, he would be the second person in Greater Manchester to die because of mould in the space of two years.
The property: The Brooks family home was a private-rented property on Huxley Street in Oldham. They had lived there for eight years at the time of Luke’s death but said issues were there from the beginning. Mould was caused by leaks in the roof and the building’s plumbing. Despite complaints to the council and visits from environmental health officers, the problems weren’t fixed.
Multiple complaints: Luke’s parents say they made multiple complaints to their landlord in the years up to his death, which were ignored. Luke’s father, Jimmy, told the BBC that he and wife Patsy “shouted from the top of the mountain” but the landlord wouldn’t “put his hands in his pockets to do any repairs”. Patsy described the issues with the house as “like a wound that isn't healing.”
At the opening of Luke’s inquest in March, details of his post-mortem were shared that suggested he died from acute respiratory distress syndrome, a result of pneumonia caused by mould.
In the days before his death, Luke experienced difficulty breathing and developed a rash. He couldn’t get an appointment with a GP and called the 111 service. He was told he had a viral infection, and to take painkillers. He took paracetamol and ibuprofen and rested. He died two days later, after having a fit in bed.
This week’s inquest will hear five days of evidence. A microbiologist has been asked to visit the property to check for Aspergillus, a type of mould that affects the respiratory system. The landlords have been asked to collect evidence of repair work on the house. They have admitted to not keeping records of repairs.
The BBC visited the property in May this year and found there was still a hole in the ceiling and mould gathering around window frames. The Brooks family have now moved out of the property.
Bottom line: Luke’s inquest will be carried out by Senior Coroner Joanne Kearsley, who also led the inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak. At the time, Kearsley asked “how in the UK in 2020 does a two-year-old child die as a result of exposure to mould?”. She’ll now be asking how this could still happen, two years on.
Your Mill briefing
Andrew Malkinson, the victim of a shocking miscarriage of justice who spent 17 years in prison for a rape in Salford that he did not commit, has stopped the government deducting “saved living costs” from compensation paid to the wrongly imprisoned. Malkinson’s conviction was overturned in late July, and at the time he commented on how “you fight tooth and nail and gain compensation you then have to pay the prison service a large chunk of that for so-called ‘board and lodgings’, which is so abhorrent to me”. Rishi Sunak later came out to say he believed this was unfair, and the policy has since been pulled, something the Justice Secretary called a “common-sense change”.
“Punitive measures” for GMP: Speaking to The Sunday Times, Malkinson described a “constant feeling of rage” towards Greater Manchester Police, who originally arrested him in 2003. We covered the force's failings, and the chief constable’s hesitance to talk about them, last week. Malkinson said there should be a full inquiry into GMP’s handling of his case and “punitive measures” brought against it. The Independent Office of Police Conduct is now investigating GMP’s own internal investigation into the handling of the Malkinson case.
Latest: Appeal judges have today ruled that Malkinson’s conviction was “unsafe” due to GMP’s failure to disclose evidence. For example, a photograph of the victim’s hand that showed one nail was broken and shorter than the others. This backed up her account of leaving a scratch on her attacker’s face. Malkinson had no such marks on his face when he was arrested, but the photograph being withheld meant his defence team couldn’t make that case to the jury. “If the photographs had been disclosed, the jury's verdicts may have been different,” said Lord Justice Holroyd. Malkinson said he felt “vindicated by the court’s finding that Greater Manchester Police unlawfully withheld evidence”.
Finally on GMP: They won’t be sending letters banning individuals from this year’s Manchester’s Caribbean Carnival, held in Moss Side. A row erupted last July when campaign groups highlighted “deeply racist” letters telling people they wouldn’t be admitted to the carnival because of suspected gang links. This also applied to people the force felt were “perceived by others to be associated with a street gang”. Campaigners said there wasn’t a similar practice for other festivals in the city, like Parklife, and that it disproportionately targeted people of colour. GMP met with campaigners and will no longer send the letters, which they say was originally done at the request of organisers.
The UK’s largest eco-farm, in Oldham, has had a difficult time with polarising weather. Plants suffered frost damage at the start of the year, and now, hot and dry weather in May and June has been followed by the wettest July on record. Still, volunteers at the Northern Roots project are hopeful, and are preparing to harvest leeks, aubergines, carrots and potatoes.
ICYMI: A great piece in the Guardian on Andy Burnham’s decision to “press ‘pause’” on the ill-fated Greater Manchester clean air zone. Burnham apparently felt vindicated after seeing the results in the Uxbridge by-election, where Labour were scuppered by Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand emission-reduction policies in London. The question is, did Burnham read the room, or was this just a case of political cowardice?
Home of the week
A two bedroom penthouse apartment in Castlefield just came on the market for £385,000, advertised by the luxury estate agent The Modern House. It’s in a 19th-century converted warehouse, with high ceilings, big windows and exposed brick walls.
Our favourite reads
Home Coming: Manchester — Vice
The London-based writer Kemi Alemoru goes on a tour of her hometown, starting at Altrincham Grammar School (“so overwhelmingly white that it was immediately apparent I was the first Black person my well-meaning peers had met”), and visiting her grandmother’s Caribbean church (“a symbol of a community resisting hostility to stake its claim on the city”). “Wherever I set up residence, I’ve made a recent promise to myself to keep finding and telling tales of Manchester’s communities and subcultures, its fierce activism, and its cultural exports,” Alemoru writes. “Because you can take the girl out of Manchester but you can’t take Manchester out of the girl, amiright?”
Alessia Russo Is Ready for Her Next Big Moment — The New York Times
24 year old Alessia Russo, the former Manchester United star striker and one of the youngest players in the England squad, says the secret to her jaw-dropping goals is confidence. She became known for her out-of-nowhere backheel goal in the Euros last year and was offered two world-record transfer bids to leave United. Ella Braidwood writes that her meteoric rise represents “a historic time for the women’s game” where record viewing figures and packed stadiums are the norm. “I just want to win as much as I can,” Russo says.
Cocaine Britain and a battle of wits between police and traffickers — The Sunday Times
The scale of the increase in cocaine trafficking in the UK is “eye-watering”, according to Andy Mason, an officer at the National Crime Agency. Analysis of wastewater samples showed that cocaine use increased by 25% in a year in Manchester alone, and the UK cocaine trade is estimated to be worth £1 billion a year. The piece says the amount that cargo handlers and police seize is only a fraction of what goes undetected. “The rest goes into the British bloodstream in ever higher amounts, leaving a trail of bloodshed and environmental destruction in its wake,” the author adds.
Our to do list
🍷 Studio Bee, a cosy photography studio tucked away on the top floor of the Peer Hat in the Northern Quarter, is hosting an evening of life drawing. You’ll be treated to a glass of wine, tapas, fruit juice and tea. Tickets are £15.
🎸 If you fancy hearing some golden oldies, there’s live music all day at Bask, the cocktail bar and cafe in Stockport. Expect to hear Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and more. More here.
🎦 HOME is showing Tales of the North, a selection of short films curated by the Women Over 50 Film Festival, which showcases the work of older women on screen and behind the camera. Book here.
❓ The Barking Dog, a lovely pub in an old post office in Urmston, is hosting its weekly pub quiz. It’s free to enter a team, plus, you get a free cheeseboard when you order a bottle of wine. More here.
🎨 Three fine art and painting students from the prestigious Manchester Art School are showing their work at Mura Ma in Marple for the next two weeks. The exhibition guide notes that their display emerged out of “a shared desire to explore the contemporary painting scene outside of Manchester city centre”. More here.
Tickets are selling fast for the second outdoor screening of Mamma Mia! at Lyme Park. It costs £10 and you’re advised to bring blankets, camping chairs and snacks to keep warm under the stars. The organisers added an extra screening because demand for the first event was so high, and you can get your tickets here.
Looking further ahead? Members get our unmissable weekend to do list in their inboxes every Thursday morning.