Our Century

Police reveal a huge armoury

Incidents like Hungerford above, led to West Midlands Police's firearms disclosure

West Midlands police revealed for the first time in December that they were holding an armoury of more than 300 firearms, including pump-action shotguns and sniper rifles.

Disclosing details of the armoury, top officers gave out the message: "We have nothing to hide and the public has the right to know."

The weapons being held by the force also included CS gas launchers, self-loading pistols, carbines and revolvers.

The disclosures came after armed police activities came under scrutiny following incidents like that year's Hungerford killings and the shooting of armed men in Somerset and London.

The chief inspector in charge of the firearms operations unit for the region, Michael Harrison, said the force had changed its procedures for selecting officers for the tactical firearms unit.

They were now given psychological tests.

"We look at their whole state of mind, and domestic background to ensure we have the best possible men for this very stressful job," said Mr Harrison.

Not such a charmed life! Wolverhampton snake dancer, Tina Marie Jarvis, was considering getting a second opinion over the sudden deaths of her performing snakes.

Snakes The Indian pythons - Cyril and Tracey - were found dead at the home of the exotic disco dancer in December.

Post-mortem examinations by a vet revealed that Cyril died from septicaemia and Tracey from pneumonia.

Pictured: Tina Marie Jarvis, right, with Paula Talbot and friends

The vet said that further tests were being carried out to determine the strain of the virus which hit the snakes.

The 19-year-old exotic dancer's mother, Mrs Jean Jarvis, of Oakley Grove, Penn, Wolverhampton, said they could not understand why the snakes died at the same time. "We are thinking about getting a second opinion," she added.

One out, all out . . . Austin Rover workers at Longbridge called off a wildcat strike in March, the day after walking out in support of punk rocker, Darren Kelly (pictured below).

Darren KellyThe industrial action by the 180 workers cost the Birmingham plant 2 million after Mr Kelly, a trimfitter, was sacked for persistent absenteeism.

Following a mass meeting the workers agreed to return to work. But union officials stressed that the dispute was still not over. They were putting Mr Kelly's case before national union officials.

Mr Kelly, who had a bright green "Mohican" style haircut, claimed he had been victimised because of his appearance.

"Looking like this, I suppose I am more easily missed from the production line," he said. But Austin Rover said Mr Kelly had been absent from 51 shifts since April the previous year and was unable to give, any explanation for 31 of them.

The dispute lost Austin Rover production of about 300 Rover 200 cars, worth more than 2 million at showroom prices.

Hopping mad over those red frogs: A wildlife group was hopping mad in March after claiming that frogs at a Black Country park were being turned red by council weedkiller.

The Urban Wildlife Group, said that paraquat sprayed by Sandwell Council at the Sheepwash Urban Park, Great Bridge, had affected the skin pigment of the frogs and turned them red.

But the council said they did not think the deadly herbicide was responsible for the change. Council chiefs pointed out that at the time the weedkiller had been applied, the frogs would have been hibernating anyway.

The site was a former tip and it was felt that things dumped there over the years had changed the colour of the frogs.

The party's over . . . Late- night boozing sessions at a Walsall allotments sparked off a call for "last orders" by angry council chiefs in March.

Gardeners were staging wild revels at the Delves Green Road site - and their antics were having a sobering effect on residents in the vicinity.

They complained of noise, drunken brawls, and said gardeners were relieving themselves on their once-proud plots. So council recreation chiefs made it plain to the revellers that the partying was over.

Site agent, Bill Cooper, said the trouble was the work of a spirited group of gardeners who were more interested in pale ale than parsnips.

"They go down there to get away from their wives," he said. "I can't blame the people nearby for complaining."

And residents saidy all the boozing has not helped the gardeners shed-building skills. They described the allotments as "shanty towns" and council staff threatened to pull down the plot-holders' shacks.

Nicola Rudge
...my mom was so frightened she wouldn't even let us outside...