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That Was the Year That Was – 2003
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Iraq

Britain played a leading role in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Alongside the United States, Australia and Poland, Britain took part in the ‘shock and awe’ bombing campaign that began on March 20. This was swiftly followed by the arrival of 45,000 British troops as part of a land invasion. UK combat operations continued for six years, before they formally came to an end in 2009. British forces lost 179 servicemen and women in the conflict. Since Iraq, Britain’s involvement in foreign conflicts has been significantly reduced.

Putin on state visit to UK

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived on a state visit to the UK – the first by a Russian leader since 1874. Correspondents say the visit is a reflection of the rapid development of ties between Britain and Russia since the end of the Communist era. There will be a particular focus on co-operation in the energy sector, amid the pomp and ceremony that tradition demands.

Mr Putin was greeted at Heathrow airport by the Prince of Wales, before being driven to central London to meet the Queen and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Putin joined the Queen in an open-topped horse-drawn carriage for the final part of the journey to Buckingham Palace. On the eve of the visit, Mr Blair said new oil and gas deals signed by UK companies would soon make the country Russia’s biggest foreign investor.

Driver killed girl aged six just two miles from where he left his best friend to die

A banned driver killed a six-year-old girl on New Year’s Eve two miles from where he overturned a speeding car and left his best friend dying 12 years earlier. Ian Carr, 27, who has 89 convictions and is already disqualified from driving for life, was described as "a menace to the motoring public" yesterday after pleading guilty to causing the death of Rebecca Sawyer by dangerous driving. Her 18-month-old sister Kirsty was critically injured when a stolen Vauxhall Astra he was in ploughed into a car driven by their father.

Carr, who had been out of prison for only three months, ran away after the collision on a road junction in Ashington, Northumberland, at 10.45pm on Dec 31 but was caught by police the next day. Sentence was adjourned at Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court for reports but Judge David Hodson told Carr he faced "a very substantial term of imprisonment".

2003: Britain swelters in record heat

Britain has recorded its hottest day ever as the temperature soared to 38.1C (100.6F) in Gravesend, Kent. The record has actually been broken twice today. The first place to beat the previous record of 37.1C (98.8F), set in Cheltenham in 1990, was Heathrow Airport where the temperature earlier today registered 37.9C (100.2F).

Then an even higher temperature was recorded in Kent, making today the hottest day since records began about 130 years ago in 1875. Hundreds of thousands joined the mass exodus to the coast to soak up the sunshine. Roads to the south and west were jammed as motorists headed out of the sweltering cities. Resorts such as Clacton-on-Sea in Essex and Tenby in Pembrokeshire said there were no spare beds at all in hotels or guesthouses. At Bournemouth, in Dorset, the coastline was crammed with about 100,000 sun lovers, and there was said to be no spare space on the sand.

The heatwave in Britain follows the exceptionally high temperatures recorded across Europe, with several countries hitting 40C in the last week. At least 30 people have died in the hot weather and in the fires which have resulted in some countries.

Cheshire solicitor Sally Clark – convicted of killing two of her babies

Solicitor Sally Clark has been cleared by the Court of Appeal of murdering her two sons after serving more than three years of a life sentence. Three judges decided Sally Clark’s conviction for murdering her two baby sons in 1999 was unsafe. The 38-year-old from Wilmslow in Cheshire has protested her innocence ever since she was jailed for life at Chester Crown Court.

She was convicted of smothering 11-week-old Christopher in December 1996 and shaking eight-week-old Harry to death in January 1998 at the home she shared with her husband Stephen.

Her conviction hinged on evidence given to the original trial by eminent paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow. He estimated the likelihood of two infants from the same family dying of cot death syndrome was one in 73 million. But the Royal Statistical Society took the unprecedented step of writing to the Lord Chancellor to object to the way the statistic had been calculated saying it was inaccurate.

However, an initial appeal in October 2000 was thrown out on the basis there was overwhelming evidence she had killed both boys. Her second appeal was won after new medical evidence was presented to the court.

Chelsea F.C. are bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich

Chelsea football club is to be bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in a deal worth £140m (3m). The surprise takeover – the biggest in British football history – was finalised late on Tuesday after talks with long-time chairman Ken Bates. He bought the club in 1982 for just £1, while taking on debts of £1.5m.

Although the club has prospered, debts have grown and it is estimated the new owner will stump up £80m to cover them. On top of that, Mr Abramovich is buying just over half the shares of Chelsea Village, which owns the football club, for 35 pence each – putting the total value of the club’s shares at £59.3m.

The Russian businessman pledged to plough even more resources into the club while Mr Bates said the deal would move Chelsea onto the "next level".

Supersonic aircraft Concorde makes its final commercial flights after 27 years

The legendary supersonic aircraft, Concorde, has landed at the end of its last commercial passenger flight, amid emotional scenes at Heathrow airport. The final transatlantic flight, ending 27 years of supersonic history, carried 100 celebrities from New York and touched down at 1605 BST. As it did so, a huge cheer went up from the thousands of people gathered by the runway on a specially-built grandstand.

Two other Concorde flights had already landed a few minutes earlier, one carrying competition winners on a flight from Edinburgh, and the other completing a trip for invited guests around the Bay of Biscay.

Concorde was seen in the sky on other occasions over the next few months as the seven aircraft owned by British Airways flew to new homes around the world. One flew to the Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados; another went to a museum in Seattle, while a third is at a floating exhibition in New York. Others can be seen at Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airport, and Bristol’s Filton Airport.

The last Concorde left by road, shipped to Scotland in April 2004 and put on display at the Museum of Flight near Edinburgh. The French Concordes have also gone to museums, in France, the US and Germany. A massive auction of Concorde memorabilia was held in Paris in November 2003. Lots included one of the trademark nose cones, which sold to an anonymous French bidder for nearly 0,000.

DVD Sales

Sales of the DVD home video format take the largest share of the UK home video market for the first time. The format, which was first launched in the UK in June 1998, accounted for more than 70% of home video sales this year, as the VHS format’s popularity falls and many new titles are not released on it.

England win Rugby World Cup

England have won the Rugby World Cup, beating Australia 20-17 in a game which is already entering the history books as one of the country’s great moments of sporting triumph. The final, in Sydney, was won just 26 seconds from the end of the match, with a breathtaking drop goal by Newcastle fly-half and youngest member of the squad, Jonny Wilkinson.

It is the first time a northern hemisphere side has won the world title. Australia battled hard and were never out of the game, but after 100 minutes of rugby and a dramatic extra-time finale the England team wrestled away the cup by the slimmest of margins.

Pete Townshend put on sex offenders register

The rock star Pete Townshend was yesterday cautioned by police and placed on the sex offenders register for five years following his admission that he accessed child pornography on the internet. Townshend, 57, received the caution at Kingston police station in south-west London for "accessing a website containing child abuse images". He was arrested in January as part of Operation Ore, the largest investigation into child pornography in the UK. He admitted using his credit card to access images but claimed they were for "research" for a book.

Scotland Yard said in a statement: "At 12.00 today the musician Pete Townshend was formally cautioned for accessing a website containing child abuse images in 1999.

"After four months of investigation by officers from Scotland Yard’s child protection group, it was established that Mr Townshend was not in possession of any downloaded child abuse images. "He has fully cooperated with the investigation. "As a routine part of the cautioning process fingerprints, a photograph and a DNA sample will be taken; additionally in these cases, the person concerned will be entered on the sex offenders register for a period of five years."

In a statement released by an aide outside his mansion in Richmond, south-west London, Townshend insisted that police had "unconditionally accepted" that he was looking at the site as research for his "campaign" against child pornography. "From the very beginning I acknowledged that I did access this site and that I had given the police full access to all of my computers," said the former member of the Who.

"As I made clear at the outset, I accessed the site because of my concerns at the shocking material readily available on the internet to children as well as adults, and as part of my research towards the campaign I had been putting together since 1995 to counter damage done by all kinds of pornography on the internet, but especially any involving child abuse.

"The police have unconditionally accepted that these were my motives in looking at this site and that there was no other nefarious purpose, and as a result they have decided not to charge me."

The Scotland Yard statement stressed that access and payment for child abuse images was an offence.

"Inciting others to distribute these images leads to young children being seriously sexually assaulted to meet the growing demands of the internet customer. It is not a defence to access these images for research or out of curiosity."

Child abuse campaigners condemned the leniency of Townshend’s punishment, and said he should get professional help.

Jennifer Bernard, from the children’s charity NSPCC, said: "Every child seen on an internet pornography site is a real child who is likely to have been abused time and time again.

"Only a quarter of children report sex abuse and many feel that they have no one to turn to.

"People who pay to access these sites are injecting cash into a criminal and manipulative industry that sexually exploits and seriously damages children."

The children’s charity NCH said Townshend’s crime was "not a small matter".

John Carr, the charity’s internet safety adviser, said: "It is not an acceptable defence and it only helps to keep the child porn industry going."

2003 Timeline

January – Toyota launches an all-new Avensis to be built at TMUK.

10 January – Ian Carr, a 27-year-old banned driver with a total of 89 previous convictions (including causing death by dangerous driving), admits causing the death by dangerous driving of a six-year-old girl in Ashington, Northumberland – a crime which sparks widespread public and media outrage across Britain.

25 January – Central line underground train crashes into the tunnel wall at Chancery Lane tube station in London, injuring 34 people.

29 January – Sally Clark, a 38-year-old former solicitor from Cheshire, is released from prison after the Court of Appeal clears her of murdering her two sons, who are believed to have suffered sudden infant death syndrome.

30 January – Richard Colvin Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber", is sentenced to life imprisonment by a United States court.

31 January – One of the longest prison sentences ever issued in a British court for a motoring offence is handed down on killer driver Ian Carr, who received a nine-and-a-half-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving – his second conviction for the crime in 12 years.

1 February – In Northern Ireland, the Protestant Ulster Defence Association Belfast leader John Gregg is killed by a loyalist faction.

15 February – In London, more than 2 million people demonstrate against the Iraq War, the largest demonstration in British history.

17 February – The London congestion charge, a fee levied on motorists travelling within designated parts of central London, comes into operation.

27 February – 122 Labour MPs vote against the government in a debate over the Iraq War.

Rowan Williams enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury.

12 March – Iraq disarmament crisis: British prime minister Tony Blair proposes an amendment to the possible 18th U.N. resolution, which would call for Iraq to meet certain benchmarks to prove that it was disarming. The amendment is immediately rejected by France, who promises to veto any new resolution.

20 March – 2003 Iraq war: Land troops from United Kingdom join troops from the United States, Australia and Poland in the invasion of Iraq.

22 March – Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from Royal Navy submarines take part in a massive air and missile strike on military targets in Baghdad.

6 April – British forces capture the city of Basra during the Iraq war.

9 April – The Iraq war effort is given a major boost when a statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled in Baghdad and it is confirmed that Hussein’s rule has ended.

29 April – Tony Blair holds a one-day summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin mocks Britain’s and America’s failure to locate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

3 May – Scottish parliamentary election, 2003: the Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition led by Jack McConnell win a majority of the seats and remain in power. The Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party significantly increase their representation.

Welsh Assembly election, 2003: the Labour Party remain in power.

The BBC announces that the hugely popular character Den Watts will return to its soap opera EastEnders later this year, 14 years after he was supposedly killed off.

15 May – The government suspends all flights to and from Kenya after warnings of an imminent al-Qaeda attack.

28 May – The UEFA Champions League Final at Old Trafford (home to Manchester United) with AC Milan beating Juventus in a penalty shootout following a goalless draw.

29 May – Andrew Gilligan broadcasts a report on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme stating that the government claimed in its dossier that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes knowing the claim to be dubious. A political storm ensues. Gilligan’s source is David Kelly, a weapons expert.

13 June – First Minister for Children appointed, Margaret Hodge.

The first official Twenty20 cricket matches are played between the English counties in the Twenty20 Cup.

15 June – The News of the World publishes an article in which Ian Huntley is photographed in his cell at Woodhill Prison. An undercover reporter had got a job in the prison and was being employed as Huntley’s guard.

24 June – President Vladimir Putin becomes the first Russian head of state to make a state visit to the Britain since Tsar Alexander II in 1874.

Six members of the Royal Military Police killed and eight other soldiers injured in Iraq.

26 June – The latest MORI poll puts Labour and Conservative parties on even terms at 35%.

2 July – Chelsea F.C. are bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for £150million from current chairman Ken Bates, 21 years after he bought the club for £1.

15 July – David Kelly appears before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee to answer questions over the information he had given to Andrew Gilligan.

18 July – David Kelly is found dead near his home in Oxfordshire — police suspect that he committed suicide.

20 July – The BBC confirms that Dr David Kelly, found dead from suspected suicide two days ago, was the main source for a controversial report that sparked a deep rift with the government.

1 August – The Hutton Inquiry into the recent death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly, chaired by judge Lord Hutton, opens.

3 August – Police use the taser for the first time.

10 August – Brogdale enters the UK Weather Records for the highest ever recorded temperature of 38.5 °C. The 2003 European heat wave makes this Britain’s hottest summer for 13 years.

11 August – The Hutton Inquiry into the recent death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly, chaired by judge Lord Hutton, begins to take evidence.

4 September – The Bull Ring shopping centre in Birmingham is officially opened by Sir Albert Bore.

18 September – Brent East by-election: Sarah Teather of the Liberal Democrats becomes MP for Brent East after 29 years of Labour control.

29 September – The comeback of Den Watts (played by Leslie Grantham) in EastEnders is screened, 14 years after the character was supposedly killed off, and just over four months after the BBC confirmed that Grantham would be returning to the series.

24 October – Supersonic aircraft Concorde makes its final commercial flights after 27 years.

29 October – Iain Duncan-Smith resigns after just over two years as leader of the Conservative Party.

4 November – Channel 4’s soap opera Brookside, on air since the station was launched, finishes after 21 years.

8 November – Sophie, Countess of Wessex gives birth to her and Prince Edward’s first child, a baby girl.

16 November – David Davis, the new Shadow Home Secretary, calls for a return of the death penalty for murderers found guilty of the most horrific murders; citing Moors Murderer Ian Brady and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe as criminals whose crimes would meet the criteria.

18 November – United States President George W. Bush makes a state visit to London in the midst of massive protests.

Passage of the Local Government Act 2003 including the repeal in England, Northern Ireland and Wales of controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality". Section 28 had already been repealed in Scotland in 2000.

20 November – Several bombs explode in Istanbul, Turkey at several British targets. The Turkish head office of HSBC and the British consulate are destroyed, and the British Consul-General, Roger Short is killed.

22 November – England are rugby world champions after defeating Australia 20-17 after extra time.

24 November – The High Court in Glasgow imposes a minimum sentence of 27 years for Al Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

26 November – The final Concorde to fly touches down for the last time in Filton, Bristol where it was welcomed by the Duke of York.

9 December – The M6 Toll motorway opens, giving the United Kingdom its first toll motorway and providing a northern by-pass for the congested section of the M6 motorway through the West Midlands conurbation.

10 December – Clive Granger wins the Nobel Prize in Economics jointly with Robert F. Engle "for methods of analyzing economic time series with common trends (cointegration)".

Anthony J. Leggett wins the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov and Vitaly Ginzburg "for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids".

Peter Mansfield wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Paul Lauterbur "for their discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging".

The Court of Appeal overturns two murder convictions against 40-year-old Wiltshire woman Angela Cannings, who was wrongly convicted of murdering her two baby sons in April last year. Mrs Cannings, who has a surviving daughter, always maintained that her sons were both victims of sudden infant death syndrome.

The official inflation target measure is changed to the Consumer Price Index figure from RPIX.

12 December – Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones receives a knighthood from Charles, Prince of Wales.

16 December – The Government announces plans to build a new runway at Stansted Airport in Essex and a short-haul runway at Heathrow Airport sparking anger from environmental groups.

17 December – Ian Huntley is found guilty of the Soham Murders and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey. A High Court judge will later decide on the minimum number of the years that he will have to serve before being considered for parole. His ex-girlfriend Maxine Carr is found guilty of perverting the course of justice and receives a jail term of three-and-a-half years, but she will be freed on licence (under a new identity to protect her from reprisal attacks) in May 2004 as she has already served 16 months on remand. Home Secretary David Blunkett orders an inquiry into how the police vetting system failed to prevent Huntley from getting a job in a school after it is revealed at the end of his trial that he had been suspected in the past of crimes including underage sex, rape, indecent assault and burglary.

Sales of the DVD home video format take the largest share of the UK home video market for the first time. The format, which was first launched in the UK in June 1998, accounted for more than 70% of home video sales this year, as the VHS format’s popularity falls and many new titles are not released on it.

New car sales reach a record high this year of nearly 2.6 million, with the Ford Focus enjoying its fifth successive year as Britain’s most popular new car. BMW sales also reach a record high, with the BMW 3 Series managing well over 60,000 sales as Britain’s ninth best selling car. Sales of Vauxhall, Peugeot, Renault and Volkswagen cars remain strong as well, while Nissan also enjoys a rise in sales largely due to the popularity of its new version of the Micra.

Television

Christmas Day Wednesday 25th December 2002

ITV1 London

6.00am GMTV
Oooberry Telly
Wheels on the Bus

6.10am Horace and Oupagogo – Oooberry Buddies

6.20am Jellikins Xmas

6.45am Cubeez

7.00am Ni Ni’s Treehouse

7.30am Pokemon

7.55am Spiderman

8.25am Little Dracula

8.55am X-Men Evolution

9.00am CITV
The King’s Beard

10.55am A Small Miracle

11.25am The Christmas Storytellers

12.50pm News, Weather

1.00pm The Waltons – After They Were Famous

2.00pm Who Wants to Be A Millionaire Celebrity ?

3.00pm The Queen

3.10pm Film : Thunderball (1965)

5.30pm ITV News, Weather

5.40pm New You’ve Been Framed A-Z of Christmas

6.10pm Christmas Celebrity Blind Date

6.55pm Emmerdale

7.55pm Coronation Street

9.05pm Christmas Celebrity Blind Date

9.35pm Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Celebrity ?

10.40pm ITV News, Weather

10.55pm Film : Jaws (1975)

1.10am Bethlehem Year Zero

1.30am David Bowie : Live by Request

2.55am Film : Love Affair (1994)

4.40am The Mythology of Star Wars

5.40am Cartoon Time

5.55am ITV Morning News

Boxing Day Thursday 26th December 2002

ITV1 London

6.00am GMTV
Oooberry Telly
Wheels on the Bus

6.10am Horace and Oupagogo – Oooberry Buddies

6.20am Bananas in Pyjamas

6.35am Horace and Oupagogo – Oooberry Buddies

6.45am Cubeez

7.00am Ni Ni’s Treehouse

7.30am Pokemon

8.25am Spiderman

8.55am X-Men Evolution

9.25am CITV
Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids

9.40am Rats Tales

9.50am The Worst Witch

10.20am Digimon

11.15am Garfield

11.25am Film : Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

1.25pm News, Weather

1.35pm Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Celebrity?

2.35pm The Queen’s Story

4.35pm The Goal Rush

5.10pm ITV News, Weather

5.25pm Film : Mary Poppins (1964)

8.00pm Emmerdale

8.30pm Goodbye Mr Chips starring Martin Clunes

10.30pm ITV News, Weather

10.45pm The Premiership

12.15am Film : Some Like it Hot (1959)

2.20am Christmas . . . Forever best and worst Christmas hits

3.15am Film : It Happened In Rome (1956)

4.50am Cybernet

5.15am Men in Black animation

5.35am Cartoon Time

5.55am ITV Morning News

BRIT Awards

The 2003 BRIT Awards winners were:

Best British Male Solo Artist: Robbie Williams
Best British Female Solo Artist: Ms. Dynamite
Best British Group: Coldplay
Best British Album: Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
Best British Urban Act: Ms Dynamite
Best British Dance Act: Sugababes
British Breakthrough Artist: Will Young
Best International Male: Eminem
Best International Female: Pink
Best International Group: Red Hot Chili Peppers
International Breakthrough Artist: Norah Jones
Best International Album: Eminem – The Eminem Show
Best British Single: Liberty X – "Just a Little"
Best Pop Act: Blue
Outstanding Contribution: Tom Jones