Royal recognition for `People of the Year'

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The Princess Royal paid tribute yesterday to Britain's "People of the Year" during the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation's 36th annual awards ceremony.

She joined hundreds of diners at a gala lunch to recognise 13 men and women for their courage and achievement.

Among them was a posthumous award for Alison Hargreaves, the mountaineer who died during her solo assault on K2 this year without oxygen, and solo round-the-world yachts-woman Lisa Clayton.

After a silence to honour former winner, the late Gordon Wilson, whose daughter was killed by the IRA bomb at Enniskillen, and who himself died earlier this year, the Princess praised past winners.

The awards were chaired by BBC director-general John Birt. Citations were read by newsreader Trevor McDonald.

Jim Ballard, the husband of tragic mountaineer Alison Hargreaves, played down reports that they were to have divorced on her return from her ill- fated Himalayan expedition.

Ms Hargreaves was killed in an avalanche this summer after successfully scaling K2 - the world's second highest mountain - without oxygen. Her body remains on the mountain.

Seventeen-year-old Kelly Turner, the teenage girl from east London who reported her former boyfriend to the police for his part in a savage race attack on a Bengali student, was also a winner. She is currently working as a full-time volunteer for the Commission for Racial Equality and plans to become a police officer.

Leading fashion designer Betty Jackson was honoured for her achievements. Her clothes are sold worldwide and she was made an MBE in 1987.