Thaw ahead, but big chill death toll reaches 16

Twelfth night, the nation goes back to work and the season for recycling the remnants of Christmas begins
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The Independent Online
The death toll from some of Britain's worst weather in 30 years rose to 16 at the weekend as forecasters predicted that a thaw would begin today.

Across the country, bodies were found in the snow after a series of tragedies. One woman died after chasing her runaway dog into a blizzard. And a young man died after falling unconscious on to the surface of a frozen lake following a row with his girlfriend.

The London Weather Centre recorded temperatures of -10C in Bedfordshire - the lowest in the country - at the start of the weekend. But they were expected to climb to -2C last night.

Among those who died was Christine Taube, a 47-year-old hairdresser, who was last seen chasing after her dog in snow in the village of Motcombe, near Shaftesbury, Dorset, on Saturday. Witnesses told police that she was wearing no coat when she followed her dog as it escaped from a taxi. The dog later made its own way home.

Colin Worrall, 23, from Yardley Green, Birmingham, was found dead by his girlfriend face down on the frozen surface of Earlswood Lake in Warwickshire. Mr Warrall and his girlfriend, Lindsay Price, had argued and gone their separate ways. However, 30 minutes later, Ms Price return to find that Mr Worrall had fallen down an embankment, banged his head and frozen to death in temperatures of about -5C. Police said: "They stormed off in opposite directions. But later the girlfriend became worried about him and went to find his relatives to help search for him.

"He was found lying face down on the ice and had suffered very badly from the bitter cold. Both had been drinking heavily before the incident."

In Humberside the body of John Windle, 67, was discovered on the banks of Holderness Drain, Hull, fully clothed with his feet in the water. A post-mortem examination revealed he had died from hypothermia.

As the thaw began in some parts of the country, water companies and plumbers braced themselves for a deluge of burst pipes - and complaints from customers believing they have been ripped-off. In London alone, fire services took more than 1,500 calls relating to burst pipes. Kent and Dorset fire services also reported hundreds of calls for help from flooded householders.

Kevin Wellman, assistant chief executive of the Institute of Plumbing, advised customers to turn off the main supply then get a number of quotes before agreeing a price, following reports that some plumbers were charging more than pounds 600 for two hours' work.

"As houses begin to suffer from burst pipes and flooding, dishonest tradesmen will have a field day," he said. Mr Wellman added that customers should check the plumber is a member of the institute, which requires its members to follow a set of guidelines.

As the big chill ended so too did the holidays, with hundreds of thousands returning to Britain from more hospitable climes. More than 196,000 travellers used Heathrow Airport and 80,000 passed through Gatwick at the weekend.

The London Weather Centre said there would be more snow in the eastern and southern parts of the country, but added: "It will remain cold though the worst is certainly over."

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