Tragedy mars New Year celebrations across UK

Deaths, disturbances and missing people cast shadow on beginning of 2013

It was a sad start to 2013 for many as deaths, disturbances and missing people cast a shadow on New Year celebrations.

Three men, aged 48, 31 and 29, were arrested on suspicion of murder after a 21-year-old man died from a suspected stab wound outside a block of flats.

Police, who earlier attended an incident in Henley Place, London Road, Sittingbourne, Kent, returned later to find a man with a suspected stab wound.

The victim was taken to the Medway Maritime Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later, a Kent Police spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a boy of 17 and a 20-year-old man have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a confrontation which left a man fighting for his life less than three hours into the New Year.

The 28-year-old, who received a suspected stab wound to his left thigh in Windmill Road, Gillingham, Kent, was in a stable but life threatening condition in hospital.

Kent Police were called to the area at 2.50am following an alleged assault by a group of around seven people, a force spokesman said.

And there was more tragedy when the eastbound carriageway of the M27 at Hedge End in Hampshire was shut shortly after midnight between junctions five and seven following the death of a man who reportedly fell from an overhead bridge.

Rescue crews were also searching a stretch of coastline in Blackpool after a 41-year-old man, thought to be walking his dog, was swept into the sea in gale-force winds shortly after midnight.

Elsewhere, police, the coastguard and the RNLI conducted an extensive search for Jordan Cobb, 16, from Plymouth, after he was spotted jumping from the Torpoint ferry into the River Tamar last night. The search for the missing teenager resumed today.

It was a busy night for the emergency services, with some reporting a huge spike in the number of calls they received.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb), which handles 999 calls from Kent, Sussex and Surrey, took 1,544 calls between 10pm yesterday and 4am this morning - a rise of more than 20% on the same period last year.

West Midlands Ambulance Service saw its peak for 999 calls between 1am and 4am.

The service said it handled 1,291 calls between midnight and 5am, a 9% increase on the same period last year, while 638 calls were taken in the four hours leading up to midnight - a 15% rise on the same period the previous year.

A spokeswoman said a large proportion of this year's calls were for alcohol-related incidents including fights, assaults, falls and overdoses.

Four people were rescued from a river in Stourbridge after three friends tried to help a drunken teenage girl from the water after she fell down a bank just after 8pm.

In London, the Metropolitan Police said 96 arrests were made relating to the celebrations, with drunkenness, public disorder and assault being the most common offences.

About 250,000 spectators watched the stunning pyrotechnics display on the South Bank, which featured 12,500 fireworks.

Many of them waited for hours to secure the best viewpoints on the banks of the Thames on what was a dry and mild night.

They looked back at 2012, with the Olympic Games and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations featuring in the display. Mayor of London Boris Johnson described the night as "an amazing end to an incredible year".

As thousands of people gathered in the capital to see out one of its most memorable years in recent history, revellers also partied on the streets of Edinburgh - dubbed the home of Hogmanay - to welcome the new year.

British forces serving in Helmand Province rang in 2013 with pipe music and party poppers, saying goodbye to the year in which the first 500 servicemen were sent home from Afghanistan.

Celebrations continued today with the New Year's Day dip at Whitley Bay in North Tyneside, where swimmers braved the cold water to mark the beginning of 2013.

PA

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