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Family’s pledge to keep fighting for justice

The family of a north Norfolk man who died in suspicious circumstances while working in Africa insist they won’t stop fighting for justice, despite repeated knock-backs from the authorities.

MP Duncan Baker recently wrote to the Foreign Office about the unresolved case of Dr Ding Col Dau Ding, who lived in Cromer.

The British national was killed at the age of 39 while practising medicine in South Sudan in October 2015. The authorities there initially said he had taken his own life, but his family quickly poked holes in that theory, and urged the UK government to investigate.

But since then, they say they have received little help, despite multiple attempts to get the government to intervene.

Mr Baker’s predecessor, Norman Lamb, first raised the matter with then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, but that went nowhere, his family said.

Mr Baker asked a question about the matter in the House of Commons in 2021, before sending a further request for information to the government last month.

Dr Ding’s brother, Dr Dau Ding – who is also from Norfolk and works in the UK – has vowed that he “will not fail to get justice”, but added: “I feel very angry. I am very bitter about it all.

“The UK government have not taken this issue seriously at all. That is the main thing that has made me angry.

“They are not being straight with me. They have been evasive and opaque.

“At worst, that has been intentional because of some ill-conceived diplomacy within the Foreign Office; at best, it has been because of incompetence.”

The latest attempt by Mr Baker to raise the issue with the government has led to a reply from Andrew Mitchell, minster for Africa.

He said: “I recognise that this continues to be a distressing time for Dr Ding and I appreciate his frustration that we have not yet received a response from the South Sudanese minister of foreign affairs regarding his brother’s case.”

Dr Ding’s brother is convinced the murder has been covered up because of political connections his family has in the country.

“I now know who killed my brother and why they did it,” he said.

“But more importantly, I now know why there has been an extensive attempt to sweep my brother’s murder under the carpet by the South Sudanese government. It is political.”

Despite the official ruling that the death was a suicide, he says there is plenty of evidence pointing instead to murder.

He said there was no gun in his brother’s hand, he had been shot from behind, and there was no blood splatter at the scene.

Threats had been made against him previously, and CCTV recordings of the property appeared to have been removed.

Before Mr Baker’s most recent intervention, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the responsibility for investigating deaths abroad belonged to the local authorities.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “We provided assistance to the family of a British man who died in South Sudan and were in contact with the local authorities.”

When asked what British nationals should do if they encountered resistance or a lack of co-operation from authorities overseas, the FCDO said it had no further comment.

Dr Ding Col Dau Ding attended Aylsham High School and Paston Sixth Form College before going to university at Bristol and Oxford, where he got a PhD in neuroscience, before returning to Bristol to train as a medical doctor.

Mr Baker’s office said that he would not comment publicly on the grounds that it was a constituency “casework inquiry”.

The South Sudanese embassy in London has been contacted for comment.

Adam Aiken

Make a date for Christmas switch-on

The date for the great Christmas lights switch-on has been set and preparations are already in full swing.

The event always draws crowds from the town and further afield to enjoy the parade, live music and fireworks, as well as the highlight – the pantomime horse race.

This year the festive period in Holt will kick off on Friday, November 17, with the party starting at 6pm.

There will be live music in front of the War Memorial on Market Place to get things started, followed by thousands of twinkling lights being turned on.

Nigel Hadlow, from Love Holt, co-ordinators of the event, said: “This Christmas, Holt is delivering Christmas lights, a switch-on event, a town-wide marketing campaign, a Christmas window competition, two Christmas-themed Sunday markets and more because we know how important this time of year is for businesses and the community.

“Holt’s businesses have shown extraordinary resilience over the past three years to weather the pandemic, the impact of Brexit and now the inflation and cost-of-living crisis.

“Given all the uncertainty businesses and their staff still face, we want to provide as much support and sparkle as possible this year, not least because Christmas is such a crucial time for so many of our shops, restaurants, charities, pubs, cafés and attractions.

“We are looking forward to seeing the town begin to sparkle on November 17 to mark the start of the festive season.”

Full details of the event will be released nearer the time.

Rare film of dolphins off our coast

North Norfolk photographer Chris Taylor captured the film of a lifetime when he got this amazing clip of bottlenose dolphins off the coast.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGCzqc5mXtFcCeZeDgHRBQA

“I was lucky enough to film a pod of eight to 10 bottlenose dolphins swimming very close to the  shore at West Runton,” he said. “I was flying the drone doing some filming when I noticed splashing all around the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority rib.  On flying closer I realised it was bottlenose dolphins.”

The dolphns following the EIFCA boat along the coast. Picture: Christaylorphoto.co.uk

One of the crew on the rib told him that the dolphins had first approached them off Blakeney and then followed them to Cley for around an hour.

“The dolphins later rejoined the boat when they were off West Runton and continued to swim around the boat and follow them for another 30-40 minutes,” said Chris.

Lucy’s our Barbie girl

Before Margot Robbie stepped out of a pair of pink high-heeled slippers or sat in Barbie’s iconic pink sports car, Lucy Scarfe had done it first.

As a stand-in for the actress in this summer’s blockbuster, Barbie, Lucy helped the film crew to get the perfect looks for the main character and to rehearse scenes so the leading lady would know where to stand, walk, dance – and fall over.

“I tried on lots of bikinis, lots of dresses, a lot of iconic Barbie outfits from over the years to see what they would look like on camera,” said Lucy, a former pupil at Sheringham High School. “I must have tried more than 100 potential Barbie outfits and a lot of wigs!”

She was also used to develop the perfect tan for all the Barbies — and the Kens.

“They ended up mixing lots together to get one with a plasticky look with some pink in – the dancers had to come in early to have it put on every day.”

Work started back in January 2022 and it was a far cry from the job she had as a teenager – a Saturday girl at Budgens supermarket in Holt.

“A lot of people will remember me from there,” said Lucy, who also went to Holt Primary School. “I’m a Holt girl and my mum still lives in Hempstead.

“It was during my time here that I developed a love for the performing arts. I started taking dance classes after school at Marlene’s School of Dance in Cromer and also evening acting classes at the Sheringham Little Theatre.

“I then moved to London to find more opportunities in TV and film.”

Since then Lucy, who is now 36, has worked as a stand-in for actors Anne Hathaway (in Les Miserables and The Hustle), Emma Stone (in Cruella), Daisy Ridley (In Murder On The Orient Express), Elle Fanning (in Maleficent), Kate Hudson (in Glass Onion) and Millie Bobby Brown (in Enola Holmes).

And while she is never seen on screen, she said she loved doing her job. “There is only a small number of people who do what I do, and once you establish yourself you know you can get regular work.

“You get to work with some crazy famous people and you get used to that very quickly. In a couple of days they are just part of the team.”

A lot of her work is through word of mouth and it was her work in Enola Holmes that led to the offer of the Barbie role.

“I’m always in the background,” she said. “A lot of my family say ‘What are we going to see you in?’ I always tell them they won’t, unless they recognise me when I am doubling.”

In this role she did not act as Margot’s body double which, she says, was just as well, having rehearsed the already famous scene where Barbie steps out of her shoes and her feet stay in shape.

“Margot was perfect for Barbie,” she said. “And she has the nicest feet. Much nicer than mine!”

Apart from a week filming outside in LA, the movie was shot in the Warner Brothers studios in Watford, with proper Dream Houses.

“I thought it would all be green screen but they built all the main set and the attention to detail was amazing. We had some children come round to see it and it was so funny to see their faces. It was the sweetest thing.”

When filming started, Lucy stood in to test the lighting and camera angles so Margot knew where she needed to be to complete the take.

“Margot was always so friendly and fun to be around, and so was Ryan Gosling who played Ken,” she said.

And while Lucy loves all her work, she said the Barbie role was something very special.

“As a child I played with a pink Barbie car so when I was asked to drive Barbie’s 1956 Corvette for rehearsals it was a dream come true! There was never a dull day on set – it often didn’t feel like work!”

Her next job is working on Paddington 3 – but she said she won’t be modelling duffel coats as she is a stand-in for Olivia Colman.

And while she did go to the premiere of Barbie, Lucy has an even more special showing to go to – with her mum.

“She hasn’t seen it yet and I am really looking forward to it.”

Soprano takes centre stage

A Wroxham-based soprano will be taking centre stage at a special concert in Norwich at the weekend.

Katalin Prentice will be the soloist with the Pakefield singers when they present Glory and Grandeur, a concert for organs and choir, and featuring anthems including Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer and Buxtehude’s Toccata in F as well as works by Mozart and Mascagni.

“I feel honoured to be invited to sing the soprano solos with the Pakefield Singers under the direction of conductor Vetta Wise and to be a part of this truly magnificent musical project,” said Katalin, who is Hungarian and has lived in the UK for 11 years and in Wroxham since 2015.

A dentist by profession, she stopped working when pregnant with her first daughter – she now has two – and said classical music and singing has always been her passion.

“Shortly after I moved to the United Kingdom I started vocal training with Nan Christie in London, and soon after relocating to Norfolk I met my lovely singing teacher, Vetta Wise, who has been guiding me on my musical journey ever since,” she said. “With her help and support in 2017 I completed the one-year opera course at the Associated Studios Performing Arts Academy in London, gaining a diploma in opera singing. In 2019 I finished my Trinity College ATCL Performers diploma with distinction.”

Complications with both her pregnancies took their toll and she said it has taken her a while to retrain her voice, but she has now been chosen for this important role at St Peter Mancroft on Saturday night.

She also recently took part in two international competitions, winning an honourable mention at Odin International Music Competition and the Grand Prix at the Alpin Triglav 2021 International Music, Dance and Fine Art Competition.

“As a result of winning the competition in July 2022 I performed at the prize winners’ gala concert in one of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, the Crystal Hall in Rogaška Slatina (Slovenia) representing the United Kingdom,” said Katalin.

The concert is at 7pm and tickets are £12.50, under-16s free. Tickets can be bought on the door or from www.ticketsource.co.uk/pakefield-singers

Debut garden is a golden wonder

Their very first Chelsea Flower Show garden has won Holt garden designers Joe and Laura Carey an RHS Gold medal – the highest achievable award.

The pair started designing gardens only in 2020 but their debut at the UK’s flagship show also resulted in a Best In Show award in their category.

“We were so pleased with the result, especially as we created this garden with many who have become friends – all of whom have worked so incredibly hard over the past year,” said Joe.

“We had a great build process, with most things running smoothly.

“We were able to keep our ‘Norfolk Calm’ throughout the whole process and we really enjoyed ourselves (we hope to be back soon!)”

The garden – representing Talitha Arts, a charity offering help for mental health and trauma through art – featured hundreds of porcelain butterflies emerging from a stone chrysalis.

The butterflies were made by Japanese ceramicist Naoko Tagai and the chrysalis by Norfolk-based carver Teucer Wilson.

The carefully chosen plants were grown and taken care of by local nurseries, and the couple said they had lots of support locally.

This extended to the team at Byfords who sent cakes and sausage rolls to keep the workforce going strong throughout the long days as the garden was built.

“Every element came together and the response from the public was amazing,” said Joe. “We had many people coming to the garden wanting to share their own experiences of how the creative arts helped them to deal with a personal trauma.”

They even had visits from celebrities including comedian Bill Bailey and actress Tamsin Grieg, who were keen to express how the arts plays a vital role in mental health and wellbeing.

“We were also visited by Akshata Murthy, the prime minister’s wife, who wanted to learn more about the charity and good cause behind the design itself.” 

And with so much local input, Norfolk visitors found plenty to connect them to the garden.

“Many of them had been following the story and each person could find a connection to someone they knew who had helped, made or grown something for the garden,” said Joe.

The garden will now be on permanent display at St Margaret’s House community centre in Bethnal Green, London.

Sheringham Goes Potty

Sheringham is gearing up for a great weekend of fun from June 30 to July 2 as the preparations continue for the annual Potty Festival – a celebration of Morris Dancing and Folk Music, which has taken place in the town for the last 30 years.  Named after Sheringham’s “Lobster Potties” Morris side, the weekend will see 35 sides dancing all around town, showcasing some fantastic outfits and skills.  Dancing will follow the various Morris forms including Molly, Rapper, Mummers, Cotswold, North West and Welsh Border.

The whole town comes alive for this festival of fun, with the 2018 Festival seeing a Guinness world record of 369 dancers dancing together – a spectacular sight.

Folk sessions will run at Holt Rugby Club, where many sides are staying, on Friday and Saturday night – just turn up and listen or play! A singaround has also been arranged at the Little Theatre in Sheringham from 8pm on Friday.

The Sheringham Shantymen will also be performing at Lifeboat Plain and at the Lobster Pub on Saturday to add to the excitement.

On Saturday, the dancing will be at 11 venues throughout the town, commencing with a grand parade at 10am, and dancing finishing at 5.30pm.  On Sunday, four venues will see more activity from 10.30 to 2pm.

For further information, please contact Chairman Tony Chadwick on pottymorrisfest@btinternet.com or 07766163837.

Enjoy a dog day afternoon

May 1 will be a BARK holiday this year as pooches will be going on parade at the Overstrand Fun Dog Show.

It’s time to dust off your best collar and put your best paw forward for the highlight of the north Norfolk canine calendar.

Each year more people and their dogs arrive at the Sea Marge Hotel for 12 classes including waggiest tail, look-alike, best rescue, and scruffiest/fluffiest. The Best Village Dog wins the Mickey Sewell Perpetual Cup, named after the show’s original organiser.

Contestants from last year’s show.

There’s also an agility course, stalls, a raffle and cakes and the hotel bar and restaurant will be open.

Dog show regular and helper Paul Cullen said: “It’s a fabulous day out for both dogs and their owners. It’s not Crufts but the competition is fierce. Last year, there were more than 170 dogs and the event raised £1,100 for the village.

“Everyone is welcome to attend: mutts, mongrels, pups, hounds, and pedigrees. You can also bring your dog.”

Classes include a lookalike competition.

The show was started in 2015 by villager Mickey Sewell in collaboration with Overstrand Together, which helps organise events and activities in the village.

Registration starts at 1pm, with the first class at 2pm. General admission is free and each class costs £1 to enter.

Event organiser Bruce Stratton said: “This is great day out for all the family and lots of fun for everyone. All money raised goes back into the Overstrand Together village fund. We hope to see lots of wonderful dogs and their owners here for the Bank Holiday.”