Victorian double as Hilditch storms to easy win

Victorian Laura-Jane Hilditch salutes after storming to victory in yesterday’s Burnie Gift.LAURA-JANE Hilditch made it a Victorian double recording a comfortable victory in the women’s gift at Burnie yesterday.
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The 22-year-old Victorian university student from Altona coached by John Henry, ran from a mark of 9.25 metres and crossed the line ahead of Canberra Australian 100m sprint champion and backmarker Melissa Breen (0.25m) with Latrobe Gift winner Carmen Oakley third from 10m.

Hilditch’s winning time for the 120m event was 13.74 seconds.

She finished third in the Latrobe Gift and was Victorian Athletic League sprinter of the year for 2010-11.

She won the Bendigo 400m Gift last year and was second in the Queanbeyan Gift.

“It was really good and I just got out and ran fast and hoped they wouldnt catch me,” she said.

“The false start didn’t affect me and I didn’t get a good start the first time so I was glad they called us back.

“I was really happy with the race _ I came second at the big gift in Canberra and this has been my goal after that so it’s good to succeed in my goal.”

Hilditch said she enjoyed the atmosphere of the Burnie Carnival with a vocal crowd and rated the victory as “up there with my best” in her first taste of Tasmanian carnival running.

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Romney `boost’ as Iowa vote nears

Mitt RomneyATLANTIC, Iowa – Republican presidential hopefuls made eleventh-hour pitches to Iowa voters, seeking a decisive “boost” over their rivals on the eve of the first contest of this year’s US election campaign.
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Mitt Romney – who portrays himself as the strongest candidate to beat President Barack Obama in November elections – has retaken a thin lead in the heartland state before Iowans cast the first ballots of the Republican nominating process tomorrow.

“I can’t tell you who’s going to win this thing,” the former Massachusetts governor said after chatting and shaking hands with scores of people in a packed diner.

“But I do believe that I’m going to have a great deal of support.”

But with four in 10 Iowans telling pollsters they could still change their minds, veteran Texas Representative Ron Paul stands within striking distance of Mr Romney. “I may come in first, I may come in second. I doubt I’ll come in third or fourth,” Mr Paul, known for anti-interventionist and libertarian views, told CNN.

And firebrand social conservative Rick Santorum’s support was surging as Iowa’s evangelical Christians, a critical Republican bloc, seemed to be rallying behind the former senator from the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

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$250,000 reward for information on Naden

MANHUNT: Heavily armed specialist police search for Malcolm Naden in Nowendoc yesterday. – Picture by Nick MoirThe reward for information leading to the arrest of fugitive Malcolm Naden has more than doubled to $250,000.
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Police minister Mike Gallacher announced this morning that the reward for information leading to the capture of Naden had more than doubled.

Mr Gallacher this morning met with Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to discuss increasing the reward.

Below, two computer-enhanced images, supplied by police, showing how Naden may now look.

For more pictures of Naden, his alleged victims and the police operation, click on the image above.

So as dawn broke on Wednesday, police must have felt their hunt was coming to an end as a small team set off on the final few metres to front fugitive Malcolm Naden as he camped just metres from a creek bed near Nowendoc, north of the Barrington Tops.

Bush experts claim Naden would have heard them coming ‘‘from miles away’’.

As he was cornered by the highly trained and heavily armed police, one Tactical Operation Unit officer was shot in the shoulder – some suggesting it could have been a ‘‘head shot’’ that missed its target – and their target was gone.

Locals estimate that, by this morning, Naden could have covered more than 100kilometres since he shot the officer. And his direction is anyone’s guess.

‘‘He could even be 150kilometres away and with the sort of terrain we are talking about, they will have Buckley’s,’’ one expert bushman, who would only be identified as a pig hunter, said yesterday.

Victim’s father’s long search for answers

Senior police now fear that they have missed their biggest chance to nab Naden, who has now shown he will shoot police if he is cornered after running on the only other occasions that he had been confronted.

It has caused many to theorise that if he is ever caught, it will not be alive.

‘‘The fear is that he knows he can now sit back and pick them off one by one,’’ one senior police officer said.

‘‘They will never get him out alive – he will either be shot or shoot himself, and there is nothing to suggest he wants to shoot himself.’’

Mick Peet, the father of missing mother Lateesha Nolan, wants Naden caught alive so he may finally have questions answered about what happened to the Dubbo woman nearly seven years ago.

‘‘We want him to have his day in court so we may finally be able to find Lateesha, the kids need to know, I need to know,’’ Mr Peet said yesterday.

Despite police denials, the Newcastle Herald continued to report last year that Naden was criss-crossing an area between Gloucester and Kempsey to evade police, identifying more than two dozen break-ins around the Barrington Tops that could be traced back to the fugitive.

He had stolen only what he needed: non-perishable food, camping equipment, warm clothing. And guns.

Although most targeted landholders have reported losing small-powered rifles such as a .22 calibre, which Naden could use to hunt without causing two much noise, the Herald understands some unregistered firearms have also been taken in the break-ins, including an SKS assault rifle.

Naden has also made countless camps throughout the bush, including what locals still believe was one on a ridge east of Scone despite police rubbishing their claims last year.

The pig hunter says they may be lucky to get close to Naden again.

‘‘He is literally a wild animal,’’ he said. ‘‘They have startled him now and he will head off and go missing again.

‘‘He could cover 30kilometres in 12 hours easy, maybe more considering the adrenalin that would be pumping through him because he knows the cops are on his tail.’’

Other landholders believe their concerns about safety have now been justified and have welcomed widespread warnings from Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to keep an eye out but not to approach Naden.

Poor weather yesterday grounded search helicopters and police were unable to access some rugged areas.

‘‘We are obviously assessing the validity of the operation regularly,’’ Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson said.

‘‘If unfortunately we don’t locate him on this occasion, I’m quite confident in the future we will locate him.’’

Police could call off the search based on several factors, including the ‘‘threats to our officers’’. This is at least the seventh time they have tried to capture him.

Mr Hudson said officers were searching specific areas Naden is believed to have frequented instead of deploying a blanket approach.

‘‘He’s totally self-reliant and very well-crafted at living off the land,’’ Mr Hudson said.

Police are prepared to shoot if Naden again uses a firearm to escape.

‘‘That’s obviously a major concern after what happened,’’ Mr Hudson said.

Naden probably shot the bulletproof vest-wearing police officer with a rifle.

His appearance is likely to be very different from that depicted in old photos.

‘‘We believe that he is very unkempt,’’ Mr Hudson said. ‘‘He has lost weight from our last visual sighting of him.’’

There’s a $100,000 reward for his capture and conviction.

Video of the press conference

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Santa might bring a devil to Hunter homes

VITAL ROLE: Scooter the Tasmanian devil at the ark in the Upper Hunter. – Picture by Jonathan CarrollLOOKING for a devil of a gift this Christmas?
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The Newcastle Herald, in partnership with the Australian Reptile Park, is launching a community campaign to raise funds for the Devil Ark conservation project.

Almost a year after it was established on a 500hectare site in the Upper Hunter, the ark is playing a vital role in ensuring the survival of the Tasmanian devil.

About 90 devils are expected to live in the sanctuary, which is free from the deadly facial tumours that have ravaged the Tasmanian populations, by the end of this year.

But while it’s good news for the devils’ future, their food and upkeep doesn’t come cheap.

It costs about $2 a day to feed a devil and $200 a year to treat it for parasites, ticks and worms. All up, it costs about $900 year to keep each devil healthy.

‘‘It’s great news that we have all these devils being born and more will be arriving from Tasmania soon, but on the other hand that impacts on our costs,’’ Devil Ark campaign manager Monique Ryan said.

A range of options can help people to support the program.

For $2000 a year you can literally adopt a devil. The package includes naming rights, plus regular updates and photos of your devil.

For those wanting to incorporate a devil’s welfare into their Christmas gift list, a devilish Christmas card might fit the bill.

‘‘The card’s recipient will receive a personalised card saying that a donation has been made on their behalf,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Companies can also make a donation instead of sending Christmas cards and we’ll provide an e-card they can send instead.’’

Support Devil Ark

www.devilark南京夜网.au or phone 1300 553 565

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Word of Mouth: Al Gators

LET’S DO LUNCH: Ian Markwell works his magic at Al Gators in Newcastle East. – Picture by Ryan OslandIt is 2.30 on a sunny Monday afternoon and the phone at Newcastle East eatery Al Gators is persistently ringing. Owner Ian Markwell sits down at one of the six small tables to eat a quick lunch of some hot chips and a sandwich while co-worker Kerry Irwin – ‘‘Her husband’s name is Steve’’ – answers the phone.
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Markwell has been here since 5.30am chopping up vegies for the salad bar and crumbing chicken schnitzels, which are the star ingredient in the popular Mexican chicken burger that also features melted cheese, salsa and guacamole – the perfect hangover salve.

But Al Gators’ loyal customers, who include police, surfies, barristers, office workers, and fluorescent-shirted tradies, prefer Greek and falafel rolls this early in the week. My favourite is the jaw-expanding vegie burger featuring an array of salads, salsa and a fried patty. Markwell’s stepson Shane Davis, who has worked with him for the past 20 years, is charged with making the patties, which consist of ‘‘vegies, oats and a few sauces’’.

Everything except the seasoned beer-battered chips, pies and sausage rolls is made on site.

Markwell’s interest in serving vegetarian food harks back to the 1980s when he owned Cafe Gritz on Darby Street, before moving on to Eccles in the Civic Arcade and Al Gators’ early incarnation, Crusties, which was around the corner on Hunter Street.

‘‘We had to change the name from Crusties because it wasn’t registered,’’ Markwell recalls. ‘‘I saw a crazy T-shirt in Hawaii advertising Al Gators Cajun Cafe San Francisco. It had a picture of an alligator smoking a cigar – I’ve still got the original at home – and I thought it was funny.’’

Markwell, who is 68 on New Year’s Eve, has observed the transformation of Newcastle’s food scene since opening his first establishment, the Coffee Urn, in Cooks Hill in 1982. Back then, Darby Street had perennial favourite The Bistro, Taco Bills, a hamburger joint and a steakhouse. Thai food was yet to make an appearance and the takeaway food explosion was still on the horizon.

Tastes have changed and Darby Street has been transformed.

‘‘I like the vegetarian stuff – it’s what I eat myself – but you can’t make a living out of just vegetarian food now,’’ Markwell, who taught himself to cook because his mother couldn’t, says. ‘‘We also used to do hot food – pasta and curries – but there was a change of clientele so you go with the flow. You serve up what people want.’’

The inner-city apartment boom has been great for business, with construction workers and other tradies lining up out the door for the 10 o’clock morning tea break, though since the completion of The Royal development, the once brisk weekday breakfast trade has dropped off.

Markwell, who also employs a third assistant, Chriss Cross, works six days a week, taking just a couple of weeks’ holiday a year. It’s for this reason the business, and the two-storey building he also owns, is for sale. He has already knocked back one offer because ‘‘they were going to come in and change everything’’, and will only sell to ‘‘the right person’’.

He’s been thinking about slowing down for a while; he’d like to finish work on his house.

If he doesn’t get the right offer, Markwell will consider winding back his shifts to just three days a week next year, though customers are crying out on Facebook for extended opening hours, including Sundays.

For someone who has always responded to the desires of customers, Markwell is clearly in a bind.

Rosemarie Milsom

Al Gators, 12 Pacific Street, Newcastle East. Phone 49291386. Open Monday to Saturday for breakfast and lunch.

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Two critical after mushroom poisoning

CANBERRA – Two people hospitalised in Canberra after eating poisonous mushrooms at the weekend remain in a critical condition and were yesterday en route to a Sydney facility for treatment.
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A third person who was with them was being treated at Canberra Hospital.

The trio, who cannot be named, went to Calvary Hospital on New Year’s Day after becoming ill from eating death cap mushrooms, a spokesman for ACT Health said yesterday.

Two of the three were in a critical condition and were yesterday being transferred to a Sydney facility.

The third, whose condition has not been disclosed, was taken to Canberra Hospital from Calvary Hospital.

A spokesman for Calvary Hospital said admissions involving mushroom poisoning were rare.

ACT Health said death cap mushrooms were usually found in Canberra in autumn, near oak trees, but recent summer rain had encouraged their growth.

Fully grown versions have silky smooth caps, and the colour varies from white to greenish-brown.

Michael Hall, director of Canberra Hospital’s emergency department, said: “The gills are white – unlike the pink or brown gills of the common field mushroom.”

He said people should not eat any mushrooms unless certain that they were not poisonous.

In the past decade, there have been three fatalities associated with death cap mushrooms in the ACT.

In the same period, there have been around a dozen reported cases of poisoning.

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Emotional wheel win

An ecstatic Jake McMahon raises his arms in delight after streeting the field to win yesterday’s Burnie Wheel at West Park.JAKE McMahon was an appropriate winner of a Burnie Wheel named in memory of fellow Launceston rider Will Robinson.
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The teenager has been staying at the Robinson family’s caravan at Ulverstone to contest this week’s carnivals series and said it was as special to receive the Will Robinson Memorial Trophy as it was the $6000 first prize.

Robinson won the Burnie Wheel in 2010 but died in a training accident later that year.

“You have no idea how much this means to me, it just means a helluva lot and I’m so stoked,” McMahon said.

“I only got a chance to ride home with Will a couple of times and did not know him too well but I’ve become good friends with Tom and James so it’s so special that this is in memory of their brother.”

The 17-year-old Pure Tasmania rider established the biggest winning margin in the event’s 95-year history having started the 3000-metre event off 210m and was swift to thank his coach Jamie Perry and team manager Nigel Baker.

The carnival’s only two scratchmen, Ben Kersten, of New South Wales, and Swiss Franco Marvulli, both made the final and worked with German Marcel Barth to get into contention.

Four-time world track champion Marvulli led the pack home in second but was barely within direct sight of McMahon. Tasmanian Tim Walker, who started alongside the winner off 210m, finished third.

“We had a lot of good backmarkers coming at us so I’m stoked to hold on to the win,” McMahon said.

“I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure I had it won. I had to double-check before I put the arms up in the air.”

Asked what he would do with his winnings, he added: “My mum will probably make me put it in the bank.”

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Ross return is on track

FORMER Australian 100-metre sprint champion, Athens Olympian and dual Stawell and Burnie gift winner Joshua Ross was run out in the semi-finals of yesterday’s men’s gift but gained some consolation by winning the backmarkers invitation 120m.
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Running from the scratch mark where he won the 2004 and 2007 Burnie gifts, Ross put in an impressive run to beat home Hobart’s Charlie Leek (5m) and Victorian Chris Hargreaves as he continues his comeback to athletics, chasing a London Olympics berth.

Bruny Island school teacher Michelle Davis earned her seventh victory of the Tasmanian Athletic League season with a great run to win the women’s 400m handicap.

Running from the frontmark of 36m she beat home South Australian Claire Ashman (35m) and Victorian Stephanie Mollicka (18m) in a time of 53.08.

Launceston’s Andrew Robinson continued his good form to win the men’s 400m with a strong run from a mark of 28m.

Robinson won the Latrobe Gift last Tuesday over 120m and gained his fourth victory of the season.

He beat home Hobart’s Max Waldron who was the backmarker off 15m and the ACT’s Tom Burbridge (18m).

In other results, Victorian runner John Hilditch took out the 90m open handicap from Highclere’s Edward Gates and South Australian Tom Sclander.

The Encourage 1600m handicap was won by the Mick McKenna-trained Kade Seaman from South Australian Ryan Hage and Burnie’s Damon Overton.

Burnie’s Daniel Reeve backed up from his Devonport Gift win to take out the Tasmanian 1600m handicap.

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