Cadiz spill brings disaster

Cleaning up after the Amoco Cadiz oil spill

March 18-24: The supertanker Amoco Cadiz finally split in two off the coast of Brittany spilling the last of 220,000 tons of crude oil into the Channel. Pollution experts believed the spill was the worst in marine history.

After covering 70 miles of Brittany coastline there were fears the slick could destroy Jersey's beaches if the wind changed direction. An inquiry began into claims the disaster was caused by an argument over financial terms between the tanker's captain and the master of a West German tug called to the rescue after the ship's steering broke in heavy seas. During the argument the towline broke and the ship drifted on to rocks.

August 6: Pope Paul VI died in Rome and 1978 became the year of the three Popes. Paul's successor, John Paul I, was a popular and promising leader who inherited a mixed bag of Catholic fortunes. His predecessor had taken the radical step of ending the use of Latin as the sole language for celebrating Mass. Thanks, to him, the most sacred Christian ceremony was being conducted around the world in hundreds of languages and local dialects, bringing the Church ever closer to the people.

And yet Paul had not shifted an inch on one of the most controversial Catholic doctrines. In his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he firmly repeated the Church's age-old ban on artificial birth control. Would John Paul I take the same strict line? The world would never know. After a reign of only 33 days he died of a heart attack.

His successor was the first non-Italian Pope for more than 400 years, the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. He took the name John Paul II and a new era of Catholicism began.

July 25: A fair-haired girl weighed in at 5lb 12oz at Oldham General Hospital became the world's first test-tube baby. Louise Brown and mother Lesley were in excellent shape after the Caesarian birth just before midnight while dad John, not present at the 20-minute operation, was said to be over the moon. "She's beautiful, beautiful," he was told by an excited Patrick Steptoe, the man who helped pioneer the test-tube baby technique.

The Browns had wanted a child for years but having a baby in the normal way was ruled out because Mrs Brown's fallopian tubes were blocked. The birth was a triumph after 10 years of painstaking research by Mr Steptoe and Cambridge scientist Dr Robert Edwards.

Carl BridgewaterSeptember 19: Paperboy Carl Bridgewater was shot in the head at point-blank range after disturbing thieves raiding an isolated farmhouse. He died instantly from the shotgun blast in the living room at Yew Tree Farm, Prestwood, near Stourbridge. There was no sign of a struggle and the police chief leading the murder hunt called it a "completely cold-blooded killing".

The 13-year-old was found dead by a friend of the elderly couple at the farm, who were out for the day. Carl, of Ascot Gardens, Wordsley, was near the end of his evening paper round when he was shot.

His father Brian said he was late on his round because he had been to the dentist. He normally slipped a copy of the Express & Star just inside the hallway and and had two more papers to deliver after the farm.

November 29: More than 900 members of an American religious cult were found dead in the Guyanan jungle in the modern world's largest instance of mass suicide. Survivors claimed their leader the Reverend Jim Jones forced them all to drink a cyanide cocktail in an act of "revolutionary suicide". Earlier the bodies of US Congressman Leo Ryan and five others, who had been sent to investigate, were found near the campsite.


In brief

January 29: Sweden became the first country to pass a law against aerosol sprays which affect the ozone layer.

February 10: Former Crossroads actor Edward Clayton, from Eccleshall, who played Stan Harvey, turned down an offer to return. He revealed there had been bad times on the Brummie soap - "inevitable when actors are working long hours with often only a day to read a script".

April 6: Midland building tycoon Christopher Bryant went on trial at the Old Bailey denying two charges of plotting to bribe councillors or council officers - including former Birmingham city architect Alan Maudsley - over contracts.

May 9: The body of five-times Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was found dead wrapped in blankets in the back of a car in Rome. He had been shot dead by his Red Brigade captors.

July 13: Super Sandwell was the toast of Europe after a powerhouse performance that shattered the six-nation It's A Knockout opposition in Yugoslavia with the highest score by a British team in seven years. Mayor Councillor Cyril Farmer danced a lap of joy around the stadium.

August 19: Walsall soccer fan Edward Beech, aged 19, was jailed for three years for kicking a policeman in the face during a cup game at Fellows Park. The judge told him: "You and people like you have besmirched in the last few years what used to be a great English sport."

September 14: In one of the most bizarre murders ever, Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov was stabbed with a poisoned umbrella point as he waited at a London bus stop.

September 18: Historic Arab-Israeli Peace Accord was signed at Camp David.

October 27: A gunman ran amok in a West Bromwich street leaving three people dead before killing a fourth at a Nuneaton service station. He was arrested in Derbyshire after crashing into a police vehicle in Buxton following a 100mph chase.

November 4: Many bakers imposed bread rationing as a bakers' strike led to panic buying.