BBC One

Traditional carols and joyful festive music will be at the heart of Religion and Ethics programming across BBC television and radio this Christmas.

Classical music stars including Russell Watson, Katherine Jenkins, Hayley Westenra and Howard Goodall’s Enchanted Voices, will join with choirs and congregations to celebrate and rejoice in the birth of Jesus and all the yuletide festivities.

For the first time on Christmas Day afternoon, BBC Two broadcasts an hour-long special, Carols From Winchester, providing the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind while enjoying some of the best-loved Christmas carols and classical Christmas music.

On BBC radio, Christmas highlights include BBC Radio 4’s exploration of one of our best-loved carols, Good King Wenceslas, in Sunday Worship. On the feast of St Stephen, the programme travels to Prague to reflect on the story of one of Europe’s most beneficent kings – Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia. 

Speaking about the programmes, Aaqil Ahmed, Head of Religion and Ethics and Commissioning Editor for Religion Television, says: “I’m delighted that the BBC’s religious programming this Christmas is as much a part of the festive season as ever, with the wonderful new addition of Carols From Winchester on Christmas Day afternoon. From Joan Bakewell discussing belief with guests including Bonnie Greer and Chris Patten on BBC Radio 3 to Aled Jones introducing a festive sing-along from the Royal Albert Hall on BBC One on Boxing Day, the BBC provides something for everyone this Christmas.”

 

Christmas highlights across the BBC include: 


BBC One

Christmas preparations start on BBC One on Sunday mornings during Advent with the return of Fern Britton Meets… the series in which Fern talks to four people in the public eye about how their personal faith has impacted their lives. This year Fern will talk to June Brown, who rose to fame as gossipy Dot Cotton in EastEnders; celebrity cook and champion of the countryside, Clarissa Dickson Wright; American civil rights campaigner, the Reverend Jesse Jackson; and evergreen singer and now vineyard owner, Sir Cliff Richard.

Also during Advent, Songs Of Praise will countdown to Christmas with four special programmes: on Advent Sunday, Pam Rhodes introduces festive hymns from a candlelit Derby Cathedral. The second Songs Of Praise programme for Advent sees Aled Jones gets into the Christmas spirit, as he is joined by choirs across Yorkshire to explore the story of some of the most popular Christmas Carols. The following week, Aled invites his Christmas guests – Sharon Corr, Paul Carrack and Beverley Knight – to perform some of  their favourite festive songs. And on the Sunday before Christmas it is back to 1910 as Pam Rhodes turns the clock back 100 years to experience an Edwardian Christmas.

BBC One welcomes in Christmas with a live broadcast of the service of Midnight Mass from Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral – the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. The Celebrant is the Archbishop of Liverpool, The Most Reverend Patrick Kelly KCHS STL PhL, who will also give the homily.

On Christmas Day morning, the service will come live from Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, with the story of the Nativity reflected within the Anglican Eucharist.

Later in the evening there will be a quiet moment of reflection in Christmas Night, as actor Paterson Joseph reads from St John’s Gospel and The Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields performs O Holy Night.

Aled Jones will introduce a special Boxing Day Big Sing from London’s Royal Albert Hall as 5,000 voices come together for a festive singalong of favourite carols and Christmas music. The “people’s tenor”, Russell Watson, Howard Goodall’s Enchanted Voices and best-selling international soprano Hayley Westenra will perform in front of the packed auditorium.

On New Years Day, BBC One will broadcast the Archbishop of Canterbury’s annual New Year’s Message.

 

BBC Two

In week before Christmas, The Private Life Of A Christmas Masterpiece explores The Adoration of the Christ Child by Filippo Lippi. Painted over five centuries ago, Filippo Lippi’s nativity is like no other – the birth of Christ in a dark, wooded wilderness.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, BBC Two presents Carols From Kings which, for many, heralds the true start of Christmas. The service opens with a single choir boy starting the carol Once In Royal David’s City. He is joined by the world-famous choir to sing favourite Christmas music and carols old and new. As darkness falls, the blue tones of sparkling mediaeval stained glass give way to the warmth of candlelight to create a unique atmosphere in which the Christmas story is told in the well-loved words of the King James’ Bible and reflected on in other readings read by members of the College.

In contrast to the sense of anticipation of Carols From Kings, Carols From Winchester, broadcast for the first time this year on Christmas Day, joyfully and triumphantly celebrates the birth of Jesus. There will be special performances from mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu.

BBC Radio has a range of programmes for all tastes this Christmas, from the traditional worship to thought provoking interviews and features.

Following tonight’s edition of Imagine on BBC One at 10.35pm, Ai Weiwei – Without Fear Or Favour, viewers are invited to partake in a live online chat with China’s most creatively provocative artist at his home in Beijing.

The online Q&A will take place on Tuesday 16 November between 11.30pm-12.00midnight.

Hosted by Alan Yentob, the online Q&A will be a unique opportunity for viewers to pose their questions to the artist who, earlier last week, made national headlines when he was placed under house arrest by Chinese authorities.

Viewers will be able to submit questions at bbc.co.uk/imagine from 11.30pm, or by using #bbcimagine on Twitter.

The relative anonymity in Britain of Ai Weiwei, who is unquestionably the most famous contemporary artist in China, came to an abrupt end after he was invited to exhibit in the vast Turbine Hall at Tate Modern this autumn.

Imagine explores the private life and personal passions that have shaped Weiwei’s expansive career as an artistic social activist.

Alan joins Ai as the artist oversees the installation of his work and speaks to Ai’s team of technicians that have helped to turn the artist’s vision into a reality.

BBC Inside Out will feature a previously unbroadcast interview with the late Delia Derbyshire – the woman who created the iconic Doctor Who theme tune – on Monday 15 November on BBC One at 7.30pm.

In this episode, excerpts of Derbyshire’s interview will be heard – which were originally recorded in the late-Nineties by BBC Radio Scotland’s John Cavanagh but never broadcast before.

In the interview she reveals that one of the primary influences on her music, including Doctor Who, were the abstract sounds she heard as a child during the Coventry blitz.

Inside Out also features previously unseen footage of Delia later in life at a Doctor Who fan convention.

In the programme, BBC Radio 2 presenter Stuart Maconie looks at her career and explores why the woman herself remains a mystery despite her work influencing the world of electronic music, including Pink Floyd and today’s modern dance acts – because, in 1963, hardly anyone outside of avant garde music circles and academia knew electronic music even existed.

But, 47 years on, the Doctor Who theme is probably the most famous piece of electronic music in the world.

Now, her lost recordings, discovered in her attic after her death, are being lovingly restored by the University of Manchester.

BBC Inside Out explores how Delia revolutionised pop music and why she turned her back on music and disappeared. Stuart begins his journey in war-torn Coventry, where Delia grew up, and follows her journey to the Radiophonic Workshop at the BBC. He talks to a range of people, including the man who invented the infamous sound of the Tardis, Brian Hodgson.

Also uncovered in this episode is the revelation that Delia composed music for an astonishing number of landmark programmes of the day, with the original Doctor Who theme being just a small part of Delia’s massive output whose style was described in her own words.

Delia says: “Well, the first stage in the realisation of a piece of music is to construct the individual sounds that we are going to use. we can build up any sound we could possibly imagine almost.

“We spend quite a lot of time to invent new sounds, sounds that don’t exist already, ones that can’t be produced by musical instruments.”

As Stuart explains, it was the theme that changed the world and the very first time the public had heard electronic music so who was the person behind it and why was she so important?

He says: “Everyone knows the Doctor Who theme – most of us here have grown up with it. But the techniques developed by one woman to make it have changed the shape and sound of modern music for ever. But the woman herself remains a mystery.”

In a programme to be shown on BBC One in the North West on Monday 15 November at 7.30pm, BBC Inside Out investigates claims that a Merseyside man misled investors in the search for buried treasure.

Investors from across the North West bankrolled a salvage expedition off the coast of Anglesey but, several months later, the project ran out of money and there was no sign of any gold. Inside Out looks into the role of the project leader, Joe McCormack.

From Liverpool, he has spent the past 30 years scouring the seas in search of sunken treasure but has he deliberately misled investors or is he simply a man obsessed with having a boy’s own adventure?

The programme speaks to investors who feel they have been lied to – one of whom alleges he was told by McCormack that he could make up to a million pounds.

The shipwreck in question is said to be one of the ships which was lost without trace in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fleeing the English. Purported to be laden with gold, McCormack’s plan was to get a diving team together, excavate the ship and bring home the treasure. The start of the dive was considered to be of such historic significance that the media came out in force.

McCormack got a team of investors together to finance the project and, while it is well known that the coast of Anglesey is littered with wrecks, he produced a vital piece of “evidence” that had convinced them to put money in.

The evidence in question is a ring seal McCormack claimed his son found on the seabed and which, investors say, they were led to believe belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. On his website, Maritime Resurgence, McCormack claims the ring seal has been authenticated by the “Museum of Scotland”.

But the programme contacted The National Museum of Scotland who told them there is no evidence that the seal belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. And, they say they did not authenticate the ring seal as belonging to any “time, period, owner or location.”

In a statement to the programme, The National Museum of Scotland said: “The comments on the Maritime Resurgence website do not set out the full context of our original correspondence with Mr McCormack. We do not endorse the content of this website and will be writing to ask that any misleading references to us are removed.”

Richard Holland, a doctor of genetics from Southport, not only put his own money into the exploration he also convinced nine other friends and family to do the same to a total of £70,000. He says: “He (McCormack) was very convincing about the project. It was going to reinvigorate the area around Holyhead. There was going to be a major documentary about the project that we were on and there was going to be a book published as well.”

Inside Out emailed McCormack telling him the Museum of Scotland hadn’t dated the ring seal. He emailed back conceding that the seal’s date could not be 100 per cent proven. But he also said given what was found, and where, he still believed it to be original and supported his theory that the ring seal was used by the crew of a ship to prove to the Scots they were allies of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

He added that a small number of investors “had an axe to grind” against him but he declined to be interviewed for the programme.

So, were the investors misled or were they naïve in their quest to make a killing? As retired marine archaeologist Michael Bowyer says: “If you buy any shares on the stock market you consult a stock broker… and who did they consult when they invested this money in Joe McCormack? They didn’t go to any serious maritime historians or archaeologists, it was just on what Joe McCormack had told them.”

Inside Out can be seen on BBC One in the North West on Monday 15 November at 7.30pm.

Viewers outside the North West can view the programme on digital channel 978 or at bbc.co.uk/iplayer.

A documentary to screen on BBC One in the North East & Cumbria next Monday 18 October will see how a Penrith man with cystic fibrosis defied the odds to take part in a national body building competition.

Earlier this year, Jonny Simpson, aged 23, became the first person with the condition to enter a body building competition and achieved a third-place trophy at the National Athletics Committee Bodybuilding competition in Manchester – describing it as “one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

Jonny was born with cystic fibrosis – a chronic genetic condition which clogs the lungs with sticky mucus and makes it difficult to put on weight. As well as a twice-daily nebuliser, Jonny takes about 40 tablets a day.

It was only a few years ago that, as a teenager, he rebelled against his treatment, became seriously ill and, in his own words, “sunk to the bottom”.

“I was always too depressed to make any plans – every time I looked in mirror all I saw was this sick person that I didn’t want to be.”

His medical support team told him that unless he took action and turned things around that his future looked uncertain.

Looking at old pictures of himself as an underweight teenager, Jonny says: “I always strive to be the exact opposite of this now because this is my worst nightmare.”

Now an avid gym goer, and a healthy 11 stone (approx 70 kgs), in May this year Jonny married his American girlfriend, Miranda. She also has cystic fibrosis and had a double lung transplant in January this year.

Jonny has regular check-ups to make sure he’s keeping his condition at bay. Altogether, he’s spent at least two years of his life in hospital but his lung function is better than it’s been in years.

“Jonny’s doing very well,” says his consultant at the RVI, Dr Stephen Bourke. “I think it’s mainly due to his positive attitude – he’s really focused on his lungs and treatment.”

After his big success in Manchester, he says, “The dream doesn’t necessarily have to be bodybuilding – it’s just chase your dreams because you have one life and you’ve got to live it.”

Jonny will feature on BBC Inside Out (North East & Cumbria) on Monday, 18 October at 7.30pm – which will also be available nationally on BBC iPlayer.

Case Histories and Young James are the two latest BBC One dramas that will be filmed and set in Scotland, announced today by Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, Drama Commissioning.

Both dramas represent a major part of next year’s drama story on BBC One and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to reflect the diversity of audiences all over the UK.

Case Histories is a six-part series adapted from Kate Atkinson’s compelling mysteries. At the heart of these stories is private investigator Jackson Brodie, who will be played by Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The Patriot).

A complex and compulsive detective surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel disparate case histories. The series will be filmed and set in modern Edinburgh, and is produced by Ruby Films for BBC One.

Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One says: “Case Histories is an exciting opportunity to bring contemporary adaptation to BBC One. I am delighted we will be bringing Kate Atkinson’s books to the screen.”

Young James is a 3×60′ drama inspired by the true story of how the world’s most famous vet, “James Herriot”, came to learn his trade in Scotland. Drawing on an amazing archive and exclusive access to the diaries and case notes he kept during his student days in Glasgow, as well as the biography written by his son.

Jay Hunt continues: “The chance to bring the story of the real James Herriot alive for a BBC One audience that grew up with All Creatures Great And Small was irresistible.”

Co-created by Johnny Byrne and Kate Croft, Johnny sadly died two years ago but it was their shared dream to bring this show to the screen. Filmed and set in Glasgow and made by Koco Drama, this is the first commission for Shed Media’s new drama company.

Ben Stephenson says: “Alongside Single Father, starring David Tennant, and BBC Three’s Lip Service, these two new commissions show Anne Mensah’s BBC Scotland drama department’s commitment to exploring Scotland on the screen in an exciting and entertaining way.”

Both dramas were commissioned by Jay Hunt, Controller BBC One, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, and will transmit on BBC One in 2011.

 

A deaf girl witnesses a murder… The Silence – a new four-part thriller for BBC One.

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Edwards (introducing Genevieve Barr) has recently been fitted with a cochlear implant, enabling her to hear, but she struggles to accept that she has a place in the hearing world.

Breaking free from her over-protective parents (Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville), she goes to stay with her party-loving cousins, homicide detective uncle, Jim (Douglas Henshall) and vibrant aunt, Maggie (Dervla Kirwan).

But when Amelia witnesses the audacious murder of a policewoman, she is reluctantly propelled further into a loud and frightening world.

Jim is assigned the case and, when Amelia identifies a police officer on the drugs squad as one of the killers, he urgently needs to protect his niece. If his colleagues find out what she has witnessed, she will be in extreme danger from the very people with whom he works. By keeping her a secret, however, he will jeopardise his own position in the force and put his whole family at risk.

The Silence is about an ordinary family thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The teenagers’ partying lifestyles and casual drug-taking collide with Jim’s investigation, and all their lives are hurled into a cacophony of police corruption, betrayal, drugs and murder.

This is the first major role for severely deaf actress Genevieve Barr, who won the coveted role of Amelia while on the Teach First scheme, teaching in a challenging inner-London secondary school. A graduate of Edinburgh University, Genevieve has also filmed the sitcom pilot Comedy Showcase – The Amazing Dermot.

The Silence is the first UK project for Australian writer Fiona Seres, who’s cv boasts acclaimed Australian dramas Tangle, Dangerous, Love My Way and The Surgeon.

Producer Eleanor Greene says: “The Silence began as a gem of an idea in a café in Berwick Street Market and our transatlantic script development ended up with Fiona upping sticks and moving her family and life to the UK.

“When casting, it was hugely important to find the right dynamics for the families because, though The Silence is a thriller, it’s primarily a family drama. That we have ended up with such a stellar cast is testament to the quality of writing and we are very proud to have the fantastic Emmy Award-winning director Dearbhla Walsh at the helm.”

BBC One’s Polly Hill says: “The Silence is a compelling thriller but at its heart is the story of Amelia, a young deaf girl thrust into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable hearing world and unwittingly into a police investigation.

“It was really important that we cast an actress who was not only the best person for the role but could also bring authenticity and diversity to the part. Genevieve Barr promises to be wonderful as Amelia.

“It’s testament to Fiona’s beautiful scripts that they have attracted a wonderful cast, led by Douglas Henshall, Dervla Kirwan, Hugh Bonneville and Gina McKee. I am also thrilled to have Dearbhla Walsh directing the piece. We hope this will prove to be a real treat for the BBC One audience.”

Writer Fiona Seres says: “I read an article a few years ago about a woman who was a lipreader for the police. What interested me most, was the idea that even though someone may have what is seen to be a disability, it could be turned around and used as an asset.

“During a visit to London, I pitched the idea to Eleanor Greene, who also saw the potential – and the potential in me, even though I was living in Australia at the time. We spent the next few months batting the idea back and forth on email and Skype.

“I wrote the first episode in Australia, so I had to watch shows that were in English to try and get a hold on English vernacular. It really helped during my next visit to London when we took a trip to Bristol where the story is set. I could see it.

“The hardest thing about writing The Silence was trying to marry a family drama with the thriller genre and remaining true to both. Suddenly it was green-lit and I was moving my family from Australia over to London.

“It was great to have the rest of the development process in the same time zone and the same room. Whilst I miss the sunny days of Sydney, I feel really fortunate to be involved in such a vibrant industry in the UK.”

The Silence is made by Company Pictures (Shameless, Inspector George Gently, Skins, The Devil’s Whore) and executive produced by Charles Pattinson and George Faber for Company and Polly Hill for BBC One. The series is produced by Eleanor Greene (Party Animals) and directed by Emmy Award winning director Dearbhla Walsh (Little Dorrit, The Tudors).

The Silence was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller BBC One.

 

One of the earliest victims of serial killer Peter Tobin will speak out for the first time on BBC One’s Crimewatch, on Monday 5 July at 9pm, in the hope it will encourage other victims to come forward.

The victim, who cannot be named, was sexually assaulted by Tobin in 1968 and describes meeting him in Glasgow when he was 21 going under the name Jim McLaughlin: “He was very polite to me, nice, laughing and joking… just an everyday guy.”

Over 40 years later, she recognised a picture in a magazine of a young Tobin and subsequently came forward after a Crimewatch appeal last December: “I don’t know how many times I went to phone the police… I wouldn’t know what to say – are they going to believe me? Then Crimewatch came up and I texted.”

Crimewatch then passed her details on to Operation Anagram, the UK-wide police probe set up to identify all Tobin’s victims.

Detective Superintendent David Swindle, who is heading up Operation Anagram, and Criminal Behavioural Psychologist Laura Richards will join Kirsty Young in the studio to talk about this crucial new development and to appeal again for people to come forward if they have any information about Tobin’s life.

Crimewatch is on BBC One on 5 July 2010 at 9pm.

 

Half of children (50%) said they think they have seen their parents drunk at some time, according to a survey commissioned for CBBC’s Newsround.

The survey results will be revealed today on CBBC’s Newsround as part of a wider exploration of the issue of alcohol and how adults’ drinking affects children’s lives which also includes Living With Alcohol – A Newsround Special (BBC One, Monday 5 July 2010 at 4.55pm).

The survey conducted by children’s research specialist Childwise, for CBBC Newsround, asked 1,234 young people aged 10-14 from across the UK questions about their views on alcohol.

Almost three-quarters of the children (72%) questioned said their parents drink alcohol.

Of those children that said their parents drink alcohol, seven out of 10 (70%) thought they had seen them drunk.

Just less than half of the children (46%) surveyed thought that adults should not drink in front of children, whilst just under a third (32%) thought this was ok, and just over a fifth (22%) were not sure.

When given a list of words to describe how they felt when they saw adults drinking, almost half the children (47%) surveyed said they were not bothered. But 30% said it made them feel scared.

Eight in 10 children (81%) surveyed who had seen adults drinking said they noticed one or more changes in the way they behaved.

Of those, almost a quarter (24%) said it made adults act stupid or silly; a fifth (20%) said they became angry and aggressive; another fifth (20%) said they became happy and funny; 19% found them to act strange or different; 18% said they became loud and swore; and 17% said they became dizzy or fell over.

Most children (64%) questioned thought between three and six glasses of alcohol was too much to drink.

Sixty per cent of all children interviewed said they will drink when they are older.

 

CBBC Newsround Special

CBBC will also broadcast today Living With Alcohol – A Newsround Special presented by Bafta Award-winning presenter Barney Harwood and will tell the story of three children whose lives have been affected by their parents’ relationship with drink.

Previous Newsround specials, which have covered difficult subjects in an accessible and helpful way, include recent reports on internet safety, bullying and bereavement.

In Living With Alcohol, Newsround talks to Liam, who was eight years old when his dad died after a battle with alcohol addiction. He recalls the mood swings that came with his dad’s drinking and how his attitude to alcohol is now different from his friends.

Eight-year-old Madison lives in a pub and knows a lot more about alcohol than her friends. She thinks it’s OK for adults to drink as long as they don’t overdo it.

Ben’s mum used to drink four bottles of whisky a day. He talks about how it felt having a mother who was so drunk she didn’t know what time of day it was. She’s now in recovery and is determined to give her son the best life ever.

Damian Kavanagh, Controller of CBBC, said: “Newsround has a great track record in covering complex issues in an engaging and helpful way. There has been much discussion about levels of drinking but the social impact is rarely explored from a child’s point of view.

“Alcohol is present in the lives of most of our audience in one way or another, yet it is something they may not feel confident talking about. The children in this Newsround Special talk about the impact of adults drinking on their lives. Talking about their own experiences, they provide insight and can help other children have the confidence to ask questions.”

Owenna Griffiths, editor of Newsround, said: “Alcohol can be viewed as a taboo subject when it comes to children. But it is around them, and we wanted to acknowledge it as a subject that many of them would have questions about.

“The programme explores kids’ attitudes towards adults drinking – how it makes them feel, whether it has influenced how they will behave when they’re older and what they think is too much to drink.”

Living With Alcohol – A Newsround Special will broadcast on BBC One on Monday 5 July 2010 at 4.55pm.

 

The parents of the nine-month-old twin girls savaged by a fox as they lay in their cots have given their first detailed account of the events of that night to BBC Panorama’s Sophie Raworth (tonight at 7pm on BBC One).

Pauline and Nick Koupparis describe how a perfect family weekend was brought to an abrupt end by their daughters’ cries.

The couple tell the programme that it had been a glorious sunny day and they’d spent it together in their local park before going home to a barbecue supper. After putting their daughters to bed in their separate cots, which sit side by side in their bedroom, Pauline, Nick and their four-year old son Max settled down to watch TV. The patio doors into the garden were still open, the leftovers from the barbecue cooling on the kitchen table.

A few minutes before 10pm, Nick heard the sound of one of the twins crying through the baby monitor.

Pauline tells Sophie: “I went into the room and they were both crying. Isabella was head down in her cot. I noticed some blood and I thought maybe she’d had a nosebleed, so I put the night light on and as I put the night light on I saw the fox at the end of Lola’s cot. And then I saw that Lola was covered in blood as well. And I literally just wailed, screamed, I don’t know how to describe it and then I heard Nick running up the stairs.”

Even with both parents in the room, the fox stood its ground.

Pauline says: “I sort of lunged at it and it didn’t even move. And I was just screaming and the girls were crying and Nick lunged a few times and the fox was sort of moving a foot at a time. And I picked up Lola, Nick had picked up Isabella.”

Nick Koupparis adds: “I came out onto the landing. I had Isabella in my arms and the fox was just sat at the top of the stairs as if it was a family pet, or as if nothing had happened. I knew Isabella was bleeding a lot by that stage. I could feel the blood was all seeping through her babygro and I threw whatever came to hand at the fox. It then scarpered down the stairs.”

The fox had entered their home through the open patio doors and walked through the kitchen – straight past the barbecue leftovers – up two flights of stairs and into the room where the children lay sleeping.

After chasing the fox down the stairs, Nick Koupparis ran into the street – still clutching Isabella – and called 999 on his mobile. He tells Sophie how he had to keep saying it was a fox to the emergency services operator, who simply couldn’t believe what they were hearing. An ambulance arrived within four minutes and, as the crew examined the babies, the severity of their injuries became apparent. The bites to Lola’s face had left it swollen and distorted. Her eyelid had been badly torn and there was so much bleeding around her eye, her parents feared for her sight.

With her babygro removed, the full extent of Isabella’s arm injuries were revealed.

Pauline says: “Her arm was open and bits of her flesh were literally, like, just dropping onto Nick’s leg. That’s how I can remember. It’s just… it looked like it had been through a cheese grater.”

The casualty team at the Royal London Children’s Hospital alerted plastic surgeons to the fact that the twins needed urgent treatment.

Consultant reconstructive surgeon Raj Ragoowansi says of Isabella’s injury: “Fox bites, this is probably the second one I’ve seen in my career but actually it was the most severe one I’ve seen as an animal bite. I’ve seen hundreds of dog bites but this is the most severe I’ve seen. I think it is even more dramatic because it is in such a small child. We normally see them in young adults and so on, so to see that degree of bite, that degree of soft tissue disruption in a child that young, it is horrific.”

He adds: “The bite was a very strong bite because as far as the upper arm was concerned the wound was down to the bone and that takes some considerable force to force a laceration through the skin, through the fat, through the muscle and down to bone.”

While undergoing surgery, Isabella experienced respiratory complications and it was decided she needed further specialist treatment. She was transferred to Great Ormond Street’s intensive care unit.

Surgeons had had to clean the babies’ wounds repeatedly. Lola’s eyelid was stitched and her other bites closed with steri-strips. Both girls were given antibiotics on arrival at the Royal London Children’s Hospital and are still undergoing a course of rabies injections.

When Lola was released from hospital, the family’s joy was tempered with fears for Isabella who was still in intensive care at Great Ormond Street and struggling to breathe.

Pauline tells Sophie: “Obviously Lola came home first and it was incredible. But at the same time I was thinking, ‘well I just want them both’ and I was sort of thinking to myself ‘what would I do if there was only one twin that came home and how could I ever deal with that as a mother?'”

In tonight’s BBC One special, Pauline and Nick show reporter Sophie Raworth images of their daughters’ injuries, taken while they were still in hospital. They also describe how, while the ambulance crew was treating their babies, police officers in their home saw a fox again at their patio doors.

Pauline tells Sophie: “They said literally within minutes of being in the house, they’d seen the fox trying to get in the back door like a dog. It was scratching on the door trying to get back into the house… I thought I was going to be sick, because I thought ‘it’s come back again’.”

Despite all that was happening to their family, Nick and Pauline Koupparis were anxious to protect their neighbours’ children.

Pauline tells Sophie: “Our concern in the evening was with the police, ‘you’ve got to tell our neighbours, you’ve got to warn our neighbours’, because so many of our friends, I mean one of my good friends two doors down has got a child the same age as my girls, maybe a month younger. There’s a newborn next door. There are young children everywhere and we were just petrified it would do it to someone else.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some wildlife experts were expressing doubts about whether a fox was really the culprit. Despite the obvious injuries to their daughters, Nick and Pauline were subjected to accusations that they were lying by strangers over the internet.

Pauline tells Sophie: “I went onto my Facebook, I was obviously looking at my messages and 99% of them were really nice messages. But obviously there were a few in there that were really quite nasty, saying things like ‘I didn’t believe the lady when her baby was taken by the dingos and I don’t believe you with the foxes’. ‘What are you trying to hide?’ ‘A fox couldn’t have done it, you obviously have a family pet’.”

The parents wanted to give a single definitive account of their experience to dispel some of the myths that have already built up around the attack on their daughters. They tell Sophie that at no point have they owned a pet dog or cat since their oldest child was born nearly five years ago; they have never encouraged foxes to visit their garden; and, while they saw them regularly both in their garden and in the neighbourhood, they have never previously worried about them as a potential threat to their family.

Wildlife expert John Bryant was one of those widely quoted immediately after the attack disputing the likelihood of a fox being responsible. He tells Panorama that after hearing details of the children’s injuries and seeing the police officer’s photo of the fox at the patio doors, he’s since changed his mind.

He says: “When I first heard of the incident, everybody I know who’s involved in one way or another with foxes or fox behaviour said it’s not true, it must have been a dog. I am convinced now that it was a fox, a four-month-old fox cub.”

He adds: “I think the Hackney incident will be remembered as a totally unprecedented and freak event, but it may serve as a warning to us that making pets of foxes, feeding foxes, getting them too used to people and certainly going into houses is not a good idea. So maybe we should take the lesson and keep them here, but keep them wild.”

In the two weeks after the attack, six foxes were trapped in the Koupparis family’s garden, removed and humanely destroyed. Acting on police advice, the local authority had called in a pest control specialist. The family were unprepared for the furious response the death of the foxes would provoke.

Pauline Koupparis says: “We had a police guard on the front door 24/7 for about three or four days and a panic alarm installed in the house because there were lots of things on websites and the tyres had been slashed on the side of the street, and they were just concerned that it could potentially be animal activists.”

On Tuesday of this week, Isabella and Lola returned to the Royal London Children’s Hospital. Their parents learned the prognosis for their daughters’ injuries. Both girls are likely to be permanently scarred and Pauline and Nick were told that Isabella – whose left arm and hand were severely injured – will continue to see specialists until her late teens.

Pauline Koupparis is hoping to get back to normal family life for Lola, Isabella and their brother Max as quickly as possible, but admits the experience has changed her: “When the girls are here I don’t open the doors and it’s a bit of a panic every night. ‘Have you locked the door? Are the windows all closed?’ I’m quite frightened of keeping the doors open now.”

Nick Koupparis says: “I think I appreciate it’s a freak occurrence that may happen again but the likelihood of it happening to us again is zero. But it probably is the same feeling people have when they’ve been burgled. They don’t want to go back and see their house has been violated and we feel that our family unit has been violated.”

Pauline adds: “I think it’s definitely made us appreciate what we have and how lucky we’ve been. Our girls are safe, they’ll recover from it.”

Watch The Fox Attack Twins tonight on BBC One at 7pm.

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1