Our review of the year 2015 continues with July and August. Andy Rutherford reports

July 15:

A HARD-hitting review of a multi-million pound investigation into alleged neglect of frail and elderly people in Gwent care homes, concluded prosecutions could and should have gone ahead.

And organisations linked to Operation Jasmine - which lasted seven years, involved 75 police officers, and cost an estimated £15 million – were characterised by "mistakes and errors of judgement" the review also concluded.

Focusing on six care homes – Bryngwyn Mountleigh in Newbridge, Brithdir in New Tredegar, The Beeches in Blaenavon, Belmont in Caerphilly, Grosvenor House in Abertillery, and Bank House in Ebbw Vale – Operation Jasmine identified more than 100 potential victims of abuse and neglect.

It was triggered by the hospitalisation and subsequent death of Bryngwyn Mountleight resident Gladys Thomas in 2005.

Care home owner Dr Prana Das, Puretruce Healthcare Limited, of which Dr Das was a director, and the company's chief executive Paul Black, were charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act, and Dr Das was also charged under the Theft Act.

But charges were dropped after Dr Das sustained severe head injuries in an attack during a burglary at his home. He was judged too ill to stand trial.

Respected care expert Dr Margaret Flynn, who headed the review, believed Dr Das "should have and could have been prosecuted" not least because he remained as company director and company secretary for 564 days after the attack.

The review, commissioned by First Minister Carwyn Jones after the prosecutions were dropped, also concluded that some early cases investigated during the operation should have been registered with the coroner, and Dr Flynn recommended that four of the deaths be subject to inquests.

The review report highlighted families' descriptions of "wrong and indifferent" care home practices that harmed relatives, including poor handling of frailty, chronic illnesses, deteriorating health, mental distress, and pain.

Among "appalling" examples of care was that of care home residents being taken to hospital with pressure ulcers so severe they could only be offered palliative care.

Families also described a "take it or leave it" attitude to care home selection that ignored the concept of patient choice.

Catherine Cawte's mother Dorothea Hale lived at Grosvenor House, Abertillery for more than two months before she died in January 2007.

Fourteen months later, Operation Jasmine deemed her death suspicious. Last year, the home's manager and deputy manager were struck off the nursing register after "shocking failures" in care standards were found proven.

The review report made a series of recommendations on issues as broad as pressure ulcers, GPs' links to care homes, and a registration system for care home managers.

"All I want is changes to be made so no-one has to suffer like my mother did," said Ms Cawte.

July 1:

FAMILIES that had vehicles locked inside Tredegar Park in Newport after the gates were locked at 6pm, called for alternative security measures to be introduced.

Park wardens had been withdrawn amid safety fears after one was attacked and required hospital treatment, and the gates were being closed from 6pm-6am.

There had also been reports of anti-social behaviour, including drug taking and stone throwing.

But with the arrival of the hottest spell of weather of the year so far, the park was busy, and on several occasions, people found the gates shut early in the evening.

Families said the decision had been badly communicated and law abiding park users were being penalised.

Newport council apologised for any inconvenience, but stressed notices were "clearly on display" and the early closure had been widely publicised.

July 2:

THE dracunculus vulgaris (dragon arum) in Paul O'Connor's Cwmbran garden flowered for the first time in 23 years – but the occasion proved one to endure rather than delight in.

The plant, which Mr O'Connor's father John, aged 88, said he had tried to remove several times many years ago when he lived in the property, gives off a foul smell he described as "like rotting fish".

"The first time it flowered I thought a dog had brought something over and dumped it there," he said, adding that despite his efforts at removal, it kept reappearing. It may have originated from seed used to feed budgies.

A species of lily, this one also appeared in the Argus back in 1992, when it first flowered. The smell is required to attract pollinators, as its flower is so dark.

July 11:

GWENT'S Velothon controversy rumbled on when it was revealed Monmouthshire residents did not receive intended letters warning them of disruption.

Velothon Wales race director Andrew Taylor said leaflets were not distributed as requested due to an issue with the distribution company.

Monmouth MP David Davies said the admission ought to strengthen the case for compensation for businesses left out of pocket due to lengthy road closures on the day of the event.

July 13:

ON THE day of her funeral, details of a tribute to Tunisia terror attack victim Trudy Jones, of Blackwood, were published.

Niece Stacey Birchard called the mother and grandmother, who worked at a care home in the town, a "loving, caring and popular woman".

Hundreds of well-wishers joined family and friends of Ms Jones – who was among 38 people killed in the attack in June – at St David's Church, Fleur de Lys, for her funeral service.

On July 4 there had been a moving act of communal remembrance of Ms Jones and other victims of the attack, in the form of a minute's silence at the Dragon Circle in Blackwood.

In August, staff and residents at the Highfields nursing home where she worked unveiled a bench dedicated to her memory.

July 28:

A PROPOSAL for a 'safe zone' for prostitutes in Pill, Newport, roused the fury of residents who feared the neighbourhood could become a no-go area.

Gwent Police were considering allowing prostitutes to work in an area away from houses, as women already sold sex there.

But the idea was dismissed as "stupid" by Paul Murphy from residents' group Pride in Pill, and Newport council leader Bob Bright said there had been no consultation with the local authority.

Another resident claimed Pill would soon become an "official ghetto".

A Gwent Police spokesman said: "Local officers and councillors are realistic about the fact that prostitution will always exist and it has been shown that enforcement alone is not an effective solution."

July 29:

AN ALLEGED victim of child abuse at the hands of former Newport head teacher John Styler appealed for others to come forward.

The 52-year-old man, who remained anonymous, was a pupil at Malpas Church in Wales school from 1971-74, when he alleged Mr Styler carried out a series of sexual assaults on boys.

Mr Styler, who lived alone in Newport, committed suicide when on police bail in 2007. He had been arrested on suspicion of similar offences allegedly committed 27 years earlier.

His alleged victim said Mr Styler used to groom boys through the school choir before molesting them in his office under cover of private reading sessions.

He admitted to being "haunted" and to "suffering a lot of pain" over the years, and estimated there were another 30 victims.

After the Argus published the story, other alleged victims contacted Collingbourne Hennah Law, the firm dealing with the matter.

It was also revealed a teacher at the school raised concerns over Mr Styler's behaviour, but nothing had been done.

In August the Argus published another Newport man's testimony of alleged abuse by Mr Styler.

August 4:

TREASURED memories were made as Afghanistan veteran Anthony Hard – given just months to live after a brain tumour spread – renewed wedding vows with wife Nahella.

The 35-year-old from Newport had been given the devastating news by doctors, despite having undergone two operations to remove the tumour.

The RAF aircraft engineer had been diagnosed while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

Friends raised thousands of pounds to stage the ceremony at Peterstone Lakes golf club in Wentlooge, where the couple's original reception was held 13 years before.

On an emotional day, their daughter Reagan was a bridesmaid and son Casey, aged four – who lives with severe epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and spastic quadriplegia after being starved of oxygen at birth – was page boy.

Mr Hard died on November 27.

August 6:

RESIDENTS and relatives of men killed in the 1960 Six Bells Colliery disaster pledged to keep fighting plans for a £7.2 million school next to the Guardian memorial site.

Blaenau Gwent council was pushing ahead with plans for a new primary school on the former colliery site, saying the land had been earmarked for educational purposes many years ago.

But opponents said it would block the view of the Guardian and the car park would be reduced in size.

August 11:

MARKS and Spencer announced plans to move back into Newport city centre with a food hall in the new Friars Walk development.

M&S moved out of the city centre several years ago, opening a store at Newport Retail Park in Spytty.

The move was greeted as a vote of confidence in Friars Walk and the city as a whole, and was announced on the day stores, including JD Sports and Krispy Kreme, were confirmed for the development.

August 12:

A CAMPAIGN was launched to save Newport Castle after a video emerged showing masonry crumbling into the River Usk.

Hundreds of people signed a petition calling for Welsh historic monuments body Cadw to "act fast before the river claims what's left of it".

Signatories from Newport were joined by people as far afield as Australia and Canada.

Cadw said it was aware of the damage, a spokesman telling the Argus: "Our aim is to repair and protect the castle as quickly as possible, as part of our commitment to safeguard Wales' heritage."

August 18:

THE character of the Gwent country house that inspired the hymn All Things Bright And Beautiful was seriously damaged by a 'vandal' property developer.

Kim Davies stripped all features great and small from Grade II* listed Llanwenarth House at Govilon after buying it in 2007, Newport Crown Court was told.

Davies, aged 60, who previously pleaded guilty to five offences under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £240,000 costs. He also faced paying to restore the house to its original condition.

Judge Daniel Williams told Davies what he had done to the house was "criminal" and parts of it had been "butchered" by his "vandalism".

August 22:

A FAMILY claimed it was lucky nobody had been killed after a car crashed through their front window into their living room, in Porthmawr Road, Cwmbran.

Stephen Powell leaped out of the way as the car – whose driver was subsequently banned for 18 months after admitting a drink-driving charge – ploughed through the window as he watched television.

He escaped with just a pain in a little toe, but called it "unbelievable".

Wife Sarah Roberts said the couple's 22-year-old son Luke, who has learning disabilities, normally plays on his computer near the window, and might have been injured or killed had he been at home.

August 31:

THERE were conflicting fortunes for Newport's sporting teams as the month ended.

Newport County propped up League Two after a winless start to the season under new manager Terry Butcher, a single point from five games raising supporters' concerns.

Onfield woes were building as the battle began off the pitch for fans to raise the £225,000 required for the Supporters Trust to take full control of the club.

On the rugby field however, there was success for Newport Gwent Dragons' sevens squad, which lifted the Singha Premiership title in dramatic fashion at Twickenham, beating Sale Sharks, Gloucester and finally Wasps, with a last gasp try from Harri Keddie.