Wednesday's news in 5 minutes.

1. Nicole celebrated her 18th birthday by drinking a 95 per cent alcohol spirit. The next morning, she was dead.

A teenager had a fatal blood alcohol reading of 0.319 per cent after she played drinking games with her friends and family on her 18th birthday, an inquest in Perth has heard.

Nicole Emily Bicknell, who had just finished high school, consumed large amounts of melon-flavoured liqueur, pre-mixed vodka drinks and 95 per cent Polish spirit at a BBQ attended by 44 people on November 1, 2014.


The WA Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday that she had 18 shots to mark each year of her life and continued to drink after that, but didn’t appear particularly drunk until the end of the night.

“She came up to me excited and said ‘I’ve made 18 drinks’,” her brother Steven Bicknell said.

No alcohol was provided at the gathering and guests, some of whom stayed the night, had to bring their own.

After their mother went to bed, Ms Bicknell, her brother and about nine others sat in a circle and played the “waterfall” drinking game, which involved her drinking straight from a bottle, continuously, while they took their turn to have shots.

The court heard she became incoherent after drinking the Polish spirit, which the guests turned to after other alcohol had run out.

“She spiralled quite quickly,” Mr Bicknell said.

“Her liveliness, bubbliness, talkativeness went downhill. She became quiet, more relaxed into her chair.”

His girlfriend Nyketta June Jenks, who didn’t drink during the party, told the court that before the drinking game, Ms Bicknell had taken a sip of the Polish spirit and exclaimed “that’s way too strong” before putting it down.

When it became clear she was drunk, Ms Bicknell’s boyfriend Jason Mark Roberts tried to give her water but it dribbled out of her mouth, so he and her brother put her to bed in the recovery position.


Mr Roberts monitored her for several hours, placing a bucket for her to vomit in beside her and checking her pulse and breathing, but eventually fell asleep himself.

When he woke, she had stopped breathing, felt cold and her lips had turned blue so he alerted the family and an ambulance was called.

Ms Bicknell was pronounced dead at hospital just after 7am.

Mr Roberts told the court she had drunk alcohol in the months before her birthday, but it was hard to tell how intoxicated she was. He said he believed she’d never encountered the 95 per cent spirit before that night.

“I would say she was a strong drinker,” he said.

“Outside, it didn’t fuss her. Inside, I couldn’t say.”

The three-day inquest is being held to draw public attention to the dangers of drinking games.

2. Police search for man after the ‘suspicious’ death of a woman in Melbourne.


Police are treating as suspicious the death of a woman whose body was found in a Melbourne home, AAP reports.

No arrests have been made, but detectives are trying to find a man who is believed to have lived with the woman at the home in Hall St, Sunshine West.

It’s believed he may be travelling in a black 2003 Nissan Pulsar, registration SHH971.

Emergency services were called to the home at 9pm on Tuesday, but the woman was declared dead at the scene.

No cause of death has been released and she is yet to be formally identified.

Anyone who sights the vehicle or has any information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at

3. Thousands gather in Manchester to remember the 22 victims of an attack at a concert venue.


Thousands of Manchester residents have gathered in the centre of the northern English city in a show of defiance against a suspected suicide bomber who killed 22 people, including children, in an attack at a crowded concert hall.

The vigil, held in warm evening sunshine in front of the Town Hall, drew representatives of different religions who, one by one, condemned Monday evening’s bombing, which ripped through a crowd leaving a show by US singer Ariana Grande.

Members of the city’s Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh communities said they wanted to show that Manchester, while shocked, would not be cowed.


“It was incredibly emotional … for us especially as Muslim citizens,” said Muhammad Khursheed, an imam of a mosque in the Manchester suburb of Hulme. “We will stand together in spite of oppression, terrorism. A strong, powerful message today.”

After speeches by officials, people attending the vigil gathered in small groups to talk among themselves. Some students took turns to hug a woman dressed in a burka.

“Together. Unified,” Daniel Liptrott, a 45 year-old businessman said when asked how the vigil made him feel. “A single act of terrorism isn’t going to break that.”

After a moment of silence, when many wept, the crowd broke into repeated chants of “Manchester, Manchester.”

The vigil comes as more than AU$1.1 million has been raised to help support the families of those who were killed and injured in the attack.

The JustGiving campaign was started by the region’s newspaper, The Manchester Evening Standard, and aims to raise AU$1.3 million in total.

“Readers have been asking how they can help, so we have started this fund to help support the families in the aftermath of the attack,” the page reads.

“It’s good to have some light in the darkness. Thank you, Manchester,” the publication tweeted after donations flooded in within hours of the fundraiser starting.


4. Whale watching season has officially begun, with the first humpback spotted in Queensland.

The annual whale watching season off the southeast Queensland coast has started with a splash, AAP reports.

Gold Coast-based tourist vessel Spirit of Gold Coast made the first official sighting of a humpback whale for this year’s season on Tuesday, locating two humpbacks off the coast of the city.

With humpbacks now estimated to be returning to pre-whaling levels, whale watchers are expecting a bumper season in 2017.


Spirit of Gold Coast biologist Zara King said Tuesday’s encounter was a good indication of the season ahead.

“We will definitely see more competitive groups of males showing aggression towards each other as they vie for a female to mate with,” Ms King said.

“The males will tail slap and breach to impress, whereas the females will use similar behaviours as a form of aggression towards the males if they are not happy.”

The annual whale watching season as the creatures migrate takes in three periods.

Whales head north to warmer waters from mid-May to July for breeding and to give birth.

In August and September, adult and juvenile whales begin returning south towards the Antarctic, while calves and their mothers make the journey south in October and November.

5. Eight teens stranded on rollercoaster for three hours during lightning storm.


Eight teenagers who were stuck 12 stories above the ground on a roller coaster in Texas during a storm said they “thought they were going to die.”

The high school seniors, celebrating their graduation at an all-night event at Six Flags Over Texas became stranded on ‘The Joker’ rollercoaster when wind sensors picked up the strong winds caused by the storm and automatically stopped the ride.

“The safety of our guests is our highest priority. We monitor weather conditions around the clock,” Sharon Parker, Six Flags Over Texas Communications Manager, said in a statement.

“In this particular instance, a weather update was communicated just as the ride car was dispatched. Our ride crew was immediately notified but the severe head winds ahead of the storm were moving swiftly and caused the ride to stop at a safe location on the track.”


But the teens told KTBS News they feared for their lives, thinking no-one knew they were stuck on the rollercoaster, which was the theme park’s newest attraction and was due to be ‘officially opened’ the next day.

“My friend and I thought we were going to die, just because there was lightning, and we didn’t think anyone knew we were up there,” Christian Chaney said.

“We were holding hands, and we prayed a lot…all eight of us were screaming at the top of our lungs, trying to get their attention, trying to get them to say something.”

She said no-one from the park communicated with the stranded passengers for “at least 25, maybe even 30 minutes”.

The ride came to a stop around midnight, with the last passenger freed by firefighters just passed 3:30am.

6. Poverty linked to ‘early puberty’ in boys, Australian study finds.


Children, especially boys, from disadvantaged homes are more likely to hit puberty early and could face poorer health later in life as a result, an Australian study shows.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) project found boys who grew up in very disadvantaged homes were four times more likely to start puberty at age 10 or 11.

The risk of early puberty for girls who grew up in lower socio-economic homes was double.

While the health implications of early on-set puberty are not yet known, research has previously associated it to emotional behavioural and social problems in adolescents, says lead researcher Associate Professor Ying Sun.

She says their findings now raise the possibility the timing of puberty may play a role in the links between early social disadvantage and health problems later in life.

“If our research can improve the understanding of these links, we can potentially inform new public health initiatives that improve the health and wellbeing of all children for the rest of their lives,” she said.


MCRI researchers surveyed about 3700 children recruited at birth as part of the Growing Up in Australia study, to investigate if social determinants were playing a role.

Parents were asked to report on signs of children’s puberty at age eight to nine and 10 to 11 years.

These included a growth spurt, pubic hair and skin changes, plus breast growth and menstruation in girls and voice deepening and facial hair in boys.

“Few studies have focused on boys, so this is very interesting,” said Professor Sun.

What triggers puberty is still a “big mystery” but it’s thought evolutionary reasons are thought to be one explanation for the link between disadvantage and early puberty.

In the face of hardship, children may be programmed to start the reproductive process earlier to ensure their genes are passed on to the next generation.

“Human beings are very sensitive to a challenging childhood environment”, said Professor Sun.

“We now know quite a lot more about the switches for the pubertal process and think that childhood disadvantage is one of a number of factors, including prematurity and being overweight early in childhood that switch the process on.”

Do you have a story to share with Mamamia? Email us