Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

The most-read stories of 2009

Clockwise from top left: A duck house hat on expenses, Michael Jackson tributes, Amanda Knox, Tamiflu, Jade and Jack

From the king of pop to the queen of reality TV, from swine flu to MPs' expenses, these are among the year's most-read stories.

There are goodbyes and near-misses, extremes in the weather, and a few light-hearted moments alongside more serious tales.

JANUARY

Two near misses and a certain Time Lord grabbed the headlines in January.

It was new year, new Doctor, as Matt Smith was named as the actor to take over from David Tennant in Doctor Who. At 27, he will be the youngest to take on the role when he appears on TV in 2010.

A plane crash-lands in New York. Photo: Nigel Baker
A pilot ditched an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after a double bird strike

Attention turned to Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who wrote off his Ferrari in a crash near Manchester Airport but walked away unscathed.

Another lucky escape attracted plenty of attention when a pilot crash-landed an airliner in New York's Hudson River after birds disabled its engines. All 155 passengers and crew were rescued.

Two technology stories also made headlines this month. The first told how a Windows "worm" infected millions of computers, and the second revealed plans for broadband to be in every UK home by 2012.

And the Bank of England cut interest rates to 1.5% - the lowest level in its 315-year history.

FEBRUARY

One story dominated the most-read list in February - the UK's worst snowfall for almost 20 years and ensuing winter chaos.

Road, rail and air transport was badly affected, hundreds of schools were closed and a shortage of road salt created what the AA called "a safety crisis".

Heavy snow falls in London early in February
London was covered in 4in (10cm) of snow - the most recorded in 18 years

Three separate tragic tales provided the focus for the rest of the month.

Terminally ill reality TV star Jade Goody, who had cervical cancer, married her fiance Jack Tweed in Essex. She died, aged 27, a month later.

Conservative leader David Cameron's "beautiful" six-year-old son Ivan, who had cerebral palsy and epilepsy, died at a hospital in London.

And nine people were killed and 84 injured when a Turkish Airlines plane crashed on landing at Amsterdam's Schiphol international airport.

MARCH

March offered little in light relief, until the end of the month at least. First, gunmen attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team near the Pakistani city of Lahore, killing six police escorts and a driver.

Chelsea and England footballer Ashley Cole was arrested for being drunk and disorderly after swearing at police officers.

Natasha Richardson
Vanessa Redgrave's daughter was injured during a skiing lesson

A teenage gunman killed 15 people on a rampage at a school in south-west Germany, including nine pupils and three teachers.

Then, actress Natasha Richardson died from head injuries sustained in a skiing accident in Canada.

But the mood was lifted by the most clicked on story of the month, which raised smiles and possibly a few pilots' eyebrows.

An 18-year-old secretly painted a 60ft penis on the roof of his parents' £1m Berkshire mansion. It was there for a year before they found out.

APRIL

April saw swine flu emerge from Mexico and spread to Britain. But these were early days. The number of UK cases was still in single figures and a pandemic imminent, not yet a reality.

Clare Balding and Liam Treadwell
The BBC said Balding "had no intention" of upsetting the jockey

Chancellor Alistair Darling's budget drew widespread attention. He tore up a New Labour election pledge by unveiling a new tax rate for earnings over £150,000.

Memories of February's snow faded, as Met Office forecasters predicted a "barbecue summer" for the UK with no repeat of recent washouts.

Almost. Summer temperatures were warmer than the previous two years, but average rainfall was up 40%.

It was a month to forget for BBC presenter Clare Balding who apologised to Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell for making fun of his teeth on air.

After urging him to show his pearly whites, she told him he could now afford to "get them done" with his prize money.

MAY

The rumblings, uproar and recriminations in Westminster over MPs' expenses hogged this month's headlines.

Health minister Phil Hope said he would repay £41,709 in second home allowances, then Labour MP Shahid Malik stepped down as justice minister.

Peter Andre and Katie Price
The couple met while on reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!

"Appalled" Conservative leader David Cameron, meanwhile, said he would lead senior Tories in repaying "excessive" claims.

But it did not end there. Under-fire Commons Speaker Michael Martin was next to quit - making him the first in that role to be effectively forced out of office for 300 years.

Away from politics, it was all over for Peter Andre and Katie Price too. The celebrity couple announced they were separating after three-and-a-half years of marriage.

Then there was the competition to land the "best job in the world". Hampshire man Ben Southall beat 34,000 applicants to become the new caretaker of an Australian tropical island.

JUNE

Another month, another round of political stories.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears quit the cabinet on the eve of two sets of elections, increasing pressure on the prime minister.

The Conservatives triumphed in the English local elections, and two days later, Labour slumped to an historic defeat in the European polls.

Debris from an Air France crash
Divers recover a large section of the rudder of Flight 447

There was huge interest in the Air France plane which vanished over the Atlantic in a storm carrying 228 people from Brazil to France.

Within a week rescuers were recovering debris and, inevitably, bodies from the ocean.

Then Michael Jackson died. The 50-year-old pop legend was pronounced dead at his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, after he stopped breathing.

On a lighter note, the Stig, a mystery driver who tests cars on BBC's Top Gear, was "revealed" as Michael Schumacher - although many feel sure the whole thing was a stunt.

JULY

One of the most popular stories this month concerned a new directory service for people to find mobile phone numbers.

Elsewhere, Michael Jackson's family and fans said farewell to the superstar at an emotional memorial service.

A memorial service to Michael Jackson
Jackson's daughter Paris, 11, said he was "the best father" imaginable

Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard was in court on an affray charge after a row over music at a bar in Southport.

Former Wales, Arsenal and Celtic striker John Hartson was in a critical condition after brain surgery following a cancer diagnosis.

Swine flu reared its head again after an estimated 100,000 new cases in a week. Earlier in the month a GP and a six-year-old girl died after contracting the virus.

Finally, in Scotland, an off-duty police dog handler took a video of what he claimed was a panther-sized big cat on a railway line.

AUGUST

Football got some high-profile coverage in August - for the wrong reasons. A man was stabbed in the chest during "large-scale trouble" involving hundreds of fans at a West Ham v Millwall match.

Jaycee Lee Dugard
Jaycee Lee Dugard disappeared in 1991, aged 11

West Ham centre-back Calum Davenport's career was threatened when he was stabbed in the legs at his mother's home in Bedfordshire.

And a British teenager found dead in Crete was revealed to be the younger brother of Aston Villa and England footballer Luke Young.

Also drawing plenty of attention was the case of a US woman in California found 18 years after she was abducted as a girl in 1991.

Jaycee Lee Dugard was kept in a "hidden backyard within a backyard" and bore two children by her alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido.

And finally, the funniest joke of this year's Edinburgh Fringe, as voted by viewers of TV channel Dave.

Comedian Dan Antopolski won the prize for this one-liner: "Hedgehogs. Why can't they just share the hedge?" Here is the list of gags he beat.

SEPTEMBER

Two celebrity deaths on the same day - celebrity chef Keith Floyd died following a heart attack, and Dirty Dancing actor Patrick Swayze lost his two-year battle against pancreatic cancer.

A gold "pommel cap" for a sword handle
This gold cap for the end of a sword handle is one of 1,500 items found

Elsewhere, private school teacher Helen Goddard, 26, was jailed for having sex with a 15-year-old female pupil.

Sir Terry Wogan announced he was stepping down as presenter of BBC Radio 2's breakfast show.

And Sugababe Keisha Buchanan left the pop group, claiming it was not her decision.

Then there was a story that was pure gold - the UK's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure discovered by a metal detectorist in Staffordshire.

OCTOBER

Showbiz figures dominated the most-read list in October, led by the sudden death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately on holiday in Majorca.

Friends, fans and stars paid tribute to the 33-year-old ahead of a post-mortem examination which found he died of natural causes.

Nick Griffin
Eight million people watched Mr Griffin's Question Time appearance

Meanwhile, Little Britain star Matt Lucas pulled out of a West End play after his former partner Kevin McGee was found hanged.

Actress Barbara Windsor announced she was quitting EastEnders.

Meanwhile, BNP leader Nick Griffin said he would complain to the BBC for facing a "lynch mob" on Question Time.

And finally, when it came to relationship age gaps, Somalian man Ahmed Muhamed Dore took some beating. He claimed he was 112 when he married 17-year-old Safia Abdulleh.

NOVEMBER

Weather stories led the way as parts of southern England were flooded in the middle of the month, with worse to come.

A week later about 200 people were rescued from the town of Cockermouth as Cumbria was hit by the worst floods in its history. RAF helicopters airlifted at least 50 to safety.

A flooded street in Cockermouth
Dozens of people spent the night in rescue centres in Cumbria

There was disappointment for millions of bank customers hoping to be refunded overdraft charges. The Supreme Court overturned earlier rulings allowing the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the fairness of charges.

Veteran actor Edward Woodward died at 79, after suffering pneumonia and various other illnesses.

And there was tragedy in Liverpool when a four-year-old boy was mauled to death by a dog at a family home.

But it was not all doom and gloom - for some at least.

I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! produced two of the month's popular stories as first ex-Strictly Come Dancing star Camilla Dallerup then model Katie Price quit the show.

DECEMBER

A cold snap, and heavy snow and ice meant travel was thrown into chaos, schools closed and power supplies were cut.

Christmas holiday plans were disrupted as many airports cancelled flights.

Chancellor Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report was also keenly observed. He said National Insurance would rise, and announced a bank bonus tax scheme.

Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha
The Rage song was originally released in 1992 when it reached number 25

The Italian trial of Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend ended with their conviction. Knox cried as she was jailed for 26 years for the murder and sexual violence of British student Meredith Kercher.

Golfer Tiger Woods' private life attracted much speculation. A week after he apologised to his family for letting them down, his mother-in-law was suddenly admitted to hospital while staying at his Florida home.

The most competitive battle in years for the Christmas number one also proved very popular.

Rage Against the Machine's single, Killing In The Name, beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry's The Climb after an internet spoiler campaign.

Finally, underwater footage of an octopus surprised scientists when it revealed the creatures carried halved coconut shells with them to use later as shelters.



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