Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The 10 most read stories of 2009

Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey
Two soldiers were killed as they collected a pizza delivery

A look back through the 10 most read stories of 2009 on the BBC Northern Ireland news website brought up some of the year's most heartbreaking stories.

The murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar by dissident republicans outside an Army base in Antrim on 7 March made Northern Ireland headline news around the world.

The soldiers were shot dead by the Real IRA outside Massereene Army base as they paid for a pizza delivery.

Two die in 'barbaric' Army attack

Four other people, including two pizza delivery men, were also injured in the attack.

Two days later, police officer Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead in Craigavon as he answered a distress call.

People from around the world came to the BBC website to watch the two stories unfold.

Two men have been charged with the murders of the soldiers and two others with Constable Carroll's murder.

Policeman shot dead in N Ireland

Rapist shot

In April, it was revealed a man who was shot in both legs in a paramilitary-style attack in Londonderry was awaiting sentencing for raping a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

Keith Burnside, 37, was shot in his Rosemount Gardens home by two masked men, believed to be dissident republicans, in front of his girlfriend and two children.

Burnside was convicted in March of raping a girl in his car at Sandbank Cottages in 2000.

Schoolgirl's rapist shot in home

He was later jailed for seven and a half years.

Air accident

In June, an Air France plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

The plane was four hours into its journey from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it went down.

It had 216 passengers and 12 crew on board, including three pilots. The passengers included a baby, seven children, 82 women and 126 men.

One of those on board was Eithne Walls a young doctor and talented Irish dancer from County Down.

Down woman aboard lost airliner

Ms Walls, 28, from Ballygowan, worked in the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital but had also spent a year with Riverdance on Broadway, New York, before studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin.

Her family described her as "an extraordinary person".

One of over 100 people who left their homes
Many of the families decided to leave Northern Ireland

Later that month, the plight of the Romanian community forced to leave their homes in south Belfast was also widely read.

One hundred Romanians left Northern Ireland after their homes were attacked - just 14 decided to stay in the country.

However, many of those who initially left later returned.

Romanians leave NI after attacks

£67,000 electricity bill

Stories that brought smiles of laughter and incredulity also made the top 10.

A County Londonderry pensioner who had lived without electricity for 27 years was told Northern Ireland Electricity would charge him £67,000 to link his home to the grid.

John McCarter, 74, had no central heating at his Downhill home and used bottled gas and candles for light.

The company said the high cost was due to cables having to go underground in an area of special scientific interest.

For a man who lived on a £100 a week pension, meeting the bill would prove to be a tall order.

Mr McCarter was subsequently given a free generator by Enniskillen firm JF Andrews Engineering, before NIE said it would bring its network to his home for free - only charging him a connection fee.

Pensioner's £67,000 power bill

One man who it seemed could have afforded the £67,000 bill was Mickey Gormley from Maghera.

It was the case of wishful thinking for one Maghera man

In November, rumours were rife that the businessman had won over £45m in the Euromillions lottery.

Alas the rumours were unfounded.

No-one knows how they started, but after a few days of non-stop phone calls from well-wishers, Mr Gormley was keen to set the record straight.

"It has got out of control. I definitely did not win it... and we are getting lots of phone calls," he said at the time.

Man asks for end to lotto rumours

"My head is fried with it. We are being tortured and I want to clear up this mess."

Wanted man

In February, one of the Irish Republic's most notorious drivers made front-page news.

He was wanted from counties Cork to Cavan after racking up scores of speeding tickets and parking fines.

However, each time the serial offender was stopped he managed to evade justice by giving a different address.

The mystery of Ireland's worst driver

But then his cover was blown.

Prawo Jazdy, the man police thought there were looking for, is in fact Polish for driving licence.

But making its way to the top of the BBC Northern Ireland league table in 2009 was the story of the man who got more than he bargained for on a trip to his local shop.

It was a story when the picture spoke more than the words.

The mouse was found embedded in a malt loaf

A Ballymoney man had returned home to enjoy a slice of his recently purchased malt loaf, what he did not bargain for was a side order of rodent.

North Antrim Magistrates Court heard that the man discovered a lifeless mouse embedded in the base of the loaf.

The court heard that tins in which the bread is baked were oiled the night before they were filled with dough.

Man found dead mouse in malt loaf

Some time between the tins being sprayed and being filled, the mouse made its way into a tin.

The baker, whose defence said inspections were carried out every six weeks, was fined £1,000 plus costs.

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