INDEPENDENT 2024-02-02 12:11:00


Student jailed for murdering fiance by running him over in argument after party

A philosophy student who murdered her fiance by drunkenly mowing him down with a car in a lethal “game of chicken” has been jailed for life.

Alice Wood, 23, killed her partner Ryan Watson after an argument erupted between them following a party where Mr Watson was said to have “clicked” with another woman.

A court previously heard Manchester University student Wood “lost her temper” as she drove them home while three times over the limit from a birthday party in Hanley.

At the party, which was for a service user of the brain injury charity where Mr Watson worked, he reportedly “clicked” with a woman, who felt Wood was staring at her.

Other guests of the party said Wood was not “best pleased” with his behaviour and had “appeared cold” while 24-year-old Mr Watson “worked the room”.

Back at their home in Rode Heath, Cheshire, CCTV at around 11.30pm shows Wood reversing the Ford Fiesta towards her partner, nearly hitting him.

She is then seen driving the car backwards and forwards in what one witness described as a “game of chicken” before she hit him head-on, sending him flying onto the bonnet.

After he got back on his feet, she hit him once again, dragging him 158 metres up the road while he was trapped under the car before stopping.

Wood had insisted Mr Watson was killed in a “tragic accident” and claimed her partner “flipped” after the party, accusing her of flirting with other men.

But a jury at Chester Crown Court rejected her claim and found her guilty of murder last month. On Friday, she was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years.

Wood had been preparing for final exams in a theology, philosophy and ethics degree at the time and had a scholarship for a part-time research masters at Cambridge.

On the first day of the trial, she had a copy of the book Meditations, a philosophy text by Roman Marcus Aurelius, under her arm as she was led in handcuffs to the court.

Andrew Ford KC, prosecuting, had told the trial Mr Watson was seen on CCTV footage “having a good time, being a gregarious and outgoing party guest”.

Fellow guest Tiffany Ferriday said she and Mr Watson had “clicked” and Wood, who “appeared cold”, was “pretty much left out” of conversation.

Giving evidence, Wood described an argument between the two which continued when they returned to the house they owned in Oak Street. She told the court she went out to her car to leave but Mr Watson followed and he was then hit by her car.

During his opening address, Mr Ford said “she lost her temper” and used the car as a weapon.

In a statement, Mr Watson’s family said it had been “so hard” to repeatedly watch the CCTV footage shown in court of the moment he was killed while trapped under the car.

They said: “The one person Ryan trusted the most is the person who took his life in such a violent way.

“Alice is in prison where she belongs but no sentence is going to be long enough for what she has taken from us and Ryan. He’ll never get to live his life and fulfil his dreams.”

More follows on this breaking news story…

Met hunt sex offender suspect who is ‘significantly injured’ but ‘dangerous’

A fugitive at the centre of a large manhunt for throwing an alkaline substance at a mother and her two children is a convicted sex offender.

Abdul Shokoor Ezedi left two of his victims with potentially life-changing injuries, with Tesco CCTV images showing him with severe burn marks down the right side of his face.

It has emerged that Ezedi was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018, before being granted asylum in the UK in 2021 or 2022 from his native Afghanistan. The 35-year-old had previously been refused asylum on two occasions but was granted leave to remain after converting to Christianity.

In all, 12 people needed hospital treatment after the “targeted” attack in Lessar Avenue, Clapham, south London, on Wednesday evening.

Ezedi who is believed to be known to the mother, is thought to have travelled down from Newcastle on Wednesday, and was last seen in Caledonian Road.

The woman, 31, described as vulnerable, and her three-year-old daughter, were still in hospital alongside her other daughter, eight.

Have you been affected by this? Email barney.davis@independent.co.uk

UK to test fire first nuclear missile since failed launch in 2016

The Royal Navy is set to test its first nuclear missile since a failed launch in 2016.

The £4 billion HMS Vanguard, which recently underwent a £500 million upgrade that took three years longer than planned, will carry out the launch for its final test to re-enter service as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent fleet. It is one of only four nuclear submarines in the Royal Navy.

The 60-tonne missile will be fired from 56 miles off the US east coast in the coming days. It will be aimed at an area in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and West Africa, some 3,700 miles from the launch site.

The US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency issued a “hazardous operations” warning to ships in the wider region to avoid the intended target area. It has also plotted areas around the target area where debris is expected to fall. The warning has been in force since 9pm on 30 January and will remain in place until 4am on 4 February.

The last time a Trident nuclear-capable warhead was tested by the Royal Navy, there was a serious malfunction in the system and the missile flew in the wrong direction. It has been nearly 12 years since the UK has carried out a successful test.

HMS Vengeance fired an unarmed Trident II DB ballistic missile in 2016 at a remote position in the southern Atlantic off the coast of West Africa – but it ended up heading in the opposite direction. After flying over the US, the warhead self-destructed in the air.

Defence sources told The Guardian at the time that the missile had veered off-course due to the relay of incorrect information, as opposed to the projectile itself being faulty.

It was revealed last year that an investigation had been launched after workers on the HMS Vanguard glued broken bolts back together in a nuclear reactor chamber.

The repairs to vital cooling pipes were only discovered when one bolt fell off during cheks aboard the submarine.

It led to Ben Wallace, the then defence secretary, holding a phone call with the chief executive of Babcock, the defence contractor which had glued the bolt back on, demanding greater transparency.

The 30-year-old, 16-tonne submarine has been undergoing a refit in Plymouth for seven years.

It was pictured sailing from Port Canavarel in Florida on Tuesday morning, according to The Sun.

Labour finally ditches its £28bn green investment promise

Labour is scrapping its pledge to spend £28bn a year on green investment in government, a top shadow cabinet minister confirmed.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party has been insisting it was not U-turning on the promise – but the Labour leader watered it down to an “ambition” in recent months.

Labour sources say the party will now move away from £28bn a year commitment and focus instead on previously-announced plans to get Britain off fossil fuels.

Despite polling well with voters concerned about climate change, the policy has become a key line of attack for the Conservatives – keen to argue that Labour will not keep a tight grip on the public finances.

Darren Jones, the shadow chief Treasury secretary, said on Friday that Labour would only commit to further particular green investment projects on a “case by case” basis.

“The number will move around just as a matter of fact,” Mr Jones told Sky News. “It will depend on the strength of the economy – we will only invest when it’s affordable – but also on a case by case basis working with the private sector.”

Deputy to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Mr Jones said spending level will be “subject to case-by-case business cases that if, I’m the chief secretary to the Treasury in the next Labour government, I will have to sign off”.

Pushed on how much Labour would spend on green investment, Mr Jones said would “depend on what the types of projects are, what the types of partnerships are with the private sector, and also our ability for the market, for our country, to deliver on those projects”.

Labour is now expected to push specific green energy commitments already made – such as a mass home insulation project, and the set-up of a publicly-owned company called GB Energy.

But these schemes are believed to add up to around £10bn a year by the end of the next parliament – a significant drop on the £28bn a year promise.

Sir Keir has been warned that the U-turn could “backfire”, given the pledges’ popularity with voters.

New polling by the More in Common research group found that it was the party’s second most popular policy – behind ending private schools’ tax breaks – among those planning to vote Labour.

Luke Tryl, director of More in Common, said: “Labour might think that they are demonstrating fiscal prudence by dropping the £28bn climate investment, but our research shows that the investment remains a high priority for Labour voters and ditching it could well backfire.”

One shadow Labour minister told The Guardian: “The £28bn is definitely going as a figure. It will be changed to specific outcomes linked to specific investment, rather than being a random figure to be allocated at a later date.”

The source claimed that it wasn’t “such a major departure” because the party was now focusing on specific projects rather than one big figure – arguing that it meant the commitment to green investment was actually being “firmed up, not dropped”.

Ms Reeves repeatedly refused to set out whether she is standing by the £28bn commitment when asked in interviews on Thursday. Asked around 10 times in an interview with Sky News, she only promised “iron discipline” when it comes to self-imposed spending rules.

The shadow chancellor has first watered it down last year by saying it would be a target in the second half of a first parliament, if Labour wins the general election. And Sir Keir then referred to it as an “ambition” rather than a promise.

Carla Denyer, the Green party’s co-leader, said the move away from the £28bn commitment was a “massive backward step – for the climate, for the economy and for jobs”.

She added: “This U-turn will push businesses into taking their investment elsewhere – especially to the EU and US where green investment plans are being rolled out – and threatens thousands of potential exciting new job opportunities.”

Rishi Sunak’s business secretary Kemi Badenoch said the U-turn was “another Labour promise that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.

And Laura Trott, the Tory chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “Labour are now trying to pretend they never said their 2030 energy policy would cost £28bn a year, despite repeatedly saying that their 2030 policy costs £28bn a year.”

Temperatures to plummet as charts show return of snow

A blast of cold air from the north is expected to bring snow back to the UK next week as temperatures are expected to plummet.

Experts warned that snow will fall in Scotland and even potentially down south as cold air dubbed the “Troll from Trondheim” makes its way over the country from Norway.

Temperatures will fall as low as 0C in parts of Scotland towards the end of next week, according to the Met Office weather map, as February takes a cold turn.

Jim Dale, Senior Meteorological Consultant at British Weather Services told The Independent: “We haven’t got to end of winter yet and next week will be colder. There will be snow in Scotland and the north and potentially in the south.”

In its long-range forecast, the Met Office has also said there will be some hill snow over the weekend and that “there is a chance colder conditions could start to feature” in the second week of February.

Unmissable New York State experiences

Hunt’s climbdown on tax cuts is unwelcome and precarious for his party

One of the most irritating of soundbites, usually deployed when a politician finds themself in a tight spot and would rather not acknowledge the fact, is: “I’m not going to give a running commentary on X.” It’s been used often enough by the chancellor of the Exchequer, but in recent months Jeremy Hunt has been engaged in such a non-stop gabbling narrative about his fiscal plans you’d think he was doing it for charity. He has left his audience increasingly confused.

In effect, it echoes the persistent disarray in the Labour Party about the funding for its putative £28bn green deal, once central to its plan to boost growth, decarbonise the economy and cut fuel bills. Contrary to the rhetoric emanating from both main parties about their supposedly crystal clear plans and mission statements, the fact is that the electorate is faced with an unusually opaque choice less than a year before polling day.

Even where there is some semblance of precision about figures, such as the Conservatives’ plans for public spending, it turns out that, as the IMF says, the numbers are utterly unrealistic – which means that the entire fiscal plan is also for the birds. It is not reassuring, in that context, that Labour seems to be edging towards adopting the Treasury’s current spending projections.

What does the restoration of power-sharing mean for Northern Ireland?

With fresh legislation to restore power-sharing to Northern Ireland being rushed through parliament with little resistance, a new government at Stormont could be formed by next week. It will, for the first time in the history of the province, be headed – at least symbolically – by someone who is an Irish republican, Michelle O’Neill, the vice president of Sinn Fein. It is another fascinating and perhaps portentous pact of recent historic developments. Just for a second, there appear to be grounds for optimism…

No – because of power-sharing no one community or political party can ever boss the others, and the principle of consent is central to the delicate machinery set up in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement back in 1998. The Unionists retain a veto, and the deputy first minister, presumably Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, will in effect be a co-first minister. Northern Ireland is thus unusual in the world in being a “duarchy” with the ultimate executive power shared by two figures with equal power, as well as a wide variety of parties being given ministerial roles – the Ulster Unionists, Alliance Party and Irish nationalist SDLP will also fill the government jobs. It’s rather like a government made up of a Tory premier, Labour deputy and with Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid and Greens all in the cabinet.