INDEPENDENT 2024-02-02 20:09:52


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.”

Sentencing her on Friday to life imprisonment, Judge Michael Leeming told the defendant: “Prison may be hard for you, Alice Wood, but you only have yourself to blame for the situation you now find yourself in.”

Elton John and Keir Starmer among mourners at Derek Draper’s funeral

Kate Garraway laid her husband Derek Draper to rest at a funeral held at the same London church where they were married 18 years ago.

The popular Good Morning Britain presenter, 56, was joined by her and Draper’s children, Darcey and Billy, for the private service at the Church of St Mary The Virgin in Primrose Hill on Friday (2 February).

The funeral was held nearly one month after Garraway confirmed her “darling husband” Draper, a psychologist and former political lobbyist, had died from a cardiac arrest, following an agonising four-year battle with long covid, on 5 January. He was 56.

Among the many recognisable faces in attendance were Garraway’s ITV colleagues, including Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard, along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, former UK prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie Blair, and Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish.

Also present were TV stars including Piers Morgan, Alex Beresford, Robert Rinder, Fiona Phillips and her husband, This Morning editor Martin Frizell, and pop star Myleene Klass.

They were joined by political figures including Labour’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell, former shadow chancellor Ed Balls, former first secretary of state Peter Mandelson, and shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband.

Draper, from Chorley in Lancashire, was a Labour Party lobbyist for almost a decade. A former researcher for Blairite Peter Mandelson, he quit politics in 1998 after being involved in the “Lobbygate” scandal, in which he was caught on record bragging to an undercover journalist about his ability to sell access to government ministers.

At the time, Draper insisted he was innocent of any wrongdoing but admitted to having “a big mouth”.

He later retrained as a psychotherapist in the US, contributing regularly to newspapers and magazines, and writing two books: Blair’s 100 Days, and Life Support.

In 2008, he founded the LabourList website that was supportive of, but independent to, the Labour Party, and served as a rival to websites such as Conservative Home.

He stepped down as editor a year later, after email correspondence between him and one of prime minister Gordon Brown’s key aides, Damian McBride, was leaked.

In the emails, McBride proposed a campaign of unfounded and “obscene” personal smears against senior Conservatives on a new blog called RedRag, an idea praised by Draper as “absolutely, totally brilliant”.

Brown apologised for the emails and said that while he was “horrified, shocked and very angry indeed” upon learning of them, he took “full responsibility for what happened”.

Draper fell seriously ill during the early part of the pandemic, and spent 13 months in hospital before he was discharged. He suffered from extreme complications since contracting the disease, including organ damage, and required constant care.

His final public outing was to attend Mandleson’s wedding to his long-term partner Reinaldo Avila da Silva last October.

Last year, Elton John invited Draper and Garraway to be his guests of honour at his Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert at London’s O2 Arena, where he stunned them by dedicating his hit single “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to Draper and his family.

Calling Draper and Garraway “inspiring”, John told his 20,000-strong audience that the couple had been “through hell” but had “never given up”.

Appearing on her Smooth Radio show the following day (18 April), the Good Morning Britain host explained that the message had been particularly special as “right up to the last minute”, she hadn’t known if it would even be possible for Draper to attend.

“It took weeks of planning and just days before, it looked like he would be too sick to attend,” she said. “But as soon as we got into the stadium and Elton went on stage, he started weeping tears of joy, and squeezed my hand so tightly.”

Garraway spent nearly four years caring for Draper. Through that time, she continued to shine a light on the family’s struggles in a bid to raise awareness about long Covid and what it was like caring for a loved one suffering from it.

She captured the devastating and permanent impact the disease had on her family in the award-winning documentary Finding Derek.

Garraway was awarded an MBE by the Prince of Wales in recognition for her services to journalism, broadcasting and charity, during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle in July last year.

In a statement shared on Instagram announcing her husband’s death last month, she wrote: “I’m sad to have to tell you all that my darling husband Derek has passed away,” she wrote. “As some of you may know he has been critically ill following a cardiac arrest in early December which, because of the damage inflicted by Covid in March 2020, led to further complications.

“Derek was surrounded by his family in his final days and I was by his side holding his hand throughout the last long hours and when he passed. Sending so much love and thanks to all of you who have so generously given our family so much support.

“Rest gently and peacefully now Derek, my love, I was so lucky to have you in my life,” she wrote.

Garraway was pictured wearing a long black coat and a pearl necklace while entering the same church where she and Draper tied the knot in 2005.

Their daughter Darcey Draper, 17, was among those carrying her father’s coffin at the funeral service.

In a tribute after Draper’s death, Blair described the Labour adviser as a ruthless political operative and “an important part of the New Labour story”.

“It is extraordinary and remarkable that Derek survived so long after the ravages of Covid,” he said in a statement. “And that was in large measure due to the love Derek had for his family and they for him. This also says something very special about Derek.

“He was a tough, sometimes ruthless political operative, a brilliant adviser and someone you always wanted on your side. But underneath that tough exterior he was a loving, kind, generous and good-natured man you wanted as a friend,” Blair continued.

Morgan previously praised his “heroic” friend Garraway’s “commitment, dedication, and loyalty” to Draper through his arduous and painful health struggles.

Writing a column forThe Sun after Draper’s death, the TalkTV presenter noted: “Their marriage was even more magnificently powerful in the face of such tremendous adversity than it was in the good times, fuelled by a mutual love so profoundly deep that few experience anything like it.”

Speaking on behalf of his friend, Shephard, 49, previously said Garraway and her children – Darcey and Billy – were in the “next stages” of grieving for Draper in an update on 11 January.

He told GMB viewers that Garraway was beyond grateful for the outpouring of love and support for her family as they navigated a world without Draper – who she was married to for 18 years.

Garraway, 56, often provided health updates about her husband on the ITV morning programme and fronted two documentaries on the channel about how the family’s life changed following his illness.

She confirmed she would take a leave of absence from her presenting roles, including on GMB, after Draper’s death.

The presenter, who hosts GMB and her own show on Smooth Radio, plans to return to work in the future, according to the PA news agency.

Additional reporting from wires

Nigeria vs Angola LIVE: Super Eagles win Afcon QF after Lookman goal

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has reached the quarter-final stage and the first of those takes place in Abidjan on Friday evening, with Nigeria facing Angola as two unbeaten teams collide.

Having kept three clean sheets in a row, the Super Eagles look defensively solid and to have a platform for success, despite possessing some of the best attacking talents with the likes of Victor Osimhen in their squad. They beat Cameroon in the last 16 thanks to an Ademola Lookman brace to arrive at this stage.

Angola hit three past Namibia at the same stage to book a last-eight berth, but will face Nigeria without first-choice goalkeeper Neblu after his red card in that victory. Follow Nigeria vs Angola below for live updates and team news and get all the latest Afcon odds and tips here.

New images of chemical attack suspect escaping as police uncover ‘significant evidence’

The fugitive sex offender at the centre of a vast manhunt suspected of throwing an alkaline substance at a mother and her two children was last seen boarding a London Tube, the Metropolitan Police have said.

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

It has emerged that Ezedi was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018, before being granted asylum 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.

Publishing new pictures of Ezedi at King’s Cross station, Scotland Yard said he was last seen boarding a southbound Victoria Tube at around 8pm on Wednesday.

Overnight police raids at five properties – two in the capital and three in Newcastle – uncovered “significant and important” evidence, the Met said.

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

Rishi Sunak’s small boats suffer blow Home Office Turkey unsafe

Rishi Sunak’s pledge to halt boats carrying migrants across the English Channel is under threat once again as the Home Office is said to have concerns about Turkey being a safe country.

The decision puts the prime minister’s hope of striking a returns deal with Ankara in jeopardy, as officials say that Turkey is “over-zealous” in its anti-terrorism laws and has unfair trials. There are also allegations of torture in the judicial system.

Three thousand Turkish nationals arrived by small boat to the UK last year, the third largest nationality and more than double the number from the previous year.

The proposed deal would have mirrored the accord with Albania, which Downing Street says has seen the number of people arriving by small boats falling by 90 per cent since the returns deal was signed.

But now the plans face are facing a major setback as an internal Home Office review is reported to have described Turkey as “a state that does not meet the criteria of being ‘generally safe’” and questioned its compliance with rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which the Home Office said may raise “questions about adherence to the rule of law”.

The audit may gift Sunak’s right-leaning colleagues yet more ammunition to push for the UK to leave the ECHR and bolster provisions within the Rwanda bill to ignore the court-orders that override UK government policy.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman has called the Home Office’s decision “very concerning”.

Posting on X, she said:

“As Home Secretary I worked up proposals to list Turkey as a safe country [sic], a member of the Council of Europe, a NATO ally and a Candidate country for EU accession. The government should re-think this decision.”

The Times is reporting that officials are considering whether another treaty – similar to the Rwandan one – could be worked up to ensure that political opponents would not be persecuted upon return.

Turkey has long been considered an important state in the wider immigration landscape as a gateway between the war-torn Middle East and the rest of Europe.

It has also become the main hub for manufacturing dinghies which are used by people-smugglers to transport migrants over the channel.

Back in August 2022 the UK and Turkey signed an intelligence sharing agreement that would strengthen collaboration and enforcement between the states in dealing with the migrant crisis.

The government established a new centre of excellence, to be established by the Turkish National Police, which would help the two countries share intelligence so staff could act more quickly on information.

New Home Office figures published on Thursday revealed 1,335 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats in January, a 13 per cent increase compared with the same month last year.

Downing Street has since denied that a potential returns agreement to send migrants back to Turkey has fallen through.

Asked whether it has, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters: “No. We do and can return people to Turkey. There’s been no changes to the arrangements we have between the UK and Turkey.

“We announced a strengthened migration partnership with Turkey last summer.”

Asked whether there were plans to create a more formal deal, they said: “Formal return agreements are just one of the many levers we’ve got at our disposal. And we do and can return people to Turkey.”

A spokesperson from the Home Office also said that international cooperation plays a “crucial part” in tackling illegal migration and “the UK and Turkey are close strategic partners, with a future-focused relationship”.

“Where an individual has no legal right to be in the UK, we will seek to return them to their home country. Protection claims are considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations – no one who is found to be at risk of persecution or serious harm will be returned,” they added.

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.