The Telegraph 2024-02-02 08:01:42

Clapham chemical attack suspect was failed asylum seeker

A refugee suspected of carrying out a chemical attack that left a mother and child disfigured was twice denied asylum in the UK before being allowed to stay after claiming he had converted to Christianity, The Telegraph has learned.

Abdul Shokoor Ezedi, 35, who arrived illegally in the country in the back of a lorry in 2016, said his life would be in danger if he was returned to his native Afghanistan.

Ezedi was convicted of a sex offence in 2018. It is understood that he was twice refused asylum before being granted leave to remain in 2021 or 2022 after a priest vouched for his conversion and argued he was “wholly committed” to his new religion. 

On Thursday night, Ezedi was at the centre of a nationwide manhunt, suspected of attacking a 31-year-old woman and her two children, aged three and eight, with an alkaline substance and attempting to run them over before fleeing.
In total, 12 people, including police officers, were injured during the attack on Lessar Avenue, a residential road next to Clapham Common in south London.

The woman and her three-year-old daughter, who were known to Ezedi, have been left with potentially “life-changing” injuries, with witnesses saying the mother had been blinded.

Police released an image of Ezedi taken an hour after the attack on the other side of London with his face visibly disfigured.

Ezedi is believed to have travelled to the capital from Newcastle, where he had been living in hostels and halfway houses, to carry out the alleged attack.

It also emerged that while living in the UK, he had been convicted of a sexual offence at the city’s crown court but only received a suspended sentence.

MPs said that Ezedi should never have been granted asylum in the first place as they called for a review of the entire system.
Miriam Cates, co-chairman of the New Conservative group of MPs, said: “This shocking and tragic case is everybody’s worst nightmare but it also shows the urgent need to tighten up our asylum processes.

“This man should never have been granted asylum in this country and we need to get to the bottom of how he was able to be granted leave to remain.

“This brings home the enormous security threat that this country faces from thousands of illegal migrants entering the UK each year.”
Sir John Hayes, a former home office minister, said he would be writing to James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, to seek an urgent review of the asylum rules. 

“This case provides an opportunity not only to review the criteria for granting asylum but also for how we deal with those who are known criminals,” said Sir John. “It won’t take much working out who has been here and subsequently received asylum and then committed a crime and how we can deport all of them.”

The Telegraph understands that Ezedi’s initial claim for asylum was rejected after he arrived in the UK illegally.

In his second application, it is understood he claimed he had converted to Christianity but this too was refused.

It was only when he made a third appeal, supported by the priest, that he was finally granted asylum.

Lee Anderson, the former Conservative deputy chairman, said: “There should be a condition on any asylum being granted that if you commit a crime, you go back to your country. He cannot claim he is being persecuted and at risk when he is coming to the UK and committing crimes.

“It should apply whether it is shoplifting or another crime. That would make us a safer country. They should find him and send him straight back. No messing about.”

The assault, described by police as “horrific”, took place at around 7.25pm on Wednesday on the busy residential road a few hundred metres away from Clapham Common South Tube station.

Witnesses said that the mother, along with her children, had been inside a white Hyundai with a man, believed to be Ezedi.

The pair exited the vehicle and began fighting in the middle of the road, before the man returned to the car and drove into the woman.

At some point during the attack, the woman and her children were doused with what police described as an alkaline.

The substance, commonly found in bleach and oven cleaner, has been used in a number of chemical attacks in the capital in recent years.

The Acid Survivors Trust International, which documents acid attacks around the world, said that a chemical attack being directed at a mother and two young children was “unheard of”.

Jaf Shah, chief executive, said that the majority of attacks involving acids or alkalis were gang-related.

“The scale of attacks and the targeting of young children by a single perpetrator is unheard of. It’s important to highlight that this is not commonplace, this is very rare”, he added.

Victim was screaming

The woman was seen stumbling around the street screaming “my eyes, my eyes”, according to witnesses.

Mohamed Ilyas, 18, said the attack seemed to be committed “out of pure hatred”.

“The mum was screaming, ‘my eyes, my eyes, call the ambulance’ and the child was screaming “where’s my mummy?”.

He added: “What was so strange was he was so composed about it. How can you do that to a child? How can you do that to a woman?”

The suspect fled the scene immediately after the attack and graphic CCTV images released by the Metropolitan Police showed him with black marks across his right eye and upper face while buying a bottle of water in a Tesco on Caledonian Road, in Islington, north London at 8.48pm.

Supt Gabriel Cameron, from the Metropolitan Police, said Ezedi had suffered “significant injuries to the right side of his face” following the incident.

An asylum seeker can claim asylum based on their conversion to a new religion if they will face persecution in their home country because of their new faith.

In November 2021, it emerged that a suicide bomber who blew himself up outside a maternity hospital in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday had converted to Christianity at the city’s nearby cathedral.

Emad al-Swealmeen, 32, who came to the UK from Iraq as an asylum seeker, was confirmed by the Rt Rev Cyril Ashton at Liverpool Cathedral in 2017.

Watch: Kingussie Kong’s Highland escape is ended by a Yorkshire pud – and missing his friends

He escaped heat-seeking drones and a search party that included mountain rescuers on a five-day odyssey around the Scottish Highlands.

But for Honshu the monkey, dubbed Kingussie Kong, it was the temptation of a Yorkshire pudding – as well as seeking a reunion with his old friends – that saw his daring bid for freedom come to an end.

The seven-year-old Japanese macaque came out of hiding to snaffle the savoury treat, which had been left out by Stephanie Banyan in her garden the previous night, in the village of Insh, Inverness-shire.

Ms Banyan had left the pud out on Wednesday night for birds and squirrels. But when she looked out of her sunroom doors shortly after 10am the following day, she was confronted by Honshu, a fugitive since he fled Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie on Sunday.

The Yorkshire pudding had disappeared.

Honshu’s keepers believe he had slowly been making his way back home to the wildlife park over recent days as experts said he would be missing the company of other monkeys.

On Tuesday, footage from a drone deployed in the search for Honshu picked him up just 300 metres from the park.

After spotting the fugitive on Thursday morning, Ms Banyan raised the alarm on a “monkey hotline”, set up for locals to report sightings. A drone was launched and keepers arrived within 10 minutes.

Members of the search team surrounded Ms Banyan’s home, with tranquiliser dart rifles trained on the property as Honshu got on the roof and navigated the gutters. As they closed in, the monkey showed his gratitude by defecating in her well-manicured garden.

After being shot with the dart, he slumped face down and was collected in a large net.

It is estimated that Honshu travelled at least 12.5 miles during his escape, with the furthest confirmed sighting more than four miles from his wildlife park home.

Ben Harrower, the owner of BH Wildlife Consultancy, who joined the hunt, said at first he had only been able to pick up a pheasant and deer with his drone, before thermal imaging showed Honshu on the roof.

“He was very well hidden under an alcove,” he said. “After 20 minutes of monitoring, a team from the Highland Wildlife Park were able to get into position and successfully tranquilise the monkey and bring him to safety.”

Ms Banyan told Channel 5 news: “I came down into the sunroom this morning with my coffee, looked out of the doors, and the monkey was just staring straight in the window at me.

“There was a bit of shock, a bit of surprise, then I thought I’d better phone the hotline. We get pheasants in the garden, all sorts of wildlife, but never a macaque.”

There had been several sightings of Honshu since Sunday. He was seen that morning snacking on bird feeders in Kincraig, more than two miles north of the wildlife park.

An initial search effort focused on vast areas of woodland to the north of the town.

Keepers believe he fled the enclosure after getting into a fight, but began his return home after finding there were no other macaque troops roaming Scotland for him to join.

He was then filmed on Tuesday but although he was followed from the sky for around 45 minutes, he evaded his keepers once again.

Search efforts were curtailed by high winds on Wednesday, before Honshu was finally captured on Thursday around a mile south of the wildlife park. He was checked by vets before being reunited with the 36 other members of his troop.

Keith Gilchrist, the living collections operations manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said he was “so relieved” to have successfully captured the runaway.

While not usually a danger to humans, macaques have been known to attack when threatened and children at a local primary school had their playtime temporarily curtailed when Honshu was on the loose.

“It’s been a long five days,” Mr Gilchrist said. “But the keeper team have been fantastic and the local community have been great with phoning in tips and sightings.

“I’m just glad it all came together in the end and we’ve been able to bring him back home.”

The macaque, also known as a snow monkey, is about the size of a medium-sized dog. The fight that caused Honshu to flee is believed to have been caused by tensions due to the monkeys’ mating season.

West must ensure Russia loses or face attacks by dictatorships, warns Shapps

The West must ensure that Russia is defeated in Ukraine or risk being attacked by dictatorships such as China, Grant Shapps has warned.

The Defence Secretary said “regimes who do not believe in democracy are watching” the war in Ukraine and could launch attacks on Western states if they think they have “run out of puff”.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he said Britain was “living in more and more dangerous times”, and revealed that Army recruitment had more than doubled last month amid growing fears of a confrontation with Moscow.

Speaking on a trip to Washington this week, where he met Lloyd Austin, his US counterpart, and Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, Mr Shapps said the West must be “very, very clear that this is existential… it’s not just about Ukraine”.

He said: “Everyone is watching – the Iranians are looking. Do we just run out of puff, run out of patience and go away? China will be watching in the Indo-Pacific, North Korea will be watching.

“It is vitally important to our own national interests, and definitely to the Western civilised world, that Ukraine is successful in their own country.”

His comments came as the EU agreed a new £46 billion Ukraine package, which the bloc said would provide “long-term, predictable funding” after concern about the future of US support.

Mr Shapps said he would use a meeting of Nato defence ministers next week to urge member states to meet a commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence, to “make sure that they are contributing to this global safety by making sure that a tyrant can’t win”.

He added: “Regimes who do not believe in democracy are watching, and we need to demonstrate that the democratic path is the path that always wins.”

Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of the British Army, last week called for “preparatory steps” to put the UK on a “war footing”, including an increase in troop numbers, forcing Downing Street to deny that the Government was planning to reintroduce conscription.

Admiral Rob Bauer, one of Nato’s leading officials, said on Jan 18 that the alliance was “preparing for a conflict with Russia”. Three days earlier, Mr Shapps had warned in a speech at Lancaster House in London that the West was “moving from a post-war to a pre-war world”.

The Defence Secretary told The Telegraph the public could “rule out” conscription, but revealed that the Army had seen almost double the number of recruits last month than in the same period last year, as people grew more concerned about national security.

It is understood that 10,800 people signed up last month – more than double the monthly average of 5,300 last year.

The Royal Navy’s basic training facility, HMS Raleigh, has been fully booked for four weeks in succession – the longest time it has been oversubscribed since 2017.

“I’m actually very pleased that since we started raising these issues, including in my Lancaster House speech, people are responding,” said Mr Shapps. “They realise there are a lot of opportunities.”

A defence source added that the UK could be experiencing a “Top Gun effect” from visible activity of the Armed Forces in the Middle East, comparable to the surge in recruitment for the US Navy after the release of the 1986 film.

On Thursday, Mr Austin, the US defence secretary, echoed the concerns about Western security, warning of a “dangerous moment” for the world.

Mr Austin said the US had chosen a “multi-layered” response to a drone strike in which three American troops were killed on Sunday. He said it was designed to encourage Iran to rein in proxy groups in the Middle East, which have attacked US forces more than 160 times since October.

The strikes are expected to target Iranian personnel and proxy groups operating in Iraq and Syria over the coming days.

Mr Shapps said the UK was not planning to join the strikes, cautioning against a “wider regional conflict”, but called on Iran to “show leadership over these Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq”.

The Defence Secretary said the UK would continue to work with the US guarding against Houthi attacks in the Red Sea because “freedom of navigation has to reign supreme”.

However, he played down speculation that the UK could soon deploy an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea, saying that “there’s certainly nothing imminent or immediate” planned.

“We’ve had a destroyer defending merchant shipping herself, and we’ve had Typhoon aircraft carrying out actions against the Houthis,” he said. “We don’t actually need a carrier there.”

Mr Shapps’s concerns about the threat from Iran and China come after Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, said Iran posed an “unacceptable threat to the UK’s security” and had tried to kill 15 British nationals or UK-linked individuals in the past two years.

Ken McCallum, the head of MI5, has warned that Chinese hackers are routinely targeting UK infrastructure in an attempt to wreak havoc on the National Grid, water supply and transport hubs.

Rugby is a form of child abuse, study says

Rugby being played in schools is a form of child abuse, a study has suggested.

The risk of serious injury carried by high-impact sports is contrary to child abuse laws, academics at the universities of Winchester, Nottingham Trent and Bournemouth argued.

The academics claimed that neither children nor their parents are legally able to give informed consent to take part, and that sporting organisations have effectively groomed both groups into accepting brain injuries caused by the sports.

The paper, set to be published in Sports, Ethics & Philosophy: Journal of the British Philosophy of Sport Association, and seen in advance by the Times, draws a distinction between sports that are designed to involve physical impact and those that may result in injuries by accident.

Its recommendations, which only apply to children, not adults, cite the view that “knocks to the head” can contribute to brain damage which can in turn lead to conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s.

‘Sports for children should not intentionally harm their brains’

The paper also argues that those who begin playing rugby as children are more likely to risk brain trauma than those who start later in life.  

Eric Anderson, a professor of sport at the University of Winchester who led the study, told the Times: “Sports for children should not intentionally harm their brains. They should focus on fun, health and social development rather than conditioning them to play elite-level sport.

“These collisions cause cognitive harm and increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia; they are therefore abusive to a child’s brain. Cultural perception is that striking a child outside sport is abuse but striking a child in sport is somehow socially acceptable. We are trying to change that. It doesn’t matter what the social context is, the brain is damaged in both.”

A spokeswoman for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said player welfare was the organisation’s “top priority”.

“PE in school is compulsory,” she said.

“However, rugby is not. The RFU and England Rugby Football Schools’ Union work closely to support teachers and coaches with guidance and resources, especially around players’ safety and welfare.

“Rugby for young people at schools or clubs in England exists in different forms — contact, reduced contact and non-contact. Rugby has established and been at the forefront of concussion and injury surveillance, education and law changes using evidence to proactively manage player welfare.

“Playing rugby provides significant physical and mental-health benefits along with life skills gained from playing a team sport which has strong values. Against a backdrop of decreased physical activity and a global obesity epidemic in children, we believe rugby has a role to play in keeping people active, healthy and engaged.”

Margot Robbie interrupts stag do after overhearing their Barbie conversation

Margot Robbie has revealed she interrupted a Scottish stag do group who were discussing the merits of Barbie as she addressed her Oscars snub for the first time.

The Australian star, 33, said she couldn’t resist approaching a group of men celebrating a stag at a pub in Scotland, saying: “It was just truly fascinating. There were people at the table who refused to see the Barbie movie.

“One guy was like ‘dude, it is a cultural moment, don’t you want to be a part of culture?’ And the other guy was like, ‘I’ll never see it’ and by the end, he did want to see it. It was a whole thing.”

It comes as she said “there’s no way to feel sad when you know you’re this blessed” after failing to receive a nod for Best Actress for the blockbuster film at the Academy Awards.

She added that it took the group of stunned men “a full minute” to register that it was her saying hello and described the moment they realised as “very funny”.

Robbie, who both produced and starred as the leading role in Barbie, addressed the row over the missed Oscar nominations for director Greta Gerwig and herself at a special Sag-Aftra panel discussion on Tuesday night.

The snubs for the record-breaking film, which was the highest-grossing movie of 2023 and the only billion-dollar film solely directed by a woman, were highly criticised by the movie’s actors and sparked a furious discourse online.

“Obviously I think Greta should be nominated as a director because what she did is a once-in-a-career, once-in-a-lifetime thing, what she pulled off, it really is,” Robbie said, but added that it had “been an incredible year for all the films”.

She added: “We set out to do something that would shift culture, affect culture, just make some sort of impact, and it’s already done that, and some, way more than we ever dreamed it would.

“That is truly the biggest reward that could come out of all of this.”

Robbie added she was “beyond ecstatic” that the box office juggernaut had received eight Oscar nominations, which include Best Supporting Actress for America Ferrera, who plays Gloria, and Best Supporting Actor for Ryan Gosling, who plays Ken.

Gerwig missed out on a Best Director nod but was named alongside her husband Noah Baumbach for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Robbie lost out on a Best Actress nomination but was recognised for Best Picture as a producer.

The nomination is her first as a producer after she acquired the rights to Mattel’s Barbie with her production company LuckyChap. Robbie shares the nomination with fellow producers Tom Ackerley, David Heyman and Robbie Brenner.

Gosling, 43, spoke about his disappointment for Gerwig and Robbie after the pair were snubbed in their categories.

“There is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally celebrated film,” he said.

“No recognition would be possible for anyone on the film without their talent, grit and genius.”

Convicted paedophile worked at Somerset Butlin’s for a year

A convicted paedophile deported from Australia has been working as a lifeguard at Butlin’s in Somerset for nearly a year, an investigation has found.

Dean Carelse, 43, is a disgraced water polo coach and teacher who in 2022 was convicted of more than a dozen charges relating to indecent acts against children in Queensland, Australia.

The South African national was jailed for two years and spent almost 300 days in custody before being deported back to his home country.

He is also under investigation in South Africa, where police believe he is linked to an alleged paedophile ring that operated in private schools, investigators told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.

Despite his record of convictions – and the publicity around the case, which was covered extensively by South African and Australian press – Carelse was cleared to work for the Butlin’s resort in Minehead.

Carelse was exposed as having worked at the resort as a children’s lifeguard for the past 10 months following an investigation by ABC. He is said to have arrived in the UK at the beginning of 2023.

The holiday park advertises itself as having pools suitable for “all-action family fun”. Carelse is understood to have worked in the Splash Waterworld pool complex, which boasts four water rides and where children aged eight and above can swim unaccompanied.

Butlin’s on Thursday disclosed that Carelse had lied on his application to secure his role. It has since fired him.

It is understood Carelse had presented documents that showed he had passed a disclosure and barring service (DBS) criminal check.

Butlin’s said it “immediately conducted an investigation” after his criminal background came to light. The resort in Minehead said “no complaints or issues had been raised” during his employment.

A spokesman said: “As part of our recruitment process and in line with government guidance, we carried out an enhanced DBS check and right-to-work status, which came back clear.

“The team member falsified information on their application, and we can confirm they no longer work for us. In addition, there have been no complaints or issues raised against them.

“Due to the severity of this, we have reviewed our policy and can confirm additional checks for existing international team and future international applicants will be carried out.”

Another member of staff said: “It’s disgusting what he’s done. I hope he gets deported.”

On its online job portal, Butlin’s requires applicants for lifeguard positions to declare whether they have “any unspent criminal convictions” or “ongoing criminal proceedings that we should be aware of”.

The application forms state: “Due to the nature of some of our roles at Butlin’s, you may be required to undergo a DBS check as part of your employment. This will also apply should you live in our resorts.”

“Our guests’ safety is our biggest priority so this role requires superb attention to detail whilst also interacting with our guests and providing exceptional customer service,” one Butlin’s advertisement reads. “You will promote and run poolside activities, creating memorable experiences for our guests.”

Carelse was previously a sports coach who mentored rugby players in South Africa before working for Water Polo Queensland and elite schools in Australia.

His career ended when he was caught taking pictures of children in their swimming trunks while he was poolside at their school sports carnival.

In what prosecutors called a “slippery slope” of offending, it was revealed the teacher had groomed a 13-year-old boy for sex and messaged other minors on social media under an alias.

Police later uncovered 2,000 exploitative images during a raid on Carelse’s home north of Brisbane, as well as indecent recordings of students at a swimming pool.

‘Jekyll and Hyde character’

David Smith, his former partner, a 43-year-old barrister from Gqeberha in South Africa, described Carelse as a “Jekyll and Hyde” character.

“Dean is a homosexual, and was repressed and self-hating, so he would talk about girls when he was drinking beer with the straight guys,” Mr Smith told The Telegraph.

“He was seen by many as a very nice person, he was always so well turned out, a Dr Jekyll and Hyde,” he added.

“He changed into an entirely different person after 11pm. So he would be the straight person by day and was quite different by night.

“I never, never met a man quite so scheming and devious as he, and if his back was in a corner he could become violent.”

Carelse was hired as a sports teacher and coach by Grey High School in the Eastern Cape in 2002.

He remained there for 10 years, before moving on to jobs at other schools, where he always worked as a sports coach and teacher.

“He was very, very good at what he did, in sport, but things were swept under the carpet, and when he left those jobs he always left under some kind of cloud,” Mr Smith said.

“He was, in reality, very much a paedophile and I saw him engaged in that. This is my summation.”

It was unclear exactly when Carelse left South Africa, but he was believed to have worked in Australia until his arrest in 2021. He was deported back to South Africa after being sentenced the following year.

‘Improper adoration for 13-year-old’

Ben Powers, part of Carelse’s defence counsel, told an Australian court hearing in 2022 that his client knew that child abuse material was “shameful” but that he had been lonely and developed “an unhealthy and improper adoration” for the 13-year-old, whom he made the beneficiary of his will and retirement fund.

Police in South Africa were awaiting further information from their Australian counterparts before proceeding with their own investigation, ABC reported.

The broadcaster confirmed Queensland police had uncovered evidence suggesting some of Carelse’s victims were South African children.

South African police then requested more information about local victims but were informed that information sharing would require an international treaty, a police source told ABC.

The delay in the sharing of evidence between the countries meant Carelse was able to travel.

A Queensland Police spokesman said the force had done “due diligence”.

“As the material is child exploitation, it is not something that can just be sent. The QPS have no authority to send it without application in the form of an MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) from South African police. This has not occurred,” he told ABC.

BBC employee called Jewish people ‘Nazis’ and whites ‘parasites’

A senior BBC employee branded Jewish people “Nazis” and white people “parasites” in a string of social media posts.

The BBC has been informed of statements made online by Dawn Queva, who is a scheduling coordinator at BBC Three, according to her online profile.

Posts made on her Facebook page include calling Jewish people “Nazi apartheid parasites” that funded a “holohoax”.

Her posts repeatedly attack white people, calling them a “virus” and “mutant invader species”.

Ms Queva, whose location is listed as London on her Linkedin profile, also brands the UK “bigoted” and “genocidal” and claims white Europeans are “melanin-recessive parasites”.

The posts come after Tim Davie, the BBC director general, held a “listening” session for staff concerns following the breakout of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has led some Jewish employees to file official complaints about anti-Semitism.

Ms Queva’s posts were made under the name of Dawn Las Quevas-Allen on Facebook, but it has the same profile picture as her regular profile, and trade magazine Deadline reports that her identity has been confirmed.

‘Synagogue of Satan cabal’

She previously worked with Disney and UKTV, according to her Linkedin profile,

Ms Queva’s post made numerous references to the supposed origins of the Jewish people, claiming that they are not truly Jewish, but a “synagogue of Satan cabal calling themselves “JeWISH”.

One post claims that the Rothschild family “funded their own holohoax”, and another that Israel is attempting to “forcibly permanently sterilise black women without their knowledge or consent”.

Several of Ms Queva’s many posts refer to Britain as the “UKKK”, in an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

Other posts state that white people have disturbed the natural order of the planet, and that they are a “barbaric bloodthirsty rapacious murderous genocidal thieving parasitical deviant breed”.

Ms Queva has been contacted for comment on her posts.

The BBC said: “We don’t comment on individual members of staff and we have well-established and robust processes in place to handle such issues. We do not tolerate anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or any form of abuse and we take any such allegations seriously and take appropriate disciplinary action wherever necessary.”

‘Everyone here is unhappy’

The Telegraph recently reported that groups of Jewish employees at the BBC filed grievances over alleged anti-Semitism in the workplace.

Staff complained about Gary Lineker’s social media use, and the corporation’s coverage of the conflict in Gaza, according to sources at the broadcaster.

One of at least 22 staff understood to have submitted formal complaints said Jewish staff were “fighting fires all over the place” and “everyone here is unhappy”, adding that concerns about anti-Semitism were “met with indifference or a shrug by management”.