INDEPENDENT 2024-02-03 08:17:56


Train drivers’ strikes bring more travel misery

Parts of the country will have no rail services on Saturday because of the latest strike by train drivers, causing travel chaos for passengers including sports fans.

Members of Aslef at Avanti West CoastEast Midlands Railway and West Midlands Railway will walk out for 24 hours in their long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

Strikes against different English train operators started earlier this week and will continue on Monday, while a ban on overtime will last until Tuesday, also causing disruption to services.

Football fans attending many league games will be among those affected on Saturday, while the hospitality industry has warned that the ongoing industrial action is costing the sector tens of millions of pounds in lost income.

Avanti West Coast urged its customers not to travel on Saturday as there will be no services.

Managing director Andy Mellors said: “Our customers want to be out using our network and it is disappointing that we are once again asking them not to travel on a weekend.

“We understand their frustration and can only apologise for the disruption to their plans.

“We’d encourage those able to do so to take advantage of the ticket easement and change their day of travel. Alternatively, customers are entitled to a full fee-free refund.”

Football games affected on Avanti’s routes include Everton v Tottenham, Burnley v Fulham, Leyton Orient v Carlisle, West Brom v Birmingham City, Tranmere v Crewe and Salford v Wrexham.

West Midlands Railway (WMR) said the impact of the strike and overtime ban means none of its train services will run on Saturday or Sunday.

There will be an amended timetable on Monday and Tuesday, with services subject to short-notice amendment or cancellation.

Jonny Wiseman, WMR customer experience director, said: “Industrial action is designed to be disruptive to passengers and it is extremely disappointing that the impact of this action means we are unable to operate any services this weekend.

“Passengers holding tickets for travel for either Saturday or Sunday will be able to use them on an alternative day or claim a full refund. Information is available on our website.

“I also urge passengers travelling during the period of the overtime ban to check their journeys before setting out as services may be subject to short-notice cancellation. I also urge passengers not to rely on late services as last trains may be earlier than usual.”

There will be no East Midlands Railway services on Saturday.

The pay and conditions dispute started in the summer of 2022 and shows no sign of being resolved.

Aslef says drivers have not had a pay rise for almost five years, including a period where many worked through the pandemic.

Train companies say working conditions have to be updated, while the government is urging the union’s leadership to ballot their members on an offer made last year.

Rocky, Predator and The Mandalorian star Carl Weathers dies aged 76

Carl Weathers, the Rocky franchise’s Apollo Creed and star of films including Predator and Happy Gilmore, has died aged 76.

He died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home on Thursday (1 February), his manager, Matt Luber, confirmed on Friday (2 February).

“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” Luber said in a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter.

“Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend.”

His Happy Gilmore co-star Adam Sandler saluted him as “a true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete”.

“So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!! Everyone loved him. My wife and I had the best times with him every time we saw him. Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend,” Sandler wrote on X.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 14 January 1948, Weathers played college football at Long Beach City College before transferring and playing at San Diego State University. He obtained his master’s degree in theatre arts at the latter.

After he failed to get drafted into the National Football League (NFL), he signed on as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in 1970 but was let go a year later.

He then played for the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions for three years before officially retiring from football in 1974. That same year, he made the decision to pursue acting as a career.

His first significant on-screen roles were in the 1975 films Bucktown and Friday Foster, both directed by his longtime friend Arthur Marks.

It was shortly after that, that he was cast as Apollo Creed, the main antagonist in Rocky (1976)and Rocky II (1979), opposite Sylvester Stallone’s titular boxer Rocky Balboa. Real-life boxing legend Ken Norton had originally signed on to play Apollo but the role eventually went to Weathers after the latter criticised Stallone’s acting during the audition. Apparently Stallone felt the verbal jab was something Apollo would say.

Weathers went on to reprise his character in Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985).

He then starred as CIA agent Dillon alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1986 sci-fi classic, Predator.

He also co-starred with Bryan Genessee on the two-season action series Street Justice from 1991 to 1993. Additionally, he guest-starred in other TV shows, including Colony, Chicago Fire, Magnum PI and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

His final role was portraying High Magistrate Greef Karga in three seasons of the Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian, which wrapped its third season in April 2023.

Season four of the series had not confirmed casting, so it was unknown whether Greef Karga was expected to return.

Weathers is survived by his two sons, Jason and Matthew, whom he shares with his ex-wife Mary Ann Castle.

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.”

Containers with ‘corrosive’ warning discovered in hunt for chemical attack suspect

Police hunting the fugitive sex offender suspected of throwing an alkaline substance at a mother and her two children have discovered containers with a “corrosive” warning in an overnight raid in Newcastle.

Forensic tests are checking if the containers held the substance used during the attack against a mother and her two children in Clapham’s Lessar Avenue on Wednesday evening, which left a total of 12 people with injuries, the Metropolitan Police said on Friday.

Sole suspect Abdul Shokoor Ezedi was last seen boarding a southbound Victoria Tube at King’s Cross less than 90 minutes after the attack in Clapham, police revealed, as they published the last-known image of the 35-year-old fugitive, featuring 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 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.

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

Bellingham investigated for allegedly calling Greenwood ‘a rapist’

The Spanish league has said that it will look into a complaint that Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham allegedly called Getafe forward Mason Greenwood a “rapist” during a LaLiga game.

The incident allegedly occurred during Madrid’s 2-0 win at Getafe on Thursday (1 February) and Spanish radio station Cadena SER originally reported the complaint by Getafe.

The league confirmed the complaint to The Associated Press and said that it will use a lip-reading service to determine what happened and then decide how to proceed.

Greenwood controversially joined Getafe on loan from Manchester United in September after the one-cap England international left his old club following a criminal investigation into a possible attempted rape that was closed by prosecutors.

He had not played for United since January 2022 after he was implicated in controlling and coercive behaviour and assault relating to a woman after images and videos were posted online. Greenwood has always maintained he “did not do the things I was accused of.”

Prosecutors closed the case in February 2023, saying “a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”

However, United and the player decided it was best for him to find a new club, leading to the controversial loan to Getafe.

Neither Real Madrid nor Getafe immediately responded to requests for comment by The Associated Press and it is not clear what possible action, if any, could be taken against Bellingham if it is established he did insult Greenwood as Getafe allege.

AP

Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk. If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Unmissable New York State experiences

Events in Clapham must not be used to exasperate genuine asylum cases

Abdul Shokoor Ezedi is the subject of a nationwide manhunt in connection with a horrific assault in south London, involving a mother, two girls and some bystanders who attempted to intervene in the attack. This must primarily be a police matter, to be dealt with through the criminal justice system, with the interest of the victims and the safety of the public central at all times. A crime has been committed, and one of extreme violence that has, so it is said, left those affected with “life-changing” injuries.

Understandably, it has captured the public’s attention and sparked concerns. Quite rightly, the issue of using corrosive substances to injure and disfigure people is one that horrifies, and attention needs to be paid to the ready availability of acids and corrosive alkalines which, in the wrong hands, can be just as dangerous as a firearm or a blade. These assaults were carried out on a residential street and, as far as can be judged, with some forward planning.

Inevitably, because Ezedi has been granted asylum in the UK, this aspect of the case has also attracted comment, some rational and constructive, but far too much which merely seeks to use the misery of the victims of this assault for predictable and spurious political purposes.

How Turkey has dealt another blow to Rishi’s ‘stop the boats’ plan

Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” has suffered another setback. The Home Office has declared Turkey an unsafe country for the purposes of asylum, meaning deporting anyone there could risk their life, in breach of domestic and international human rights law.

It is not the biggest setback he’s faced – everything to do with the Rwanda scheme has been far more embarrassing and damaging – but it’s undoubtedly an uncomfortable end to a difficult week. Questions about the asylum system as it has worked under successive Conservative governments have also been raised by the case of the chemical attack suspect, Abdul Ezedi. So on an important issue where the government hopes to gain some political advantage over Labour, the headlines continue to be all about chaos and failure.