The Telegraph 2024-02-03 12:00:42


US bombs Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria

  • Follow the latest updates on the US strikes in our live blog

The United States dropped more than 125 bombs on Iran’s military and its allies in Iraq and Syria on Friday night as it began retaliation for attacks on American troops…

Doodled hearts and lists of killers: inside the diaries of teenage murderer Scarlett Jenkinson

On the first day of her trial, Scarlett Jenkinson was seen shaking in the dock at Manchester Crown Court.

She seemed terrified of what the jurors were about to hear. Even Brianna Ghey’s mother, Esther, later admitted she had moments where she felt sorry for the 16-year-old who murdered her daughter.

As the days and weeks went by, however, it became clear that Jenkinson was anything but a scared, troubled girl who had been persuaded into carrying out the killing by her co-accused, Eddie Ratcliffe, also 16. 

She was, in fact, in the words of the judge who sentenced her to life in prison on Friday, the driving force behind the “sadistic and transphobic” killing of Brianna, 16.

Unbeknownst to her family and friends, Jenkinson had long harboured a “deep desire” to kill and spent hours watching graphic torture videos in her bedroom and making notes on famous serial killers, scrawled in a notebook in pink gel pens.

Other notes in spidery blue Biro included a flow chart on “good and evil”, surrounded by doodled hearts.

Jenkinson had a relatively normal childhood. She lived with her mother in a £250,000 semi-detached house in Culcheth, Cheshire, on a quiet estate. Her mother was a secondary school home economics tutor, and her father was a construction company manager.

She was the youngest of four siblings, and her brothers attended court throughout the trial, sitting with their heads bowed as jurors were given an insight into the mind of a teenager with “no empathy” and a desire to see the “terror” in her victim’s eyes.

Before she met Brianna, Jenkinson had been expelled from Culcheth High School in October 2022 for poisoning a fellow pupil with cannabis edibles.

Cheshire Constabulary investigated the incident, which involved the drugging of a 13-year-old female. A spokesman for the force said: “The matter was reviewed and the victim’s family spoken to… They did not support further police action, so the matter was passed to the school to provide ongoing support.”

When she arrived at Birchwood Community High School, she struck up a friendship with Brianna, and later told Ratcliffe that she found the transgender teenager “fascinating” and “different”.

Brianna was described by her family and friends as being extremely anxious, shy and suffering with depression. She rarely left the house. Her mother told the court she had initially been delighted when she discovered her daughter had made a friend. 

On Friday, at the sentencing of her daughter’s killers, she said this had been “the hardest thing for me and the rest of the family to come to terms with”.

“Finding out that one of the people who had been charged for her murder was someone we believed to be her friend. Someone that we trusted. Someone that I was so happy that she had, fearing that my child had been lonely, not knowing that this person had been planning to not only cause harm, but to take the life of my precious child,” she said.

Jenkinson, who has never shown any remorse for her crime, was secretly drawing up plans to lure the teenager to Linear Park, in Culcheth, so she could finally experience what it was like to kill.

Brianna was not the only person Jenkinson and Ratcliffe contemplated murdering. They also drew up a list of four other victims, and discussed in detail a number of murder plans.

Jenkinson had also downloaded a “dark web” internet browser app to watch videos of the torture and murder of real people in “red rooms”.

She discussed with Ratcliffe methods of murder, while he sent transphobic messages about Brianna, and she asked him whether potassium cyanide, sarin or ricin was a better way to kill someone.

Throughout the trial, it became increasingly clear that Jenkinson realised she could use Ratcliffe as a tool to help sate her desire to kill. She had his number saved under her phone as “Tesco John Wick” – referencing the hitman character played by Keanu Reeves.

Ratcliffe was diagnosed with autism and selective mutism at the start of the trial. Hours after his name was revealed, pictures emerged online showing that he was a kickboxer.

Throughout the sentencing, the court heard that Ratcliffe repeatedly referred to Brianna as “it”, and that he was motivated in part by his hostility towards her because she was transgender

On Dec 18 2022, two months before the murder, Jenkinson sent him a message in which she said she had hallucinated that she was covered in the blood of a murder victim and could “hear him screaming” while she stood by “smiling and holding the knife”.

Two weeks later, on Jan 1 2023, Ratcliffe sent her a picture of a knife. The purchase of the blade was significant. The pair had just taken the first step in turning their fantasies into reality.

By Jan 23, Jenkinson had moved on from watching videos of torture and murder. She had to try it for herself. Jenkinson sent Ratcliffe a picture of some red ibuprofen gel tablets and claimed she had tried to poison Brianna.

Around the same time, Brianna’s mother said that she remembered her being violently sick and screaming: “I feel like I’m dying”. She said that there were lots of what appeared to be grape skins in the vomit, which she now believes were the gel tablets.

Weeks later, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe lured Brianna to the park, in the middle of the day. They stabbed her 28 times with a hunting knife.

Jenkinson, who denied stabbing Brianna herself throughout the trial, admitted after being found guilty to stabbing the teenager after her “hitman” panicked and handed her the blade.

She also confessed to wanting to take a part of Brianna’s body as a “token” and later told psychiatrists she “enjoyed the feeling of power” to see her victim treated in such a brutal manner. She claimed to feel satisfied and excited by the murder, and enjoyed the feeling of killing.

The court heard she had a severe form of conduct dissocial disorder, lacked empathy as a result, and that killing, to her, would not have felt wrong. “It may not have felt wrong but there is no doubt you knew it was wrong to act as you did, and you chose to do so anyway”, said Ms Justice Yip.

The judge said despite Jenkinson’s obsession with killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, her murder plan had been in some ways “quite childish”. She left notebooks detailing the plot in her bedroom, where they could easily be found, and the story she concocted for detectives was dismantled in minutes.

In court, as Jenkinson was sentenced, the teenager’s mother dabbed tears from her eyes.

Just minutes before, the court heard that Jenkinson had expressed to psychiatrists that she wanted to kill again. 

Ratcliffe sat silently in the dock as Ms Justice Yip told him he knew of his friend’s sadistic desires, and that as an intelligent young man, he should not have been drawn into her plot.

“You actively participated in this brutal murder, knowing the sadistic motives behind it, and you cannot avoid the same consequences just by saying you did not have the same desires”, she added.

Brianna’s mother felt unable to deliver her victim impact statement to the court in person, but her words resonated nonetheless.

“I have moments where I feel sorry for them, because they have also ruined their own lives, but I have to remember that they felt no empathy for Brianna when they left her bleeding to death after their premeditated and vicious attack, which was carried out not because Brianna had done anything wrong, but just because one hated trans people and the other thought it would be fun,” she said.

Clapham attacker should have had asylum claim refused under Home Office rules

The Afghan refugee suspected of a chemical attack on a family in Clapham, south-west London, should not have been granted asylum, according to Home Office rules.

Abdul Ezedi’s 2018 conviction for a sexual assault in Newcastle, and his consequent inclusion on the sex offenders register, should have barred him from asylum.

But his application was approved by an immigration judge on his third appeal after he claimed he had converted to Christianity and would be persecuted if returned to Afghanistan.

Home Office guidance to asylum caseworkers states that “where a person is required to sign the sex offenders register, you must refuse or cancel entry clearance or permission on the grounds of serious harm”.

On Friday, a Downing Street spokesman said Rishi Sunak did not believe that “foreign criminals should be able to stay in the country, putting the public at risk”.

It came as the manhunt for Ezedi continued with police revealing new CCTV images of his last known sighting on a Victoria Line train heading south at 9pm on Wednesday, around an hour and a half after the attack in Clapham.

The 31-year-old mother, whom he attacked with a corrosive substance, was described by police as “very poorly” with injuries that are expected to be life-changing. The wounds to her daughters, aged three and eight, are described as not “as serious as first thought” and “not likely to be life-changing”.

On Friday, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, wrote to James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, to ask whether the Home Office made “representations during the appeal hearing that the individual should be denied asylum because of his offending history”.

“It is of real concern that a convicted foreign national sex offender has been allowed to remain in the UK in these circumstances,” she said.

Home Office sources said Mr Cleverly has asked for a full report on all the criminal and immigration aspects of the case to establish exactly what happened.

Suella Braverman said the case showed why the UK needed to quit the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevented the UK from deporting criminals. 

“Spurious claims based on religion are commonplace in our asylum system. The bar is low, it’s easy to game the system and it happens,” said the former home secretary.

Live Middle East latest: Iraqi militants launch drone attack on base hosting US troops

Islamic Resistance in Iraq fighters launched a drone attack on the al-Harir airbase hosting American forces in northern Iraq, the group said.

According to reports, attacks were also carried out by Iran-aligned groups on the Tanf military base in Syria, and on the Ain al-Assad base in western Iraq, which host US and coalition troops.

It comes as Joe Biden warned that the US air strikes on Iraq and Syria on Friday night were just the beginning of Washington’s response to the deadly drone attack on American troops.

The US carried out airstrikes on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, targeting command and control headquarters, intelligence centres and storage facilities.

Follow the latest updates below

Jonnie Irwin, presenter of Escape to the Country and A Place in the Sun, dies aged 50

Jonnie Irwin, the television presenter of shows including A Place in the Sun and Escape to the Country, has died aged 50, his family have disclosed. 

Irwin, a father of three, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2020. 

The presenter had been open about his illness since his diagnosis, urging others to “make the most of every day”.

In a statement on Instagram, featuring a photograph of him and his wife Jessica, his family wrote:  “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of Jonnie’s passing. 

“A truly remarkable soul, he fought bravely against cancer with unwavering strength and courage. Jonnie touched the lives of so many with his kindness, warmth, and infectious spirit.

“At this time, we kindly ask for the privacy of Jonnie’s family as they navigate through this profound loss. Their grief is immeasurable, and your thoughts, prayers, and support are deeply appreciated.”

The statement added: “As we remember the beautiful moments shared with Jonnie, let us celebrate a life well-lived and a legacy that will forever be etched in our hearts. Jonnie may be gone from our sight, but his love, laughter and memories will live on.

“Rest in peace, dear Jonnie. You will be dearly missed, but never forgotten.”

Jasmine Harman, Irwin’s former co-presenter, said: “My heart is broken.”

‘Too sick to play with his son’

In an interview with the Sun last March, Irwin said he had become too sick to play football with his young son as the effort “broke him”.

He is survived by his sons Rex, five, and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac.

Irwin, who used to be a keen rugby player, said “I tried to play football with Rex the other day and was in goal and I couldn’t get near the ball.

“It was so frustrating. I’m very sporty and suddenly it’s just like…it was as if it was the first time I’d attempted football. I felt like a granddad. And that broke me a bit.”

In 2004, Irwin was selected from hundreds of applicants along with co-presenter Harman to present Channel 4’s show A Place in the Sun – Home or Away.

He also presented the BBC property shows Escape to the Country and To Buy or Not to Buy. Irwin also starred in Channel 4’s Renovation Game, which ran for three seasons from 2011, and saw builders and designers put their fees on the line if they did not raise the property value of a house during a revamp.

In an interview with Hello! magazine shortly after his diagnosis, Irwin said: “I don’t know how long I have left, but I try to stay positive and my attitude is that I’m living with cancer, not dying from it.

“Some people in my position have bucket lists, but I just want us to do as much as we can as a family.”

Outside presenting, Irwin regularly contributed to a blog for Judicare Group, the legal firm, which specialises in overseas property, and has been a director at the company since March 2017.

Irwin said the first warning sign of his illness came while he was filming A Place In The Sun in August 2020 in Italy, when his vision became blurry while driving.

“Within a week of flying back from filming, I was being given six months to live,” he told Hello! magazine.

“I had to go home and tell my wife, who was looking after our babies, that she was on her own pretty much. That was devastating.

“All I could do was apologise to her. I felt so responsible.”

‘Proud to call him friend’

Harman, who presented A Place In The Sun for more than a decade, said on Instagram at the time she was “proud to call him a friend” and it was “brave” for him to share his story.

Irwin defied his initial six months prognosis and opened up about his story in the last months of his life to encourage others to make the most of every day.

He also offered tips on life insurance policies and how he is helping protect his young family for the future, encouraging others to consider taking out a critical illness policy to help cover periods when you are unable to work if you become ill.

In March, he revealed he had celebrated his 50th birthday earlier than his actual November date with a big bash surrounded by 170 friends and family.

“It was a great night. I chose a playlist with some great tunes from the 90s and 2000s and people came from all over the country and abroad,” he told The Sun.

“I didn’t know the extent of the loyalty and generosity that my friends would exhibit.

“I’ve been dumbfounded and spellbound by their support, as well as that of our families, who have been amazing.”

He reportedly underwent traditional cancer-blocking drugs as well as trialling alternative therapies including infusions of vitamin C, a cocktail of daily vitamins, a strict diet and treatment in an oxygen chamber.

A year after revealing his diagnosis, he celebrated his birthday on holiday in Spain with his children and told his followers in November 2023 that he was admitted to hospital.

He wrote on Instagram: “Back in hospital – been in since Friday with jaundice. I had a fever and acute stabbing pain in my right hand side.

“Turns out I probably had an infection and other issues which I won’t bore you with. Been on drips, regular bloods taken and have observations every 4 hours through day and night.”

He subsequently said “my liver function is heading in the right direction” after having blood tests.

On the Conversations with Jane McLelland podcast in January 2024, he said his “rich kaleidoscope of help” also included hyperbaric oxygen treatment and Japanese alternative therapy Reiki.

“This positive attitude buys you days, buys you weeks and buys you moments with people like my kids,” he added.

Prince Philip nicknamed Meghan ‘DoW’ because she reminded him of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

Prince Philip nicknamed Meghan Markle “DoW” because she reminded him so much of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, a new book has claimed.

Prince Philip was “one of the few wary of succumbing to her charm offensive”, it has been reported, and used the shorthand “DoW” from “the moment he detected her apparent similarity to Wallis”.

A new biography by Ingrid Seward, an author and editor of Majesty Magazine, claims the late Queen “approved” of Prince Harry’s fiancee at first, but later described her wedding dress as “too white” for a divorcee.

“Much later,” says Seward, “she would remark in her clipped way that perhaps Harry had been ‘too in love’ with the American actress”.

In a section serialised in the Daily Mail, Seward writes: “From their very first meeting, over tea at Buckingham Palace, the Queen approved of Meghan Markle. Not only did she like her, she had high hopes for what the American actress might be able to achieve with Harry for the youth of the Commonwealth.

Whole country took to Meghan

“Soon the country as a whole seemed to take to Meghan with equally genuine delight.

“One of the few wary of succumbing to her charm offensive, however, was Prince Philip.

“While the Queen continued to champion Harry’s new love, he warned his wife to be cautious. It was uncanny, he told her, how much Meghan reminded him of the Duchess of Windsor.”

In 1936, when Princess Elizabeth was 10, her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne, citing his love for the American divorcee he wanted to marry. He and Wallis Simpson became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, all-but exiled from the Royal family and living overseas.

Windsors disgraced Britain

They went on to disgrace the new King and country by travelling to Germany to meet Hitler and were photographed giving Nazi salutes.

The Queen Mother never forgave them, blaming the abdication for the early death of her husband – Elizabeth II’s father – George VI.

Seward adds that Prince Philip was not simply referring to physical appearance, and their lives as “glamorous American divorcees”, but also the impact Mrs Simpson had had on the British monarchy.

Prince Philip “never appeared to change his mind about Meghan”, she writes.

Lady Elizabeth Anson, a cousin of the late Queen, is quoted as saying she only made one remark to her about the Sussexes’ wedding: that her gown was “too white”.

“In the monarch’s view, it was not appropriate for a divorcee getting remarried in church to look quite so flamboyantly virginal,” says Seward, who also claims Elizabeth II was “uncomfortable” with the then-Prince of Wales deputising for Ms Markle’s father Thomas to walk her up the aisle.

Late Queen ‘hated’ long sermons 

In a series of claims about Her Late Majesty’s thoughts, the book states that she was “startled by the impassioned outpourings of the American Archbishop Michael Curry, who spoke for more than 14 minutes”, as she and Prince Philip famously hated long sermons.

“According to Lady Elizabeth, the Queen was dismayed by Harry’s high-handed attitude both before and after the wedding, and their relationship was ‘quite badly damaged by it all’,” Seward writes.

“It was even more damaged when Harry decided to give up being a working royal and leave the country – a decision, said Lady Elizabeth, that the Queen never truly understood.”

After the Oprah Winfrey interview, it is claimed, Prince Harry’s grandmother “couldn’t condone the way he was speaking about the institution of the monarchy she’d spent 70 years preserving”.

“At that point the Queen decided there was no longer any point in worrying about Harry as he wasn’t going to take notice of anyone but his wife,” the book says.

My Mother And I by Ingrid Seward will be published by Simon & Schuster on February 15.

Carl Weathers, actor who played Apollo Creed in Rocky, dies aged 76

Carl Weathers, who starred as Apollo Creed in the Rocky films, has died aged 76.

The actor, who also played roles in 1987’s Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore, died peacefully in his sleep, his family said on Friday.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers,” his family said in a statement.

“He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, February 1st, 2024.”

The statement added: “Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life.

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

Weathers got his big-screen break in 1976, when he landed the role of nemesis-turned-ally Creed against Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in the boxing franchise.

Stallone on Saturday described Weathers as “an integral part” of his life and said he was “torn up” over his death.

In a video tribute on Instagram, Stallone said it was “an incredibly sad day for me”.

“Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life, my success … I give him incredible credit,” he said. “When he walked into that room and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness but I didn’t realise how great.

“I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him. He was absolutely brilliant.

“Rest in power and keep punching.”

Weathers’ introduction to the iconic franchise was not an auspicious start, he later revealed.

Auditioning alongside Stallone, the film’s writer and lead, but at the time a relative unknown, Weathers said he read the scene but felt it didn’t land.

“I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with,” he recalled saying in an interview with the Hollywood Reporters.

“So I just insulted the star of the movie without really knowing it and not intending to.” He also lied that he had any boxing experience. 

His character of Creed was loosely based on boxers Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Louis. 

“It puts you on the map and makes your career, so to speak,” he said of the role in an interview with the Daily Beast 2017.

“But that’s a one-off, so you’ve got to follow it up with something. Fortunately those movies kept coming, and Apollo Creed became more and more in people’s consciousness and welcome in their lives, and it was just the right guy at the right time.”

Weathers also found success on the small screen, with roles in “Arrested Development and playing Greef Karga in Disney’s The Mandalorian, for which he received an Emmy nomination in 2021. He also voiced Combat Carl in the Toy Story franchise.

Before his decades-long Hollywood career took off,  Weathers saw success as an American football player, playing for San Diego State University as a college student and then professionally for the Oakland Raiders.

He named actors Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, and athletes Jim Brown and Ali – stars who broke the mold and the race barrier – among his idols.

“There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I’ve been able to walk and find success as a result. And hopefully I can inspire someone else to do good work as well,” he told The Detroit News in 2023. “I guess I’m just a lucky guy.”

Growing up in New Orleans, Weathers started performing in plays as a young pupil.

In high school, athletics took him down another path but he would reunite with his first love later in life when he retired from professional American football in 1974.

Weathers is survived by two sons.