INDEPENDENT 2024-02-04 00:16:47


Police reveal new footage of raid in search for Clapham fugitive

Detectives hunting the fugitive suspect in the Clapham chemical attack have revealed new footage from a raid in Newcastle which uncovered containers marked with a “corrosive” warning.

Sex offender Abdul Ezedi is being sought by police in connection with an incident where a mother and two children were doused with an alkaline substance in south London on Wednesday night, and detectives say they have received dozens of calls with information, including multiple possible sightings.

According to a relative, who vowed to “bring him in by myself if I have to”, Ezedi was reportedly in a relationship with the 31-year-old mother, who remains in a critical but stable condition and is believed to have sustained life-changing injuries

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.

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

Kate Garraway’s return to GMB confirmed days after husband’s funeral

Kate Garraway will be back on TV screens presenting GMB on Monday – three days after her husband Derek Draper’s funeral.

The much-loved GMB presenter is set to give a live interview to the show from her house and will join her co-host Ben Shepard towards the end of the week, as reported by The Sun.

Her beloved Derek Draper passed away on 3 January after an agonising four-year battle with Covid at the age of 56. She has reportedly told friends she hopes to keep busy with work as she grieves.

A source told The Sun: “Kate has had an incredibly rough past couple of months, and it has taken its toll mentally and physically.

“But she is a workhorse, and journalism, being on live TV, runs through her blood – it’s what she knows and loves.”

Mourners gathered in a heartwarming celebration of life yesterday at the same church Draper and Garraway married 18 years ago, the Church of St Mary The Virgin in Primrose Hill, north-west London.

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair, musician Sir Elton John and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among the high-profile figures attending the funeral.

Garraway, 56, was wearing a long black coat and pearl necklace and carrying a candle, and was joined by their children, Darcey and Billy.

Former political lobbyist-turned-psychologist Draper married the Good Morning Britain (GMB) presenter at the same church in September 2005.

Their daughter, Darcey, acted as a pall bearer when the coffin, covered with purple and white flowers, made its way out of the church.

Draper fell seriously ill during the early part of the pandemic in March 2020 and spent 13 months in hospital before he was discharged.

He died on January 3 aged 56 after suffering long-lasting symptoms from coronavirus.

A key figure in the early years of New Labour in the 1990s, Draper was a former researcher for Lord Peter Mandelson.

Former Labour MPs such as Lord Mandelson and Ed Balls – who also now works as a GMB presenter – paid their respects and Sir Tony gave a speech during the eulogies.

Mourners also included shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband, Sir Tony’s wife Cherie Blair and former Number 10 director of communications Alastair Campbell.

Draper set up the Progress organisation with Liam Byrne, who went on to become a Labour MP, and was also an author.

He wrote the book Blair’s Hundred Days which chronicled some of Sir Tony’s first year as prime minister, along with Life Support: A Survival Guide For The Modern Soul.

Sir Elton, who attended the funeral with his husband David Furnish and had offered comfort to Garraway and Draper through his illness, held the order of service in his hands as he exited the church.

He also sang his ballad Skyline Pigeon – which contains the lyrics “fly away, skyline pigeon fly, towards the dreams, you’ve left so very far behind” – in tribute to Draper.

The hymns sung include Lord Of The Dance by Sydney Carter and psalm 23 The Lord’s My Shepherd. A choir also performed songs in this order: Gospel Acclamation Alleluia, Alleluia!, Sanctus And Benedictus, Agnus Dei, God Be In My Head by Sir Henry Walford Davies and canticle Nunc Dimittis.

GMB stars Charlotte Hawkins, Ben Shephard, Richard Madeley, Alex Beresford, Rob Rinder, Susanna Reid, Sean Fletcher and Richard Arnold also attended the funeral.

Singer and TV presenter Myleene Klass, who has previously stepped in to host Garraway‘s radio show, and actress Tina Hobley, who has been on Holby City and presented on Smooth Radio, were also among at the service.

Sir Elton had previously invited Draper and Garraway to be guests of honour at his Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert at London’s O2 Arena last year.

Garraway told her Smooth Radio listeners in April 2023 that Sir Elton had been “so supportive” of her family since her husband fell ill.

TV presenter Fiona Phillips and This Morning editor Martin Frizell, who both worked on the former ITV morning programme GMTV, and former GMB star Piers Morgan, were also in attendance on Friday.

The Independent has approached ITV for comment.

Michelle O’Neill makes history as Northern Ireland’s first nationalist first minister

Northern Ireland’s devolved government has reconvened and made history by appointing Michelle O’Neill as the first nationalist first minister.

The appointment of the Sinn Fein vice-president is a pivotal moment for Irish nationalism as it ends the dominance of pro-British unionists as first ministers.

Taking up the post, she pledged to work with unionists to build a better future for Northern Ireland and work “tirelessly” to improve the country alongside DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly, who was nominated as deputy first minister.

Addressing the chamber after her appointment was confirmed and she affirmed the pledge of office, Ms O’Neill said the restoration of the institutions marked a “moment of equality and progress”.

“A new opportunity to work and grow together,” she said. “Confident that wherever we come from, whatever our aspirations, we can and must build our future together.”

The two top jobs in the ministerial executive wield equal power and responsibility but the elevation of a republican to the office of first minister, by virtue of Sinn Fein becoming the region’s largest political party in the 2022 assembly election, is undoubtedly a significant symbolic moment for Northern Ireland.

The devolved government reconvened after the DUP, the largest unionist party in the region, walked out in February 2022 in protest at the UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.

It agreed to stop its boycott after getting fresh concessions from party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson which he says has effectively removed the Irish Sea trading border on goods remaining within the UK.

The proceedings commenced with the process of nominating a speaker, with former DUP leader Edwin Poots elected to the role.

Ms O’Neill said the public was “relying on each of us to act in their best interests and to serve our whole community in good faith.

“We must make powersharing work because collectively, we are charged with leading and delivering for all our people, for every community,” she said.

“In common cause, we must make life better for workers, families, communities. To create hope and opportunity.”

Ms O’Neill urged all MLAs to be “respectful of each other”.

“The days of second-class citizenship are long gone,” she said. “Today confirms that they are never coming back.

“As an Irish republican, I pledge cooperation and genuine honest effort with those colleagues who are British, of a unionist tradition and who cherish the union. This is an assembly for all – Catholic, Protestant and dissenter.

“Despite our different outlooks and views on the future constitutional position, the public rightly demands that we cooperate, deliver and work together.

“We must build trust and confidence in our ability to do that. That will require courage and ambition not just from us who are elected but from the public.

“We can all invest in this and the more of us that do the better the chance it has.”

The republican leader said those in the new ministerial executive “undoubtedly face great challenges” as she listed the issues besetting public services in the region.

She said ministers had to work together to challenge the UK government to provide more funding for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris hailed the restoration of powersharing while addressing media in the Great Hall in Stormont following the nomination of First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Speaker Edwin Poots.

“It’s a great day for Northern Ireland, it’s a great day for everyone here, a great day for businesses across this place and public services here,” he said.

And Irish minister for foreign affairs Micheal Martin hailed the “special day for the people of Northern Ireland”.

The tanaiste also congratulated Ms O’Neill and Ms Little-Pengelly on their appointments.

“I wish them both well in what will be very demanding roles. I look forward to working with them, and with their executive colleagues,” he said.

“I also want to congratulate Edwin Poots on his election as speaker of the assembly.”

Referring to the long path ahead, Mr Martin added: “While the last few weeks and months have focused on restoring the assembly and executive, the hard work now begins in earnest.

“Northern Ireland faces a number of real challenges. An executive working collectively – and prioritising real, everyday needs over questions of identity – can meet these challenges.

“The [Irish] government stands ready to support the work of the executive and to work in partnership with the British government in this.”

Thousands of pro-Palestine supporters march through London

More than 10,000 pro-Palestine supporters have marched in central London calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in the first such demonstration since the UN’s top court ordered Israel to ensure it does not commit acts of genocide.

Scotland Yard estimated that around 10,000 demonstrators marched through the capital’s West End of London, with the crowd swelling to double that size for the speeches in Whitehall.

Hundreds of officers from the Metropolitan Police were on duty with additional dispersal powers as the march started at Portland Place and headed to Whitehall.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said it was the “eighth national march held for the Palestinian people”, following Hamas’s brutal massacre on 7 October in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 240 kidnapped before Israel retaliated with months of attacks on the Gaza Strip, killing and wounding thousands.

It comes as the UK becomes increasingly embroiled in rising tensions in the Middle East, with Britain and the United States striking Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

Iraq warned the region was “on the brink of the abyss” on Saturday after the US struck 85 targets at seven facilities across Syria and Iraq in retaliation for a drone attack last week which killed three American troops and injured dozens more in northeastern Jordan.

Demonstrators in London carried banners on Saturday which read “end the killing”, “free the children” and “freedom to Palestine”, accompanied by harrowing images of the bloodshed since the conflicted erupted.

Officers were on the look out for offensive placards and banners, with staff also monitoring the protest by CCTV to sport other offences or to find suspects, a spokesperson said.

PSC director Ben Jamal said: “We are marching again because we know we are on the right side of history and we will stand always with the oppressed and never with the oppressor.”

More than 27,000 people have been killed and 66,000 wounded by Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry said on Thursday.

Ahead of the march, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward, who is leading the policing operation, said: “We respect the right of people to protest, but other Londoners and visitors have rights as well.

“I understand the cumulative impact of repeated protests since October on businesses, residents and those who want to travel into the West End. Getting the balance between competing rights can be difficult, but we will do it independently, impartially and always within the law.”

Earlier this week, Britain said future funding for a UN relief agency that helps Palestinians hinges on the outcome of inquiries into allegations that staff took part in the 7 October attack on Israel.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is “critical” to delivering humanitarian aid into Gaza and the region, but added the UK is “appalled” by the allegations of agency staff being involved in the atrocities.

The UK joined the US, Australia, Italy and other countries in pausing funding for UNRWA after it sacked a number of staff accused of taking part in the October attack. The funding pause has sparked concerns about the impact the decision will have on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Meawhile, several opposition MPs have pressed the UK government to suspend arms sales to Israel following an interim ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza in a genocide case filed by South Africa, but it demanded that Israel tries to contain death and damage in its military offensive.

Additional reporting by PA

Queen ‘thought Meghan’s wedding dress was too white for a divorcee’

The late Queen thought that the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress was “too white” because she had been married before she met Prince Harry, a new book has claimed.

Ingrid Seward, the former editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, wrote in her book My Mother and I that Elizabeth II only revealed her opinion to her closest confidantes.

The Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson is said to have been among those confidantes and reportedly claimed the monarch thought the dress was improper for a divorcee.

“In the monarch’s view, it was not appropriate for a divorcee getting remarried in church to look quite so flamboyantly virginal,” Seward wrote in an extract of the book.

The book also reports that the late Prince Philip nicknamed the Duchess of Sussex “DoW” because she reminded him of the Duchess of Windsor.

The divorcee Wallis Simpson’s frowned-upon relationship with Edward VIII caused a crisis in the monarchy in the twentieth century, leading to his abdication of the throne.

Meghan was previously married to film producer Trevor Engleson but they divorced four years before she married Harry in 2018.

The late Queen was also not comfortable with Prince Charles standing in for Meghan’s father to walk her down the aisle and was concerned about 96-year-old Philip’s decision to walk without a stick during the wedding, according to the extract of the book published in the Daily Mail.

Queen Elizabeth II was also reportedly upset at Harry’s attitude during the wedding preparations, and that their relationship was “quite badly damaged by it all”, a rupture that worsened when Harry decided to give up being a working royal.

It comes as a senior Netflix executive announced the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have “a bunch” of new projects in development at the streaming giant.

Harry and Meghan signed a five-year deal with Netflix that is estimated to be worth $100m (approximately £78m) in 2020, after they resigned as senior members of the royal family and relocated to the US.

Under the deal, the couple have released a six-part series titled Harry & Meghan about their relationship, marriage, and decision to leave the UK and move to Los Angeles.

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The ‘forever war’ will go on until Palestinians have their own state

When British planes joined American airstrikes on the Houthis in Yemen, voices were raised in the UK warning against “escalation” of the Gaza conflict to a wider war in the Middle East. There were similar voices on the pro-Palestinian march in London today, warning that the US airstrikes against allegedly Iranian-backed targets in Iraq and Syria risk a wider war.

In one sense, these warnings are misconceived, in that it was the Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah or “Supporters of God”, who were engaged in escalation, using drones and missiles to attack international shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza. And it was Iranian-supported militia who “escalated” a conflict that otherwise did not exist when they attacked US forces in Jordan, killing three soldiers.

The responses to these attacks cannot be defined as “escalation” if they are trying to prevent and deter further attacks, and if they are proportionate to the initial attack. Unfortunately, in such situations proportionality is very much in the eye of the beholder. Palestinians in Gaza, and their many supporters around the world, do not regard the Israeli response to the 7 October atrocities as proportionate. Some of them even regard the US-British strikes against the Houthis as a display of excessive force, although it is hard to argue that attacks on international shipping should be simply ignored.

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.