INDEPENDENT 2024-02-06 00:11:22

Police claim to have solved London ‘spy in the bag’ mystery

A review into the death of a British spy, whose naked, decomposing body was found padlocked in a bag in his bathtub, has finished, Londonpolice said on Monday.

The announcement brings an end to one of the city’s greatest mysteries of recent years.

Gareth Williams, 31, was working for Britain’s external intelligence service MI6 when he was found dead at his home in August 2010, and the nature of his job and his death provoked a wide range of what police later called “weird and wonderful” conspiracy theories.

Although a coroner concluded in 2012 that Williams was probably killed unlawfully by another person, a police investigation found he had probably died accidentally on his own, rejecting suspicions that the unusual death had involved foreign spies.

A further forensic review was commissioned in 2021 and its findings, delivered last November, had not thrown further light on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Neil John, the senior investigating officer.

“No new DNA evidence was found and no further lines of enquiry were identified,” John said in a statement.

Williams, worked as a code breaker at the Government Communications Headquarters in western England but was on a three-year secondment to MI6, which deals with foreign espionage matters at the time of his death.

The remains of the maths prodigy were found curled up inside a zipped and padlocked red hold-all at the London flat – an intelligence service “safe house” – close to MI6’s headquarters.

His body was badly decomposed after remaining in the bag in the August heat for a full week until he was discovered. Tests found no traces of alcohol, drugs or poison in his body.

Police disclosed at the time of Williams’ death that he owned £15,000 worth of women’s designer clothing, a wig and make up. It had been suggested that Williams dressed as a woman outside of work, though a forensics expert has since said they believe the spy likely worked undercover as a woman.

Christian Horner subject to Red Bull investigation over ‘inappropriate behaviour’

Christian Horner‘s position as head of the Red Bull Formula One team appears to be at risk after an allegation emerged of inappropriate behaviour towards a female colleague.

A report from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf states a Red Bull employee has made serious allegations about the team principal to the team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH.

A separate report in The Times states the complaint came from a female colleague and concerns “inappropriate, controlling behaviour” while the Associated Press claim the complaint is allegedly about Horner’s aggressive management style. The allegations are being treated seriously by Red Bull chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff.

Horner, 50, who has been Red Bull team principal since 2005, will remain in his role during the investigation and strongly denies the accusation. When approached by The Independent, Red Bull Racing refused to comment on the matter.

The Red Bull F1 chief is married to former Spice Girl member Geri Horner and is the longest-serving team principal on the F1 grid, having been at the helm for six constructors’ championship victories and seven drivers’ championship triumphs – three for Max Verstappen and four for Sebastian Vettel.

Horner, who back in 2021 signed a contract extension at Red Bull until 2026, was made a CBE in the new year honours list for services to motorsport, having previously received an OBE in 2013.

Red Bull GmbH said in a statement on Monday: “After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation.

“This process, which is already under way, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister. The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

The team are due to launch their 2024 F1 car next Thursday (15 February) at their headquarters in Milton Keynes. Horner is scheduled to appear.

Red Bull won 21 out of 22 races in 2023 in their most successful year so far in F1, with Verstappen storming to his third straight championship.

Speaking about their season of domination last year and whether they can match it in 2024, Horner said: “I couldn’t have imagined it in a million years.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see a repeat, certainly not in our lifetimes, of what we managed to achieve [last] year with a car that’s managed the kind of dominance of RB19 [the 2023 car].

“I’m fully expecting with stable regulations, [there’ll be] diminishing returns for us [this year] because I think we got to the top of the curve quicker than others.

“The field is going to converge. For us, it’s difficult to know who that will be. Will it be McLaren? Will it be Ferrari? Will it be Mercedes? It keeps moving around behind us. But that’s what we’re fully expecting going into [this] year.”

“There’s always a reset as you go into the following year. I’m convinced that you’ll see a lot more cars that look like the RB19 philosophy going into next year. If you stand still in this business, you tend to be going backwards. I think we have got up that curve quicker than others, but we’re into a law of diminishing returns.”

The first race of the 2024 F1 season – featuring a record 24 races – is on 2 March in Bahrain. Pre-season testing takes place in Bahrain a week earlier, starting on 22 February.

Putin launches heavy attacks as Zelensky says leadership reset coming

Vladimir Putin’s troops have launched heavy attacks along Ukraine’s front line with dozens of clashes as Kyiv hinted at an armed forces leadership reset.

There were 78 clashes over the past day, with 43 Russian air strikes carried out in eastern Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s general staff.

It comes as Volodymyr Zelensky admitted he was seeking to replace the country’s most senior military commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

“A reset, a new beginning is necessary. If we want to win we must all push in the same direction, convinced of victory, we cannot be discouraged, let our arms fall, we must have the right positive energy,” Zelensky told Rai News.

The president and Zaluzhnyi have disagreed over plans for further mobilisation, with Zelensky announcing at the end of last year that he had turned down a request from the military to mobilise up to 500,000 new recruits.

Meanwhile, at least 28 people have been killed after Ukrainian shelling destroyed a bakery in the Russian-occupied city of Lysychansk, Moscow officials claimed.

Yousaf: I feel hurt and regret at how relationship with Salmond turned sour

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he feels “hurt and regret” at the breakdown of his relationship with the SNP’s former leader, Alex Salmond.

Mr Yousaf credited the former first minister and party leader as the reason he joined the SNP and said Mr Salmond gave him many opportunities at the start of his career.

But speaking on The Rest is Politics podcast, hosted by former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former MP Rory Stewart, Mr Yousaf accused his former boss – who now leads pro-independence party Alba – as giving the SNP a “kicking every day”.

Mr Salmond’s relationship with the SNP began to deteriorate following a high-profile falling out with his successor, Nicola Sturgeon.

The row followed allegations of sexual harassment made against Mr Salmond, who was later cleared of all charges following a High Court trial.

Speaking of their relationship, Mr Yousaf told the podcast he had “exchanged pleasantries” with Mr Salmond since taking on the top job, adding he believed Mr Salmond had an “ulterior motive”.

He said: “I wouldn’t go out my way, only because (I) haven’t seen evidence from Alex, nor the party that he leads, that they are interested in anything other than giving the SNP a kicking.

“If you believe in independence, giving the largest vehicle that’s driving forward independence a kicking every single day, through every single press release, doesn’t make sense to me.

“It speaks to me to a very ulterior motive.”

Mr Yousaf said he had hoped the former first minister would take on an “elder statesman” role in giving advice and assisting his former party with the independence movement.

But he said: “I feel, if I’m honest with you, the breakdown in the relationship with Alex is a matter of not just regret, but I feel quite hurt about it all and how it has all transpired.

“Somebody I looked up to now spends a fair bit of his time laying the boot into the SNP and trying to damage me, whether that’s personally or the SNP, and frankly the cause that we both love.”

He added: “It feels difficult to think that (his motivations) are anything other than to try and replace the SNP which is never going to happen.”

The First Minister also said he felt “sad” and “worried” about his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, amid an ongoing police investigation into party finances and criticism over the deletion of WhatsApp messages relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “I’ll always have that deep affection for Nicola. I worry about her to an extent as well.

“She’s dealing with a lot, as we know, and I found it really sad about the certain elements who are seeking to try to tarnish her reputation.”

He said of Ms Sturgeon: “Without any doubt, (she) and the rest of the Government, only ever put the interests of the people she was serving first and tried to protect them from harm.”

Asked if her marriage to the party’s chief executive was a “recipe waiting to go wrong”, he said: “In hindsight, you could absolutely reflect on that.

“I think nobody really questioned it because we didn’t see any red flags.”

Alba Party leader Mr Salmond said: “Humza and I didn’t just exchange pleasantries, he agreed to a meeting to discuss how we could best move the independence cause forward.

“Alba Party spent the best part of last year urging the SNP to work with the wider independence movement as part of a Scotland United pro-independence pact to face down Westminster and I wrote to Humza to set up a meeting to discuss this. Unfortunately, it seems that meeting was then either blocked by his advisers or they kept him in the dark about it.

“Support for the SNP is heading towards 30% whereas support for independence is enjoyed by roughly half of the nation. The fault for this lies solely at the feet of the previous leadership of the SNP for pursuing unpopular policies such as gender reforms, burst bottle schemes, the alienation of the oil and gas sector and an outright assault on fishing communities at the expense of independence campaign work.

“In contrast, Alba Party have a plan to actually take the independence movement forward. Humza should back a referendum on independence powers for the Scottish Parliament as proposed by Ash Regan MSP. This would be a far more productive means of leading the independence movement forward.”

Apple Vision Pro torn apart and experts find ‘achilles heel’

The Apple Vision Pro has already been torn to pieces – and experts believe it has shown its “achilles heel”.

The new augmented reality headset was released on 2 February, at $3,499 and after years of rumours. One of the first to buy one was iFixit, the website that tears technology apart in an attempt to understand how easy it is to fix.

The company’s experts noted that the “achilles heel” of repairing the headset might be the large display on the front, which sometimes shows a virtual version of the eyes of its wearer, to let people know that they can see into the real world.

That was just one of the many complications in attempting to break down the headset to understand how it was to repair, the company said. The teardown revealed that the Vision Pro is tightly packed with a huge array of different components, which likely mean that it is practically impossible to fix it from home.

Overall, the company’s experts seemed impress with the headset. It said that the vast array of the components meant that it was not great to repair but that “some of the connections are quite delightful”.

“The Vision Pro is insanely ambitious,” iFixit wrote. “Yes, it’s heavy, and the glass is fragile, and that tethered battery might get annoying. But Apple has managed to pack the power of a Mac, plus the performance of a new dedicated AR chip, into a computer that you can wear on your face.”

But it appeared concerned about the display on the front of the headset, and it had been added. It noted that the feature had proven controversial in reviews, with some suggesting it was creepy or useless – but also noted that it required lots of complex technology to work.

It uses a “lenticular display” which aims to produce a three-dimensional effect. That means that it is actually made up of three layers that together show many videos of the eyes.

But all of those videos still did not give the right effect, the company said. As such, it had added complexity without even providing much value.

“So why, when this thing clearly took years and years to create—and is Apple’s latest bet on the future of computing—did Apple fail to live up to their own standards with the EyeSight screen?” iFixit wrote.

“It’s dim, it’s low-resolution, and it adds a lot of bulk, weight, complexity, and expense to the most weight-sensitive part of the headset. Did they finally hit the drop dead date and miss their targeted performance? Could it be a late-stage manufacturing error? Regardless, we’re sure bringing it to market was a difficult decision.”

The company also suggested that it would provide more information on the headset in the days to come.

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It is time to fix the UK’s broken defence infrastructure

It was Admiral Beatty, commander at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, who uttered the famous complaint: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” His understandable frustration at the Royal Navy’s failure to destroy the German High Seas fleet was exacerbated by the fact that two of his ships exploded primarily due to poor design and with minimal firepower expended by the enemy.

Perhaps similar epithets could be heard in recent days around the Ministry of Defence when the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier broke down before it could leave Portsmouth harbour en route to lead the maritime arm of Steadfast Defender, a transatlantic exercise that is the biggest in decades and involves some 40 Nato allies.

The idea was that the Queen Elizabeth, built at a cost of some £3bn, would make a major contribution to a show of collective security and British maritime power in the face of Russian aggression. Sadly, that grand scheme was scuppered thanks to an “issue” with a propeller shaft. It should not have come as a great surprise to Beatty’s successors at the Admiralty, however, because Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship, Prince of Wales, suffered a similar fault 18 months ago. The development also calls into question whether a British carrier will be available to relieve the USS Dwight D Eisenhower in the Red Sea.

Has Keir Starmer scored own goal over Labour’s £28bn green spending?

On the same day thousands of Port Talbot steelworkers were told they would be losing their jobs, with the plant’s two blast furnaces closing down, Labour’s £28bn Green Prosperity Plan hit the headlines again.

The latest iteration of a story that has been doing the rounds for months popped up, with reports suggesting Sir Keir Starmer would ditch the hefty spending commitment.

The Port Talbot job losses, which will devastate the South Wales community, offered a visceral warning of the risk of failing to invest in future-proofing British industry.