INDEPENDENT 2024-02-10 18:04:01

Mother killed in police smash while heading for dream 40th birthday holiday

Tributes have been pouring in for a “much-loved” mother and grandmother who was killed in a horror crash on the M25, as her vehicle became caught up in a police car chase.

Zoe Hawes, from Canvey Island, had been looking forward to going on holiday to celebrate her 40th birthday with her husband when the incident happened near St Albans at around 4am on Sunday.

As the “heart” of her family, the mother-of-eight and grandmother-of-two has left “an enormous hole that will never be filled”, her devastated loved ones said in a tribute.

Officers had been chasing a stolen white Citroen van, which was then involved in a collision with Ms Hayes’ car as well as two other vehicles between junctions 22 and 21A.

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A second man, travelling in a different vehicle, was also killed, while a man in his twenties has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. No police cars were involved and the pursuit had been stood down before the collision.

As a matter of course, the incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which has confirmed it is now investigating the involvement of Hertfordshire Constabulary prior to the collision.

Officers are now appealing for witnesses, information and dash cam footage regarding the crash.

In a statement released by police, Ms Hawes’s family said: “Zoe was the heart of our blended family. She was a role model to everyone and the centre of our family.

“She was a very much loved mum, stepmum, sister, aunt and lovely young nanna. She was a friend to many. She was very much looking to go on holiday to celebrate her 40th with her husband. Sadly, a holiday and birthday she didn’t get to celebrate.

“We are all trying to pull together as a family and are devastated to lose Zoe in this tragic way.

“We wouldn’t have changed her for the world and she leaves an enormous hole in our family that will never be filled.

“We love you and will miss you forever xx.”

A fundraiser has been set up to raise money to support Ms Hawes’ children who face a life without their “beautiful, kind-hearted” mother, as well as to contribute towards funeral costs.

The GoFundMe page reads: “The very sad news came on Sunday that Zoe Hawes – who is loved by her husband, children, family and friends – was tragically taken too soon…. Let’s give Zoe the beautiful send-off she deserves.”

It adds: “Zoe has left a massive hole in a lot of people’s lives – she was truly loved by so many people.”

Writing on social media, a former school friend said she was “absolutely heartbroken and devastated” upon hearing the news.

Another friend described Ms Hawes as an “amazing, lovely” woman in a post on Facebook. She said: “[Ms Hawes] cares and adores her family. Life is so cruel – am heartbroken and devastated that family lost their mum and nan.”

IOPC regional director Charmaine Arbouin said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragic incident.

“Given that police officers were pursuing one of the vehicles before the fatal collision, it’s important that we independently investigate the actions and decision-making of the officers involved.

“We will ensure that our enquiries do not impede the police investigation, and we will keep those involved regularly updated.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident is being encouraged to come forward by contacting the police on 999 or by emailing Essex Police at

‘Won’t vote for Bone’s puppet’, inside the Wellingborough by-election

If the Tories were trying to hold onto disgraced ex-MP Peter Bone’s seat, you could be forgiven for not noticing.

On a grey Wednesday morning in early February, during the 20 minute walk from Wellingborough station to the town centre, there was not a single Conservative poster or billboard to be seen.

This is the very same market town that voted in Boris Johnson’s government in 2019 with a whopping 18,540 majority.

As the large Victorian terraced houses give way to smaller shops and family run bistros, you finally pass Conservative candidate Helen Harrison’s campaign headquarters.

It is a derelict single room with a clamped car parked outside, and bar some of Ms Harrison’s posters hung in the window and a chair shoved in the back corner of the room, you wouldn’t think anyone had been inside for years – least of all a campaign team from the most electorally successful political party on the planet.

But talking to people in the town it soon becomes obvious why the Tories appear to be keeping their powder dry. Despite Mr Bone’s chunky majority, they are fighting a seriously uphill battle.

Not only are the Conservatives 20 points behind Labour in the national polls but local voters are furious at the conduct that led to Mr Bone’s ejection from Parliament.

The once senior Tory was booted out after being found to have indecently exposed himself to a staff member and trapped him in the bathroom of a hotel room.

According to many of the residents, the Tories did themselves few favours by selecting Ms Harrison, who happens to be Mr Bone’s partner of several years, to replace him.

Meanwhile Rishi Sunak and his cabinet have shown little regard to the contest, with not a single minister nor the PM showing up to campaign in the seat.

After being told by several locals that they would not be voting, largely because “they [politicians] are all the same”, some voters elaborated on why they would not support the Conservatives next Thursday.

“I’m not voting for Peter Bone and his little puppet [Ms Harrison],” one ex-Tory voter told The Independent.

Ms Harrison is a 51-year-old physiotherapist currently serving as a Tory councillor in North Northamptonshire. She was one of the directors at Grassroots Out, a pro-Brexit pressure group which was co-founded by Mr Bone in the run up to the 2016 EU referendum.

Mr Bone’s partner is an ardent supporter, despite the damning parliamentary report into his conduct, and has said she is proud” to have the former Tory MP on the campaign trail with her.

She has also claimed that the standards panel which found him to have exposed himself to an aide and physically struck him had “got it wrong”.

And, with Mr Bone side by side with Ms Harrison knocking doors in Wellingborough and Rushden, she has claimed people are not raising her partner’s conduct with her as an issue.

Another man said he usually votes Lib Dem, but Ms Harrison’s candidacy has spurred him to vote tactically for Labour next Thursday.

“The Tories have picked Peter Bone’s girlfriend and that means he’ll be running it, and we don’t want that,” he added.

A third Labour voter, who had also supported the Lib Dems in the past, said the party’s candidate, Gen Kitchen, had won him over. The man, who runs a U3A art class at community centre the Victoria Centre, said: “Gen has won my vote because she came to a painting class and did all her handshakes and introductions.

“But after all that, she rolled up her sleeves and helped the volunteers clean and tidy.”

“You’ve got to,” said Ms Kitchen, whose honeymoon was cut short by the damning report into Mr Bone’s conduct that sparked the by-election.

The 28-year-old former waitress, councillor and charity worker said it’s her natural instinct to help clean up, and she even does it at the local bingo.

She was born in Northamptonshire to navy parents who think the idea of her becoming an MP is “a bit mad”.

But Ms Kitchen, who went to a local state school during the last Labour government, is determined to fight for the constituents she says have been “left behind under Conservative leadership”.

She hit out at Mr Bone and the local Tory-run council, saying they have not applied for levelling up money and leaving the high street to decay.

“Why aren’t they bringing innovative ideas to the high streets? They’re supposedly the party of business, and they are just not there.”

At one point, strolling through the Wellingborough town centre, there were 18 kebab shops and 18 barber shops all within a 10-minute walk.

One voter, a former doctor living in a more affluent neighbourhood, said the town had changed for the worst over 30 years. “It used to be a quite quaint village town, but now the town centre is just run down,” he said.

He said he has voted for Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the past but would vote Labour this time because of Mr Bone’s misconduct.

But not all voters have made up their minds, Hassan Ben Ali told The Independent he would vote but “they are all the same”.

He complained about the cost of living crisis and the government’s handling of Brexit, but said he was still considering backing the Conservatives.

And Mr Ben Ali criticised Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak’s stance on Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

And, several hours after alighting from the train at Wellingborough station, The Independent finally found a house with two posters backing Tory candidate Ms Harrison outside.

But, asked whether she wanted to talk about her support for the Conservatives, she declined.

The Independent was also one of many media outlets denied access to Ms Harrison. A Labour MP said the party’s tactic seems to be to hold on to as many die-hard Conservative voters as they can, while encouraging as low a voter turnout as possible.

“She is trying to sneak in by the backdoor,” the MP said.

And while support for the Tories was hard to come by, Ms Kitchen has a mountain of her own to climb. Even in Sir Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide, Wellingborough was Labour’s second most marginal seat, with a majority of just 187.

If Labour wins next Thursday’s by-election it would not just put Sir Keir Starmer on course for power but would suggest he is heading for a Blair-style landslide of his own.

Scotland v France LIVE: Six Nations result and reaction

Scotland suffered a dramatic 20-16 defeat to France as the second weekend of the Six Nations kicked off in style in Edinburgh.

Gregor Townsend’s side just about survived a scintillating Welsh comeback to secure a first win in Cardiff in 22 years in round one but endured similarly dramatic heartbreak a week later.

Louis Bialle-Biarrey’s stunning 70th-minute solo try – as he collected his own chip over the top to dot down – had put France one point ahead and they added a penalty to extend the lead to four before Scotland drove for the match-winning try as the clock seeped into the red. They burrowed their way over the line from close range but, after a long TMO review, it was determined they had been held up, with insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field call of no-try and Les Bleus clung on.

Scotland had led for most of the match due to Ben White’s early try but Gael Fickou scored for Les Bleus and kickers Thomas Ramos and Finn Russell traded penalties before the late drama.

Relive live coverage of Scotland vs France in today’s live blog:

Liverpool vs Burnley LIVE: Premier League result and final score

Liverpool reclaimed top spot in the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Burnley at Anfield on Saturday, but they were made to battle by a brave visiting side before claiming all three points.

Burnley began brightest but Liverpool took the lead in the 31st minute through a Diogo Jota header from a corner, before the visitors levelled just before the break when Dara O’Shea headed home.

It was a much better Liverpool in the second half, and seven minutes after the interval Luis Diaz dived to head home a Harvey Elliott ball across goal and in the 79th minute it was another header, from Darwin Nunez which wrapped up the win.

Liverpool are on 54 points, two clear of Manchester City who have a game in hand. Burnley remain second from bottom on 13 points.

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We must hope this optimistic voice speaks for Israel’s future

Ehud Olmert’s is a voice from Israel’s past – but we have to hope that his is a voice of Israel’s future, too. The former prime minister, speaking exclusively to The Independent, is savagely critical of Benjamin Netanyahu, his successor, accusing him of pursuing “impossible” war aims in the conflict with Hamas in order to prolong his own survival in office.

Mr Olmert describes the Hamas attack on 7 October as “probably the greatest military defeat in the history of the state of Israel”, and holds Mr Netanyahu responsible for the intelligence failures that allowed it to happen.

But Mr Olmert argues – rightly, in our view – that the Hamas atrocities were different from the “similar surprise” of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, because “that attack was against soldiers, not civilians, and the outcome was very different when the army fought back quickly and aggressively”.

After the great U-turn, what exactly is Labour’s green policy now?

As the smoke clears from the burning rubber of Labour’s U-turn in its plans to deal with the climate crisis, a more robust set of policies has emerged.

The party put out a statement on Thursday that said: “As part of the party’s finalisation of policies for a general election campaign, Labour has reconfirmed its commitment to the policies announced through the Green Prosperity Plan, to create jobs, cut bills and unlock investment.”

This is striking for two things: one, its pretence, almost worthy of Theresa May, that nothing has changed; two, that it doesn’t mention the climate crisis or net zero or anything to do with the environment apart from the word “green”.