The Telegraph 2024-02-10 18:00:29

Police search Thames for Clapham attack suspect Abdul Ezedi

Specialist police diving teams have begun searching the River Thames for Abdul Ezedi, the suspected Clapham chemical attacker.

A police boat was seen circling between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges on Saturday morning.

Detectives believe that Ezedi, 35, may have jumped into the river after being seen on CCTV leaning over the railings of Chelsea Bridge in west London.

Hours earlier Ezedi is said to have hurled a strong alkali at his former partner, and injured her two young children, aged three and eight.

The attack, on January 31, prompted a nationwide manhunt leading to raids in Ezedi’s home city of Newcastle, as well as premises in the capital.

The woman had been in a relationship with Ezedi, but they were understood to have split up.

The Metropolitan Police is now working on the hypothesis the Afghan man may have leapt into the River Thames to try to take his own life.

Commander Jon Savell said: “We have spent the last 24 hours meticulously following the CCTV, and it’s our main working hypothesis that he’s now gone into the water.

“We have looked at all of the available cameras and angles, and with the assistance of Transport for London and CCTV from buses that were travelling over the bridge at the relevant time and there is no sighting of him coming off the bridge.”

Asked whether police were willing to say that Ezedi was dead, Det Supt Rick Sewart said: “I’m prepared to say that he’s gone into the water and if he’s gone into the water then that’s the most probable outcome.”

Mr Savell confirmed the woman remained in a “critical but stable condition” in hospital and was still “very poorly and unable to speak” to police.

He said it was possible they may never find Ezedi’s body due to the speed of the current in the Thames.

He told a briefing at Scotland Yard: “At this time of year, the Thames is very fast flowing, very wide and full of lots of snags.

“It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won’t appear for maybe up to a month and it’s not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface.”

The Met had tracked Ezedi’s movements from the Tower Hill area, where he had walked more than four miles “with purpose” to Chelsea Bridge.

Mr Sewart added: “When he has got to the area of Chelsea Bridge, his behaviour visibly appears to change, in so much as he walks up and down the bridge – he pauses in the midpoint of the bridge, halfway down the bridge.

“Then he walked to and from the side of the bridge and can be seen to sort of lean over the railings before there is a loss of sight.”

A manhunt to find him has been ongoing for more than a week, with officers raiding two addresses linked to Ezedi in Newcastle in the early hours of Thursday.

Earlier this week police said the last confirmed sighting was just before 11.30pm on January 31, a few hours after the attack, as he crossed over Chelsea Bridge and entered Battersea Park in central London, then crossed back over the same bridge minutes later.

Ezedi came to the UK hidden in a lorry in 2016 and was turned down twice for asylum before successfully appealing against the Home Office rejection by claiming he had converted to Christianity.

He was convicted of two sexual offences in 2018 but was allowed to stay in the UK because his crimes were not serious enough to meet the threshold for deportation.

A tribunal judge is understood to have ruled in favour of his asylum claim in 2020 after a retired Baptist church minister confirmed he had converted to Christianity, reportedly describing Ezedi as “wholly committed” to his new religion.

Ezedi, who is not the father of the children caught in the attack, suffered significant facial injuries in the incident which police previously said could prove fatal if left untreated.

Two dead after private jet crashes onto Florida motorway

Two people have been killed after a private jet lost both engines and crashed onto a highway in Florida on Friday, authorities have said.

Five people were onboard the Bombardier Challenger 600 when it came down about 3.15pm on Interstate 75 near the small city of Naples, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airport spokesperson Robin King told AFP news agency that two minutes before the plane was scheduled to land at Naples Municipal Airport, the pilot radioed air traffic control and said he was requesting an emergency landing after losing both engines. 

Mr King said: “The air traffic controller immediately cleared the aircraft to land when the pilot declared that he would not make it to the runway … [and] attempted a landing on I-75.”

He also confirmed that three people had survived the crash, but the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said a further two people had died on impact.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the plane struck a car and a pickup truck after crashing into the highway.

The plane was operated by the Hop-a-Jet charter aviation carrier, and WPLG, a Miami-based television station, said the flight was ultimately destined for an executive airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the company is based. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the jet took off from Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, with an agency spokesman adding that members of the NTSB’s crash investigation team arrived on the scene within a few hours.

Dog urine row erupts after police staff member tells owner to clean up

A row has erupted after a police staff member was said to have ordered a man to clean up his pet dog’s urine.

Steve Schuurman, 56, was walking his six-year-old pet Saluki rescue dog Margot through Bournemouth’s main square last week when she cocked her leg to relieve herself.

As the NHS worker walked off, he claims an “aggressive” female member of Dorset Police shouted at him “clear your f—–g dog p–s”.

He said when he challenged her, a council community safety patrol officer allegedly threatened to have him arrested if he did not move on.

Dorset Police and Bournemouth Council had a stall and van in the seaside town’s centre as part of a “day of action” after several high-profile crimes, including a fatal stabbing, in the area.

Mr Schuurman said he would have cleaned up any dog mess but he did not know what they expected him to do with dog urine.

He has reported the incident to the Dorset Police complaints department, which is “looking into the full circumstances”.

Mr Schuurman said the woman “got really aggressive” and “was waving her hands around and putting her hands on her hips, saying it was disgusting”.

He claimed he asked for an apology from two community safety officers, one of whom allegedly told him he’d be arrested if he didn’t leave.

A Bournemouth Council spokesperson said: “Our community safety officers were only involved in this incident in an effort to de-escalate the situation and seek a resolution for the gentleman involved. They acted with politeness and a calm manner throughout. None of our staff heard the police staff member swear, as is alleged.”

A Dorset Police spokesperson said: “All relevant lines of proportionate enquiry will be assessed to establish exactly what happened and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Christians protest ‘rave in the nave’ at Canterbury Cathedral

Christians who do not want a “rave to Eminem in God’s house” are set to protest against a silent disco at Canterbury Cathedral.

They said the sold-out two night event was “absurd” and called it an “alcohol-fuelled rave”, saying it will do nothing for the faith.

The disco will see headphone-wearing ravers dancing to 1990s tracks from the likes of the Vengaboys, All Saints and Eminem.

Church leaders are using the event as a way to reach out to younger people and raise “large sums” in order to keep the Cathedral running.

Those opposed to the event have raised their concerns during a meeting with the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Rev David Monteith.

But the disco, where alcohol will be available, is still set to go ahead, with the landmark’s historic Nave transformed into a dancefloor on Thursday and Friday night.

Dr Cajetan Skowronski, one of those who is opposed to the event, said: “While respectful of our right to protest, the Dean was dismissive of our petition, stating that we were an extreme minority – for not wanting an alcohol-fuelled rave to the music of Eminem in God’s house.

“Rev Monteith was convinced – with no evidence – that the majority of Christians would support this disco, and our petition and reasoned arguments could not change his mind.”

‘Canterbury Cathedral was not built for this’

Dr Skowronski said no other religion would consider using a sacred building in this way.

“Discos and parties and things are absolutely great but only in their proper place – it’s all well and good in a nightclub but Canterbury Cathedral was not built for this,” he said.

“It’s not going to make younger people take the Church more seriously, it’s not going to make people think Christians take their faith seriously – no other religions would do this and it’s not effective evangelism.”

Dr Skowronski hopes to see opponents travel from all over the country to join a peaceful protest being held between 6-8pm on Thursday at Christ Church Gate.

He said about 30 people have signed up to attend.

“It promises to be a very special evening of faithful witness with hymns, prayer and scripture as the ravers process in,” he said.

Rev Monteith insisted the silent disco will be “appropriate and respectful”.

“Cathedrals have always been part of community life in a way much wider than their prime focus as centres of Christian worship and mission,” he said.

“While dancing of all different kinds has happened in the Cathedral over the centuries and the Bible memorably celebrates the gift of dancing with King David dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6) there are many different views on the secular and the sacred.

“Our 1990s-themed silent disco will be appropriate to and respectful of the Cathedral. It is categorically not a ‘rave in the Nave’ but I appreciate that some will never agree that dancing and pop music have a place within cathedrals.”

It is expected that 750 people will attend each day, with two sessions on both Thursday and Friday, from 6.30pm to 9pm and again from 9.30pm to midnight.

Tickets were £25, but are now sold out according to the Cathedral.

Israel and Gaza protesters clash in central London

A pro-Palestine activist confronted a counter-protest saying “call Hamas for a ceasefire” in central London today.

The activist tore up a poster blaming Hamas for the Israel-Gaza conflict which was being held aloft by a counterprotester.

The confrontation took place near Centrepoint, shortly before healthcare workers and doctors were due to stage a silent protest march from St Thomas’ Hospital to 10 Downing Street calling for a ceasefire in the conflict.

Footage showed a man standing among pro-Palestine activists outside a branch of Barclays Bank, holding a poster with words “For a ceasefire call:” above the name, photograph and apparent telephone number of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

At one stage a masked man wrapped in a Palestinian flag is seen stepping forward and snatching the poster before scrunching it up in his hand.

Police intervene to separate the two men

The counterprotester then stepped forward to retrieve the poster before holding it aloft once again, as activists around him shouted “Shut barclays down” in protest at its investment links with Israel.

Police officers at one point appeared to intervene to separate the two men, with one of the officers talking to the counterprotester who pointed out the man allegedly responsible for grabbing his poster.

The counterprotester is then led away from the group of pro-Palestine activists by another officer.

Scotland Yard said it was looking into reports of the confrontation.

Smart Motorway ‘cash cow’ rakes in millions in fines with 60mph limit to ‘lower pollution’

A smart motorway which had a 60mph speed limit imposed to “lower pollution” has netted millions of pounds in fines for the Treasury.

A total of 22,546 motorists were fined for speeding on a 2.6 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 33 and 34 near Sheffield and Rotherham over four years.

A single camera issued the tickets on the northbound section of the motorway where National Highways had reduced the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph from 2020.

If those fines were paid in full, the Government would have received more than £2.25 million as part of the 60mph speed limit “trial”.

A total of 119,204 fines were issued to motorists who broke all speed limits – from 70mph down to 30mph – and ignored Red X lane closures on a wider stretch between junction 30 and 35a from 2020 to last year, the newly released data shows.

It means that the 18-mile stretch of the M1 made £11,920,400, or £8,164 a day over four years.

National Highways can impose variable speed limits and close lanes to traffic by setting signs on overhead gantries on smart motorways. The failure to obey new signs can result in a £100 fine and penalty points, as well as increased insurance premiums.

About 1,300 motorists are fined each year on this section of the M1 for failing to obey Red X signs that close a lane to traffic.

Between 2022 and 2023, a total of 2,629 fines were issued to motorists who ignored Red X lane closures. In 2022, there were 1,341 fines issued, dropping slightly to 1,288 last year.

That is equivalent to about three vehicles driving in closed lanes each day. A lane can be closed with a Red X in the event of a life and death emergency where a car has broken down in a live lane where the hard shoulder has been scrapped.

The South Yorkshire Police data, released after the Telegraph submitted a Freedom of Information application, shows how automatic number plate recognition cameras captured the most fines when a 60mph speed limit was imposed.

Four years

Over those four years between junctions 30 and 35a, a total of 41,224 fines were issued for 60mph speed limit contraventions, worth £4 million.

However, only 24,511 fines were issued for motorists exceeding the 70mph motorway limit across the same stretch and time period.

In September 2020, National Highways introduced “air quality trials” involving a 60mph speed limit between Junctions 33 and 34 to try to improve pollution across South Yorkshire.

The experiment was abandoned due to the pandemic reducing traffic volumes, but was reinstated in 2021 and is currently ongoing.

Asked whether the 60mph trial had actually improved air quality, Stephen Elderkin, National Highways’ Director of Environmental Sustainability, said: “We are working hard to finalise the analysis of the vast amount of data collected and will be publishing the reports in due course.”

Financial interest

Junction 30 to 35a of the M1 became notorious after four motorists were killed when their vehicles broke down in live lanes after they failed to reach an emergency refuge.

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason, 44, was killed on that section of the M1 in 2019 and has campaigned against the smart motorways ever since, said the number of fines issued suggested the Government may have a financial interest in keeping existing smart motorways.

“Is the massive revenue smart motorways provide the reason why the government defends them in the face of overwhelming hatred towards them from the public?,” she asked.

She added that she fears National Highways has failed to adequately educate the public about Red X signs.

Money raised from all such fines goes to the Consolidated Fund, essentially the Government’s bank account, and is not ring-fenced to be spent on transport.

A Government spokesman added: “Speeding on any road is dangerous, which is why we have strict laws in place against it, and fines help to enforce them.

“Recognising public concerns, we’ve cancelled new smart motorways and we’re investing £900 million for safety improvements, including progressing the construction of 150 extra emergency areas.”

Designer of Notting Hill bag loved by celebrities sues ‘copycat’ rival

The designer of a fashionable eco-friendly shopping bag admired by the Princess of Wales has launched a legal battle against two Afghan businessmen she accuses of copying her designs.

Natasha Courtenay-Smith has accused the pair of attempting to fool shoppers by copying her famous Notting Hill Shopping Bag.

Ms Courtenay-Smith, who previously collaborated with Natalie Imbruglia, the pop star, on a limited-edition range of the bag, was furious when she discovered that Nangialai and Ehsanullah Takanai were selling what she says were copycat versions in Notting Hill’s Portobello Road Market.

She claims that by calling their products the Notting Hill Shopper Bag – with the word “shopper” substituted for “shopping” in a similar font – the Takanais are trying to confuse members of the public into believing the bags are her original design.

Breach of copyright

The entrepreneur, who gives 10 per cent of her profits to causes which promote Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market as shopping destinations, is now suing her rivals for damages of up to £500,000, accusing them of breach of copyright and passing off their products as hers.

Friends of Ms Courtenay-Smith say that by copying her products they are undermining the work she does with charities to help the local community, including courses to help children acquire business and numeracy skills.

The claims are disputed by Nangialai and Ehsanullah Takanai.

Ms Courtenay-Smith, 46, launched her eco-friendly bags, made from cotton and jute, as a special souvenir of the area in 2009 – going on to build the brand’s popularity as one of the most popular tote bags in London, turning over £57,815 in 2022 from sales in shops, markets and online.

In January 2015, the then Duchess of Cambridge visited Portobello Road Market and expressed her admiration when she was shown the bags as part of a display by local businesses and community initiatives.

When Ms Courtenay-Smith, a former journalist and writer, discovered the Takanais were selling what she claims were copies of her bags at Portobello Road Market in January 2023, she says she became determined to protect her brand.

Legal documents lodged in the High Court by Ms Courtenay-Smith’s legal team maintain that as well as having almost identical wording to hers, the Takanais’ bags also have similar strap-lines, printed in a similar font in an identical position.

In January last year, one of the Takanais’ representatives approached her business, The Notting Hill Bag Company, and asked to enter into an agreement to sell bags with her trademark, logo and brand name, the court will hear.

But Ms Courtenay-Smith refused the request. She also opposed Nangialai Takanai’s application to trademark the Notting Hill Shopping Bag on Jan 11, and Ehsanullah’s bid to trademark the Notting Hill Shopper Bag six days later, saying they were made in bad faith.

Ms Courtenay-Smith claims the Afghans and their companies – the Notting Hill Shopping Bag Company Ltd and the Notting Hill Shopper Bag Ltd – are deliberately using a website address to imitate her website and deceive members of the public.

The court will hear claims that the pair are trying to “misappropriate her goodwill and reputation”, and to step into the shoes of her company, which was dissolved in 2018 before being restored to the register of companies earlier this year to allow her to sue.

Ms Courtenay-Smith is seeking an injunction banning the Takanais from selling bags called the Notting Hill Shopping Bag or the Notting Hill Shopper Bag, along with orders forcing them to hand over or destroy those items.

In a joint statement with her business partners Canpolat An and Taylor An, Ms Courtenay-Smith said: “While imitation is often seen as a form of flattery, we encourage originality. We simply request that others create their own designs, rather than copying ours. We are both confident in the legal standing of the Notting Hill Shopping Bag design, and committed to its continued mission of making a positive difference to the Portobello Road community.”

The Takanais reject her accusations and have lodged a counterclaim, arguing that there is no trademark for products that are “purely descriptive” of an area and that there are many other similar items for sale around Notting Hill.

They argue that the bag’s logo “lacks the degree of originality necessary for protection as an artistic work. It is a banal arrangement of words in a standard layout which did not require intellectual creativity. Accordingly no copyright subsists in it, whether as an artistic work or at all.”

The pair’s solicitors, JP Mitchell, say their bags have been on sale for a number of years and that “there hasn’t been a single instance of confusion over this period”.