INDEPENDENT 2024-02-12 00:04:25


Brianna Ghey’s mother’s tearful tribute on anniversary of murder

Brianna Ghey’s mother has given a tearful tribute to her daughter at a vigil marking the first anniversary since the teenager was brutally murdered.

The 16-year-old’s family and friends were among the huge crowds that gathered at the event in Golden Square, Warrington on Sunday afternoon, one year after Brianna was stabbed to death by Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe in a park in Cheshire on 11 February last year.

Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey wore a pink coat, the teenager’s favourite colour, as she paid tribute to her “amazing, unique and joyful” daughter in a speech in the family’s hometown, with many well-wishers seen wiping away tears.

Ms Ghey cried as she said: “I will be forever thankful that I was lucky enough to spend 16 years with [Brianna]. She taught me so much and gave me so much happiness and love.

“If there’s one piece of advice that I can give to any parent, it would be to hug your children tight and never stop telling them that you love them.

“I want to thank you all for coming here today to pay respect to Brianna. I hope that wherever she is now that she can feel the love that we have created by joining together today.”

Pink flowers, paintings, candles and balloons piled up in the square, as messages for Brianna were also left, including one saying the teenager is “in our hearts forever”.

It read: “Everyone is still grieving a year later. Your family, friends and the public will forever remember you, love you, and cherish all of the lovely memories you created with them. You are so special, beautiful girl. You’re now in the sky, our beautiful star, where you are safe.”

People were later seen holding their phone torches aloft during a two-minute silence at the vigil, which was similar to an event held in the week after the tragedy.

Brianna’s headteacher Emma Mills told those gathered on Sunday to honour the teenager’s memory by being “true to yourself”.

Addressing the mourners, she said: “Brianna knew who she was, and she was determined to be true to that. This determination spirit is something that I always admired about Brianna, and it’s a deserving legacy for us to remember her by.”

The vigil comes just over a week after Jenkinson and Ratcliffe, both aged 16 but 15 at the time, were jailed for life at Manchester Crown Court, after being convicted of Brianna’s murder.

During their sentencing, the judge said the “exceptionally brutal” murder had elements of both sadism on the part of Jenkinson, who was handed a minimum term of 22 years, and transphobic hate on the part of Ratcliffe, who must serve a minimum of 20 years.

Brianna’s family was set to spend part of Sunday in quiet reflection in the teenager’s bedroom, where her ashes are held in a casket surrounded by freshly decorated pink walls and a new pink fluffy rug.

“I spoke to one of Brianna’s very close friends, who said, ‘Brianna wouldn’t want to be in the dirt’,” Ms Ghey told the Mail. “I know she wouldn’t want to be on her own. She wouldn’t want to be buried. She would want to be at home with her family.”

Socially anxious and vulnerable, her mother had been pleased when Brianna caught a bus to Linear Park to meet with two other teenagers, one of whom was her supposed friend Scarlett Jenkinson.

Yet horror soon descended when police officers arrived at the family’s home in Culceth, near Warrington on the evening of 11 February, and informed Ms Ghey that a body had been discovered Culcheth Linear Park.

“I had all these horrific thoughts going through my mind, but the most horrific was the one that was true,” Ms Ghey said. “My child was dead. And then the worst possible outcome – that somebody she trusted had done that.”

During the harrowing four-week trial, it emerged that, after weeks of planning, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had lured Brianna to a park and ambushed her, soon after a failed attempt at killing her with an overdose of ibuprofen.

The twisted duo had an obsession with torture and murder, and had jointly drawn together a “kill list” of five other potential child victims, settling on Brianna as their first target.

Jenkinson, who described herself as a Satanist, later told the jury she began to fantasise about killing people from as young as age 14, and had an obsession with serial killers, Sweeney Todd and torture videos, which she watched on the dark web.

In a handwritten note found in her bedroom, Jenkinson had written out a murder plan titled “Saturday, 11th February, 2023. Victim: Brianna Ghey,” with the word “plan” written underneath with a smiley face and a heart shape.

Speaking of her compassion for Jenkinson’s mother in the aftermath of the young killers’ jailing, Ms Ghey said: “She will be grieving as well and I want her to know that I don’t blame her. I know how difficult it is to keep track of your children. Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook and no one wants to raise a child to do what they did.”

Ms Ghey has now turned her attention to campaigning for better regulation on social media and is calling for new legislation to help parents control what their children can access online.

She has since met with Sir Keir Starmer, and has joined forces with her local MP Charlotte Nichols to campaign for mindfulness lessons to be taught in schools.

As a result, she was present in the House of Commons when Rishi Sunak made a trans jibe towards the Labour leader’s stance on how to “define a woman”. The comment drew immediate backlash, with Brianna’s father Peter Spooner branding the comments “degrading” and “absolutely dehumanising”.

In response, Ms Ghey wrote on Peace & Mind UK, the Facebook page she set up for a campaign in her daughter’s memory, that she did not “wish to comment on reports of wording or comments recently made. My focus is on creating a positive change and a lasting legacy for Brianna.”

King in good spirits in first public outing since cancer diagnosis

The King has been seen smiling and waving as he made his first public outing since his cancer diagnosis.

Walking alongside Camilla and holding an umbrella, Charles arrived at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, on Sunday morning.

It comes after he expressed his “most heartfelt thanks” to the nation for the “many messages of support and good wishes” the previous day after he revealed on Monday that he is being treated for an undisclosed form of cancer.

It follows reports of more tensions between Prince William and Prince Harry, after the Duke of Sussex dashed to the UK to reunite with their father following Charles’ shock health announcement.

Harry is said to have spent less than an hour with the 75-year-old monarch on Tuesday before returning home to California the next day, having had no contact with his estranged brother.

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said that William would be “upset” as it would look to him that Harry merely used the visit as a “PR opportunity”.

Trump would encourage Russia to attack ‘delinquent’ Nato allies

During his first term as the US president, Donald Trump said he warned Nato allies that he would let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” to countries that are “delinquent”.

Speaking at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, the Republican frontrunner recounted telling the president of an unidentified Nato member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes to members who failed to meet the trans-Atlantic alliance’s defence spending targets.

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ … ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay,” Mr Trump recounted telling the Nato member.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Mr Trump’s remarks were “appalling and unhinged”.

“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home,” Mr Bates said.

The Nato treaty contains a provision guaranteeing mutual defence if any one of its member states are attacked.

Nato members also agreed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 that the alliance would halt previous expenditure cuts and move towards spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence by 2024.

But Mr Trump was a fierce critic of Nato during his term as US president from 2016-2020, even threatening to pull out of the alliance on multiple occasions.

He also cut defence funding to the alliance, and complained that the US was paying more than its fair share.

When Joe Biden defeated Mr Trump in the 2020 elections and took office in 2021 as the next president, the Democrat restored US alliances and ensured that Nato was “the largest and most vital it has ever been,” Mr Bates said.

“Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests and not against them,” Mr Bates said.

The former president, however, continues to criticise Nato, telling a campaign rally last month that he believed the alliance would not support the US if it were attacked.

He also complained about the billions the US has spent so far on Russia’s war in Ukraine and called for the end of foreign aid.

“From this point forward … no money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Two bodies found in search for Ezedi as officers return to Thames

Police are searching the River Thames for the man suspected of carrying out the Clapham chemical attack after two bodies were found in the water.

A police boat circled between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges on Saturday morning, one day after the Metropolitan Police revealed their belief that Abdul Ezedi, 35, may have jumped or fallen from Chelsea Bridge.

A body was recovered near HMS Belfast just after 10am and another was found around 30 minutes later along the river in Limehouse.

The force said neither of the discoveries are linked to Ezedi and the search efforts resumed at around 10am on Sunday.

Ezedi was last seen on CCTV pacing up and down Chelsea Bridge and leaning over the railings four hours after the attack on January 31.

Detectives say his death is the “most probable outcome”, but officers warned it may take months for a body to be recovered – or it may never be found.

Right wing opposition to UAE takeover of Telegraph is below contempt

Britain used to pride itself on its openness to foreign investment. For decades it has allowed foreigners to build its infrastructure, provide its services and buy its leading companies. While the French declared yoghurt a strategic sector, Britain boasted of the Wimbledonisation of the City of London in which all the top players were from overseas.

Yet Britain’s taste for open markets may have finally found its limits in, of all places, the newspaper industry. A bid by an Abu Dhabi-backed entity for The Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine has turned some of Britain’s most fervent free marketeers into frothing protectionists. A ferocious campaign is underway in parliament and the media to convince the government to block the deal.

Of course, those calling for the deal to be blocked insist there is no contradiction. They argue that what they object to is not the nationality of the bidder, but the fact that the bulk of the money is coming from International Media Investments (IMI), a fund controlled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. That, they say, is tantamount to a takeover by a foreign government – and an undemocratic one at that. It is one thing Mansour owning Manchester City football club – quite another taking a 75 per cent stake in a newspaper, where he might try to influence its editorial coverage, as he has done at other media brands that he owns.

If this is what lay in store for The Telegraph and The Spectator, the critics might have half a point. Of course, a true free marketeer might argue that the British media is competitive enough to withstand such a takeover given that a wide range of global news providers, broadcasters and new digital entrants are fighting for audience share. They might argue that the rest of the media would quickly call out evidence of censorship while providing alternative sources of reliable information. Others might question how much editorial freedom in any case currently exists at The Telegraph or indeed many other British newspapers, where coverage of important issues is often skewed by the political and commercial interests of their owners.

Nonetheless, all this is beside the point, since there is no prospect of Abu Dhabi getting editorial control of The Telegraph and The Spectator. That is because what is being proposed is a private equity deal in which Mansour’s IMI would be a purely passive investors. There is nothing unusual about that. In a private equity deal, there are two classes of investor: the private equity firms, which are known as general partners (GPs), whose job is to identify targets, negotiate deals and oversee operations and for which they receive a management fee plus carried interest, typically the first 20 per cent of any profits on the deal; and limited partners (LPs), typically pension funds, insurance companies and high net worth individuals, with no rights other than to decide whether to participate in future capital calls or agree to a sale.

In this transaction, the original plan was for the GP to be RedBird IMI, a joint venture between RedBird and Mansour’s fund. That gave spurious credibility to the idea that Abu Dhabi might have influence over operations. In reality, this made no sense. The whole point about private equity is that these are not long-term investments. Given that RedBird will not get paid until it has sold The Telegraph and The Spectator at a profit, it is hardly likely to allow the value of the brands – and its own reputation as a deal-maker – to be destroyed by allowing IMI to meddle with operational decisions from which it is legally excluded. Nonetheless, the deal was restructured so that Redbird, not the joint venture, is now the GP, according to someone familiar with the situation.

Meanwhile, RedBird has committed to establish an independent trust consisting of senior industry figures who will have legally binding powers to guarantee editorial independence and approve the appointment of an editor. Yet this has been dismissed by critics as not worth the paper it is written on. In a punchy interview on Newsnight last week, Andrew Neil, the current publisher of The Spectator, claimed that a similar arrangement at The Times and The Sunday Times, where he was once editor, had failed to constrain Rupert Murdoch. He neglected to mention that a powerful editorial trust has played a valuable role over the years in preserving the editorial independence of another publication where he once worked, The Economist.

But Neil was wrong about the Times board, too. In 2012, the independent directors delayed John Witherow’s appointment as editor for months, amid concerns about his independence. In fact, those fears proved unfounded. Not only was Witherow a brilliant editor of The Times but he was the only Murdoch editor with the courage to resist intense corporate pressure to back Brexit. What’s more, when I was at The Times, senior executives used to continually complain that the directors were thwarting efforts to adapt to a changing media landscape. That obstacle was finally removed in 2022 after the directors advised the government to release News Corp from the undertakings given by Murdoch in 1981. As someone close to the process said to me, “If TheTimes thinks the answer is to turn itself into the Daily Mail, why should the board stop them?” Many Times readers may take a different view.

But if there is no threat to editorial independence, why is there so much opposition to the deal? Part of the answer is a lack of understanding of how private equity works. So too is commercial rivalry, which has played a role in how the deal has been reported. Sir Paul Marshall, the billionaire owner of GB News which provides lucrative employment for a stable of influential Telegraph commentators and Tory MPs, was considered the frontrunner to buy the titles until Redbird circumvented the auction by agreeing to pay off the £1bn debt owed by Barclay family, the current owners, to Lloyds Bank in return for an option to buy the publications. The Daily Mail was also a bidder for The Telegraph, while Rupert Murdoch has long coveted The Spectator. RedBird was never going to get a fair hearing from much of the British press.

But the real opposition to RedBird is clearly ideological. Neil gave the game away on Newsnight when he embarked on a bizarre ad hominem attack on Jeff Zucker, the former chief executive of American TV network CNN who is leading the bid for Redbird. The American, he said, had no knowledge of Britain, or newspapers, or magazines. What’s more, Neil insisted, Zucker is a left-wing Democrat (though Zucker has never revealed how he votes), who dragged CNN to the left and was bound to do the same to The Telegraph and The Spectator. As such, Neil declared, Zucker was not a fit owner of “these two vital centres of mainstream centre-right thought”.

Leave aside the effrontery of Neil – who reacts with fury whenever anyone on social media dares to suggest on the basis of his journalistic record that he is a right-wing Brexiteer – claiming to know how another journalist votes. What Neil and his allies in the right-wing media who have devoted their careers to arguing for the bracing effect of free market capitalism for everybody else appear to be saying is that an exception should be made for The Telegraph and The Spectator because without it the delicate flower of right-wing thought in Britain would wither. Perhaps he fears that without government protection, right-wing thought in Britain would disappear like Marxism to the margins, left with only the Daily Mail and The Times to sustain it.

A government with a genuine commitment to open markets would treat this special pleading with the contempt it deserves. Instead, ministers seem determined to kick the bid into the long grass, binding it in regulatory weeds, too terrified to stand up to right wingers who are already plotting to bring down the prime minister. The irony is that RedBird may be the first owner of The Telegraph in decades that genuinely cares about editorial standards, rather than pursuing a political agenda. Amid a global media bloodbath, with even the billionaire owners of the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post cutting their losses, here is a deep-pocketed investor willing to bet the other way. Anyone who really cares about journalism would bite its arm off.

Simon Nixon is a former chief leader writer and financial columnist for The Times. He currently runs a substack newsletter called ‘Wealth of Nations’ on international economics

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It’s time to face facts – we are all the poorer for Brexit

Things have come to a pretty pass when the most authoritative government response to new figures testifying to the negative economic impact of Brexit is to insist that everything could have been so very much worse. Thus Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, cited doom-laden forecasts of “inevitable decline”, which, she said, “have been proved false”.

And, yes, thank goodness, the economic meltdown predicted by some did not happen – quite, with a very near miss, and a political crisis, in relation to Northern Ireland. But the lack of a complete meltdown, either in the weeks immediately after the UK’s departure from the EU took effect, or in the four years since, can be only limited consolation in the light of the latest assessment.

The report, compiled by John Springford, an associate of the Centre for European Reform, concludes that Brexit has opened a hole of almost £100bn in annual UK exports, which is making the country worse off than if it had remained in the European Union. The estimates show that missed growth in goods and services exports means that trade is running at 30 per cent below what it could have been without Brexit.

Will the lsrael-Hamas war be a factor in the Rochdale by-election?

Over the past weeks, Rishi Sunak has faced mounting pressure from his party. Warnings have been sounded from within and outside of his party about the Conservatives’ electoral prospects. Rival factions have launched a concerted effort to push the prime minister towards a rightward shift, while the Labour Party holds a strong 20-point lead.

But while opinion polls and Conservative naval-gazing provide insights, they remain speculative until tested. Over the next few weeks, a handful of by-elections will provide a more substantial understanding of how each of the parties are faring in the electorate’s estimations.

By-elections are complex, and their outcomes are often influenced by a myriad of local factors. But the results are still likely to pile pressure on the two main parties as they become testing grounds for the popularity of their policies and leaders.