INDEPENDENT 2024-02-17 00:04:30


Pictured: Boy, 16, fatally stabbed in Bristol ‘by people wearing masks’

Darrien Williams has been named as the 16-year-old boy who was stabbed to death by two people wearing masks in Bristol.

Avon and Somerset Police said on Friday that formal identification has not yet taken place but they believed that Darrien was the victim.

His family has been informed and is being supported by specially-trained family liaison officers.

Police said Darrien was attacked in Rawnsley Park, Easton on Wednesday by two people wearing masks who left the scene on bicycles before running to Stapleton Road.

The victim was assisted by a motorist and at 6pm an ambulance was called to the A420 in Old Market to a report of an injured boy.

Paramedics treated Darrien at the scene but he died as a result of his injuries.

On Thursday evening two teenagers, both aged 15, were arrested on suspicion of murder.

They remain in police custody while enquiries are ongoing.

Detective inspector Neil Meade, senior investigating officer, said: “We are working non-stop to fully establish the circumstances around Darrien’s death and we will not rest until those responsible are brought to justice.

“The loss of another young life is devastating and my thoughts are with Darrien’s family.

“I would like to thank everyone who has come forward with information so far and encourage anyone who has information but has yet to speak to us to do so as soon as possible.”

In response to the stabbing – and to “other similar events in recent weeks” – Avon and Somerset Police introduced enhanced stop and search powers to parts of Bristol.

A new police operation targeting youth violence has also been launched across the policing area.

Officers have also met with headteachers today to discuss ways in which police can provide support and reassurance ahead of pupils’ return from half-term and officers will be making extra patrols outside of schools next week.

A mobile police station will also be in the area over the coming days.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has CCTV footage of it is urged to contact police through the usual channels, quoting reference number 5224039827.

Woman jailed for seven years for handing over girl, 3, for FGM

A British woman has been jailed for seven years in a legal first after she was found guilty of handing over a three-year-old who was subjected to female genital mutilation.

Amina Noor, 40, took the toddler, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to Kenya in 2006 where the procedure was carried out.

A court heard the girl, who was not told what would happen to her, cried for the “whole night” after her clitoris was removed by a woman whose medical qualifications were not known.

Noor was found guilty of assisting a person to mutilate a girl’s genitalia while outside the UK, contrary to the FGM Act of 2003, following a week-long trial at the Old Bailey in October.

Sentencing her to seven years on Friday, judge Mr Justice Bryan said it was the first successful prosecution for the “truly horrific and abhorrent crime”, adding the victim’s life has been “irrevocably altered by your actions”.

The judge said he hoped the victim’s “bravery” would encourage others to come forward to report FGM, which is often perpetrated “under a cloak of secrecy”.

Referring to the victim as ‘Jade’ to protect her anonymity, he added: “It is to Jade’s very great credit that she came forward and had the confidence to speak to a teacher about what had been done to her, and it is to be hoped that her courage in doing so will inspire other women to do the same, so that the perpetrators of such vile practices are prosecuted, and such vile practices are deterred.”

He said it “defies belief” that an adult would allow a vulnerable young child to be mutilated, concluding that the toddler would have been “held down” and suffered significant pain and “copious bleeding”.

He said that the removal of the clitoris amounted to the destruction of an organ, noting potential complications can include swelling, delayed wound healing, urine retention and infection – which can lead to sepsis and death – while the long term impacts are “irreversible”.

Dressed in black at the Old Bailey, Noor wiped away tears as she was led from the dock.

In mitigation, Nneka Akudolu KC, defending, had urged the court to “at least consider” an alternative to a substantial custodial sentence – arguing that Noor believed the victim would be subjected to a “far less invasive” procedure.

She told the court Noor, who was born in Somalia but fled to Kenya during the civil war before relocating to Britain aged 16, was “pressured” to take the child for the procedure.

The court heard that 94 per cent of women of Somali origin living in Kenya undergo FGM, according to United Nations’ figures.

“It’s difficult for us to understand and comprehend that pressure. This repugnant practise was embedded in that culture and she was clearly, plainly influenced at the time in the belief she was doing what was necessary to be accepted,” she said.

In an impact statement read to the court, the victim – now 21 – insisted she is “not angry” with Noor.

The victim said: “I know that had I been in her position with the failure of education, with the pressure from people I loved most, I would also have gone through with it.”

During the trial, prosecutor Deanna Heer KC said Ms Noor travelled by tuk-tuk to a clinic at a private house in the east African country, where the girl was taken into a room on her own by a woman whose medical qualifications were not known.

The girl, who was born in Britain, was not told what would happen to her or was “too young to understand”.

“Whilst they were there, she took [the girl] to the house of Kenyan woman, where [the girl] was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM),” she told the court.

Afterwards, the toddler cried the whole night, complaining of pain when she went to the toilet, while cotton wool was stuck to the wound after the procedure, the court heard.

The incident was not reported until 2018, when the girl – then aged 16 – confided in an English teacher who contacted the authorities.

During a medical examination at a London hospital in 2019, doctors confirmed the girl’s clitoris had been fully removed.

In a police interview in 2019, Noor, who denied the charge, said she had expected the child to undergo ‘Sunnah’, which she said was the insertion of a needle in the genitalia to draw blood, but insisted she did not know her clitoris would be removed.

Giving evidence, Noor, from Harrow, northwest London, told jurors she feared she would have been “disowned and cursed” if she did not hand over the child.

Following the conviction last year, senior crown prosecutor Patricia Strobino, who works in the CPS London Complex Casework Unit, urged other FGM survivors to come forward.

She said: “This kind of case will hopefully encourage potential victims and survivors of FGM to come forward, safe in the knowledge that they are supported, believed and also are able to speak their truth about what’s actually happened to them.

“It will also send a clear message to those prospective defendants or people that want to maintain this practice that it doesn’t matter whether they assist or practise or maintain this practice within the UK, or overseas, they are likely to be prosecuted.”

The Met’s Detective Superintendent Andy Furphy, whose team led the investigation, added: “We know FGM can be a taboo subject, which is rarely discussed within families and communities – we must build trust with those impacted so we can protect victims. It’s not our job to judge and we will always remain sensitive and respectful.  

“I hope today’s sentence acts as a real deterrent to those who choose to harm children in this way. Most importantly, I hope that we can use this result as an opportunity to continue to raise awareness of this topic, ensuring victims know that there is support and help out there.”

Steve Wright’s brother blames DJ’s sudden death on ‘lifestyle choices’

Steve Wright’s brother, Laurence, has broken his silence on the DJ’s sudden death.

The legendary BBC radio host’s death at 69 was announced by his family on Tuesday (13 February), although a cause of death was not disclosed.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, Laurence, 65, blamed his brother’s death on his diet and overall “lifestyle choices”.

“He was aware that he could have looked after himself better, in his lifestyle choices. Obviously, we all wish he had,” Laurence, a director of a company in the health industry, said.

“It’s like anyone who doesn’t look after themselves over an extended period. The normal stuff – diet, nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress – he was a very stoic kind of guy as well so if he had something wrong with him and he had to go to have some treatment or go to the doctors, he wouldn’t talk about it.

“He was the kind of guy who would just carry on, take care of it, not talk about it, not make a big thing, that kind of stoic sort of attitude.

“That’s just how he was – that probably didn’t help really, because he wouldn’t have help or take advice necessarily.”

Wright was found dead by paramedics at his central London flat on Monday morning, according to reports – but police say his death is not being treated as suspicious. A report will be prepared for the coroner.

Laurence also claimed that Wright had been taken aback by BBC Radio 2’s decision to replace him in the afternoon slot with ex-Radio 1 host Scott Mills in 2022. Wright continued to present Sunday Love Songs as well as various specials and podcasts until his death.

“Steve was very professional about it,” Laurence said of the transition with Mills.

“He felt that he’d been at the BBC for 40 years or whatever it was, and you’ve got to move on at some point, and he felt that he was kind of happy to move on and give someone else a chance.

“That was his view, although he also at the same time thought that it was a little of an unusual decision.

“The BBC, he said, were moving on to younger, more diverse audience, however, it does seem a little mad that the BBC, [which] is supposed to be an organisation for general entertainment for people, would take off a show that was clearly entertaining people, because of the listenership.

“If the show hadn’t been successful it would have been understood – the old DJ’s getting on a bit, listenership has plummeted, and it’s time he moved on – but that wasn’t the case, the show was still really successful.

“Everybody loved it. When he left he was aware of that – that everybody still loved the show, so he wasn’t a has-been. He still knew that he was vibrant, had loads more to give.”

Mills was among those to pay tribute to Wright, beginning his show on Wednesday by saying: “I wouldn’t want to start the show today and not talk about Steve. What an absolute legend.

“An absolute broadcasting titan. The man who made it sound so effortless, but worked the hardest out of everyone, to be in this slot will forever be an honour.”

Helen Mirren rips up AI-generated speech in show of defiance

Helen Mirren was filmed dramatically ripping apart an AI-generated acceptance speech on stage at the American Cinematheque Awards on Thursday night (15 February).

The legendary British actor, 78, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by her 1923 co-star Harrison Ford during the ceremony, held at The Beverly Hilton.

After being presented the award, Mirren proceeded to read aloud from a piece of paper.

“Ladies and gentlemen and esteemed guests and dear friends, I am deeply humbled, profoundly honoured to stand before you today accepting this extraordinary award. To be recognised for a lifetime devoted to the craft of acting is a privilege beyond words,” she can be heard saying in a clip posted to X.

“First and foremost, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the industry and the individuals who have supported me throughout this incredible journey. It has been a life filled with passion, challenges and above all, an unyielding love for the art of storytelling.

“And that was written by AI,” Mirren added before tearing the paper to pieces and tossing it to the floor of the stage.

Her gleeful act was met with uproarious applause and cheering from the audience.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been one of the biggest talking points in Hollywood of late. It was one of the chief issues of last year’s actors’ and writers’ strikes due to concerns that many industry roles would be replaced by AI.

Elsewhere in her speech, Mirren recounted some of her cherished memories working alongside Ford and other directors and co-stars, including James Mason, Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Al Pacino and Ryan Reynolds, according to Variety.

Taking a moment to remember her first Academy Award win for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’s 2006 thriller, The Queen, she recalled thinking at the time: “There is really one way now, and it can’t be up.”

Her husband, former president of the Directors Guild of America Taylor Hackford, was among the evening’s presenters, along with Diesel, Alan Cumming, Andrea Riseborough, Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Stewart and Bryan Cranston.

Versatile Vienna: from concerts and culture to wild swimming

The elegant city of Vienna, Austria’s capital, perches daintily on the Danube River, and is renowned for being a hotbed of culture. Art and music are woven into Vienna’s very DNA; it has been called the ‘City of Music’ because so many famous musicians, such as Beethoven and Mozart, lived here, and it’s where you’ll find one of the world’s most beautiful paintings – Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss – among a whole host of museums and galleries to lose yourself in. What’s more, it also boasts a wealth of wonderful natural sites and outdoor activities to enjoy, from vast parks, to pretty forests, refreshing pools and stretches of river, all within the city.

To help you find your next enriching getaway, Jet2CityBreaks offers great-value trips to vibrant, diverse, cultural centres like Vienna, with handpicked, centrally located hotels situated close to top attractions and transport links, so you can make the most of every day. With a low £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved city break, it’s never been easier to book your next trip.

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Here are just some of the reasons why Vienna makes the perfect choice…

For great places to stay in this incredible city, Jet2CityBreaks has you covered. You can choose from the likes of Am Konzerthaus MGallery by Sofitel, which combines stylish surroundings with an Art Nouveau character, a sleek cocktail bar and a stunning restaurant offering fine cuisine. Or Ibis Wien Mariahilf, a modern boutique hotel close to the Westbahnhof train station and the famous shopping mile of Mariahilferstraße, where guests can enjoy cocktails in the cosy boutique bar, or dine at the buzzy restaurant.

Boutique Hotel Donauwalzer offers bright, quirky decor, a sleek art deco bar and easy access to the sites, museums, galleries and shops of Vienna. Or immerse yourself in Austrian culture at the Best Western Plus Amedia Wien, located in the city’s third district. Here you can enjoy a lavish buffet breakfast of local delicacies before heading out to explore the local markets and enjoy summer strolls along the Danube.

Alternatively, up the elegance factor with a stay at the Grand Ferdinand, a beautifully restored landmarked building in an enviable location. With St Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, the Museums Quarter, City Park and Vienna State Opera all within walking distance, it makes the perfect luxurious base to explore this fascinating city.

Culturally, you can’t do better than starting with The Kiss. The final painting of what was known as Klimt’s Golden Period, its depiction of two entwined lovers makes use of gold leaf and flakes of gold, silver and platinum, creating a stunning luminous effect that needs to be seen first-hand. Located in the beautiful, 300-year-old Upper Belvedere Palace, the piece rubs shoulders with works by other famous artists, including Monet and Van Gogh. While you’re here, make sure to enjoy a stroll through the landscaped gardens of this elaborate Baroque palace complex.

For even more inspiring artworks and cultural events, head to the MuseumsQuartier Wien, better known as MQ; the area is home to a cluster of museums, galleries and theatres, with dozens of exhibitions that will appeal to adults and children alike.

Finally, immerse yourself in Viennese history with a trip to Hofburg, the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Once you’ve visited the grand Imperial apartments and the Sisi Museum – dedicated to the Empress Elisabeth, or ‘Sisi’, of Austria – make your way to the Palace’s Spanish Riding School, where you can watch the handsome Lipizzaner horses train, exercise, practice and perform dressage.

You can enjoy all the fun of the fair at the Prater amusement park, from roller coasters to ghost trains, but its standout attraction is the Wiener Riesenrad, or Big Wheel, which sits just by the entrance. Constructed in 1897, it stands 212ft high, and offers incredible views over the city. The iconic structure has even featured in several films, including 1940s film noir The Third Man, and James Bond classic The Living Daylights.

If you’re here in the warmer months, you might be surprised to discover that there are several outdoor swimming spots within the city, perfect for a refreshing dip. Along the Danube you’ll find the likes of Strandbad Gänsehäufel, one of the most popular stretches of the river with locals; An der Unteren Alten Donau, which has piers from which you can dive straight in, comfortable wooden reclining seats and a wide boardwalk; and the lively An der Oberen Alten Donau, known for its pier parties and night swimming.

After any exertion, it’s time to do as the Viennese do, and spend the afternoon in a Kaffeehaus. Kaffee und kuchen is a popular Austrian tradition, and the best-known cake in the country is the Sachertorte, a rich, luxurious combination of chocolate sponge, dark chocolate ganache and a thin layer of apricot jam. Try it in the red-velveted, gilt-mirrored surrounds of the Hotel Sacher, where it’s said to have been first invented, or at the historic Cafe Central, which dates from 1876 and has played host to writers, intellectuals and public figures including Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud.

You can also escape into nature via one of the many gorgeous green spaces dotted across Vienna. Prater Park is carpeted in forest and meadow, perfect for picnicking, while the national park of Lobau, known as the city’s jungle, houses more than 800 types of plant and over 100 bird species. There is even a wine region – where you’ll find sprawling vines and rolling hills – in the city’s 19th district.

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*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 2 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. T&Cs apply. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire.

With Navalny, Russia has taken another step into Stalinist barbarity

The circumstances in which Alexei Navalny died are, typically, unclear, but they are plainly suspicious. And so, with his death, Russia has taken another step into Stalinist barbarity.

He was, after all, in the “care” of the Russian prison service, incarcerated in an Arctic penal colony – where he should never have been sent in the first place – and generally maltreated in solitary confinement, denied healthcare and his wife’s letters.

Navalny was the nearest thing Russia had to a leader of the opposition. Therefore, his jailers would have known full well that he was an enemy of Vladimir Putin. They did not need to be ordered to mistreat him. Whether Navalny was directly poisoned, say, or merely succumbed to his depredations and collapsed, he was still assassinated by the Putin regime.

Is the rise in popularity of Reform UK a threat to the main parties?

The relative success of Reform UK in the latest pair of by-elections has confirmed that the apparent rise in the party’s popularity in the opinion polls isn’t an illusion. Reform’s deputy leader, Ben Habib, scored a respectable 13 per cent of the poll in Wellingborough, and the party also managed to attract a surprisingly high 10.4 per cent in Kingswood, a much less Eurosceptic constituency. In any case, Richard Tice, its leader, has confounded the sceptics. He says Reform is solidifying itself as the UK’s third-biggest party, adding that “it takes time to build a brand”. It’s also time to have a look at it…

It’s fair to say it’s a rebranded Brexit Party (it may even keep “the Brexit Party” as part of its description on ballot papers). As the successor to the Brexit Party and the spiritual descendant of Ukip, it is a thoroughly Farageist vehicle, though Nigel Farage is not currently playing much of a role in its activities (despite being party “president” and majority owner). Therefore it is simply a populist offering, with Brexit, immigration, low taxes and scrapping net zero its predictable themes. It may not be a racist or fascistic organisation, but some of its followers might be inclined that way.