INDEPENDENT 2024-02-19 16:33:39


Specialist divers join hunt for missing toddler, 2, as boy’s father hospitalised

Specialist divers have been deployed as a frantic search for a toddler who fell into a river while out with his family continues into its second day.

The two-year-old boy has been missing since Sunday evening after he fell into the River Soar, Leicestershire, as his father was rushed to hospital. He has since been released.

Assistant chief constable Michaela Kerr, of Leicestershire Police, said she was confident the boy would be found and officers were doing everything they possibly could.

Emergency services attended the scene just after 5pm and a search and rescue operation, which involves officers from Leicestershire, Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Met police forces, began in Aylestone Meadows, close to Marsden Lane.

The father, who was taken to hospital as a as a precautionary measure, was believed to have followed the boy into the river.

Police have urged to people not to attend the scene over fears of rising water levels and safety risks, after they received a number of requests to offer support in the search operation.

Constance Marten told to say baby died of cot death, court hears

Fugitive aristocrat Constance Marten was advised by her partner to say their baby was the victim of “cot death”, after the child died in her arms as she slept, a court has heard.

Marten, 36, and Mark Gordon, 49, went on the run with their daughter Victoria after their car burst into flames near Bolton, Greater Manchester, last January.

The Old Bailey has heard how they went on to sleep in a tent, in a bid to keep the baby, after Marten’s four other children were taken into care.

When the couple were eventually arrested in Brighton, East Sussex, they initially refused to say where their child was or whether she was alive or dead.

Last March 1, Victoria’s remains were found in a Lidl supermarket bag inside a disused shed on an allotment.

In the following police interviews, Marten gave an account of how Victoria had died six or seven days after the car fire.

She told police that she had been “extremely tired” and had fallen asleep in a tent while holding Victoria under her jacket.

When she woke up, Victoria had gone “limp” and did not respond to resuscitation attempts, the defendant said.

Marten said she did not seek help because the child was no longer alive.

She said she wrapped the baby up and held her for hours before putting her in a bag.

She said: “Initially Mark and I were talking about what to do with the situation and I think, like two weeks after it happened, I was debating whether to hand myself in.

“Mark advised me to say it was a cot death and I was not holding her.

“And he advised me to say that I lay her down and then when we woke up she was on her front and she’s passed away.

“But that isn’t what happened. So he may try to say that in order to protect me because he wants to protect my interests.”

Marten told police she and Gordon were both “distraught” when Victoria died.

She said she felt  “shock, sadness, grief and anger” that they had done so much to keep her and it “ended really badly”.

The defendant said she left the bag containing Victoria’s body at the allotment when it became too heavy to carry.

She covered the child’s body in soil because of the smell, jurors heard.

Marten told police she had planned to bury Victoria’s body and considered cremating her, but changed her mind.

The defendant said that before the tragedy she had been “elated” to be with one of her children.

She said: “I was feeling fine. I was elated to be with her actually. To be with one of my children. With Mark, together and parenting.”

They had not intended to stay in a tent for long and the baby had warm blankets and clothes, she said.

But Marten told officers that they found themselves “between a rock and a hard place”.

“We had limited cash. I knew that I couldn’t access the bank because then the police would know where I was.”

She added: “We were trying to figure out what to do in terms of getting a house, accessing money without the authorities finding out where we were.”

Marten and Gordon, of no fixed address, deny  manslaughter, perverting the course of justice, concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child.

The trial continues.

Boris Johnson would ‘bring back half of lost Tory votes’, poll says

Boris Johnson would win back voters lost under Rishi Sunak and is still the preferred choice to replace him as leader, a new poll suggests.

The survey of 13,534 Conservative voters found that the former prime minister remains the most popular candidate to succeed Mr Sunak – beating ten senior Tories including Lord Cameron, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch.

The study, which was commissioned by long-standing party supporter Lady McAlpine, found that just over half of those who voted Conservative in 2019 – but who now intend to vote for a different party – would vote for Mr Johnson again.

In comparison, just 39 per cent of those polled said they would vote for Mr Sunak over Labour leader Keir Starmer.

The latest study comes just weeks after a Tory bust-up over secretive polls, including the bombshell “Labour landslide” poll that warned of a Tory wipeout unless Mr Sunak was removed as leader.

The research was commissioned by an anonymous group linked to Lord Frost and was widely seen as an attempt to oust the PM. It prompted calls from Tory grandee Lord Hayward for tighter rules on polling ahead of a general election.

Speaking to the Independent, Lord Hayward warned that the newest polling may also have backfired: “The plotting right may be disappointed by the results, because they might have wanted more people to come out ahead of Rishi Sunak – the only person who’s come out ahead of Sunak is someone who’s not an MP”.

He also highlighted Mr Johnson’s divisiveness as another reason why his return to Cabinet was unlikely, adding: “You don’t only judge a party leader on the basis of what leader you want, but you also need to know how ‘anti’ people are.

“There is no doubt Boris engenders support amongst people – but he also engenders an enormous amount of opposition”.

The result also follow a difficult week for the PM as the Conservatives faced a double by-election drubbing and the country entered a technical recession.

On Friday, Labour snapped up two new seats in Wellingborough and Kingswood, achieving the second largest swing from Tory to Labour at any by-election since the Second World War.

The defeat has triggered calls from those within the party for the prime minister to “change course” and adopt more Conservative values, such as lower taxation, harsher immigration quotas and to rollback net zero targets.

The poll also asked voters about other Conservative figures, including Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader, who both received 23 per cent versus Sir Keir, with Priti Patel polling at 22 per cent and Ms Badenoch 19 per cent.

Some 45 per cent of 2019 Conservatives said that they could be persuaded to vote for the Tories again if Mr Sunak were not leader, while eighty per cent of “one-time Conservatives” agreed that the party would have a higher chance of winning if they had a leader who embraces “traditional Conservative values”.

According to the poll, Labour current has a 22-point lead to the Tories, who are on 20 per cent, 13 per cent for Reform and 10 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

Whitestone Insight, who ran the poll, said that “replacing Rishi Sunak” could mean “the difference between wipeout, noble defeat, or possibly even somehow clinging on to power.”

Lady McAlpine said that she believed that a Tory victory would be possible should Boris Johnson lead a “new squeaky clean Conservative Party”.

She told the Telegraph: “If we have the brains, they’re not evident and that’s because the personality is not there, the charisma is not there. To be a leader, you have to have enormous charisma to be a good leader.”

Mr Johnson left parliament last year after he was found to have wilfully misled MPs about his role in the partygate scandal.

The former prime minister had been forced to resign over his handling of the scandal and was then forced out following an excoriating parliamentary report into his conduct.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has remained positive in spite of the difficult by-election results, having admitted the results were “particularly challenging” but has insisted “our plan is working” and he can “give everyone the piece of mind that there is a better future for them and their families”.

BBC reporter criticised over ‘inappropriate’ question to Andrew Scott at Baftas

Andrew Scott fans have defended the actor after he was subjected to what have been branded “inappropriate” and “uncomfortable” questions from a BBC reporter on the Baftas red carpet.

The Irish star has been highly praised for his performance in the Andrew Haigh-directed drama All of Us Strangers, in which he plays a grieving writer who begins a romance with his mysterious neighbour (Paul Mescal).

Along with Mescal, Scott, 47, presented the Bafta for Best Animated Film during Sunday’s ceremony (18 February) at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

Ahead of the awards, the Fleabag actor gave interviews on the red carpet, speaking to journalists including the BBC’s arts and entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson.

A clip of their brief interaction shows the reporter asking whether he knew the Saltburn actor Barry Keoghan.

After confirming that he knew his fellow Irish star, Scott was then asked about his reaction when he first saw the “naked dance scene” in the Emerald Fennel-directed film.

One of Saltburn’s most discussed moments is when Keoghan’s character, Oliver, struts through an empty house, naked, soundtracked by Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s classic pop hit “Murder on the Dancefloor”.

In response, Scott shook his head and after stuttering for a few seconds, added: “I won’t spoil it for anybody.”

Despite the Sherlock star appearing embarrassed at the topic, journalist Paterson continued: “There was a lot of talk about prosthetics. How well do you know him?”

At this, Scott shook his head again and left the conversation, as Paterson asked: “Too much?”

Though seemingly intended as a joke, the BBC interviewer’s words have been criticised heavily across social media, with many unimpressed with the nature of the questions.

“This is frankly disgusting. Andrew Scott is there to support his multiple nominated film and THIS is what you ask? Then when he looks visibly uncomfortable the guy carried on. Truly horrid,” reads one viewer’s response on X/Twitter.

Another fan noted that the bizarre interaction is a result of a desire to create moments that will spread widely online, writing: “Social media has ruined us. The need to ‘go viral’ from red carpet interviews is destroying them.”

Meanwhile, a different Bafta commentator wrote: “I think there’s a time and a place to discuss penises and I’m not sure if a red carpet is one of them.”

The Independent has reached out to Andrew Scott and the BBC for comment.

Similarly, The Bear star Ayo Edebiri was forced to shut down requests for comment on photos of her co-star Jeremy Allen White at the Golden Globes last month. Shortly before the ceremony, White had sparked online conversation after his Calvin Klein underwear campaign came out.

When Edebiri was asked to give her reaction to the photos, she replied: “I’m happy for him, that’s my boy. You know what I mean? I do feel like I want people to understand he’s my co-worker.”

You can find the full list of Bafta winners here.

Hodgson resigns as Crystal Palace manager ahead of crucial fixture

Roy Hodgson has resigned as manager of Crystal Palace, citing his decision allows the club to “bring forward plans for a new manager” from the summer.

The veteran boss, who reached his 200th game as Palace boss recently, was taken to hospital after training last week after falling ill, and now exits ahead of the Monday night Premier League fixture against Everton.

Along with announcing the 76-year-old’s departure from the club, Palace confirmed that the former England boss had left hospital and was “doing well”. A statement from Hodgson read:

“This club is very special and means so much to me and has played a big part in my footballing life. I have fully enjoyed my time here across six seasons, as it has given me the chance to work with top class players and staff doing what I love every day.

“However, I understand, given recent circumstances, it may be prudent at this time for the club to plan ahead, and therefore I have taken the decision to step aside so that the club can bring forward their plans for a new manager, as intended for this summer.”

Hodgson labelled the Palace squad “a pleasure to work with” and asked fans to “continue to give their full support to the team for the remainder of this season and beyond” as they looked to avoid relegation.

They currently sit 16th in the table, five points above the drop zone and their Monday night opponents, having won just two of their last 15 matches in all competitions. Oliver Glasner has been widely tipped as the incoming manager, having left Eintracht Frankfurt last summer.

“I am confident that the season will finish well and I wish the team every success in the weeks, months and seasons to come,” finished Hodgson’s departing words.

Assistants Paddy McCarthy and Ray Lewington will be in charge at Goodison Park against Everton.

Chairman Steve Parish said: “Roy has a special place in Crystal Palace history and this will never be forgotten. After four years in which he led the club to maintaining Premier League status season after season, he once again joined us nearly a year ago to steady the ship, and worked wonders. That he then agreed to continue in the summer speaks volumes about his commitment to our club. Quite simply, we owe our continued Premier League status to Roy.

“I would like to thank Roy enormously for his service and wish him the very best for the future; it’s fair to say Roy has the keys to Selhurst Park and will always be welcomed back.

“On a personal note I would also like to thank Roy for his support, his professionalism and his friendship. He’s been the manager for half of the time we’ve been in the Premier League, I’ve enjoyed working with him and learning from him immensely.”

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.

A stark plea to help Afghans who fought alongside British troops

The news last month that hundreds of Afghan special forces soldiers who fought against the Taliban will have their cases for sanctuary in the UK reviewed was very welcome.

The Independent, along with Lighthouse Reports and Sky News, has been pushing for months for the government to do something to right what is a shameful episode. The Ministry of Defence finally relented and agreed to review their applications to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme.

Crucially, the ministry has conceded that they were paid by the British. Thus, the Afghan special forces soldiers, who were members of Commando Force 333 and Afghan Territorial Force 444, and trained by Britain’s own world-class special forces, will be allowed to bring their family members with them to the UK, meaning thousands of people will probably be given sanctuary.

Call Toby Jones – Post Office drama could be due a sequel

Toby Jones should clear his diary. Extraordinary new allegations suggest his hit ITV drama, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, could be due a sequel. And the escalating row also threatens to spread to other areas where victims are still waiting for compensation.

It has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history. More than 700 branch managers were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software made it appear as though money was missing. The official inquiry into the Horizon scandal heard that Fujitsu executives knew of faults with the system as early as 2008. But the prosecutions continued until 2015.