The Telegraph 2024-02-26 16:30:31

Live Cat killer to serve at least 24 years in prison for murdering stranger – latest updates

Cat killer Scarlet Blake has been handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 24 years for the murder of Jorge Martin Carreno in Oxford.

Judge Martin Chamberlain also handed down two concurrent sentences of four months and two months for unnecessary suffering to an animal and criminal damage.

Oxford Crown Court heard how Blake, who was born biologically male but identifies as a woman, singled out Mr Carreno as he walked home from a night-out in Oxford in July 2021 before brutally attacking him.

Blake was convicted of murder last week following a three-week trial at Oxford Crown Court. 

During the murder trial, the court heard Blake targeted Mr Carreno as a part of a warped sexual fantasy inspired by a Netflix documentary Don’t F**k with Cats.

Follow latest updates below.

Sunak ‘too weak’ to label Lee Anderson remarks Islamophobic, claims Starmer – live updates

Sir Keir Starmer claimed Rishi Sunak was “too weak” to describe Lee Anderson’s comments about Sadiq Khan as Islamophobic. 

The Labour leader told broadcasters this afternoon: “I think this is straightforward. It is Islamophobia and the Prime Minister should call it out for what it is. 

“The reason he won’t is because he is so weak. They are divided, they are chaotic and if they are re-elected we are going to have five more years of this. 

“It is only Labour now that can unite the country, bring people together, turn a page on this and actually usher in the sort of society, the sort of future that people desperately want. But the Prime Minister lacks the strength. He is too weak. He can’t call it out for what it is. That is how weak he is.”  

Mr Sunak said Mr Anderson’s comments about Mr Khan were “wrong” and “unacceptable” but would not describe them as Islamophobic. 

Mr Anderson, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, lost the Tory whip after failing to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had “got control” of the Mayor of London.

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

Ukraine-Russia war: Nato and EU members ‘considering sending troops to Ukraine’

Several Nato and EU states are considering sending soldiers to Ukraine on a bilateral basis, Slovakia’s prime minister claimed ahead of a meeting of European leaders in Paris.

Robert Fico, a pro-Russian populist who has long opposed sending military aid to Ukraine, said: “I will limit myself to say that these theses (in preparation for the Paris meeting) imply a number of Nato and EU member states are considering that they will send their troops to Ukraine on a bilateral basis.”

“I cannot say for what purpose and what they should be doing there,” he added.

Mr Fico said that Slovakia, a Nato and EU member, would not be sending soldiers to Ukraine and warned of a risk of imminent escalation in the conflict.

In January, the Slovakian leader said there was “no war in Kyiv” and described life there as “absolutely normal”.

Some 20 European leaders, including Mr Fico, were set to gather at the Elysee Palace on Monday. France said the meeting was aimed at sending a message of resolve to Moscow as the war enters its third year.

Members of Nato have supplied billions of dollars in arms and ammunition to Kyiv and are training Ukrainian forces. But Nato leaders including US President Joe Biden have underlined that the Western military alliance wants to avoid a direct conflict with Russia, which could lead to a global war.

Private school pupil, 16, killed himself after Snapchat nude photo blackmail

A private school pupil killed himself after he was blackmailed on Snapchat over nude photographs, an inquest has heard.

Dinal De Alwis, 16, represented Whitgift School, Croydon, at rugby and football and hoped to study economics at Cambridge after achieving straight A*s in all his GCSE subjects.

Dinal killed himself in October 2022 days after he returned from a family holiday in Majorca over the autumn half-term break. He left his home at 2am and was seen on CCTV falling to his death an hour later.

South London Coroner’s Court heard that the teenager recorded a video outlining he planned to kill himself after he received two nude photographs of himself from a blackmailer on social media.

The blackmailer demanded that Dinal pay £100 to stop sending the images to his followers.

Dinal’s family say they believe a girl may have taken the images with Dinal before they ended up in the wrong hands.

An inquest into Dinal’s death heard the blackmailer, who is understood to have targeted other victims, wrote: “So you think blocking me can stop me? What do you want me to do – you want me to send it to all of your followers? Why can’t you just pay me? £100?”

According to reports, police and the National Crime Agency told Dinal’s family they were unable to trace the blackmailer but said it appeared they were operating from Nigeria.

Dinal’s father, Kaushallya De Alwis, told the inquest his son had not shown any signs of unhappiness but believed he wanted to avoid the shame of the photographs going public.

He told the court how he was proud his son was proficient in English after the family moved from Sri Lanka and described him as brave and caring.

The hearing was told that Dinal was a strong sportsman at Whitgift School, where England rugby players Danny Cipriani and Elliot Daly are among the sporting alumni. He achieved straight A* grades in his GCSEs.

Talking about his death, Mr De Alwis said the fact his son had taken his own life after he was blackmailed was “incredibly painful” and showed “the world is so cruel”.

The inquest ruled that Dinal died as a result of suicide.

Speaking to the Daily Mail on Sunday night, Mr De Alwis said he did not want other families to experience similar tragedies and called for parents to be allowed access to their children’s social media accounts.

He told the newspaper: “Dinal had had some girlfriends, he’d been very open with me – I’d warned him to be careful. The grieving is never-ending.

“I’m very worried about my younger son – he’s big time into all this social media, and young people underestimate the dangers around them. There must be ways of tracking these things and parents should have access.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Snapchat said the app had a pop-up warning for users if they were added by someone they did not know.

A spokesman said: “Any sexual exploitation of young people is abhorrent and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim in this case. We work in multiple ways to detect and prevent this type of abuse and work with police to support investigations.

“We have extra protections for under-18s including a special reporting category if someone is threatening to share sexual content. Our Family Centre also allows parents to see who their teens are talking to.” 

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit

Guardian writer boycotts newspaper for failing to tell readers ‘cat killer’ murderer was transgender

A writer for the Guardian has boycotted the newspaper for failing to tell its readers that a cat killer who murdered a stranger was transgender.

Scarlet Blake, a 26-year-old trans woman, was found guilty last week of murdering Jorge Martin Carreno in July 2021 on his way home from a night out, four months after Blake’s Netflix-inspired killing of a cat.

Louise Tickle, an award-winning journalist who has written for the Guardian for more than 20 years, has accused the newspaper of “deceiving its readers” for using the word “woman” in its headline and omitting the fact Blake was transgender in an article covering the case.

In a letter to Katharine Viner, the newspaper’s editor, Tickle said: “I’ve contributed to the Guardian for nearly two and a half decades, but as a result of an utterly dismaying news piece published on Friday, I cannot do so again until I’m confident that the Guardian is able to demonstrate that its reporters, editors and management understand what constitutes a fact, and stops deceiving its readers.”

Tickle explained that upon reading the article online last Friday, she was left unaware that Blake was a “male killer”.

“How could I,” she asked. “The headline used the word ‘woman’ and nowhere in the piece did I pick up any reference to the killer being transgender.

“My understanding is that I didn’t just miss the word ‘transgender’ – that word was not included in the piece.

“So, as far as I – and as far as any of your other readers were concerned that day – a woman had committed an extraordinarily depraved and sexually motivated murder of a man, after having carried out a hideous act of animal cruelty,” she added in the letter to Viner.

‘It is disgraceful’

The journalist then claims that when she went back to look at the piece again the following day it had been changed; “the headline was altered to remove the word ‘woman’ and the word ‘transgender’ was added in the fifth paragraph (after references to ‘woman’ and ‘she’ in the text above).”

She added: “Many people will not read that far, and so Guardian readers are still being led to believe that a woman has committed this crime.”

Tickle accused the newspaper of “actively deceiving readers into believing that there is a sudden upsurge in women engaged in violent, homicidal and sexually motivated criminality”.

“It is disgraceful. There is no excuse for it. Sometimes people suggest that the anger around this kind of factually inaccurate reporting is overblown, performative, unkind, or petty. It is not,” she wrote.

It is the latest in a series of trans rows in which the newspaper has become embroiled.

Its deputy music editor sparked criticism last year for using a review of Róisín Murphy’s music to criticise the Irish singer’s views that vulnerable children should be protected from puberty blockers, describing it as “a masterful album with an ugly stain”.

More recently, JK Rowling branded the Guardian’s chief sports writer a “progressive misogynist” with “disdain for women’s sport” after he dismissed concerns that transgender women could compete in Parkrun’s female category.

Blake’s sentencing got under way on Monday at Oxford Crown Court.

Blake was found guilty on Friday of murdering Carreno by hitting him in the back of the head with a vodka bottle before strangling him and pushing him into the River Cherwell, where he drowned.

Oxford Crown Court heard how Blake had killed a cat four months before the murder, placing the animal in a blender, which was inspired by the Netflix documentary called Don’t F—k with Cats, in which a man kills kittens before murdering a human.

The Guardian has been contacted for comment.

Charlotte Church under fire for leading choir in rendition of ‘from the River to the Sea’

Charlotte Church has come under fire for leading a choir in a rendition of “from the River to the Sea” during a pro-Palestine charity concert.

The Welsh star was filmed leading a chorus, which also included some children, of the anti-Semitic protest chant at a Sing for Palestine event in Caerphilly, south Wales, on Saturday.

The footage has sparked criticism among members of the Jewish community, who accused her of using her “stardom to teach kids to sing extremist lyrics in a village hall”.

The advocacy group Campaign Against Antisemitism has called for the Charity Commission to investigate the event, which was being held to raise money for the Middle East Children’s Alliance charity.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also called on Ms Church to apologise for her actions.

The group said: “The chant “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” is viewed by many in the Jewish community as a call for the complete destruction of the State of Israel, which would, given the ethnic cleansing of Jews from other countries in the Middle East, most likely lead to a similar outcome there. 

“Ms Church should apologise and clarify that this is not the outcome she desires.”

Church, 38, who was draped in a keffiyeh scarf in solidarity with those in Palestine, was also seen singing “Stop the Occupation” as she attended the event at the Bedwas Workmen’s Hall.

She told the crowd of around 150 attendees: “A lot of us are feeling a lot of emotion. This is a safe space to just breathe and sing and get it all out,” before leading the choir in a seven-minute rendition of the controversial “from the River to the Sea”.

Andrew Percy, a Tory backbencher and member of the Jewish community, told The Sun newspaper the sing-along was “deeply concerning”, adding that “those who joined in should hang their heads in shame”.

A spokesman for Campaign Against AntiSemitism said: “The genocidal chant ‘from the River to the Sea’ refers to the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, and only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state – and its replacement with a Palestinian state. It is a call for the annihilation of half the world’s Jews, who live in Israel.

“Since Oct 7, when Hamas committed their barbaric terrorist acts, we have heard this chant on the streets of Britain during anti-Israel marches, accompanied by all manner of anti-Jewish racism.

“Singing ‘from the River to the Sea’ is not standing up for human rights. At best Charlotte Church has been tone deaf, but at worst she is using the voice for which she is so well known to fan the flames of hatred. You cannot stoop lower than using your stardom to teach kids to sing extremist lyrics in a village hall.

“We will be writing to the Charity Commission to ask them to investigate how this was allowed to take place on a charity’s premises.”

It comes after the words “from the River to the Sea” were projected on to Parliament last Wednesday, with police accused of standing by while pro-Palestinian protesters beamed the slogan onto the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben.

Ms Church rose to fame as a classical singer in her childhood, before branching into pop music in her adult years and later becoming a vocal Left-wing activist.

She became outspoken on a number of political issues after appearing at the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 and toured the UK to support Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become prime minister in 2016.

Church’s representatives were contacted for comment.

Freddie Mercury’s London house up for sale for £30m – but you can’t see the listing

Freddie Mercury’s home is for sale but the property listing is only available to those with at least £30 million to spare.

There is no online listing for Garden Lodge in Kensington, which was Mercury’s residence for a decade before his death in 1991.

The layout and square footage remain undisclosed for the sake of privacy, according to the estate agent, Knight Frank. Only two photographs of the interior are to be released, showing a portion of the entrance hall and a corner of the yellow-painted dining room.

Offers are invited in excess of £30 million.

The Queen star bequeathed the house and everything in it to Mary Austin, his closest friend, who moved in shortly after his death. She sold the contents at auction in September 2023 and is now selling the west London property.

“It was really only ever my house in name only,” Ms Austin told Bloomberg. “I had worked on the house with him and for him, and it will always be his. It was his dream, it was his vision.”

Ms Austin, 72, said of her decision to sell up: “The auction was enormous. And I wasn’t sure how I would feel at this moment. But I realised the time had come.” 

She has been living alone in the house since her two children grew up and moved out.

In order to deter fans from posing as potential buyers, Knight Frank will vet applicants to check they have sufficient funds to purchase the property. Only then will they share further details and arrange viewings.

A spokesperson said: “A decision has been made not to put details online for privacy reasons. And we have processes in place when it comes to interested parties.”

One feature missing from the mansion is the green door in the eight-foot high wall around the property. It was covered in graffiti by fans following Mercury’s death and was among the lots sold at Sotheby’s last year, fetching £412,750.

Mercury bought the neo-Georgian house in 1980. It has a double-height drawing room, which housed the grand piano on which the singer wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, and a minstrel’s gallery redesigned as a bar, library and music centre.

The dining room was painted a bright yellow, evoking Mercury’s childhood in Zanzibar and India, while the sitting room had Japanese influence.

The house’s eight bedrooms include a principal suite entered through an “extraordinary” art deco dressing room with floor to ceiling mirrors where Mercury once stored his many stage costumes alongside his everyday clothes.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Austin said that the Queen star told her: “I’ve left you the house because you would have been the woman I would have married, and by rights this would all have been yours anyway.”

Mercury and Ms Austin had a six-year relationship and remained close after their split, with the singer referring to her as his “common-law wife”. He once said: “The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else.”

The house was built in 1907 for Cecil Rea and Constance Halford, the married artists, and later owned by Peter Wilson, the Sotheby’s chairman. Mercury bought the property from a member of the Hoare banking family, offering the asking price on the spot.

Austin oversaw the house’s refurbishment on Mercury’s behalf. She moved in 10 months after his death and lived there with her two children from another relationship.

She described the property as “the most glorious memory box”. 

Recalling the day that she accompanied Mercury to view it in 1980, Austin said: “It was a summer day, children were playing in the garden, and I was behind Freddie as we came in. It was so quiet and so peaceful, and that continued through the house.

“Freddie went outside and said ‘tell them to take it off the market. I’ll give them the asking price now.’”

Ms Austin added: “The press had been pursuing him to come out, and he wouldn’t, and why should he? And this gave him the wonderful feeling that he could create and live and be private here.

“Freddie had an absolute vision for the garden. Kyoto Gardens was what came to mind – he wanted to recreate that tranquil environment.”

Austin said she first thought of selling the house 25 years ago but decided she was not ready to part with it. She hopes the buyer will appreciate its history and not demolish the property to build something modern in its place.

“The last thing you want is for someone to say ‘yes, I’ll buy it’ and exploit it, and demolish it,” she said. “This is unique and has its beauty, and I know it has a purpose for someone – it did for Freddie.”

But she added: “Once you’ve sold, you’ve sold. You can’t hold on to the past forever, I suppose. I’ll be leaving with it very warm in my heart.”

Inside the private world of Freddie Mercury, with the woman who knew him best

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