The Telegraph 2024-02-29 04:30:29


Jeremy Hunt could scrap non-dom status to fund tax cuts in Budget

Jeremy Hunt is considering scrapping non-dom status to fund tax cuts for millions of workers in the Budget next week, The Telegraph can reveal.

The move is on a list of revenue-raising options drawn up for the Chancellor and Rishi Sunak, after economic estimates left them with less money than expected for tax cuts or spending pledges.

If it is announced, the Conservatives would be poaching one of the Labour Party’s most prominent tax and spend policies.

It would also reignite the debate about whether scrapping the status would hinder rather than help the economy by driving wealthy foreigners to base themselves elsewhere.

Mr Hunt is understood to have told officials to make sure that Budget policies do not risk the competitiveness of the City of London.

It comes amid a growing row over the Ministry of Defence being denied more money in the Budget, as first revealed by The Telegraph. Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader, said defending Britain was “our first duty” after talks with Mr Hunt on Wednesday.

The Treasury is also considering reducing future spending on public services after the general election, changing the assumption from a 1 per cent annual real terms increase to 0.75 per cent instead.

However, there was a boost for pensioners on Wednesday as it emerged the pensions triple lock is set to be included in the Conservative Party’s next election manifesto.

Non-domiciled status allows foreign nationals who live in the UK, but are officially domiciled overseas, to avoid paying UK tax on their overseas income or capital gains.

How much eradicating the status would generate in tax revenue is unclear. Academics last year estimated it could bring in £3.6 billion a year. Labour says its policy, which would instead bring in a tighter tax relief for foreigners temporarily in the UK, would give it £2 billion a year to spend.

No final decision has been taken on whether the measure will be in the Budget, with the final round of economic and fiscal forecasts that are due from the Office for Budget Responsibility later this week set to determine if it is needed.

But the fact the option is in consideration with less than a week to go shows how seriously the Treasury and No 10 are considering it.

Mr Hunt is determined to announce tax cuts in his March 6 Budget, with a reduction in the rate of National Insurance or income tax the leading options.

However, smaller than expected estimates for fiscal headroom – the amount of money left over after hitting the Government’s pledge to get government debt falling in five years – has left limited room for manoeuvre.

Scrapping the non-dom tax status could be politically complicated for Mr Hunt, who spoke out against the change in November 2022, when Labour was proposing it.

Mr Hunt said then he did not think it made sense to abolish the special tax status and insisted it would be the “wrong thing” to do.

He told BBC Radio Four: “These are foreigners who could live easily in Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain. They all have these schemes. All things being equal, I would rather they stayed here and spent their money here.”

However, there could be political benefits. Labour has already announced £2 billion a year of spending based on the savings from abolishing the non-dom status.

That includes £1.1 billion for two million more NHS operations, scans and appointments at evening and weekends; £171 million on new artificial intelligence health scanners; £111 million on helping deliver 700,000 more urgent dentistry appointments, and £365 million to fund breakfast clubs in all primary schools.

The rest would go on so-called “Barnett consequentials”, which is extra funding given to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the back of policy changes with funding implications.

Eradicating the revenue source for those policies would mean Labour would have to explain where the money would come from if it chose to also keep the new tax cuts announced.

Another complexity, however, is the move could put the spotlight back on to the tax status of Mr Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, who it emerged in spring 2022 was using non-dom status.

Mrs Murty, whose father lives in India and is a billionaire, then gave up the tax status. Mr Sunak at the time criticised the attention on the issue, hitting back at “unpleasant smears”.

On Wednesday night, a Labour source indicated that could well become their line of attack, saying: “Let’s see if Jeremy Hunt can convince Rishi Sunak to steal another one of Labour’s policies.”

In the 2015 general election campaign, Ed Miliband, who was then Labour leader, surprised the Tories by vowing to abolish non-dom status.

Tory strategists later accepted the announcement had cut through with the public and that they had tried to change the national conversation afterwards with the acceptance it had had a political impact.

The non-dom status rules allow those in scope to avoid paying UK tax on overseas income or capital gains for up to 15 years, provided they do not bring the money back into the UK.


Analysis
Why axing the non-dom status is no silver bullet


Read more

However, costs do kick in at some point. People who have been living in the UK for seven of the nine previous tax years must pay £30,000 a year, for example.

HM Revenue & Customs figures show there were 68,300 non-doms in 2021. How many of those would stay if the status was abolished has been a long-debated point by economists.

Last summer, academics at Warwick University and the London School of Economics estimated that the Treasury would get an extra £3.6 billion a year from the move.

But some economists argue the flight of wealthy individuals to other nations would significantly limit the financial upside for the Government.

A Treasury spokesman declined to comment.

License this content

Transgender cat killer put down as female murderer

The crimes of a transgender cat killer and murderer will be officially recorded as having been committed by a woman, The Telegraph can disclose.

Scarlet Blake, 26, who was born male but identifies as a woman, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 24 years in prison on Monday for the murder of Jorge Martin Carreno in Oxford, having previously mutilated a cat.

Blake has been sent to a male prison, but was referred to as a woman during the trial.

The case has sparked a major row, with JK Rowling, lawyers and former ministers among those criticising descriptions of Blake as a “woman”. There has also been a backlash against guidance that urges judges to allow defendants to choose whether they are referred to as a man or a woman in court.

Thames Valley Police has now confirmed to The Telegraph that Blake’s crimes have been officially recorded as committed by a woman.

A spokesman for the force said: “We are required to record the gender of individuals when they are brought into our custody.

“Blake identified as a female when in custody. As such, Blake is recorded as female on our crime recording system.”

The Ministry of Justice confirmed that the gender logged by the police would be mirrored in official crime and conviction statistics held by the courts and all other parts of the justice system. The department declined to comment.

The decision was condemned as “sinister” and “outrageous” on Wednesday night.

Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs and a former security minister, told The Telegraph “the alteration of truth is sinister”.

“These truths are being obscured or even eliminated by politically correct nonsense around pronouns, so let’s just deal with facts, not the fanciful fictions of courts that ought to know better.”

Dr Kate Coleman, director of the campaign group Keep Prisons Single Sex, said it was “outrageous” and “complete misrepresentation of the facts”.

Maya Forstater, founder of the campaign group Sex Matters, said: “Police should always record suspects and perpetrators’ sex, both in order to keep them and officers safe during custody, and so that crime statistics are an accurate base for research and prevention.

“No law requires police to record false information about criminals’ sex or to mix it up with the nebulous concept of ‘gender identity’.

“It is high time that the Government told police forces to stop affirming criminals’ fantasies and get back to their day job of investigating crime and bringing wrongdoers to justice.”

Blake was referred to during the Oxford Crown Court trial as “she” and “her” by the judge and Sky News’ coverage referred to the murderer as “a woman”.

The Guardian was publicly accused of “deceiving its readers” by Louise Tickle, an award-winning journalist who has written for the newspaper for more than 20 years, by failing to mention that Blake was trans. Its article was later updated.

The issue prompted Rowling to write on Twitter: “I’m sick of this s—. This is not a woman. These are #NotOurCrimes.”

Blake had live-streamed a video involving a cat being strangled, skinned and dissected before its body was put in a blender, which was inspired in part by a Netflix documentary.

After the dissection, Blake tells the camera in a monosyllabic tone: “One day I want to learn how to do this to a person.”

Months later, Blake hit Carreno over the back of the head with a vodka bottle in July 2021 and choked him before pushing him into the River Cherwell, where he drowned.

In the trial, the judge told jurors to consider the defendant’s “stature”, but insisted that “the fact she is trans on its own has no particular relevance to this case”.

Men are almost twice as likely to harm animals, figures suggest.

From 2022 to 2023, 2,353 (62.9 per cent) of convictions for animal cruelty where the sex of the offender was known were of men and 1,387 (37.1 per cent) were of women. For convictions, 1,489 were for men (64.5 per cent) and 833 were for women (35.9 per cent).

As the row over the case has grown, lawyers have taken issue with official guidance from the Judicial Office which urges judges to “respect” the gender identity of those who appear in the courts by using their chosen name and pronouns.

Naomi Cunningham, a barrister in discrimination law at Outer Temple Chambers, and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Cabinet minister, called for the guidance in the Equal Treatment Bench Book to be reviewed, but the Judicial Office has stood by it.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “Scarlet Blake’s gender did not form any part of the prosecution case, which was also highlighted by the judge presiding over the case.

“It has always been our absolute priority to convict the person responsible for Jorge Martin Carreno’s murder, and achieve justice for his family, which has now been done.

“Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Martin Carreno who have shown immense dignity throughout.

“Thames Valley Police adheres to the law and codes of practice, outlined by the Equality Act 2010, and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code C, when establishing and recording the gender of a person in our custody.”

License this content

Christian Horner: Red Bull chief cleared of inappropriate behaviour

Red Bull have cleared Christian Horner of wrongdoing following allegations of inappropriate behaviour made by a female colleague after saying that their investigation was “fair, rigorous and impartial”.

Horner, 50, touched down in Bahrain before the first Formula One grand prix of the season on Saturday at almost the exact moment the statement dropped from Red Bull GmBH, the Austrian parent company of Red Bull Racing F1, at 3.30pm UK time.

The Red Bull team principal will be in the paddock for free practice on Thursday. It is rumoured that his wife, former Spice Girl Geri Horner (nee Halliwell), may join him at the race, in a public show of support.

It is unclear whether the verdict draws a line under the matter. In its statement, Salzburg-based Red Bull GmBH, which appointed an external specialist barrister to look into the allegations, noted that the claimant had a right of appeal. But it added that as far as it was concerned the matter was now over.

And it said it would not be sharing details of the report publicly – a hot topic of debate – as it was “confidential and contained the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation”.

The statement read: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr Horner is complete, and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed. The complainant has a right of appeal.

“Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial. The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned. Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.”

It remains to be seen whether the claimant takes up her option of appeal. Tania Goodman, a partner and the head of employment at the law firm Collyer Bristow, told Telegraph Sport it would be usual to lodge an appeal within five working days.

The claimant could also go to an employment tribunal. There had been reports in recent days that she might consider legal action if her grievance was dismissed. According to Goodman, this would not need to be done for several months.

It is also unclear whether this will be the end of the matter from the point of view of Red Bull’s key sponsors such as Oracle, Ford, Visa and TAG-Heuer. In a letter sent to Red Bull last week, leaked to the Associated Press, Ford chief executive Jim Farley wrote that he was frustrated “by the lack of full transparency surrounding this matter with us, your corporate partners” adding that his company’s values were “non-negotiable” and calling for a “resolution we can all stand behind”.

It is unclear whether Red Bull GmBH shared details of the report with the team’s partners, although it is understood it did give them advanced warning of its decision.

The issue of transparency, and whether Red Bull ought to publish details about the case, had been much discussed in the build-up to the verdict being announced.

There is no legal requirement on a private company to release details of an internal investigation, but Goodman said the appointment of an external KC to investigate the matter indicated that the company had taken the allegations extremely seriously.

She added that any appeal would have to be heard by someone of equivalent legal standing, or even more senior.

Hamilton: ‘Important moment for the sport’

Toto Wolff of Mercedes and Zak Brown of McLaren had both called for transparency at last week’s pre-season test.

Red Bull’s triple world champion Max Verstappen had accused them of using the case to try to create pressure, describing that as standard practice in F1.

Both Wolff and Brown have been selected for the main FIA press conference in Bahrain on Thursday, while Horner has not.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, speaking in Wednesday’s drivers’ press conference, had raised the stakes still further.

“We always have to do more to try to make the sport and the environment for people to work in feel safe and inclusive,” the seven-time world champion said.” Any allegations have to be taken very seriously.

“It will be interesting to see how it is dealt with, and the effect that it may or may not have on the sport moving forward.

“It is a really important moment for the sport to make sure that we stand true to our values.”

Verstappen, also speaking before the verdict was announced, said that he “trusted the process”.

Former world champion Damon Hill did not seem so sure. “There will be people who say that it’s the organisation judging itself and not being exposed to any other external influences,” he said on Sky Sports F1.

But colleague and fellow ex-racer Naomi Schiff said she hoped this drew a line under it. “I believe they’ve done everything they can,” she said. “What they say in the statement is super important, they say in the statement there is a level of discretion that needs to be kept because it involves the private lives of people that doesn’t need to be exposed to the world. We just hope this is clear and it’s not going to go any further unless it has to because you don’t want this looming over the sport and the credibility of the people.”


Horner cleared after investigation into behaviour – as it happened

License this content

Tom Kingston was never scared – even in the middle of a war zone

Tom Kingston was brave and tough. He was also a “very, very, very” committed Christian who for three years worked side by side in Baghdad with the city’s famous “vicar”, the Reverend Canon Andrew White. Together they had survived countless suicide bomb attacks, only for Kingston to die 20 years later in a Cotswold village that was as outwardly peaceful as Iraq was violent.

Kingston, who was just 45, had been married for almost five years to Lady Gabriella Windsor, the 42-year-old daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Her “beloved husband”, said his grieving widow in a statement, was an “exceptional man who lit up the lives of all who knew him”.

His death has sent shockwaves through his close circle of friends and family as well as in the corridors of Buckingham Palace. The circumstances remain unclear and a postmortem was being carried out on Wednesday afternoon. His body was found at his parents’ £3 million home in Gloucestershire. Police said they wished to keep the location secret to ensure the “safety and security” of the family.

The Telegraph understands that Lord Frederick Windsor, Lady Gabriella’s brother, took on the awful duty of calling Kingston’s closest friends, including his three best men, to keep them apprised.

‘He wasn’t a depressed individual’

Police said the death was not suspicious, while sources stressed it had come as a complete shock given that Kingston had not been suffering from long-term health problems. Equally, the marriage remained a very happy one and his financial business was thriving. Speculation will be hard for the family to cope with but is rife.

Canon White, who had remained in touch in the post-Baghdad days and attended their wedding, told The Telegraph: “You do wonder how something like this happens. He was so fit and so mentally stable. He wasn’t a depressed individual.”

He also noted his friend was still young and wasn’t, as far as he was aware, suffering from any serious physical illness. That has been confirmed by multiple sources.

Kingston’s journey has been an eventful one from hostage negotiator and parish dogsbody in Baghdad in the early 2000s to financier with offices in St James’s that are a stone’s throw from Clarence House.

In 2019, he wed Lady Gabriella – known to her friends as Ella – at a wedding attended by senior members of the Royal family, including Elizabeth II. Kingston had come a long way from an education at a state secondary modern school (albeit his father was a highly successful QC) and a family descended from Cheshire butchers and farmers.

“He’s one of those guys who can be quite enigmatic and doesn’t tell you what he is thinking,” said one friend. “He’s careful. Perhaps it’s a legacy from the work he was doing in Iraq.”

Known at university – he read economic history at Bristol – as “Christian Tom”, Kingston joined the diplomatic missions unit at the Foreign Office before being seconded to Baghdad as project manager for the International Centre for Reconciliation, based at Coventry Cathedral. Canon White remembers first meeting Kingston in Coventry prior to the posting to Baghdad.

A ‘very, very, very committed Christian’

“It is terrible about my Tom,” said Canon White, who was the vicar of St George’s Church, the only Anglican church in Iraq. “I loved him so much.” 

He was, he said, a “very, very, very committed Christian”, fearless in those unbelievably dangerous days in Baghdad between 2003 and 2006. “The thing about Tom was he was never scared. Whatever I asked him to do he would do it with a big smile on his face in the middle of a war zone.”

During the stint in Baghdad, Kingston was involved in mediating between political and tribal leaders as well as negotiating the release of hostages. He was also the vicar’s aide, carrying out parish work outside the safety of the Green Zone. “We survived several suicide bomb attacks. 

“We were regularly caught up in IED [improvised explosive device] attacks. Cars would blow up in front of us and we would just move on. We were always together and had 35 armed guards at all times,” recalled Canon White.

During his time in Baghdad, Kingston became good friends with Rory Stewart, the former Tory cabinet minister who was stationed in Iraq in the wake of the invasion and who, it was subsequently suggested, was an MI6 officer (which he has denied). Stewart declined to discuss his friendship with Kingston so soon after his death.

Once out of Iraq, Kingston entered the world of finance, firstly with Schroders, a blue-blooded asset management company founded in London in 1804 and now with offices worldwide. He was subsequently appointed managing director of Voltan Capital Management before joining Devonport Capital as one of two directors in 2017. 

The firm, based in St James’s, “provides finance to developed market companies exporting to, or operating in, the emerging economies”. In other words it provides short-term loans to businesses operating in the developing world.

It was founded by Paul Bailey, a former City lawyer, who had previously run a boutique investment firm in Iraq. Devonport Capital had expanded its operations significantly in recent years, with accounts showing more than £5 million in shareholder funds. Kingston was at the time of his death a co-owner in the business.

‘One of the last true English gentlemen’

His death comes out of the blue. “We are so upset about the news, everybody loved him. He was kind, charming and thoroughly decent and one of the last true English gentlemen. It is beyond tragic and so hard to get one’s head around,” said one close acquaintance.

Another friend, who’d had dinner with Kingston and his wife towards the end of last year, said: “We are really shocked. He was so young. They were very close as a couple.” The friend stressed that Lady Gabriella and Kingston had been “happily married” and had “seemed perfectly fine” at the dinner party held in London a few months ago.

Well placed sources also insisted the marriage was solid, adding to the mystery and compounding the distress over his sudden death.

Gloucestershire Coroner’s Service Office said Wednesday that information would be released “as and when is necessary. We are dealing with the death of a 45-year-old male and are awaiting a post-mortem to establish the cause of death. The post-mortem exam will take place today and further information will be released if a coroner opens an inquest”.

Gloucestershire police said in a statement: “We were called by the ambulance service at 6.25pm on Sunday with a report of the death of a 45-year-old man at an address in the Cotswolds. The death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will be prepared for the coroner.”

‘A very gentle soul, just like his father’

In the pretty village, there was palpable upset while locals rallied round. Kingston lived with his wife in London and had been visiting his parents’ house, a sprawling manor protected by a high wall.

The local sub-postmaster said on Wednesday: “We are all so sad to hear the terrible news. They are a lovely, gentle family who do a lot for the village and the church. They are a big part of the local community.”

He added: “Thomas popped into the shop a lot, he would come by every so often. I last saw him a few months ago. He was a very gentle soul, just like his father. Everyone is in shock, it’s really sad and very fresh.”

Kingston comes from a well-to-do family. His father Martin retired recently from the Bar, having enjoyed a successful career as a planning barrister. Mr Kingston had been elected to the General Synod in 2016 while his wife Jill – Kingston’s mother – is also heavily involved in the church. She is a trustee of a Christian healing centre and runs the Nadezhda Charitable Trust, which supports projects in Zimbabwe.

By contrast, Lady Gabriella is the daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, the late Queen’s first cousin and a grandson of George V. Her mother Princess Michael of Kent is descended from European aristocracy. Her grandmother was an Austrian princess.

Kingston was introduced to Lady Gabriella through mutual friends and they had been an item for the past nine years. Handsome and eminently eligible, he had been linked to other women who moved in royal circles including Natalie Hicks-Löbbecke, said to have been a former girlfriend of prince William, and Pippa Middleton, sister of the Princess of Wales.

Kingston proposed to Lady Gabriella at his parents’ holiday home on the Channel Island of Sark. The grand wedding was held at St George’s Chapel Windsor in May 2019. 

The couple were last photographed together in public as recently as Valentine’s Day, having joined the Queen at Grosvenor House to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s first folio. Looking at the picture, they are the epitome of the handsome, happy couple. There is no inkling of the tragedy to come.

License this content

Nigel Owens ‘prouder of Welsh farmer address than refereeing Rugby World Cup’

Nigel Owens has told crowds gathered for the Welsh farming protest that he was prouder to speak at the event than he was to referee the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 

The international rugby union referee and professional farmer said it was “an honour” to be addressing the 8,000-person strong demonstration outside the Senedd in Cardiff amid Welsh Government plans for a new sustainable farming scheme.

He said: “In 2015, I was very privileged to referee the World Cup final in Twickenham – the proudest moment of my career.

“But today I’m even prouder to come and speak in front of good, decent people. An honour to be here to speak and to support you today as a fellow farmer.”

The protest is aimed at challenging a Welsh Labour Government proposal that plans to overhaul EU-era subsidies and requires farmers to dedicate 20 per cent of their land to tree planting and wildlife. 

Some 5,500 rural jobs and around £200m in farming income could be lost under the new scheme, according to analysis conducted for the Welsh Government. 

Thousands have descended on Cardiff today in opposition to the change for what could be one of the largest farming protests Britain has ever seen.

License this content

Mel B: The reason I couldn’t be called Scary Spice today

Mel B wouldn’t be named Scary Spice today as someone would take offence to it, the singer has said.

Melanie Brown said in this “day and age” the name wouldn’t be as accepted as the world was “a bit too politically correct”.

But the 48-year-old said she loved the nickname and that despite some 30 years passing since the members of the Spice Girls were given their monikers, they are all “still the same”.

When they formed in 1994 and had their first hit with Wannabe two years later, she and Victoria Beckham, Geri Horner, Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisolm were given their corresponding Spice Girls nicknames of Scary, Posh, Ginger, Baby and Sporty during an interview with Top of the Pops magazine, which stuck.

When asked how she felt about being nicknamed Scary Spice, Brown told the How To Fail podcast: “I think now we’re a bit too politically correct.

“I calmed down in these last few years. Before, if you were to interview me I’d be like ‘Show me your questions’. I’d be the protector of the group that comes in there like ‘Hold on a minute’.

“That can be seen as maybe being a bit too Northern, or maybe being a bit too feisty, or scary, so that name was given – and I love it.”

Brown said her nickname derived from the “plain fact” that she was “a bit scary” with “larger than life hair”.

She added: “That’s just me.

“But, in this day and age, somebody would have taken offence by that. But I don’t take offence by it.

“Whether you’re black, white, mixed, there’s a bit of scary in all of us.”

She added: “And, I just want to be clear, when those names got given to us – it was by a lazy journalist from some teeny poppy magazine and he couldn’t be bothered to remember our full names.

“So he was like, well that one looks a bit scary because she has already snatched my notes and she’s got all this crazy hair and leopard print nails, so he just named us off the rack like that.

“We were all like, God, I quite like my name.”

She added: “It’s funny because to this day, Emma loves pink, and if she could have her way she’d put her hair in ponytails.

“Mel C, you can never get her out of a tracksuit, and she always has her hair in a ponytail.

“Victoria’s very slick and elegant. Geri she’s gone through a bit of a change, but she’s still that vivacious Union Jack girl underneath her being the lady of the manor.

“We’re all exactly the same, which is lovely considering we started when we were 17, 18, 19, and we’re now 48, 49, 50.”

License this content

Friends’ shock at death of Lady Gabriella Windsor’s husband

Tom Kingston was brave and tough. He was also a “very, very, very” committed Christian who for three years worked side by side in Baghdad with the city’s famous “vicar”, the Reverend Canon Andrew White. Together they had survived countless suicide bomb attacks, only for Kingston to die 20 years later in a Cotswold village that was as outwardly peaceful as Iraq was violent.

Kingston, who was just 45, had been married for almost five years to Lady Gabriella Windsor, the 42-year-old daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Her “beloved husband”, said his grieving widow in a statement, was an “exceptional man who lit up the lives of all who knew him”.

His death has sent shockwaves through his close circle of friends and family as well as in the corridors of Buckingham Palace. The circumstances remain unclear and a postmortem was being carried out on Wednesday afternoon. His body was found at his parents’ £3 million home in Gloucestershire. Police said they wished to keep the location secret to ensure the “safety and security” of the family.

The Telegraph understands that Lord Frederick Windsor, Lady Gabriella’s brother, took on the awful duty of calling Kingston’s closest friends, including his three best men, to keep them apprised.

‘He wasn’t a depressed individual’

Police said the death was not suspicious, while sources stressed it had come as a complete shock given that Kingston had not been suffering from long-term health problems. Equally, the marriage remained a very happy one and his financial business was thriving. Speculation will be hard for the family to cope with but is rife.

Canon White, who had remained in touch in the post-Baghdad days and attended their wedding, told The Telegraph: “You do wonder how something like this happens. He was so fit and so mentally stable. He wasn’t a depressed individual.”

He also noted his friend was still young and wasn’t, as far as he was aware, suffering from any serious physical illness. That has been confirmed by multiple sources.

Kingston’s journey has been an eventful one from hostage negotiator and parish dogsbody in Baghdad in the early 2000s to financier with offices in St James’s that are a stone’s throw from Clarence House.

In 2019, he wed Lady Gabriella – known to her friends as Ella – at a wedding attended by senior members of the Royal family, including Elizabeth II. Kingston had come a long way from an education at a state secondary modern school (albeit his father was a highly successful QC) and a family descended from Cheshire butchers and farmers.

“He’s one of those guys who can be quite enigmatic and doesn’t tell you what he is thinking,” said one friend. “He’s careful. Perhaps it’s a legacy from the work he was doing in Iraq.”

Known at university – he read economic history at Bristol – as “Christian Tom”, Kingston joined the diplomatic missions unit at the Foreign Office before being seconded to Baghdad as project manager for the International Centre for Reconciliation, based at Coventry Cathedral. Canon White remembers first meeting Kingston in Coventry prior to the posting to Baghdad.

A ‘very, very, very committed Christian’

“It is terrible about my Tom,” said Canon White, who was the vicar of St George’s Church, the only Anglican church in Iraq. “I loved him so much.” 

He was, he said, a “very, very, very committed Christian”, fearless in those unbelievably dangerous days in Baghdad between 2003 and 2006. “The thing about Tom was he was never scared. Whatever I asked him to do he would do it with a big smile on his face in the middle of a war zone.”

During the stint in Baghdad, Kingston was involved in mediating between political and tribal leaders as well as negotiating the release of hostages. He was also the vicar’s aide, carrying out parish work outside the safety of the Green Zone. “We survived several suicide bomb attacks. 

“We were regularly caught up in IED [improvised explosive device] attacks. Cars would blow up in front of us and we would just move on. We were always together and had 35 armed guards at all times,” recalled Canon White.

During his time in Baghdad, Kingston became good friends with Rory Stewart, the former Tory cabinet minister who was stationed in Iraq in the wake of the invasion and who, it was subsequently suggested, was an MI6 officer (which he has denied). Stewart declined to discuss his friendship with Kingston so soon after his death.

Once out of Iraq, Kingston entered the world of finance, firstly with Schroders, a blue-blooded asset management company founded in London in 1804 and now with offices worldwide. He was subsequently appointed managing director of Voltan Capital Management before joining Devonport Capital as one of two directors in 2017. 

The firm, based in St James’s, “provides finance to developed market companies exporting to, or operating in, the emerging economies”. In other words it provides short-term loans to businesses operating in the developing world.

It was founded by Paul Bailey, a former City lawyer, who had previously run a boutique investment firm in Iraq. Devonport Capital had expanded its operations significantly in recent years, with accounts showing more than £5 million in shareholder funds. Kingston was at the time of his death a co-owner in the business.

‘One of the last true English gentlemen’

His death comes out of the blue. “We are so upset about the news, everybody loved him. He was kind, charming and thoroughly decent and one of the last true English gentlemen. It is beyond tragic and so hard to get one’s head around,” said one close acquaintance.

Another friend, who’d had dinner with Kingston and his wife towards the end of last year, said: “We are really shocked. He was so young. They were very close as a couple.” The friend stressed that Lady Gabriella and Kingston had been “happily married” and had “seemed perfectly fine” at the dinner party held in London a few months ago.

Well placed sources also insisted the marriage was solid, adding to the mystery and compounding the distress over his sudden death.

Gloucestershire Coroner’s Service Office said Wednesday that information would be released “as and when is necessary. We are dealing with the death of a 45-year-old male and are awaiting a post-mortem to establish the cause of death. The post-mortem exam will take place today and further information will be released if a coroner opens an inquest”.

Gloucestershire police said in a statement: “We were called by the ambulance service at 6.25pm on Sunday with a report of the death of a 45-year-old man at an address in the Cotswolds. The death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will be prepared for the coroner.”

‘A very gentle soul, just like his father’

In the pretty village, there was palpable upset while locals rallied round. Kingston lived with his wife in London and had been visiting his parents’ house, a sprawling manor protected by a high wall.

The local sub-postmaster said on Wednesday: “We are all so sad to hear the terrible news. They are a lovely, gentle family who do a lot for the village and the church. They are a big part of the local community.”

He added: “Thomas popped into the shop a lot, he would come by every so often. I last saw him a few months ago. He was a very gentle soul, just like his father. Everyone is in shock, it’s really sad and very fresh.”

Kingston comes from a well-to-do family. His father Martin retired recently from the Bar, having enjoyed a successful career as a planning barrister. Mr Kingston had been elected to the General Synod in 2016 while his wife Jill – Kingston’s mother – is also heavily involved in the church. She is a trustee of a Christian healing centre and runs the Nadezhda Charitable Trust, which supports projects in Zimbabwe.

By contrast, Lady Gabriella is the daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, the late Queen’s first cousin and a grandson of George V. Her mother Princess Michael of Kent is descended from European aristocracy. Her grandmother was an Austrian princess.

Kingston was introduced to Lady Gabriella through mutual friends and they had been an item for the past nine years. Handsome and eminently eligible, he had been linked to other women who moved in royal circles including Natalie Hicks-Löbbecke, said to have been a former girlfriend of prince William, and Pippa Middleton, sister of the Princess of Wales.

Kingston proposed to Lady Gabriella at his parents’ holiday home on the Channel Island of Sark. The grand wedding was held at St George’s Chapel Windsor in May 2019. 

The couple were last photographed together in public as recently as Valentine’s Day, having joined the Queen at Grosvenor House to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s first folio. Looking at the picture, they are the epitome of the handsome, happy couple. There is no inkling of the tragedy to come.

License this content