INDEPENDENT 2024-03-05 10:34:36


Harry accused of throwing family under bus as Kate seen for first time since surgery

Prince Harry has been accused of throwing the royal family under the bus by Kate Middleton’s uncle as he enters the Celebrity Big Brother house.

Gary Goldsmith, who is the younger brother of Kate Middleton’s mother, Carole, made his much-anticipated debut on the revived ITV show.

But before entering the house Gary told The Sun of his niece: “She’s beautiful on the outside, but more beautiful on the inside and really is a doting mum . . . so the way the monarchy is moving, it’s family-centric.

“That’s why I got so upset with Harry and Meghan because you don’t put a stick into that spoke and reinvent history.

“I’ve got pretty miffed when they had a pop at my beautiful niece who couldn’t say anything for herself.”

Gary added he was incensed that Kate was dragged into claims of racism within the royal family.

It came as the Princess of Wales has been pictured being driven by her mother near Windsor today, according to gossip site TMZ.

The photograph shows the royal sporting sunglasses sat in the passenger seat beside her mother Carole Middleton in a black Audi 4×4.

German leaks that left British troops at risk are ‘tip of iceberg’

German military leaks which left British troops at risk may be just the “tip of the iceberg”, according to Berlin’s former intelligence chief.

August Hanning warned that more Nato secrets could have been obtained by Russia after it published a video call between German military officers discussing support for Ukraine.

A recording of the call was leaked by Russian state media on Friday in which they discussed the details of British troops on the ground in Ukraine.

On Monday, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman declined to comment on UK operations in Ukraine, beyond saying there was a “small number of troops” providing protection for British diplomats and training for Ukrainian forces.

But on the call, the head of the German air force said Britain had people operating “on the ground” in Ukraine helping Kyiv’s forces fire long-range Storm Shadow missiles.

During the conversation, Lt Gen Ingo Gerhartz, the head of the German air force, describes how the UK and Ukraine work to deploy Storm Shadow missiles against targets behind Russian lines.

“When it comes to mission planning,” the German commander says, “I know how the English do it, they do it completely in reachback. They also have a few people on the ground, they do that, the French don’t.”

Reachback is military jargon for obtaining equipment that is not on the battlefront.

Berlin has launched an investigation and military experts warned the leaks put British troops at risk.

But on Monday night, Mr Hanning told Germany’s Bild newspaper: “This leak could have been just the tip of the iceberg.”

Russia had already seized on the leaks as a further example confirming “once again that the countries of the collective West are being drawn into the conflict around Ukraine”, a key point of the country’s justification for the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has previously claimed Russia is fighting against the “collective West”, not just Ukraine.

The prime minister’s spokesman told reporters “it is clearly in the Kremlin’s interest to propagate misinformation” and “we should not fall into that trap”.

“We do have to treat anything coming out of the Kremlin with caution. As we know, Russia has a tendency to spread misinformation and disinformation and clearly it is in their interests to sow disunity amongst allies who are seeking to support the armed forces of Ukraine.”

While No 10 was keen to stress Western unity, it is likely that stern conversations will take place with Berlin behind the scenes.

The spokesman declined to comment on UK operations in Ukraine, beyond saying there was a “small number of troops” providing protection for British diplomats and training for Ukrainian forces.

Former chairman of the defence committee Tobias Ellwood said “many aspects” of the leak were concerning.

He told the BBC: “Firstly, why weren’t basic concept protocols followed? But it also revealed a tension, I think, between senior German military who want to see Taurus dispatched and the German Chancellor, who seems increasingly focused on his political survival rather than what’s best for the continent. And it’s also how this plays out in Germany.”

He added: “You can see the tensions that are playing out in capital cities as to what we should do next in Ukraine because the tide does seem to be turning unless they receive greater support. They’ve not received the F-16s, they’re not receiving artillery shells that they need, and they’re not receiving the long range weapon systems.”

He said that Germany “did respond well” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but now “we’re seeing other factors coming into play”.

Mr Ellwood added: “Unlike here, where the longer term strategic dangers to our economy and our security of Putin winning are constantly spelled out by the Prime Minister by the UK Government, and that helps retain public support for the scale of military systems, in Germany, in contrast, it’s still seen by the German public as a war in Ukraine, not part of a wider confrontation that Putin is seeking to have with the West as Putin moves his economy to a war footing and actually becomes arguably more powerful than Stalin.”

Mr Ellwood added that “given the intensity of Russia’s spying on Germany and others, they probably have not learned anything that they didn’t already guess”.

But that “does not prevent some serious conversations taking place in the diplomatic corridors between Germany and Britain and indeed Nato, as well as to why this happened in the first place”.

Meanwhile, former Army chief Lord Dannatt has said the German air force officers who were caught talking on the unencrypted call should be “censured pretty heavily”.

He told Times Radio: “I was very disappointed to read that story. I think the German air force officers who were talking on an open line, frankly, should be censured pretty heavily.

“They are suggesting that there are British people in Ukraine. It’s not for you or me to comment on that. We have provided a lot of equipment to them. We provided a lot of training.

“As far as I’m concerned, I think what they were talking about was whether they would or wouldn’t supply a German system akin to our Storm Shadow. I suspect that we do our training on Storm Shadow, either in this country or in Poland or elsewhere. It’s not for you or I to confirm or deny whether there are British military in Ukraine.”

Officer caught ‘stamping’ on homeless man and dragging him across ground

A uniformed police officer was caught on film pushing her foot down on the stomach of a rough sleeper as she appeared to try to unzip him from his sleeping bag.

Greater Manchester Police told The Independent that the officer’s actions outside Manchester Town Hall last September “fell below the standard we expect”.

The force said it had since provided the officer with refresher training.

Charity Crisis said it was “concerned” by the incident, adding rough sleepers needed to be respected by police officers.

The video first shows the police officer pull the man by his sleeping bag as she tells him “I told you”. She then struggles with him as she appears to attempt to open the zip to his bag before pushing down her foot on his stomach and shouting “stop it”.

The footage showed at least two other uniformed police officers at the scene.

The man, said to be a refugee from Sudan, told the BBC, he was left injured and went to hospital after the incident, but has since recovered.

He said: “I was telling her I need to sleep. But she stamped on my stomach with her foot.”

The man claimed he had woken from his sleep outside the town hall, and after being told to move on had said there was nowhere to go.

Crisis chief executive, Matt Downie, said: “It’s distressing to see people experience this kind of treatment.

“Such incidents serve to traumatise and stigmatise those of us forced to sleep on the streets. We are concerned that incidents like this could become more common and urge the Westminster government to work with police forces to ensure officers are getting the right training to support people in need.” 

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said: “Greater Manchester Police was first made aware of this concerning video in around September last year.

“The officer’s behaviour fell below the standard we expect, especially concerning respect for all members of the community, and the officer’s actions were dealt with.

“The superintendent responsible for the city centre personally discussed the incident with the officer and made it clear that her actions were unacceptable and must not be repeated.

“She, along with other employees, received refresher training on how to deal with similar situations in the future.”

Last week, figures released by The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities revealed the number of people counted rough sleeping across England had risen by 27 per cent in autumn last year, compared to the previous y ear.

In Greater Manchester, 149 people were counted rough sleeping.

Reacting to the figure, Fran Darlington-Pollack, chief executive of the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, said urgent changes were needed to end “the avoidable homelessness created with current asylum processes”.

Best friend of missing British woman demands answers from her ‘person of interest’ ex

The best friend of missing Sarm Heslop has told her boyfriend and person of interest in her disappearance to do “right by her” and let police search his yacht where she was last seen alive.

Ms Heslop vanished from her American boyfriend Ryan Bane’s 47-foot luxury catamaran Siren Song on 8 March 2021. The 41-year-old former flight attendant was last seen aboard Mr Bane’s boat, where she had been working as a chef as it was hired for $2,000 a day charters around the Caribbean.

According to authorities, the couple who matched on Tinder eight months earlier, had been out for dinner at the bar 420 to Center on St John before returning to the £500,000 catamaran late that night.

Mr Bane would later say they watched Netflix and fell asleep. He called 911 at about 2.35am the next morning, told police that he had been woken by the anchor alarm and went to investigate and realised that she was missing. Ms Heslop’s wallet, passport and phone had been left on board, and he said she might have fallen overboard.

The sea captain waited until 11.46am the next day to call the Coast Guard – a nine hour gap which her friends and now family want him to provide a timeline for.

Mr Bane has never been formally interviewed by police and no forensic search of the boat, Siren Song, was ever carried out.

In the days after Ms Heslop’s disappearance, Mr Bane told family he was searching for her as he reportedly hired an attorney and declined to be interviewed by Virgin Islands Police. He sailed off in the days after the disappearance and was spotted in Caribbean islands before pictures emerged of him hitting the gym in his home state of Michigan.

Her mother Brenda Street, 67, told The People newspaper: “I don’t believe Sarm just went missing. I believe she was murdered. I want justice for her.”

She is not accusing Bane of having any part in her daughter’s death but she believes he has stopped her family from finding out what happened to her.

He has since been described as a “person of interest” by Virgin Island authorities, who are still treating the case as a missing persons investigation. Mr Bane has denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Heslop’s best friend Andrew Baldwin, 44, struggled to talk about her in the past tense when he spoke to the Independent about his ongoing search for answers.

“She was a real burst of energy,” he said. “Just a real life and soul of any group. She was a loyal friend and really would do anything for anybody. The lust for life she had was just incredible.

“There was no doubt who I would ask to be my best man. She was a bit surprised because it’s a bit unconventional but she was overwhelmed to be asked. That memory of her on my wedding day is the one I always fall back on.

“She was always up for travel seeing new places, meeting new people, having new experiences and that’s what really took her to the Caribbean and she got into that lifestyle of working and traveling around. Adventure – that’s what led her to where she was – on that yacht and where she got lost.”

“I spoke to her a few weeks before she went missing,” he continued. “We stayed in regular contact by message. It was very much like ‘How are you doing? Where are you today?’

“She was travelling the world like trying to get around all the Covid restrictions. I wasn’t worried about her. She was street-smart and savvy.

“She’s a person that if she was in a situation that she wasn’t comfortable in she would get out of that situation.

“When we got the call to say she was missing and by that time she’d been missing overnight I feared the worst. I know she would have contacted someone immediately.”

On Mr Bane, who has a conviction for assaulting his ex-wife, he added: “We had a few conversations where she said ‘I met someone new. I want to go back out to be with him’.

“I told her it’s your life you have to do what you need to do to be happy. But I wish I knew then what I know now I would have told her to stay away from him as much as possible.

“I check all my friend’s boyfriend’s histories now. I spoke to him in the very early days. He was telling me all the stuff he had been doing like taking the boat out to find her.

“I think my message to him has always been really clear. We ask him to talk to the police if he has nothing to worry about. Me, her family and friends just want to understand what happened that night. And if he hasn’t spoken to the police to clarify or even to answer questions, then how will we know?”

On the yacht: “Why won’t you let that boat be searched? You’ve got nothing to hide.

“You loved her, you loved our friend and you wanted to be there for her then please do right by her to find out. Stop putting up barriers.

“You are carrying on with your life while her family and friends are at a loss without her.”

He said it has been a struggle corresponding with Virgin Islands Police who he said failed to respond to his last ten emails. Island police showed her parents her last known sighting on CCTV before it got abruptly cut off before they stepped on the boat.

Despite multiple requests, the CCTV has never been made public leaving her family wondering what happens next.

Mr Baldwin said: “If this was a UK investigation no stone would be left unturned. It’s difficult to compare but the Nicola Bulley case the resources, the dogs, the helicopters were up for weeks.

“We get the impression they just want us to go away. But we’re not going anywhere we are very determined to find out what happened to our friend. She would do the same for me.

“It’s been difficult to sleep it’s the not-knowing is what gets you. We don’t know if she’s dead or alive. If you needed someone to talk to she was always there. Everyone misses her laugh and her presence.”

David Johnston QPM, former Commander of Homicide and Serious Crime at Metropolitan Police, has been hired by the family to represent them and co-ordinate a search with Virgin Islands authorities.

“The US Virgin Islands Police Dept claim that the case is open and ongoing and yet they are refusing to treat Sarm’s family with the dignity of even a response to our emails and letters,” he said. “Meanwhile we understand that Ryan Bane has resurfaced in the US without ever being formally questioned by the police.”

Mr Bane’s lawyer David Cattie said: “Mr Bane is heartbroken over Sarm’s disappearance. We certainly understand and empathise with her mother’s pain and frustration.

“Mr Bane called 911 immediately upon waking and finding Sarm was not on board. He took his dinghy to shore to meet with VIPD that night and called the USCG the next day when no one appeared at his boat. He also had the USCG on his vessel twice following Sarm’s disappearance. Later Mr Bane and I personally took all of Sarm’s belongings to the police, including all of her electronic devices.”

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Sarm is urged to call Crime Stoppers USVI at (800) 222-TIPS

The truth about the £100k gender pension gap

It can be easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to retirement, especially when it seems a long way off. But if you want to live comfortably when the time comes to stop working, planning ahead is vital. It’s even more important for women, who are on track to have significantly less money than men in later life.

Just as there’s a gender pay-gap, there’s also a discrepancy between how much income men and women have in retirement, too – and it’s even bigger. Research from Scottish Widows shows there is a massive 39% gender pension gap*. This gap grows wider over the course of an average woman’s working life – at 22, there is a £100 difference in pension savings between men and women. By 65, this has grown to a shocking £100,000 difference. For the average woman to level this out, she would have to pay an additional £96 every month over her working life.

Scottish Widows latest ‘Women and Retirement’ report shows that a third of women are not on track to achieve even a basic lifestyle in retirement, covering essential needs, with only a small amount left over for anything else. It means many women won’t have the money to live comfortably, let alone do the things they hope to in retirement, such as travel, socialise and pursue hobbies. The average woman is set to receive £12k per year of income in today’s money during retirement, after paying for any expected housing expenses, compared to £19k for the average man. This includes private pension, other long-term savings, inheritance and the state pension or pension credits.

This gender pension gap is largely driven by deep-seated structural issues. The gender pay/wage gap is a factor, as, naturally, when women earn less, they have less to save. Women are also more likely to work part-time and to take career breaks due to caring responsibilities and a lack of affordable childcare. “Childcare is a huge contributing factor for women, often resulting in them giving up work or reducing their working hours to look after their family,” says Jill Henderson, Scottish Widows’ Head of Business Development. “After women have children the gap between their pension and that of a typical man’s starts to widen. This is because women tend to take on the lion’s share of childcare and employment breaks or part time working – all of which are big drivers of the gender pension gap.” Research found 63% of mothers have either reduced the number of days they worked per week when returning from parental leave or have not yet returned, compared to just over 16% of men.

Some women bear the brunt more than others. “The inability to save has a devastating impact on women’s income and ability to thrive in later life,” says Henderson. “Those women who are in a relationship fare better, but those who are single, divorced or are single mothers are most vulnerable.”

Two-thirds of single women and 60% of divorced women aren’t on track for a minimum lifestyle in retirement, while for single mothers the figures are even starker, at 75%. Working part time, coupled with other financial pressures, makes it much more difficult for single mothers to save for retirement. To make things even more difficult, gaps in work for raising children can also affect eligibility for the state pension. It means that single mothers are almost twice as likely to live in poverty in retirement than the average UK woman.

The overall picture is worrying, but there is some room for optimism. Auto enrolment – where an employer must automatically enrol eligible employees into their pension programme – has nearly doubled the number of females saving into a workplace pension in the last decade. For most people, the state pension will not provide enough income to live comfortably in retirement, so it’s vital to invest in private pension pots.

Recent legislation is set to make two key changes to auto-enrolment; reducing the age requirement from 22 to 18, and removing the lower earnings limit (currently £6,240) which means helps people qualify for auto enrolment and get employer contributions and tax relief from the first ound they earn. “These changes will be most valuable to the young and lower paid, including those who work part-time, most of whom are women,” says Henderson.

The ideal amount to be putting away is 15% of your salary (a combination of what you and your employer pay in, plus any tax relief), but even if you can’t manage that, every little bit makes a difference, especially if you get started today. “People can only save what they can afford to, but we suggest people check in on their pension regularly especially if their situation changes,” says Henderson. Young women are now more likely to start saving earlier in life than men — and the sooner you start, the better the position you’ll be in when you retire.

When it comes to planning for retirement, knowledge is power. Scottish Widows have created a new Beat The Gap tool (www.BeatTheGap.com) to help simplify how people engage with pensions, and make it easier for women (and men) to understand how things like working pattern, and childcare can affect their pension. By inputting some simple information, including gender, age and salary, it plots the user against the UK average pension across their lifetime. You can then see where the gap is most likely to emerge and get tailored tips on how to boost your pension and close the gap.

It’s part of a range of free educational support to help women plan for their retirement.

There’s a long way to go to close the gender pension gap, with many societal changes that need to happen. Until then, being aware of the factors that can affect their pension can help empower women to take the steps they need to ensure a more comfortable retirement, while they wait for the bigger picture to shift.

Find out more about the gender pension gap, plus expert tips and free tools to help you save for your retirement at Scottishwidows.co.uk/yourfuture

*2023 RR and 2023 W&R reports (based on the National Retirement Forecast)

Peers are right to challenge the Rwanda bill

Two years, three home secretaries and £370m later, the Rwanda plan launched by Priti Patel and Boris Johnson has successfully deported the grand total of zero refugees to Kigali.

That, in its way, is something to celebrate. It was always morally wrong and legally problematic to treat people in this way, and placing them at risk of being returned to their countries of origin to be tortured to death was always the wrong thing to do, even if it cost very little.

The fact is that it costs a great deal and for no great purpose. As the latest attempt to revive the scheme arrives in the House of Lords – a hostile environment, if ever there was one – it faces yet more obstacles.

Is Galloway really going to ‘shift the tectonic plates’ of politics?

The aftershocks of George Galloway’s earthquake victory in Rochdale continue to reverberate around the political landscape. As Galloway himself put it, with some hyperbole, he believes his win will “spark a movement, a landslide, a shifting of the tectonic plates in scores of parliamentary constituencies”.

As he took his seat in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity, even the usual niceties stirred up some controversy. It had been suggested that Galloway would be walked into the chamber and formally introduced by Jeremy Corbyn, an old comrade from the 1980s, and David Davis, the sometimes quixotic former Tory Brexit secretary. After Davis dropped out, the task fell to the father of the House, Peter Bottomley, who’s been an independently minded Conservative MP since 1975, and Neale Hanvey, the Westminster Leader of the Alba Party.

Soon the House will be treated to Galloway’s “maiden” speech (not his first one), and no doubt some dramatic parliamentary moments. No wonder Rishi Sunak said his return is “beyond alarming”.