The Telegraph 2024-03-11 01:00:42

Two arrested after police remove 34 bodies from funeral home in Hull

Police have arrested two people and removed 34 bodies from a funeral parlour over concern about the way the deceased were being cared for and stored.

A 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were detained for questioning in Hull after an investigation was launched into the activities of three branches of the Legacy independent funeral directors.

The pair were arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position.

Humberside Police also said 34 bodies had been removed from branches of the undertakers and taken to a local mortuary, while more than 350 people have contacted a helpline set up for worried families.

Concerns were initially raised about the conduct of the Legacy funeral directors business last week.

On Wednesday, police visited three branches of the firm on Anlaby Road and Hessle Road, in Hull and one in nearby Beverley.

As a result, a criminal investigation was launched, resulting in senior officers ordering that bodies be removed from the sites over the weekend.

Humberside Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Thom McLoughlin said: “We can confirm that a man aged 46 and a woman aged 23 have been arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position and remain in police custody at this time.

“As part of our investigation, as of today, we can confirm 34 deceased people have now been respectfully transported from Legacy funeral directors based on Hessle Road to the mortuary in Hull for formal identification procedures to take place.

“Since the report on Wednesday March 6, cordons remain in place at all three Legacy independent funeral directors premises.

“The dedicated phone line remains open and has received over 350 calls from concerned members of the public since Friday.

“We continue to encourage anyone who has used Legacy independent funeral directors and has concerns to call us on 0800 051 4674 or 0207 126 7619 if you are calling from abroad.”

On its website, the firm prided itself on “quality through care and respect” and said that it held “traditional funerals undertaken to meet your needs”.

It said it was “family owned and run” and that “we are an independent, family-owned business offering our clients an exceptional level of care and attention”.

The firm charges £970 for a cremation, including transport and a simple coffin, and £2,799 for traditional funerals.

It was established in 2010 and said it was “proud to serve” communities in Hull and East Yorkshire and it provided a “dedicated and unsurpassed personal service” that would “create a unique farewell for loved ones, with more flexibility and less constraint than our competitors”.

“With such breadth of experience, you and your family are assured the best service and care available,” it added.

The company’s accounts were overdue and it was due to be struck off the register, according to documents on Companies House this week.

In the financial year up to April 2022, it turned over £74, 450, made a profit of £5,000 and had two employees.

Police acknowledged that, coming on Mother’s Day, the news would be upsetting for anyone who might be affected.

“Each call we receive is being carefully handled and delicately assessed by a specialist team to ensure we have a thorough understanding of each family’s circumstances,” Mr McLoughlin added.

“We will get back to each and every one of you as soon as we can.

“Please be reassured that my staff and officers are working around the clock to deal with the unprecedented inquiries generated as a result of this incident.

“Families affected continue to be supported by family liaison officers at what we appreciate is an extremely distressing time for all involved.

“These officers are also working closely with our partners to ensure that families are provided with the most appropriate care and support for their personal circumstances whilst our investigation continues.

“Victim support also has a dedicated telephone line which is available to anyone who is experiencing distress or concern and would like advice and guidance.”

Mr McLoughlin added: “On behalf of all of our police officers and staff, particularly today, on Mother’s Day, our thoughts remain with all families that have been affected because of this incident.

“I know many families will need and want much more information and we will continue to release updates as soon as we are able but cannot jeopardise the ongoing investigation in any way.

“May I take this opportunity to remind the public to show the utmost respect and privacy for any bereaved families and their loved ones within our community.”

A spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors said the firm was not a member of its association.

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Princess of Wales thanks the nation for support in first message after surgery

After 76 days out of the public eye and some of the most extraordinary conspiracy theories in modern royal history, the Princess of Wales has been “seen”.

At home, in the arms of her doting children, she has been photographed by her husband in time for a Mothering Sunday message thanking the nation for its kind wishes and support.

The image, like many others from the family over the years, shows a happy, wholesome home with the Princess at its centre.

This year, thanks to her long period out of the public eye, it somehow seems remarkable.

It has, or at least should, finally bring to an end the hurtful speculation over her whereabouts. Importantly, the Princess did it on her own terms.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” she said in social media posts by Kensington Palace. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

The short, simple message was signed “C” for Catherine.

It is the first time the Princess has appeared in an authorised photograph since Christmas and her first message since Jan 17, when the palace asked for privacy and specified that she would be out of the public eye until at least Easter.

Since then, her slow and steady recovery has taken place largely at home in Adelaide Cottage, while the Prince of Wales took time out of his own engagements to see her settled.

But as the weeks have rolled on, calls for updates on her health and whereabouts have grown.

Kensington Palace has continued to reiterate that she has been “doing well” and this photograph seems to prove it.

Even so, as if to reiterate growing fears that the Royal family simply cannot win in the face of unregulated social media, the straightforward Mother’s Day photograph was picked over online.

Some noticed the Princess – post-surgery and at home – was not wearing her wedding ring, while others made mention of Prince Louis having his fingers crossed and questioned a tree in the background, which had some leaves in mid-March.

The Princess of Wales, looking healthy and happy, was dressed in jeans and smiling for the camera, with her arms around Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Prince George, her eldest, stands behind her with his arms around her neck in a hug.

Observers noted that the image shows the three children appearing to circle their mother protectively. Some noticed a similarity with images of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, in which the young Prince William hugged her from behind.

The children are seen roaring with laughter, in an image taken by their father, the Prince of Wales, in Windsor earlier this week.

It is something of a role reversal for the couple, who have made a tradition of releasing images taken by the Princess, who is a keen photographer.

The picture continues the family’s annual tradition of posting a message for Mother’s Day.

On her own terms

The post was hailed by royal watchers as the Princess sharing information on her own terms, continuing the tone the family have set between their public and private lives.

The Princess is seen sitting down with a comfortable turtleneck jumper, jeans and flat See by Chloe lace-up boots, which she has worn at least 12 times in public since 2019.

Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis both wear knitwear by the French label Cyrillus, with the five-year-old appearing to have his Lambrook school shirt underneath his jumper.

Prince George, seen embracing his mother, wears a teal jumper with a blue checked shirt in an image that emphasises the Princess’s “off-duty” status.

The Princess has not appeared in public since Christmas Day but was photographed by paparazzi being driven by her mother in Windsor last week.

The question of “Where is Kate?” has travelled around the world on social media, accompanied by increasingly outlandish theories ranging from the Princess being in a coma to jokes about her growing out a bad haircut.

She is not due to return to engagements before Easter, likely only to be seen in person after the children’s school holiday.

The picture will go some way to assuaging concerns about the Princess, which have been exacerbated by a series of challenges for the Royal family including the King’s own diagnosis of cancer.

When the Prince of Wales missed a memorial for his godfather King Constantine of Greece, the palace explanation that it was a “personal matter” did little to settle an increasingly febrile atmosphere in royal commentary around the world.

The Prince of Wales was back to work at an engagement relating to his Earthshot Prize on Friday, and will appear in public twice on Monday: at the Westminster Abbey Commonwealth Day service with the Royal family and at an evening event promoting Earthshot new investing platform Launchpad.

On Mothering Sunday, Buckingham Palace also shared a photo of the King with his late mother, Elizabeth II, on its social media.

The picture shows the King, then Prince of Wales, in 1985 kissing the hand of his mother at a presentation ceremony after a polo match.

Alongside the photo is a pink flower emoji and the message: “Wishing all Mothers, and those who are missing their Mums today, a peaceful Mothering Sunday.”

In the match at the Guards Polo Club in Windsor Great Park, the King’s England II team triumphed against Brazil to claim the Silver Jubilee Cup.

In recent years, the Prince and Princess of Wales have regularly authorised photographs of their family to be shared with the public to mark Mothering Sunday, as well as the birthdays of their children and other occasions.

Last year, they used an image from a set taken months earlier showing the three children climbing a tree.

In other years, they have shared images of handmade cards from Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

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Live Oscars 2024 live: Robert Downey Jr wins Best Supporting Actor

Popcorn at the ready! It’s time for the 96th Academy Awards aka Hollywood’s big night. Amazingly, this year’s edition features not just A-listers and shiny trophies, but movies that people have actually seen.

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is in prime position, leading the pack with 13 Oscar nominations, but Best Picture is by no means a lock. There’s healthy competition from the likes of Poor Things, Barbie, Anatomy of a Fall, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, The Holdovers, and The Zone of Interest.

You can watch red carpet interviews from 9pm UK time on ITVX, and the Jonathan Ross-led Oscars Live coverage begins at 10:15pm on ITV. The ceremony itself, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, starts at 11pm. We’ll be covering all the action live here: from fabulous fashion to the major winners and most memorable speeches of the 2024 Oscars.

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Watch: Protester holding ‘Hamas Are Terrorists’ sign arrested by police

A counter-protester carrying a banner condemning Hamas as a terror group was arrested after holding the sign aloft as pro-Palestine activists filed past him on Saturday.

Niyak Ghorbani, who was holding a banner reading “Hamas is terrorist”, was pulled to the ground and handcuffed by officers after an incident took place close to the march through central London.

As police held him down, he shouted “Shame on you”, before saying “I wrote down Hamas is a terrorist organisation… but they arrested me”.

The 38-year-old was de-arrested and released shortly after, with police saying he had been held for his own safety after an alleged assault was carried out against him.

Onlookers could be heard criticising the apparent disparity in police acting over Mr Ghorbani’s banner, but not some of those displayed in the main crowd of pro-Palestine protesters.

The flashpoint came as thousands of people filed through central London in the latest national protest against Israel’s bombing of Gaza following the Oct 7 massacre by Hamas.

One pro-Palestine activist on the march could be seen wearing a protective helmet and carrying a riot shield.

The bearded man, whose helmet was similar to those used by reporters in combat zones, paraded holding the riot shield with the slogan: “Resistance is justified when your land is occupied” as the singer Charlotte Church walked at the head of the march to the US embassy.

He was later arrested under section 5 of the Public Order Act after being placed under “active observation” by officers who detained him at “an appropriate time”.

In total, there were five arrests at the protest, including one man who was arrested for assault.

One woman was arrested for holding an offensive placard, while two others were arrested for chanting offensive slogans.

One young woman held a placard reading “One holocaust does not justify another”, in defiance of criticism that such comparisons are anti-Semitic, while next to her a man with bloodstained hand prints on a hospital tunic carried a doll to signify the thousands of children killed in Gaza.

Several placards showed support for the Houthi militias in Yemen targeting ships going through the Red Sea.

Police officers were overheard being told over their radios that if they heard chants of “Yemen, Yemen turn those ships around” they should make “active interventions”.

Mr Ghorbani, an Iranian who lives in Balham, south London, told The Telegraph he had been assaulted by pro-Palestine protesters as he stood holding his sign.

He said: “They attacked me from behind and hit me in the head. They pushed me and told me Hamas is a protector of Palestine.”

The IT professional added: “The police destroyed my sign and told me that I had harassed someone in the protest and that is why they arrested me.

“They arrested me because someone who supports Hamas attacked me and I defended myself. After 10 minutes my friends showed them a video of what I was doing and they released me.

“The person who attacked me was not arrested.”

Scotland Yard said in a statement: “The man was arrested after an altercation was ongoing, and officers intervened to prevent a breach of the peace. He was arrested for assault.

“Officers then fully reviewed footage provided of the incident, and he was later de-arrested. The arrest was not made in relation to the placard.”

Mr Ghorbani had bottles, sticks, clods of earth and other objects thrown at him by pro-Palestine protesters on a previous march after he held up a sign asking if people agreed that Hamas was a terrorist organisation.

Speaking about the protests in general, Mr Ghorbani said: “I think people in England are a bit naive about what Hamas is. I lived in Germany for eight years and there they know what Hamas is like. Here some people have no idea.”

Mr Ghorbani had been standing close to where a small group of around 40 pro-Israel counter-protesters had gathered, separated from the main march by about the same number of police officers.

They held Israeli flags and placards demanding the release of hostages, chanting “bring them home”, “Hamas is Isis” and “rape is not resistance”.

It was the first time since the Gaza conflict began in October that an official counter-demonstration was staged in solidarity with both Israel and British Jews who have felt intimidated by repeated protests from Palestinian supporters likening Israel’s tactics to the Holocaust.

The group, whose counter-protest was kept a couple of hundred yards away by police from the route of the pro-Palestine march, said they wanted to reclaim London as “a bastion of democracy, diversity, and multiculturalism”.

Church was criticised last month after leading a choir in a rendition of “from the river to the sea” during a pro-Palestinian charity concert.

The chant – which was heard repeatedly on Saturday – has been interpreted by many, including Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, as a call for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Church said she joined the protest to “show solidarity with the people of Palestine for all that they are suffering through”.

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Earl Spencer’s sexual abuse allegations reported to local authority

The school where Earl Spencer claims he was physically and sexually abused as a pupil in the 1970s has referred the allegations to the local authority, a spokesman has said.

In a book to be published this week, the 59-year-old reveals how he was molested by a female assistant matron at Maidwell Hall prep school in Northamptonshire, where he was a pupil between 1972 and 1977.

He claims the “voracious paedophile”, who was a young woman in her late teens or early 20s, sexually abused him and other pupils while they were in their dormitory beds at night.

Earl Spencer also alleges the former headmaster would spank boys on their bare bottoms, while another teacher took boys for naked swimming lessons.

The claims appear in his new memoir A Very Private School, in which he reveals he was so traumatised by his experiences he regularly considered shooting himself with one of his father’s shotguns.

In a lengthy statement, a spokesman for Maidwell Hall in Northamptonshire said the allegations were difficult to read about and a referral had been made to the Local Authority Designated Officer.

The spokesman also urged any other pupils with similar allegations to come forward and report them to either the school, the local authority or the police.

In the book, Earl Spencer reveals how the alleged abuse took place when he was moved into a new dormitory when he was aged around 11.

He claims the assistant matron at the time – whom boys would refer to as “Please” – would come into the room after lights out and hand out illicit snacks.

But he said one night she kissed him on the lips before molesting him under the bedsheets.

He said he was not the only pupil she did this to and would choose a different boy each term to have intercourse with.

The book also makes a series of allegations about other members of staff including the late headmaster, John Alexander Hector Porch, who was known to the boys as Jack.

He claims he meted out brutal corporal punishment with a slipper or a cane that sometimes left the boys bloodied and bruised.

A spokesman for Maidwell Hall said: “It is sobering to read about the experiences Charles Spencer and some of his fellow alumni had at the school, and we are sorry that was their experience.

“It is difficult to read about practices which were, sadly, sometimes believed to be normal and acceptable at that time.

“Within education today, almost every facet of school life has evolved significantly since the 1970s. At the heart of the changes is the safeguarding of children, and promotion of their welfare.

“Although we have not directly received any claims from ex-pupils, considering what has been reported, the school has followed the statutory process and made a referral to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer).

“We would encourage anyone with similar experiences to come forward and contact either Maidwell Hall, the LADO or the police.”

A spokesman from the NSPCC praised Earl Spencer for speaking about the issue and urged anyone with concerns about a child being sexually abused to call their helpline.

“By bravely speaking out, Earl Spencer has reassured others in a similar position that they are not alone. No matter how long ago sexual abuse may have taken place, it is never too late to share your experience with people who are ready to listen and help.”

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Oxford University held training sessions attended by Chinese doctors accused of harvesting organs

Oxford University organised training programmes attended by Chinese transplant doctors facing allegations of illegally harvesting human organs, The Telegraph can reveal.

Academics designed dozens of courses over three years for the benefit of hundreds of medics, despite warnings that there is no safe way to collaborate with the Chinese transplant sector because the killing of political prisoners for their organs is so widespread.

The alleged role of one “honoured guest” at the most recent New Horizons programme, Prof Zheng Shusen, was said in a submission to a 2018 tribunal to need explanation over a “clear and convincing evidence pattern” of being “directly or indirectly complicit in the commission of crimes against humanity… against unknown individuals who were killed in the process of having their organs extracted”.

Data experts, and The Telegraph’s own investigation, have identified 15 other medics who took part in the sessions in 2023 regarding whom concerns have also been raised.

Oxford has been warned that its involvement in the programme could amount to inadvertent complicity in organ harvesting and was urged to disclose whether, and how much, it had been paid to take part.

Last year’s New Horizon also involved several senior NHS clinicians, according to the programme, including Prof Dale Gardiner, the clinical lead for NHS blood and transplant. No personal wrongdoing is alleged against him.

It comes amid increasing concern about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on Britain’s top universities.

China has repeatedly used international medical collaborations as a propaganda tool to quell concerns about its transplantation ethics.

In contrast to nearly all other medically advanced countries, it allows almost no transparency around the sourcing of organs.

For decades, Beijing claimed that its unusually large supply of organs came from legally executed prisoners.

It said the practice ended in 2015 and that all organs have been supplied voluntarily since then.

However, experts argue that death-row prisoners could never have accounted for the scale of China’s organ transplantation programme.

They point instead to the documented widespread imprisonment and torture of Falun Gong spiritualists.

Falun Gong practitioners 

In 2020, the independent China Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice KC, formerly the lead prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, concluded that: “In the long-term practice in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] of forced organ harvesting it was indeed Falun Gong practitioners who were used as a source – probably the principal source – of organs for forced organ harvesting.”

The judgment added that there was no evidence of the practice having stopped.

Although non-statutory, the tribunal has since been endorsed by government ministers, who have written to the World Health Organisation (WHO) urging it to take note of its findings.

There is a global shortage of available organs and a lucrative black market for illegally obtained tissue.

A 2018 submission to the tribunal named Prof Zheng, a liver transplantation specialist at Zhejiang University, and stated that: “The evidence that Zheng has been able to harvest organs on demand – evidently from blood-typed captive individuals held on standby – coupled with transplants at his hospital being far in excess of available death-row prisoners in Hangzhou, requires an explanation.”

Prof Zheng has also been alleged to be a prominent member of the so-called “Anti-Cult Association”, which in practice is said to be a mechanism for supporting the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

In the preface to a book on the prevention of cults, he likened the movement to “viruses corroding the organism of humanity”, according to the submission.

Submissions banned

In 2017 the scientific journal Liver International was forced to retract a study submitted by Prof Zheng after he failed to provide sufficient evidence that the organs used in the study were sourced ethically.

It banned him from submitting any further work.

Despite this, the 2023 New Horizon programme, which was delivered via a series of online seminars to a conference suite in China, included Prof Zheng in its “honoured guest” category alongside the president of the European Society for Organ Transplantation (Esot), which endorsed the conference. No personal wrongdoing is alleged against the president.

In a statement, Oxford said its Centre for Evidence in Transplantation had provided webinars to raise standards in research practices, rather than direct transplant practice or surgery training.

The logo of the university’s Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences sits above all the session posters, such as: “Advances in Heart Transplantation.”

Prof Wendy Rogers, chairman of the international advisory committee of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, said: “It’s really shameful that Zheng Shusen participated. It shows a real lack of due diligence by Oxford and Esot.”

She added: “The New Horizons programme involves close collaboration with Chinese transplant clinicians and institutions.

“Due to China’s record of transplant-related human rights abuses, including forced organ harvesting, the programme exposes participating clinicians to potential complicity in those abuses.

Involvement in organ harvesting

Data research by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation highlighted five further attendees at the 2023 conference who have authored studies which, the foundation says, inadvertently revealed that the donors were alive just before their organs were removed.

The Telegraph has identified another 10 attendees who have been accused of involvement in organ harvesting by Falun Gong human rights campaigners.

In 2022, the law firm Global Rights Compliance (GRC) published a groundbreaking legal advisory document setting out how Western institutions risk criminal liability for inadvertent collaboration with China in the field of transplantation.

Wayne Jordash, managing partner at GRC, said: “Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence in Transplantation has a clear international legal responsibility that, at a minimum, obliges them to ask the difficult questions about the known risks in the field of organ transplantation in China.

“If those questions have not been asked, nor answered, satisfactorily by the relevant Chinese institutions, then Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence in Transplantation will have violated its international legal obligations.”

The Telegraph understands that Esot was made aware of this advisory in the context of New Horizons.

No follow-up New Horizon programme is believed to be scheduled for this year.

‘Condemns inhumane practice’

Oxford University did not disclose on what financial basis it had taken part in past programmes.

A spokesman said: “Oxford thoroughly condemns the inhumane practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners and university academics have been in the forefront of urging international organisations to pressure China into ending the practice.

“The World Health Organization, the European Society for Organ Transplantation and other international bodies now permit support for lawful transplant education and research in China.”

Esot said it was “deeply committed to upholding the utmost ethical standards within the realm of organ donation and transplantation” and campaigned against unethical conduct.

Prof Zheng did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Aidan Coyle

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Lord Cameron urged to stop ‘sniping’ at Israel

Conservative MPs have accused David Cameron of “sniping” at Israel over its handling of the situation in Gaza and have claimed the Foreign Office shows “anti-Israel sentiment”.

A group of pro-Israel Tory MPs is due to raise its concerns with the Foreign Secretary at a meeting on Tuesday.

Last week, Lord Cameron met Benny Gantz, the Israeli cabinet minister, to discuss the flow of aid into Gaza. After the meeting, he posted a statement on X, formerly Twitter, saying that he had “made clear the steps Israel must take to increase aid” and that “we are still not seeing improvements on the ground”.

He also said he was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah” and that Israel’s performance in making aid available would have “consequences” for the UK’s assessment about “whether Israel is compliant” with international law.

One MP told The Telegraph that when the statement was posted into a Tory WhatsApp group, there was “irritation in relation to what he said”.

Theresa Villiers, a former cabinet minister, said: “The UK Government must [support] Israel’s right to defend itself from the genocidal death cult that attacked them on Oct 7.

“Lord Cameron should acknowledge the huge efforts being made by the IDF to minimise civilian casualties and also to facilitate aid to Gaza.”

She added that Israel is a “valued ally of the UK and ministers should take care not to undermine our diplomatic partnership with the only democracy in the Middle East”.

“We should be backing Israel in its hour of need, not sniping at them,” she said.

Andrew Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole, said: “Repeatedly the [Foreign Office] places all of the emphasis on Israel and holds them to account for the consequences of a war they did not start and for civilian suffering which is [a] result of the actions of Hamas.”

Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East, said: “We’ve got to be more stringent in our support for Israel generally.”

A Foreign Office source said: “The Foreign Secretary is a huge friend of Israel. He went to Kibbutz Be’eri and has seen the horror of what took place there so he gets it. But sometimes being a friend means having to deliver a tough message, like over humanitarian aid.”

Other Tory MPs are more supportive of the Government’s position.

Alicia Kearns, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that on a recent visit to an aid staging location in Egypt the committee had seen “tons” of goods that had been refused entry into Gaza, including medical supplies.

Ms Kearns has written to Lord Cameron urging him to follow up an offer made by Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, who invited the international community to “send another 100 trucks a day”, insisting there were “no limits” on essential aid.

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