INDEPENDENT 2024-03-13 16:03:54


Kate ‘shaken’ by public response to photo editing row as broadcaster reviews all Palace handouts

A major American broadcaster has now begun reviewing all Kensington Palace handout photos as the Princess of Wales feels “shaken” over the doctored picture at the centre of an escalating royal row.

CNN revealed it has been forced to make the move after Kate Middleton publicly apologised and admitted to releasing an edited family photo of herself and her three children for Mother’s Day.

Within hours of the palace sharing it on social media, international picture agencies began recalling the image, citing fears it had been “manipulated”, as eagle-eyed royal fans pointed out numerous editing concerns.

Despite coming under pressure to repair the PR damage caused by the controversy, the palace refused to release the original unedited photo.

In a damning analysis of the furore, CNN said the image had been issued for editorial purposes and media organisations “expect those images to be accurate”. The broadcaster said they “regard it as unacceptable to move, change or manipulate the pixels of an image”.

The princess said she had just “tried to make it the best it could be” because she knew how important it was for it to be “a nice picture”, a royal insider told The Times.

Constance Marten defends living in a tent with baby: ‘Jesus survived’

Constance Marten has defended her decision to live in a tent with her newborn baby, saying: “Jesus survived in a barn.”

Marten, 36, and her partner, Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial after baby Victoria died while they were camping on the South Downs in wintry conditions last year.

On Wednesday, Marten was cross-examined at the Old Bailey about the couple’s decision to buy a tent and live off grid to hide from authorities.

She told jurors that Bedouin families walk through cold deserts with children, adding: “Jesus survived in a barn.

“I would do anything to protect my child to prevent her being taken by the system that’s abhorrent, yeah.”

She claimed two of her other four children were spat on and physically abused after being taken into care previously.

“I would do anything for my baby. Anything. So it was an easy decision to make. I would rather be in a plush bed in a palace. I would rather be in a nice big bed.”

Prosecutor Joel Smith asked if she considered the conditions were uncomfortable.

Marten replied: “I’m pretty outdoorsy but I would rather be in a bed.”

She went on: “We were not looking to live in a tent. We were acting on instinct. She was our number one priority. We were living in a tent for Victoria.

“A mother’s love for her child is incredibly strong.

“There was no way I was going to part with my child. We were hiding from the entire British public because I was worried about Victoria being taken.”

Marten accepted that camping in a tent meant there was no heating, hot water or electricity.

But she said: “People around the world live in conditions like that… as long as your child is well taken care of and loved.”

Asked what they planned to do about food, she said: “It was only a pitstop. We were not thinking about being there for months. It was more in the immediacy rather than long-term planning.”

Marten repeatedly dismissed as “ridiculous” the prosecution suggestion that she had carried her daughter in a Lidl “bag for life” when she was alive.

She said: “This whole line of reasoning is absurd, that she is alive in the bag.

“I’m not going to put her alive in a Lidl bag, I’m sorry.”

Earlier, Marten became agitated when asked about a teddy bear babygrow Victoria was wearing in CCTV footage from east London which was later among items recovered with her “dumped” body.

She insisted Victoria was not “dumped” in the Lidl “bag for life”, telling jurors: “It’s awful, I know.

“The only thing I can say, if someone passes away the immediate reaction is panic. Mark and I were not in a good place. We were in fear and grief.

“She was not dumped anywhere. She was with us the whole time.”

Mr Smith asserted the couple were “hideously ill-prepared” to look after Victoria.

The defendant, who described Gordon as her “amazing husband”, told jurors: “We had enough to keep her warm, absolutely. She was our number one priority.”

Jurors were shown CCTV of Marten carrying Victoria underneath her zipped-up jacket in east London last January 7.

In the footage, Marten appeared to adjust the baby after she slipped down in her arms.

Asked if that was an appropriate way to carry a newborn baby, mother-of-five Marten said she had “always” done it with her children.

She said: “As long as it’s secure. People carry children in their arms all the time.”

In further CCTV on the same day, Victoria was seen with her head tilted back as she was lifted up by Marten and placed in a buggy that Gordon had bought but which was designed for an older child.

Mr Smith suggested it showed that Marten had treated Victoria in a “cavalier fashion”.

The defendant accepted it appeared from the video that she was not supporting Victoria’s head.

She added: “She’s fine. If she was not, she would be howling. I’m confident with my children.”

Marten said she did not believe medical advice warning against keeping a newborn baby outside for long periods.

“I do not agree with it because there are babies who spend hours outside. People live in countries without central heating,” she said.

Jurors have heard that the couple went on the run from authorities in a bid to keep their baby after their four other children were taken into care.

They abandoned many of their belongings after their car burst into flames near Bolton, Greater Manchester, last January 5.

When they were finally arrested in Brighton last February 27, they had refused to answer officers’ urgent questions about where their baby was and whether she was alive or dead.

Victoria’s remains were found by police in the Lidl bag inside a shed on a nearby allotment on March 1 2023.

The defendants, of no fixed address, deny manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice, concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child.

The Old Bailey trial continues.

Pictured: Family that froze to death in Swiss Alps skiing tour tragedy

A family who “lost their bearings” and froze to death during an icy storm on an Alps ski tour have been named.

The cross-country skiers, five of them members of the same family from Valais canton, went missing near the 3,710 metre-high Tête Blanche mountain on Saturday on the Zermatt-Arolla path.

Brothers Jean-Vincent Moix, 30, David Moix, 27, and Laurent Moix, 21 were found dead on the mountain alongside their cousin Marc Moix, 44, and uncle Joel Moix, 58.

A search is still ongoing for David’s girlfriend, Emilie Deschenaux, 28, whose bag and skis were found next to the bodies.

The parents of Jean-Vincent, David and Laurent said their beloved sons “fell asleep together” while doing something they were passionate about.

They added: “Emilie, David’s love, is still on the mountain” as her family asked for prayers on social media.

Air Zermatt chief Anjan Truffer, the lead rescuer, said his team previously saved people who had been missing for days, giving workers a glimmer of hope that Emilie may still be alive.

“We have already found missing people several days later, miracles always happen,” he said.

“The area is full of crevices – [she] may have fallen near the other members of the group. But this is just speculation,” Truffer said.

Police Captain Marc Moix’s death notice by his family reads: “After a last hike in the mountains to share his light, he has become our new star, which will now be our guide.”

His loved ones also thanked people for risking their lives to search the mountain in treacherous conditions.

They added: “Through their professionalism, their availability, their listening, their empathy, they brought everyone a little light and comfort in these difficult moments of waiting.”

Colleagues of Jean-Vincent paid tribute to him including the mayor of Vex – a small village in the Swiss canton of Valais where the deceased had only recently been elected as a councillor.

The former University of Westminster student was a keen mountaineer and had decided to switch careers from being a private banker.

Mayor Sebastien Menoud said: “It is such a huge tragedy to lose a colleague on the local council. Our thoughts are with him, his family and those around him and we express our deepest condolences to them. One knows that it is an immeasurable pain that his family is now confronted with.”

Mountain guide Anjan Truffer told Swiss broadcaster SRF that two of the bodies had to be dug out from beneath the snow.

“The end result was clear, the people froze to death. They got caught in a storm, probably lost their bearings and didn’t know what to do.”

He said that rescuers advised them to dig a snow cave after one of them sounded the alarm.

He added: “You could see that they tried, but unfortunately they were very poorly equipped and with those little shovels in the hard snow, there wasn’t much they could do.”

Local police also said two other bodies, separate from the family, were found after people went missing in the same storm.

On Friday evening, a 62-year-old Swiss woman was reported missing following a walk in the Bois de Finges region.

After an intensive search, she was found lifeless on Saturday.

A 47-year-old Swiss man was reported missing in the town of Saint-Léonard. The man, who had not returned home after a bike ride, was found dead on Saturday, near the “Bisse du Sillonin”.

Schoolchildren offered vapes spiked with Spice and touted on Snapchat

Schoolchildren are being offered vapes spiked with drugs which are being distributed via Snapchat, the Met Police has warned.

A letter sent to parents at a school in west London raised concerns about the risk of young people experiencing severe health problems after using vapes which contain drugs such as spice and THC.

Synthetic cannabinoids, better known by the street name spice, are substances made in labs designed to mimic the effects of cannabis which can cause chest pains, seizures, extreme anxiety and suicidal thoughts. They have been widely consumed in UK prisons for more than a decade.

The letter, exclusively shared with The Independent, alerts parents to a “concerning issue affecting our school community”, as it warns spice is a “harmful psychoactive” drug that can cause “severe health problems”.

It adds: “We wish to emphasise the importance of informing parents about the hazards associated with unregulated vape pens, given the recent surge in related incidents.

“Law enforcement authorities across London, including our local police officers, have seized numerous vapes from students in the past weeks. Some of these devices are currently undergoing testing to detect dangerous Class B substances such as spice or THC, the active component in cannabis.”

The letter states vapes that contain drugs are believed to be distributed via social media apps including Snapchat.

“Inhaling spice through a vaping pen is particularly hazardous for young people,” explains the letter. “Leading to various health issues such as breathing difficulties, chest pains, heart palpitations, seizures, extreme anxiety, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, vomiting or diarrhoea, and acute kidney injury. In some instances, a single dose can prove fatal.”

The Independent recently reported that a group of children from a school in Eltham, south-east London, were taken to hospital after inhaling a spice-laced vape, with one of the pupils left in a coma.

A New Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “In recent weeks, four vapes have been sent for testing and all were found to contain the drug spice rather than THC. This included one of the vapes recovered after an incident in Eltham.”

The Independent reported that thousands of incidents of spiking have emerged in England and Wales ahead of freshers’ week kicking off at universities – with vapes now a target for spiking.

Dawn Dines, chief executive and founder of the national charity Stamp Out Spiking, told The Independent there is not enough awareness among Britons that vapes can be spiked.

“How easy is it say try this blueberry or bubblegum flavour vape?” Ms Dines added.

She said she had supported a mother-of-three who was spiked with a vape who found herself slumped down outside the front of a club.

Ms Dines added: “She said, ‘If I was being raped, I couldn’t even open my eyes to know who was doing it to me.’ She just couldn’t move.

“We don’t know what was in the vape. I don’t believe she was drinking alcohol. Her friend called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital and they didn’t do any tests to find out what was in the vape. This is routine in healthcare settings.”

Ms Dines has heard the most horrific accounts of different types of spiking incidents in the two decades she has spent talking to victims, she added.

Helen Conibear, chief executive of Talk about Trust, told The Independent: “Vape spiking is becoming more prominent unfortunately, it is coming across our radar more and more.”

Ms Conibear, whose organisation supports spiking victims and raises awareness of the issue in schools and universities, said vape spiking commonly causes extreme nausea and memory blackout.

“Motives of spiking vapes are similar to other forms of spiking and can involve sexual assault, robbery, and pleasure at seeing somebody’s distress,” the campaigner added.

Ms Conibear said it is easy to find out how to spike disposable vapes online.

“When we are talking in schools about vaping, we highlight the importance of not sharing vapes with people you don’t know well, especially at festivals and outside bars and clubs,” she added. “We also encourage people to keep their vapes safe so they aren’t tampered with.”

Heartbroken widow told husband’s body was found in freezer

A grieving widow is among the family members who have been left devastated after she was told police had discovered her husband’s body in their freezer.

Officers removed the bodies of 35 people and the suspected ashes of others from a funeral directors and said they are investigating a “truly horrific incident”.

Following her husband’s death in July 2023, the widow and other relatives including his daughter and granddaughter had paid a substantial amount of money to have his ashes turned into crystal jewellery.

A friend of the widow told The Telegraph: “But now they have found out that he wasn’t cremated and he has been in the freezer all this time.

“Apparently, the police have told them that he could have only been frozen under the direction of the coroner.

“The widow is distraught. The family thought they had his remains, and are now asking, ‘If it’s not him, then who is it?’”

The family has allegedly been informed they will have to reidentify the body of their deceased loved one.

Humberside Police pledged to put the “heartbroken families” of those affected at the core of their investigation and told a press conference they had received more than 1,000 calls from concerned members of the public.

More than 120 police officers and specialist staff are working on the case, while a 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman have been released on bail after being arrested in connection with the inquiry.

Another woman, who lost her father Andrew, 52, and brother Dwane, 34, in the space of five days, is now convinced she kissed an empty coffin in her last goodbye.

Billie-Jo Suffill, 33, also now fears that her brother’s ashes may be those of someone else. She said: “I never actually got to see my dad’s body. I bet my dad was not even in the coffin – it was an empty coffin.

“I was kissing an empty coffin. When I think about it now it is disgusting.”

Deputy chief constable David Marshall told reporters in North Ferriby on Tuesday: “We are continuing to support the families involved through this extremely difficult and distressing time.”

He said families were “understandably distraught” and acknowledged there were many questions that needed to be answered.

He added: “Many will be shocked, horrified and retraumatised through grief following the disclosure of the facts of this case this week.”

Officers cordoned off three Legacy Independent Funeral Directors sites after the force received a report on Wednesday of concerns about the “storage and management processes relating to care of the deceased”.

The bodies were removed between Friday morning and Saturday evening, with formal identification now taking place at Hull’s city mortuary.

Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle, told BBC Radio 5 Live it had been a “complete shock to me and complete shock to the community”.

She said: “Everybody’s just reeling from it. People are not quite believing that something’s happened and there are hundreds of questions, which I completely understand everybody has at the moment.

“There are lots of different questions around ashes, around people who are still living and have plans with the company and, of course, questions from the families very closely involved.

“It’s impacted everybody.”

Island-hopping in the Ionian sea: a guide to Greece’s idyllic islands

Mamma Mia! It’s time to start thinking about a summer holiday, and there’s nowhere more picturesque and dreamy than a Greek island. With an estimated 1,600 isles, although not all are inhabited, there’s plenty to choose from that guarantee sparkling seas, golden sands, rugged nature, delicious food, and a warm welcome.

To help you find your ideal Greek island holiday this summer, travel experts Jet2holidays offer great-value breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including 21 in Greece. Hotspots and hidden gems, all boards and budgets, flexible stays and fab flight times – there’s something for everyone. With just a £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved holiday, it’s never been easier to get your next Greek getaway booked. 

What’s more, with the Jet2holidays sale now on, you can enjoy even better value on your break with up to £240 off† all holidays. Simply sign up for a myJet2 account, visit your independent travel agent or call the Jet2holidays contact centre. Book now and let the countdown to sunshine begin.

Here’s our pick of some of the best islands Greece has to offer…

Stunning beaches are a given in Greece, and in Corfu, the most beautiful include Agios Georgios, a long, horseshoe-shaped bay with a mix of sand and pebbles fringing calm, clear waters. Down the northwest coast is the pretty village of Palaiokastritsa which boasts six sheltered bays and offers boat trips to the fascinating Blue Caves. For a beach as romantic as its name, head to the Canal d’Amour, where a series of unique rock formations create intimate, narrow channels; legend has it that couples who swim between the sea walls together, stay together!

Explore the cobbled streets of Corfu Old Town, and take in pastel-coloured Venetian architecture while looking out for the new and old Fortresses which loom over the harbour. Base yourself at the swish Olivar Suites on the southeastern coast, a restful haven set in olive groves, away from the bustle.

Lefkas, also known as Lefkada, is an island connected to the Greek mainland by a causeway. Head to the beach at Porto Katsiki, located below a set of huge, looming cliffs which create a unique and dramatic landscape. Another gem is nearby Egremni, a classic, Caribbean-style stretch of white sand, fringing crystal-clear turquoise water, while if you fancy windsurfing, head to Vasiliki. On the east coast, check into the four-star, beachfront Porto Galini Sea Side Resort and Spa; handily, it’s just 15 minutes’ drive from Lefkada Town.

Also formerly under Venetian rule, landmarks including Church of the Pantokrator and the ruins of Agia Mavra Castle are worth a look. Escape to a pretty coastal village, such as Agios Nikitas or Nikiana, where you can take a table at a seafront taverna, and tuck into local speciality Englouvi lentils served with riganada (bread with olive oil, vinegar, and oregano). For a foray into nature, head to the spectacular waterfalls of Dimossari, near Nydri village.

Also known as Zakynthos, Zante is a popular island in the Ionian Sea, with a plethora of alluring beaches. The most famous is Navagio, which is surrounded by dramatic, honey-coloured cliffs and often called ‘Shipwreck Beach’ after the cargo boat which ran aground there in 1980, another must-visit is Agios Nikolaos, a serene pebbly stretch on Zante’s northern shore.

Stay at the luxury Domes Aulus Zante Autograph Collection, a laidback beachfront paradise on the south coast, near the quiet resort town of Kalamaki, where you can spot endangered loggerhead turtles. Zante has its own Blue Caves, a set of geological formations turned azure by the reflections of the sea, while its capital, Zakynthos Town, offers architecture influenced by its former Venetian, French and English rulers. Don’t miss the imposing Church of Agios Dionysios with its signature bell tower, and the ruins of the old Venetian Castle.

Sprinkled with Hollywood stardust, scenic Kefalonia was the location for the Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz movie, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. Key scenes were shot in the harbour town of Sami, the stunning Antisamos beach and in the picturesque fishing village of Fiscardo. Kefalonia’s jagged coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, bays and strips of dazzling white sand, like Myrtos Beach in the north. Other standout beaches include Skala, bordered by thick trees and rocky outcrops, and the unusually named Xi beach, where white cliffs contrast with rare, rust-coloured sand.

Stay at the luxurious, contemporary, adults-only Thalassa Boutique Hotel Kefalonia on the southwest coast, a short drive from capital, Argostoli, where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, Municipal Theatre and historic castles and monasteries. For something more adventurous, explore the vast azure lake inside Melissani cave or hike Mount Ainos, the island’s highest peak, covered in pine forests and home to wild horses. Visit a winery such as Robola or Haritatos for a tasting.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s number one tour operator, offers package holidays you can trust where everything’s included. With you every step of the way, Jet2holidays has an incredible range of great-value, expert-rated getaways for all types of holidaymakers, across more than 50 stunning destinations. From the five-star luxury of Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays® to the compelling cities of Jet2CityBreaksVIBE by Jet2holidays for Insta-worthy stays that suit your style to family-friendly Jet2Villas, the boxes are ticked for every age, budget and interest. What’s more, with holidays secured for just £60pp deposit* and flexible payment options**, plus a host of perks like 22kg baggage and return transfers included††, it’s easy from start to finish. It’s all ABTA and ATOL-protected too, so you can enjoy sunshine with peace of mind. To find out more and book with the best, head here.

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 4 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. . T&Cs apply. £60pp discount does not apply to Free Child Places. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire instead of transfers.

The Tory party’s reaction to comments about Diane Abbott is shameful

Was what the leading Tory donor Frank Hester said about Diane Abbott racist and sexist? The words, allegedly spoken at a private meeting of the software company he owns some years ago, are certainly not pretty.

They speak for themselves: “It’s like trying not to be racist, but you see Diane Abbott on TV, and you just want to hate all Black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all Black women at all, but I think she should be shot.”

The fact that race and gender are the whole point of his remarks necessarily makes them racist and sexist, whatever personal philosophy Mr Hester may have tried to develop for himself about these societal challenges.

Can Reform UK hit the Tories at the ballot box?

Opinion polls will soon give us some idea of the electoral impact of Lee Anderson’s journey from deputy chairman of the Conservative Party to Reform UK’s first MP. As big as news of his defection was, it’s probably not going to move the political dial much further, but it might help Reform UK build some momentum in the coming months, eroding what’s left of the Conservative vote. On past evidence, the Budget won’t have boosted the government’s chances of winning a fifth term either. More defections, and grumbling about Rishi Sunak’s policies and leadership, might follow.

There could well be. As Shakespeare put it: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” The speculation is that a few – less than a half dozen – might switch, if only because they think they have little to lose. Only two Tory MPs have thus far come out and called for Sunak to quit: Andrea Jenkyns and Simon Clarke, the latter of whom seems content to carry on as unofficial secretary of the Liz Truss Fan Club. Other potential recruits include Marco Longhi (Dudley North) and Jill Mortimer (Hartlepool), who’ve both recently defended Anderson, and perhaps Miriam Cates (Penistone) and Danny Kruger (Devizes). Interestingly, Hartlepool was where Reform UK party leader Tice stood in 2019 and won a creditable 25.8 per cent of the vote, and where he is due to stand again.