INDEPENDENT 2024-03-14 01:04:07


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”.

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.”

Following reports on Wednesday that graves at Chanterlands Avenue Crematorium in Hull were being exhumed, Humberside Police said they were not digging there. A spokeswoman said: “ At this stage, this isn’t something that has formed lines of enquiry.”

Scientists warning as they call for more research into Wim Hof method

The Wim Hof Method of breathing exercises and ice baths may help the body’s immune system but more research is needed to understand whether it can boost exercise performance and overall health, according to scientists.

A review of nine papers involving eight trials has shown the method’s two main “pillars” – controlled breathing and cold therapy – may reduce chronic inflammation.

The team also warned that the results indicate further research is needed to understand whether the method provides all the benefits that its founder – the Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof – claims.

Inflammation, which occurs when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, is associated with many health problems including heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s and chronic kidney disease.

But there are currently mixed findings on the effect of the Wim Hof Method on a person’s athletic abilities, the researchers from the University of Warwick said.

Dr Omar Almahayni, from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, said: “Our systematic review underscores the need for further investigation into the Wim Hof Method’s effects on stress, inflammation, and overall health, offering valuable insights into its potential as a complementary approach to wellness.”

He added that the trials reviews had small sample sizes with “high risks of bias found in most of them”.

This means that evidence from them claiming the Wim Hof Method works totally should be treated with caution, Dr Almahayni added.

Also known as The Iceman, Mr Hof holds multiple world records for his ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures.

He gained recognition for advocating the benefits of cold exposure and controlled breathing for physical and mental health.

Mr Hof claims practising his method can help improve wellbeing, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, reduce stress, enhance mental clarity and focus, and increase sports performance, among many things.

Celebrities reported to follow the regime include fitness coach Joe Wicks, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, technology guru Jack Dorsey and actors Liam Hemsworth and Orlando Bloom, among many more.

In the review, just over 150 people – 13% of whom were women – were assessed.

The findings indicated that the Wim Hof Method may reduce inflammation in both healthy and non-healthy people, including those with chronic arthritis, the researchers said.

Two studies showed those practising his method had “significantly” lower levels of proteins known as TNF-ɑ, IL-6, and IL-8, which are associated with inflammation, and higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein, called IL-10.

The researchers said the impact of the Wim Hof Method on exercise performance – measured by respiratory parameters such as breathing frequency – was less clear, with some studies showing a benefit and others finding no significant difference.

The authors wrote: “More evidence needs to be synthesised about the Wim Hof Method before being recommended to the public.”

Khan’s Tory rival for City Hall pressured over donor funding

The Conservative candidate to become mayor of London is facing calls to reveal if any funding for her campaign comes from the donor at the centre of a racism row.

Frank Hester is alleged to have said Labour MP Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Rishi Sunak is resisting calls to hand back the money, despite calling the remarks “racist”, saying Mr Hester had shown “remorse”.

Now Dawn Butler, the chair of Labour’s London MPs, has written to Susan Hall to ask if her campaign has received donations from Mr Hester and if she will pledge to return them.

In a letter, Ms Butler also asks Ms Hall if she will “condemn Mr Hester’s alleged comments as racist.”

And she notes reports the campaign is being “funded by the Conservative Party – who recently received Hester’s £10m donation”.

The donor row has caused a crisis within Mr Sunak’s already embattled Downing Street.

For most of Tuesday ministers and No 10 refused to describe Mr Hester’s comments as racist.

But the Prime Minister’s spokesperson did finally label them as such that evening.

However, the row intensified again following revelations of further comments from the top donor.

The chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), which has won more than £400m in government and NHS contracts, is alleged to have called a meeting of his “foreign” workers to address allegations of racism in 2019.

The tycoon asked if there was “no room for Indians, then?” as he addressed staff members on a crowded balcony in the company’s headquarters, according to The Guardian.

In response to the letter, a spokesperson for Ms Hall said that she agreed with the PM’s official spokesperson that ‘the comments allegedly made by Frank Hester were racist and wrong. He has now rightly apologised for the offence caused and where remorse is shown it should be accepted.”

The Conservative Party referred queries to Ms Hall’s campaign team. Mr Sunak is facing increasing pressure from opposition parties – and senior Tories – to return the donation.

Former Conservative party chairman Chris Patten said it was an “open and shut case” that the party should pay the £10m donation back to Mr Hester.

The Scottish Conservatives have also criticised the decision to accept Mr Hester’s money and called for a review.

As Labour called for the money to returned, Sir Keir asked Mr Sunak how low a donor would “have to sink? What racist, woman-hating threat of violence would he have to make before the prime minister plucked up the courage to hand back the £10 million that he’s taken from him?”

But chancellor Jeremy Hunt said Mr Hester should not be “cancelled” for “despicable” remarks “made in the past” and for which he has apologised.

Fears grow of ground war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah

Hezbollah carried out one of the largest attacks in five months of escalating conflict on the border between Lebanon and Israel this week, firing more than a hundred rockets, and vowing that the barrages would continue.

The strikes on Tuesday led to Israel’s hardline national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demanding a “war now” while criticising defence minister Yoav Gallant for not seeking severe retribution: “What are you waiting for? Over 100 rockets fired and you sit quietly? We have to start responding, attacking.”

Hezbollah said it had launched the Katyusha missiles in response to Israeli air raids in the Bekaa Valley 24 hours earlier, and also to show continuing support for Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli military did, in fact, respond immediately, hitting Hezbollah targets near Baalbek. One man was killed, eight injured and a warehouse destroyed. It was the second time in a fortnight that sorties had been carried out so deep into Lebanon. A drone strike on a car near Tyre followed, killing two others.

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.

Racist slurs against Diane Abbott are a stain on both main parties

Of all the players in the current political drama, the one we have really been waiting to hear from is the victim of the egregious abuse thrown in her direction by a super-rich Tory donor, Frank Hester. Diane Abbott, Britain’s first Black female MP, now breaks her silence in The Independent, and she has spoken out with a quiet, cold anger about her treatment – in fact, by the leaderships of both main parties.

Suspended from Labour over allegations of antisemitism in a letter she wrote to a newspaper last year, for which she has apologised, she finds that Sir Keir Starmer was initially more interested in scoring points about political funding than in the “textbook” racism and sexism directed at her.

As she puts it: “The position of the current leadership of the Labour Party is disappointing… equally reluctant at the outset to call out either racism or sexism. Instead, the entire focus was on the demand that the Tories give Hester back his money, which is surely not the primary point in this case.”

Could the Tories really replace Sunak before the next election?

It has been a difficult few weeks for Rishi Sunak. The Budget failed to reinvigorate the party’s popularity and his personal ratings remain dismal, stuck down at Liz Truss levels of depression. A string of racism rows and the defection of former deputy chairman Lee Anderson to Reform UK have dealt further blows. His subdued party endured rather than enjoyed this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, and Keir Starmer was able to crack a gag about only needing a hardy lettuce to make it 2022 all over again. The No 10 media team seems unable to get a consistent line out for ministers to take. There is talk of a “flurry of letters” going to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, calling for Sunak to go; and he’s been warned off calling a May election (assuming he wanted to anyway).

Probably. The public wouldn’t appreciate yet another unelected Tory prime minister; it would be the fourth in four years and the sixth in the last decade. It’s all too difficult and embarrassing; but the mood in the party is getting nihilistic. If they slump even further in the polls and get overtaken by Reform UK, panic might set in. The Tory chaos may get worse, but as long as some kind of stability is achieved in public opinion, Sunak will get through it.