INDEPENDENT 2024-03-22 16:04:20


Woman likened to Roald Dahl’s The Twits character guilty of murdering husband

A self-proclaimed horse expert who stabbed her husband during a row over land at their home in North Devon has been found guilty of murder.

Christine Rawle, 69, killed Ian Rawle, 72, by stabbing him in the back with a knife at their property in the village of Braunton on 21 August, 2022.

Exeter Crown Court heard Mr Rawle then staggered after his wife of 29 years, imploring her to remove the knife from his back, before collapsing and dying from the wound.

Jurors were told how the couple had a dysfunctional marriage, with prosecutors likening them to the Roald Dahl characters The Twits, who are a spiteful married couple who live together in a brick house without windows and delight in making each other’s lives miserable.

The couple, retired circus trainers who keep a family of pet monkeys, continuously play practical jokes on one another out of their hatred for one another.

Prosecuting, Mr Sean Brunton KC said the killing was “as clear a case of murder as you are likely to find”, with Rawle attacking her husband in a “fit of temper” during the argument.

Rawle did not give evidence during her trial but her legal team insisted she had been a victim of coercive and controlling behaviour from her husband, and stabbed him in self-defence.

The jury rejected her account and convicted her of murder.

Judge James Adkin told the panel: “Thank you very much for your close attention to this case. It wasn’t an easy case, there was quite a lot of complicated evidence for you to consider.”

During the trial, the court heard how Mr Rawle had come to help his wife with mucking out her horses as she was suffering with a bad shoulder.

It was alleged that Rawle fatally attacked her husband with a knife as he pushed a wheelbarrow of manure towards the muck heap.

In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Brunton described Rawle as “almost compulsively manipulative”.

He told the jury: “The issue of self-defence doesn’t arise. It is a non-issue.

“He is walking away from her, pushing the wheelbarrow after 30 years of marriage. What was she threatened by? By nothing.”

Mr Brunton said Rawle had “unfettered access to money” from her husband, with the couple living with “no debts, a lovely house, and plenty of money”.

The court heard how Rawle had been on the phone to her adult daughter at the time of the murder.

Her daughter rang police after hearing Rawle say “I’ve stabbed him, I’ve stabbed him”. A call operator for the ambulance service then rang Rawle to help her administer first aid.

But instead, Rawle said to the operator: “He was on and on at me, I am watching him die in front of me”.

When police arrived at the scene, and during police interview, Rawle claimed she had been subjected to years of psychological and physical violence from her husband.

The defendant, who has been diagnosed with depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, insisted she believed he was going to kill her when she attacked him.

Witnesses gave differing accounts of Rawle and her husband, with one neighbour describing Mr Rawle as “vindictive” and unpleasant to his wife.

Rawle’s son Thomas told the jury how Mr Rawle had subjected his mother to years of abuse, and tried to control her by hiding her car keys – describing her as a “fat pig”.

A friend of Rawle said she waited on her husband “hand and foot” but he would accuse her of being lazy and useless, with Rawle confiding that she wanted a divorce.

However, one work colleague of Mr Rawle told the court she was concerned he was the victim of domestic abuse and tried to find him a support service.

She described seeing Mr Rawle with a black eye, which he said was caused by his wife. On one occasion, Rawle rang the workplace and told the witness: “Tell Ian to look in the mirror because he isn’t Kevin Costner”.

Builder saved baby from arson attack after climbing ladder into flames

A builder has spoken of the moment he saved a baby from a raging fire arson attack in east London.

A man in his sixties was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of starting the fire, which gutted a house on Newick Road in Hackney at around midday.

Krzysztof Bozych, 48, was working two doors down from the fire when he heard a loud explosion in the road where six-bedroom homes can fetch £1.7m.

One woman had already jumped from the top floor and was lying in the garden with a broken leg, neighbours said.

Mr Bozych told The Independent: “I heard a boom; it was so loud. I went on the roof like, what the hell is going on?

“I heard a woman screaming from a window, ‘It’s a fire, help me please.’ There was no time to wait.

“I ripped open the fence and grabbed a ladder. The mother was so scared she was going to jump on me just as I was climbing the ladder.

“I said, ‘Calm down, relax, we are going to get you out.’

“She passed me the baby, I think. I realised I had a baby in my hand. I thought, ‘I’m going to be a godfather.’

“I wasn’t thinking of myself, every human would have done the same.”

He added: “The mum was crying all the time she was in shock. They lost everything, nothing could be saved. She was so scared. I took her to safety at the end of the garden.”

Police said the suspect later shouted “threatening comments, some of which were allegedly antisemitic” when he was being arrested.

Four people suffered non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the fire, while the suspect also was left with minor injuries. He is currently being treated in hospital.

One neighbour said: “I heard a massive boom like it was a truck crashing into my wall. My cutlery was rattling I ran around knocking on doors trying to get everyone out. It was really scary.”

Another neighbour described a man opening the door to the ground-floor property moments before the fireball engulfed the house, which is split into three flats.

Locals said they were unaware of whether a Jewish family lived at the house of multiple occupancy.

The Metropolitan Police said the man was arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, as well for making the allegedly antisemitic comments.

DCS James Conway, responsible for policing in Hackney, said: “On his arrest the man made a number of threatening comments, some of which were allegedly antisemitic.

“We take instances of antisemitism extremely seriously and for this reason we’re investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.

“Undoubtedly this will be extremely concerning news for our Jewish communities in Hackney and beyond, and I and my officers will be engaging with partners including the Community Safety Trust and the Shomrim, to answer their questions and listen to their views.

“Whilst the investigation will continue to explore the motivation for this offence, we believe at this stage that this was centred on a localised housing-related issue. We have no indication, at this very early stage, that the motivation was connected with any specific local or global events.”

He added that the incident was not being treated as terror-related and the Met has increased patrols and enhanced police visibility as Jewish communities begin celebrations for the Purim holiday period.

A Community Security Trust spokesperson said: “This appears to be a very serious incident and we appreciate the police’s swift action.

“We have been in contact with police since yesterday and we will be working with them to provide reassurance to the local Jewish community over the coming days.”

Ex-National Trust chief says charity going ‘in wrong direction’

The National Trust is going in the “wrong direction” and there are “serious flaws” in the way the organisation is being run, a former chairman of the charity has said.

Sir William Proby said he was reluctant to come forward and criticise the organisation or his successors but has concerns about where the charity is headed.

His comments come after a right wing think-tank accused the National Trust of being “undemocratic” and engaging in a “subversion of democracy” over changes to voting at its annual meeting.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sir William said: “The National Trust has always attracted controversy. This is because of its importance in our national life and the passion which so many people feel for what it does. This is healthy and should be welcomed by the management and board of trustees.

“A truly democratic structure allows these issues to be debated, voted on, and the organisation can move on. Stifling dissent will only lead to a running sore of disaffected members outside the organisation, which inevitably will damage this great institution.”

Sir William added that he hoped the report would prompt the charity to restore its “democratic principles” and take another look at its governance structures.

The report, called National Distrust: The End of Democracy in the National Trust, was compiled by the Zewditu Gebreyohanes, a senior researcher at the Legatum Institute, a think-tank.

Ms Gebreyohanes is also the former lead of Restore Trust, a National Trust members’ campaign group that wants the charity to stick to its remit of the protection of historic building and away from “wokeness”.

The report criticises the new “quick vote” system implemented by the charity which allows members at the National Trust to vote for all the leadership recommendations in one go.

It claims this was implemented without the prior knowledge of members, is undemocratic and was introduced in 2022, just a year after the Restore Trust was created.

“A recent National Trust members’ resolution calling for the abolition of Quick Vote was defeated only with the use of over 54,000 Quick Votes, meaning that almost 80% of votes cast against the resolution were themselves Quick Votes,” it says.

“All candidates endorsed by Restore Trust – the grassroots campaign of critical members seeking to return the Trust to its statutory aims – would have been elected in both 2022 and 2023 had the results of each Trust-endorsed candidate not been inflated by over 55,000 and 72,000 Quick Votes in those years, respectively.”

It alleges that if a political party had been in charge of drawing up the reforms then the public would see it as “a significant abuse of power” and a “subversion of democracy”.

The report makes two recommendations. The first is that Lucy Frazer, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport should introduce legislation to prevent anti-democratic measures. And the second is that the Charity Commission should open an inquiry into Europe’s largest conservation charity.

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “The National Trust is an independent charity, regulated — like all UK charities — by the Charity Commission.

“We have open and democratic governance processes, and are accountable both to our regulators and to our members. Our members firmly rejected a resolution suggesting government oversight in our work via an ombudsman at our AGM in 2022.

“‘Quick vote’ was introduced following advice from our independent election services provider that it is standard practice for large membership bodies. We will continue to take advice on what is standard electoral practice from accountable, regulated institutions that are experts in this field, and which have their own transparent systems of governance.”

These are the UK’s ‘ghost airports’ – which could come back to life?

Some UK airports are highly successful, with Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted all bouncing back strongly after the Covid pandemic. The UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow, handled a record number of passengers in February: an average of 200,000 per day.

Yet some smaller British airports do not even register 200,000 travellers in a year. Many rely on public subsidies to survive, for social and economic reasons. Highlands and Islands Airports, which looks after 11 airports in Scotland, received £56m in subsidy in the latest financial year – a whacking £40 for every passenger who used its facilities.

Other airports are not so lucky. This century, six English airports have closed – most recently Doncaster Sheffield. Sixteen months after the final passengers departed, the South Yorkshire airport is the subject of a rescue bid.

So which airports are toast – and which could be revived? These are the key questions and answers.

Flights at the first South Yorkshire airport began in 1998 with domestic links to London City, Belfast City and Jersey, and international connections with Amsterdam, Brussels and Dublin. These routes were progressively cancelled, with the final flights to and from Belfast City in August 2002.

Could it reopen? No. The site is now part of Sheffield Business Park.

This is a weird one. Baginton aerodrome, southeast of Coventry, has been going since 1936. In 2004, the giant tour operator Tui decided to base a new budget airline, Thomsonfly in Coventry – and bought the airport. The thinking was that by operating from its own airport would be cheaper and easier than using Birmingham (13 miles west) or East Midlands (33 miles north). The facilities comprised a jumble of temporary buildings.

Thomsonfly, a belated and botched response to the success of easyJet and Ryanair, duly took off, and over the next four years there was quite a Mediterranean-focused network from Coventry. Even Wizz Air came in with flights to Gdansk and Katowice. But after the High Court turned down plans to build a permanent terminal, Thomsonfly went away. Permanently. Tui now has a flourishing presence at Birmingham airport, though it now faces competition from easyJet as well as Ryanair and Jet2.

Could it reopen? Coventry airport continues to function as a general aviation aerodrome for small aircraft. There are no plans for a commercial revival.

The airport north of the city centre opened in 1925. Like many smaller airports, it was dropped by British Airways during a cull on domestic routes. On the one occasion I used it, in 2004, the experience was calm – with only nine passengers on my Air Southwest flight to Gatwick (179 miles away) via Newquay (39 miles away). Other links served Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Jersey and Cardiff – just 75 miles away by air, but more than twice as far by road or rail. By 2011, the airport had closed.

Could it reopen? Certainly, according to Plymouth city council leader Tudor Evans. Last month he said: “We are a major city, we have ambitions to grow and thrive and an airport must be part of that story.”

What could possibly go wrong? The former RAF Manston is located in the far northeast of Kent, on the Isle of Thanet. That gives Manston airport a big advantage: Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Amsterdam are at least 20 minutes closer from Manston than from Heathrow, and congestion on the ground and in the skies over London – the busiest Air Traffic Control space in the world – is avoided. Access from the capital on the M2 and the A299 (the motorway’s continuation into Thanet). Thanks to the HS1 rail line, Ramsgate station is just 79 minutes from London St Pancras, with the airport about five minutes beyond.

Yet repeated attempts to run scheduled flights from Manston have failed. In September 2004, I was aboard the first EUjet flight, to Dublin; the following July, the airline went bust. Since then Flybe has gone bust twice, but before it did so the regional carrier axed its routes from Manston to Edinburgh and Belfast. KLM’s Amsterdam service took off, but not financially. The final scheduled flight from Manston departed for the Dutch capital on 9 April 2014. Since then, the airport has had quite a lucrative sideline as a standby lorry park for Brexit-related traffic chaos in Kent.

Could it reopen? Yes, according to RiverOak Strategic Partners, whose aim is “reviving Manston airport as a successful and profitable airfreight hub, of national significance, with complementary passenger and engineering services”.

The year 2014 wasn’t great for small UK airports. As Manston shut down, Blackpool airport on the Lancashire coast was going through its death throes in terms of scheduled flying. Squire’s Gate airport had an interesting history. Over the years many routes had come and gone including a frequent Ryanair jet link with Stansted, a Tui charter programme to the Med, and a prop-jet connection to Biggin Hill airfield on the London-Kent border. The restoration of direct trains from Blackpool to London appears to have been the death knell. The last passenger flights departed in October 2015.

Could it reopen? Blackpool is open and thriving for general aviation and business flights. In 2022, it handled more flights than Teesside, Leeds Bradford, Bournemouth and Southampton. But the prospects for more passenger flights with Manchester airport just 85 minutes by direct train look bleak.

RAF Finningley, six miles from Doncaster and 19 miles from Sheffield, closed in 1995. A decade later, it reopened as Robin Hood airport – with Tui once again a keen proponent of a new, low-cost departure point for UK holidaymakers. But Doncaster Sheffield has four competing airports within an hour’s drive. It is 28 miles from Humberside, 38 miles from Leeds Bradford, 46 miles from East Midlands and 53 miles from Manchester. DSA, as it had become, closed in 2022. The owner, Peel Group, said at the time: “No tangible proposals have been received regarding the ownership of the airport or which address the fundamental lack of financial viability.” Promises by the then-prime minister Liz Truss to “protect this airport and this infrastructure” had no effect. The last flights touched down in November 2022.

Could it reopen? Yes. The mayor of Doncaster, Labour’s Ros Jones, has signed a deal for the local council to take over the airport. But it is not clear which airport operator might be interested in running DSA, or which airlines might fly there.

Each of the nations of the UK has an airport that is kept afloat through heavy subsidies.

This wonderful airport, southwest of Glasgow, is celebrated as the only British soil on which Elvis Presley set foot – during a refuelling stop for a US military flight from Germany to the US. For decades Prestwick was a prime transatlantic airport, with British Airways offering daily departures to New York. But its location on the lovely Ayrshire coast is tricky for many people in Scotland, and routes gradually eroded. In October 1995, Ryanair took the revolutionary step of opening a new domestic route in Britain, from Prestwick to London Stansted, for £19. Ryanair is still the only commercial operator at Prestwick, typically with two or three flights per day. The Scottish government owns Prestwick, and “it remains ministers’ long-term intention to return Prestwick airport to the private sector at the appropriate opportunity”.

The airport whose railway station had only two trains a week was a basket case when Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen brought it back into public ownership rather than allow Peel Holdings to flatten the site and build houses. Teesside was the first airport in the UK to scrap the 100ml limit on liquids in hand luggage. Apart from that, the main excitement is the twice-daily Amsterdam link and occasional Ryanair flights. Last year the airport lost £2.26m – representing exactly £10 per passenger.

Over the past two decades, passenger numbers at Cardiff have roughly halved, while Bristol airport now handles about twice as many in the same time frame. The capital’s airport, southwest of the city, is struggling to attract passengers back to pre-pandemic levels. While almost every UK airport grew in 2023 compared with a year earlier, the latest figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show a slight drop at Cardiff – with only 837,000 passengers using the airport.

Losses totalled £4.5m in the year to March 2023, with the Welsh government making a grant of £5.3m.

“CoDA” is a superb gateway to the city of Derry/Londonderry, as well as County Donegal in the republic. But as the third Northern Ireland airport, after Belfast International and George Best Belfast City, it has always faced challenges. Keeping the airport going costs over £3m annually, and the local council is seeking further funding from Stormont.

History, heritage, cuisine and culture in Split, Croatia

Historical buildings, pine forest hills and breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea are just a few things to expect on a fun-filled trip to the old-world coastal city of Split. This ancient sliver of the country is steeped in eclectic history and blessed with abundant natural beauty, a dynamic food scene, and more cultural attractions you can shake a stick at. It’s an all-rounder, ideal to visit no matter the season and even for a quick city break since there are plenty of direct flights from UK cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester. Here’s our must-see, must-do guide to this stunning city…

Split is Croatia’s sportiest city, often referred to as The City of Sport, thanks to the number of professional athletes that hail from the city. In fact, Split is the city with the highest number of Olympic medal winners per capita. You can see their names proudly presented on Sports Walk of Fame on the city’s west coast, including Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanišević, double world high jump champion Blanka Vlašić, and ex–NBA star Toni Kukoč.

Catch a basketball game featuring the legendary KK Split, one of the most successful clubs in Europe, at the Gripe Sports Hall, or watch a football match with HNK Hajduk Split at the Poljud Stadium to feel the electrifying passion of local fans. If you’d rather participate, take advantage of Split’s drop-dead coastal location by trying windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding or sailing; many places offer equipment rental or lessons. Or, to keep it traditional, try your hand at ‘picigin’ – a local ball game from Split that is played at the beach.

For a more cerebral experience, immerse yourself in the city’s rich history, from Roman walls to UNESCO heritage sites and historical Old Towns. Wander through preserved Roman streets lined with Gothic and Renaissance buildings and visit the oldest cathedral building in the world, Diocletian’s Palace, built between 295 and 305 A.D. The beautiful basement halls here (more commonly known as the substructures) are one of the world’s best-preserved complexes from the era of classical antiquity and central to the historical centre of Split being added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.

Dip your toe into the world of Croatian art at the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, wholly dedicated to the sculptor himself, renowned for his powerful and expressive works. There’s also the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, which delves deep into the city’s history across more than 20,000 artefacts. Plus, the museum itself is an architectural masterpiece.

If you want to learn all about the city’s history and citizens, the City Museum of Split is a must-visit. It was founded in 1947 at the stunning palace of the Papalić family and is a stunning example of late-Gothic style architecture.

There’s also the Ethnographic Museum of Split, situated inside a former residential complex in the southeastern quarter of Diocletian’s Palace. The museum holds a vast collection of artefacts that showcase the traditional way of life, customs, and cultural practices of the people of the Dalmatia region and beyond. You’ll find everything from household items and religious objects to traditional tools and clothing.

Leave some time in your itinerary to explore the city’s natural wonders and incredible beaches. Ideally situated on the Adriatic coast, Split houses some of Croatia’s finest and most picturesque beaches. Bačvice Beach is one of the most popular in the area, perfect for shallow bathing and basking in the sun; plus, there are many bars and restaurants along the front, and concerts take place throughout the summer months.

There’s also Bene Beach, located on the northeastern part of the leafy Marjan Forest Park, often referred to as the green oasis of Split. It’s usually a little quieter, so it’s perfect for finding a secluded spot, sheltered beautifully by the trees that border the shoreline. Hiking or biking in the forest park Marjan is also a great way to experience the natural landscape of the Dalmatian Coast. You can follow many routes through fragrant pine forests and scenic viewpoints – the Marjan Hill Viewpoint overlooks the entire Old Town. Finish off with a dip in the sea to cool off.

Kašjuni Beach is known for being particularly beautiful, surrounded by lush greenery and rocky cliffs. It tends to be a little quieter and less crowded with calm, crystal-clear water, ideal for snorkelling and swimming. While on the southern side of Marjan, you’ll find Kaštelet Beach, a small but peaceful fine-pebbled beach with shallow banks, perfect for dipping in and out of between basking in the sun.

Follow the scenic coastal promenade from the city centre, and you’ll eventually reach Trstenik, home to a well-equipped, picturesque beach popular amongst water sports enthusiasts. Here, you can enjoy windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. The surrounding neighbourhood is chock full of restaurants, shops and places to stay should you want to spend a few nights here.

Split also serves as an ideal hub for day excursions, offering easy access to the stunning Dalmatian islands and hinterland, each brimming with natural and cultural treasures. From the city, you can visit several of Dalmatia’s spectacular islands, including Brac, Hvar, Vis, Solta and many more. Bisevo Island is one of the most popular to visit, where the remains of a 1050 AD Benedictine monastery lay, and the Blue Cave, one of the must-see natural attractions in the country, renowned for its incredible glowy sun rays that shine through cracks in the cave, creating a magical blue glimmer.

Just a half-hour drive from the city centre, you’ll find idyllic hiking trails on mountains such as Mosor, Kozjak, and Biokovo. There’s also the Cetina River, where you can participate in heart-pumping rafting and canyoning adventures.

As a cultural hub, Split boasts a diverse timetable of not-to-be-missed events throughout the year, including Sudamja, Stories of Diocletian, Advent – Winter Joys, Split Summer Festival, the Split Carnival, Month of Gastronomy and the Split Marathon.  In recent years, the city has also emerged as a sought-after filming destination, hosting productions such as Game of Thrones and the Dark Tower movie. So it’s pretty fitting that the city is home to the Mediterranean Film Festival and the International Festival of New Film.

Food-wise, Croatia’s diverse and delicious cuisine varies significantly from region to region, with coastal areas focusing more on seafood dishes like grilled fish, octopus salad, and black risotto. Learn all about Croatian fare at a local cookery class, where you’ll get to sample and make delicious dishes and take recipes back home.

Split’s culinary scene is constantly evolving, with many restaurants opening in the city, especially in the historic centre and its surroundings. Several restaurants have been recognised by the world-famous Michelin Guide, but there are many more worth visiting, with menus brimming with local Mediterranean cuisine, often with a creative twist added by some of Croatia’s best chefs. Most of the local restaurants’ menus are made with regional, fresh produce, including just-caught seafood.

For an authentic Croatian experience and the most local atmosphere, travellers should dine at a traditional tavern-style konoba restaurant, the Dalmatian version of a tavern, where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood and popular local meat dishes.

The local diet is also rich in seasonal vegetables, which vegetarians can enjoy in many of the city’s restaurants, with plenty of spots specialising in vegetarian and vegan fare.

Wine and olive oil are essential components of Split’s gastronomic makeup, meaning that restaurants are always stocked with exceptional Croatian wines, particularly those produced within Dalmatia. You can enjoy them with dinner or at a local wine tasting.

If you’re looking for local produce, Ribarnica is stocked with fresh seafood plucked out of the neighbouring Adriatic Sea. While Pazar Green Market is the place to go for fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, cheese, cured meat, honey, and sweet treats, for delicious eats you can sample on the spot, or take home for a slice of Split you can reminisce with.

For more Split travel ideas and inspiration, head to Visit Split or check out Instagram or Facebook

Waspi women deserve justice over the pensions scandal

Blunders happen in all bureaucracies, and the Department for Work and Pensions, and its previous incarnations, are no exception.

However, the scale of the financial and emotional damage wreaked on the Women Against State Pension Inequality – the so-called Waspi women – effectively robbed of a very large proportion of their state pension, is both wide and grievous. Every woman born between 1950 and 1960 – some 3.6 million individuals – has suffered a toll on their standard of living, and in some cases where their health has been adversely affected, the full costs involved are incalculable.

The report of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), an independent watchdog, is damning and places the responsibility for the fiasco on the state. Unusually, it directly calls for parliament to remedy matters, given the long-term reluctance of successive administrations to make amends.

Could the Lib Dems be on the brink of a new electoral breakthrough?

The Liberal Democrats have had their spring conference and have launched their local election campaign with a typically cheesy photo-op featuring Ed Davey, a giant cardboard egg-timer, and the slogan “Time’s Running Out Rishi!”.

For the first time since the brief outburst of “Cleggmania” during the 2010 campaign, the party has realistic hopes of winning a substantial number of parliamentary seats at a general election, even though it is still languishing in the polls. Davey claims it will be a “once-in-a-generation election”.

On the other hand, a likely Labour landslide means the Lib Dems may have comparatively little influence in the new House of Commons. There remain significant challenges for Davey and his loyal followers…