INDEPENDENT 2024-03-26 10:04:29


Man rescued after 36 hours trapped in storm drain

A 38-year-old Brisbane man who claimed he got stuck in a sewer for 36 hours trying to retrieve his phone was in fact evading the police, officers say.

The man, who has not been named by police, spent a day and a half in Brisbane’s drainage system before Queensland police revealed that he had been avoiding them following two car crashes.

The authorities said earlier on Monday that they had assisted a man who got stuck in the drainage system after trying to retrieve his phone. But on Tuesday the police issued an update saying the man in question had been a passenger in a vehicle involved in two crashes at about 4.20am on Sunday morning.

A police patrol tried to follow a Ford Falcon in Kangaroo Point when it reversed into the police car, causing significant damage to the Ford and moderate damage to the police vehicle. Officers were unharmed. The Ford then reportedly fled and was involved in another crash on Shafston Avenue shortly after, according to the police.

Earlier, reports had mentioned that emergency services rescued the man from beneath a bolted drain lid at Kangaroo Point near the Brisbane River at about 11am on Monday.

The incident, which drew attention after nearby residents heard him and eventually called for help, occurred on Castlebar St, near Lambert St in Brisbane, Australia.

Firefighters successfully freed the man, who was then taken to the hospital in a stable condition. He was reportedly treated for abrasions and exposure to the cold.

He is now assisting the police in the investigation.

A Queensland ambulance service spokesman had earlier said: “He reported he was there for 36 hours and went to get his phone.”

A spokeswoman for the Queensland fire and emergency services reported that firefighters successfully removed a bolted lid from the drain and rescued the man.

On Tuesday, it was understood that the man declined an offer of rescue on Sunday, but the same individual came back on Monday and made an emergency call to triple zero for assistance.

Acting police commissioner Steve Gollschewski said: “It’s amazing what people will do sometimes and what happens, so yes, there’s always surprises.

“But I like to work out what’s actually happening. So let’s get to the facts. I don’t know what they are yet. Let the investigation run its course and we will work out where it goes from there.”

Owner of UK’s biggest theme parks announces huge changes to pricing

People visiting some of the UK’s biggest global attractions could expect to pay more during peak seasons and less in quieter months, under a new pricing model.

Merlin Entertainments, which is one of the one of the world’s biggest operators of theme parks and attractions, has been introducing “dynamic” pricing since last year. The system is similar to that used by sectors such as airlines and hotels.

The company owns tourist attractions including Legoland, Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds

The group’s chief executive, Scott O’Neil, said the move means its attractions can adapt prices based on the time of year and control the number of visitors.

“We had it in 2023 and we had the highest guest satisfaction scores in the history of the company, and seven million additional guests,” Mr O’Neil said.

“So we’re definitely getting the signal that our processes are moving in the right direction.”

He said “dynamic” pricing helps “protect the guest experience” during busier times of the year by managing queues, where wait-times can be more than an hour for top attractions.

The opportunity to buy tickets at discounted prices during off-peak times, which could be a rainy weekend in March, makes the experiences “available and accessible to all”, Mr O’Neil explained.

He likened it to “happy hours” used in bars, as well as hotels and airlines which typically hike prices for travel during peak times but offer cheaper prices off-season.

“It is not a new concept, but our focus is on two things that matter most; the guest experience and making sure that we are accessible and value-based for families,” he said.

Merlin revealed its sales soared to a record high last year as more visitors flocked to city-centre attractions.

Total revenues jumped by 8% to £2.1 billion in 2023, compared with the previous year, and it had 62 million total visitors across the globe.

About a quarter of all tourists to London visited one of its attractions last year, and 40% of those visited more than one, according to the company.

However, Merlin revealed it swung to a pre-tax loss of £214 million last year, from a profit of £106 million the previous year, which the company said was due to one-off costs including refinancing some of its debts.

The group said on Monday it had agreed to buy Orlando Wheel at Icon Park, the tallest ferris wheel on the US east coast, which will strengthen its presence in a top global tourist hub.

Mr O’Neil also said it was expecting a boost from a new rollercoaster opening in May at Thorpe Park, named Hyperia, which will be its tallest and fastest ride.

Mr O’Neil added: “Coming out of Covid, we learned that we need each other, we need experiences, and we value memories over things.”

Consumers have been “gravitating toward quality” experiences, he said, with branded attractions like Legoland and Pepper Pig theme parks remaining popular.

He also said consumer demand has been “off the charts” for the Nemesis Reborn ride which recently launched at Alton Towers Resort.

Sacha Baron Cohen responds to Rebel Wilson ‘a**hole’ allegations

Sacha Baron Cohen has denied Pitch Perfect star Rebel Wilson’s claims that he behaved badly towards her while the pair shot a movie together years ago.

Wilson revealed the name of the person who she will call out in her new book, on Monday morning (25 March) via her Instagram Stories.

In her upcoming memoir, Rebel Rising, the actor said she had dedicated an entire chapter to a “massive a**hole” and would not be “bullied” into silence.

“I will not be bullied or silenced by high priced lawyers or PR crisis managers,” she wrote.

“The ‘a**hole’ that I am talking about in ONE CHAPTER of my book is: Sacha Baron Cohen.”

Wilson and Baron Cohen starred together in the 2016 comedy, The Brothers Grimsby. The Borat actor played Nobby, a football hooligan who becomes an elite spy, while Wilson played the role of his girlfriend Dawn. Baron Cohen’s wife, Isla Fisher, also starred in the movie alongside Penelope Cruz. 

In a statement given to The Independent, Baron Cohen’s representatives denied Wilson’s claim, stating: “While we appreciate the importance of speaking out, these demonstrably false claims are directly contradicted by extensive detailed evidence, including contemporaneous documents, film footage, and eyewitness accounts from those present before, during and after the production of The Brothers Grimsby.

In an Instagram post last week, Wilson had shared that she intended to dedicate an entire chapter in her book to the “massive a**hole” she had worked with in Hollywood, but did not reveal their name.

“When I first came to Hollywood, people were like, yeah, ‘I have a no a**hole policy, [it] means like, yeah, I don’t work with a**holes.’ I was like, ‘oh yeah. I mean, that sounds sensible or logical,’” Wilson said in an Instagram video posted on 15 March.

“But then it really sunk in, because I worked with a massive asshole and yeah, now I definitely have a no a**holes policy.”

Speaking on the Kyle and Jackie O radio show in 2014, Wilson claimed that Baron Cohen would ask her “every day” to go naked in scenes.

At the time she said he had asked her: “Rebel can you just stick your finger up my butt?”

“Sacha is so outrageous,” Wilson said. “Every single day he’s like, ‘Rebel, can you just go naked in this scene?’ And I’m like, ‘No!’ Sacha and I have the same agent in America and I’m like, ‘Sacha, I’m going to call our agent Sharon and tell her how much you are harassing me.”

Snow and freezing rain to hit UK in ‘rare’ weather phenomenon

The UK is set for snow and could even be hit by freezing rain in what the Met Office calls a “rare” weather phenomenon.

The forecaster has warned Britons to brace themselves for the likelihood of colder temperatures in the upcoming days, which could drop below freezing in some areas, in unexpected contrast to the recent warmer climes that seemed to be signalling the start of spring.

The Met Office said Scotland can expect the coldest temperatures, as well as rain, sleet and potentially heavy snow over hills on Tuesday.

While 1-3cm of slushy sleet or snow could settle on Scottish roads above 250m by Tuesday morning, up to 5cm of snowfall is possible above 300m and as much as 10cm of snow could fall above 450m in parts of northern and eastern Scotland.

This rain and snow across central and eastern Scotland will turn more showery through Tuesday, according to the forecaster, with the snow on the roads expected to melt later in the morning due to the strength of the sun in late March.

It added that snow is also possible on Wednesday, potentially falling on high ground in Scotland. Meanwhile, most areas will see rain or showers during the day, with the heaviest rain likely in the far north of the UK.

When it comes to temperatures, they are likely to drop close to 0C in the northern half of Scotland, perhaps as low as -4C in some spots, but staying in low single figures further south. Highs of 2-6C will be experienced widely in Scotland on Tuesday, whereas highs of 12-14C will be felt across much of England and Wales.

Ellie Glaisyer, senior operational meteorologist at the Met Office, said there is a “very small possibility” of freezing rain briefly over the hills in Scotland overnight on Monday too.

The Met Office explains the “rare” phenomenon on its website: “Very often, precipitation first falls from a cloud as snow (when it is cold enough high up where the cloud is). If it falls through warmer air before reaching the ground, it can melt and turn to rain droplets.

“On rare occasions, if it then falls through cold air again just before hitting the ground, the droplets can become ‘supercooled’ and this means that they are still falling in liquid form, even though their temperature has fallen below zero. When this ‘supercooled’ droplet hits the ground (which is below zero too) it spreads out a little on landing, and then instantly freezes, encasing the surface in a layer of clear ice. This is why it is called freezing rain.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the weekend and towards the Easter weekend, the Met Office said the UK will see a typical mix of spring weather with periods of showers, rain and winds, as well as some sunny spells at times. Unsettled conditions are the main theme of the forecast through much of the week, with low pressure exerting its influence, bringing periods of rain from the west, some of which could be heavy in nature.

While the forecaster said details are still being worked out ahead of the Easter weekend, Good Friday is likely to see another day of blustery showers, with these being more frequent in the south and west.

Saturday sees a continuation of this showery theme in southern and western areas, though there is an increasing chance of brighter spells further north and east. It will also become less windy, and temperatures should start to trend upwards, feeling quite warm in any sunshine.

Papa Johns to shut these 43 ‘underperforming’ UK restaurants

Global pizza chain Papa Johns is to shut 43 restaurants across the UK, with the full list now being revealed.

The takeaway business confirmed plans to axe the “underperforming” locations after launching a review at the start of the year.

It will close the restaurants by mid-May following a consultation process, Papa Johns International said.

The company has not confirmed how many staff will be impacted by closures.

The group had previously said it planned “strategic closures” in order to free up money for investment and improving profitability at its remaining UK sites.

It has now identified 43 restaurants as “underperforming locations that are no longer financially viable”.

Chris Phylactou, managing director at Papa Johns UK, said: “Our priority is our team members, who will be fully supported throughout this process.

“Our goal is to work with impacted team members and attempt to find redeployment opportunities where available.

“We understand the impact this will have on our team members and are committed to supporting them during this time.”

The following restaurants are set to shut:

-Barnsley, South Yorkshire

-Bebington, Merseyside

-Bexhill, East Sussex

-Billericay, Essex-Bromley, Greater London

-Coulsdon, Greater London

-Cricklewood, Greater London

-Darlington, County Durham

-Doncaster, South Yorkshire

-Durham, County Durham

-East Dulwich, Greater London

-East Grinstead, West Sussex

-Eastbourne, East Sussex

-Hailsham, East Sussex

-Harringay, Greater London

-Harrogate, North Yorkshire

-Hendon, Greater London

-Horsham, West Sussex

-Lancaster, Lancashire

-Leeds Meanwood, West Yorkshire

-Liverpool West Derby Road, Merseyside

-Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

-Mottingham, Greater London

-Northwood Hills, Greater London

-Peacehaven, East Sussex

-Peckham, Greater London

-Penge, Greater London

-Putney, Greater London

-Redhill, Surrey

-Rochdale, Greater Manchester

-Rotherham, South Yorkshire

-Ruislip, Greater London

-Runcorn, Cheshire

-Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire

-Sittingbourne, Kent

-Southport, Merseyside

-St Helens, Merseyside

-Stoke Newington, Greater London

-Tunbridge Wells, Kent

-Upminster, Greater London

-Watford St Albans Road, Hertfordshire

-Whitton, Greater London

-Wimbledon, Greater London

Papa Johns said it plans to increase investment in research and technology, such as better utilising customer data, as part of its UK strategy.

Mr Phylactou added: “While this is a difficult decision, closing these underperforming locations will give us the opportunity to invest back into the right locations with the right partners for long-term growth.

“We are focused on driving shared profitable growth across our UK restaurants, by continuing to make improvements to our business to ensure that we are well positioned for the future.

“We have been encouraged by the results so far from these initiatives.”

It also said it will look at the development of new types of sites beyond traditional restaurants, such as expanding into holiday parks, and is set to “announce other large retail partners in the coming months”.

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

China has soured what was once a promising relationship

Speaking, appropriately enough, at the launch of a new generation of nuclear-powered and armed submarines in Barrow, the prime minister warned of the “epoch-defining challenge” from China. With palpable frustration, Rishi Sunak declared that the country is “behaving in an increasingly assertive way abroad” and that it represents “the greatest state-based threat to our economic security”.

He is entirely right about that. The curious case of the Electoral Commission hack in 2021, blamed by the security services on Chinese actors, confirms just how keen these agents are on probing the digital infrastructure of the British state, and, in this instance, harvesting the personal details of 40 million voters.

More targeted has been their fairly blatant hijacking of the email accounts of parliamentarians such as Sir Iain Duncan Smith and crossbench peer David Alton. They then impersonated them in almost comically crude fashion – proving that even a superpower has its limits.

Is the Tory commitment to the triple lock on pensions a good idea?

In what may yet prove a more significant move than his cuts to national insurance, the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has said the Conservatives will retain the triple lock system to determine annual rises in the state pension if they win the election. Hunt says the pledge will appear in the next Conservative manifesto. The decision raises some interesting questions…

It’s a commitment to increase the level of the state pension applicable to any given individual by either the rate of inflation (as measured by the consumer prices index); the rate at which wages are going up; or 2.5 per cent, whichever is the greater. It has been policy, with one temporary suspension, since 2010, when the idea – which the Liberal Democrats came up with – was incorporated into the policies of the coalition government and the Conservatives adopted it as their own.