INDEPENDENT 2024-03-30 01:06:39


George Gilbey’s devastated mum breaks silence over son’s tragic death

The mother of George Gilbey has broken her silence two days after it was reported that her son had tragically died following a fall at a warehouse.

Linda McGarry, 74, said she was overwhelmed by the messages of support she has received since her son’s death.

Mr Gilbey, a Celebrity Big Brother finalist in 2014 and Gogglebox star alongside his mother and father, died on Wednesday at the EGL Homecare site in Shoebury, Essex.

His death came just three years after that of his stepfather Peter McGarry, who starred with him and Ms McGarry on Gogglebox.

“Linda wants to say a huge thank you to everyone who has sent condolence,” said Ricci Guarnaccio, a close friend of Mr Gilbey speaking on behalf of his Celebrity Big Brother co-stars’ family.

“She just wants everyone to remember him for who he was. She’s obviously hurt at the minute but it’s hugely appreciated. For the family, for Linda, she really, really wants everyone to know she’s taken back.

“And she’s getting shown a lot of the messages that come through because she doesn’t really deal with Twitter and stuff.

“All the messages that people have been saying – all the stories, all the good times that George’s has brought to their lives, and all the funny memories they’ve got from Gogglebox and Big Brother – it does mean a lot to her.

“So if people could keep doing that, it would be appreciated.”

It comes as a man who was arrested in connection with Mr Gilbey’s death has been released under police investigation.

The man, who is in his 40s and from the Witham area of Essex, was arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter.

Essex Police said they were called to an incident in Shoebury in Southend-on-Sea, where a man had died after falling from a height.

It has launched a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive and inquiries are ongoing.

A Gogglebox spokesperson previously said: “George was part of the Gogglebox family for eight series alongside his mum Linda and stepdad Pete.

“Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with Linda and George’s family and friends at this very sad time. The family has asked for privacy.”

Labour vows crackdown on sewage-dumping water companies

Waterborne diseases have “put thousands of people in hospital” since 2010, Labour said, as it vowed to put water companies dumping sewage into UK rivers and seas under special measures.

Cases of waterborne diseases such as dysentery have soared by nearly 60 per cent in 14 years, according to the party’s analysis of NHS hospital admissions data.

The number of people admitted to hospital with diseases transmitted via waterborne infection rose from 2,085 in 2010/11 to 3,286 in 2022/23, according to Labour.

It said the statistics showed that in the last year alone more than 120 people were diagnosed with leptospirosis – a rare infection also known as Weil’s disease that can cause fever and vomiting – double the number diagnosed with the same condition in 2010.

One of the ways of contracting the disease is by getting freshwater containing infected animal urine into your mouth, eyes or a cut during activities such as kayaking and outdoor swimming, according to the NHS.

It came as figures this week revealed storm overflows spilled sewage into rivers and seas for more than 3.6 million hours in 2023, more than double the previous year.

Data published by the Environment Agency showed sewage spills at their highest-ever levels, with 464,056 spills in 2023, up 54 per cent from 301,091 in 2022. And a marine biologist revealed this week that raw sewage being dumped in the English Channel has left every marine species in the water “full of cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA”.

Professor Alex Ford told The Independent the drugs are in such small traces that they wouldn’t be able to kill an aquatic creature by overdose but the drugs, especially cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA, could alter their behaviour.

There is growing anger over the polluted state of England’s rivers and coasts, with no single stretch of river classed as being in a good overall condition, and hundreds of pollution risk alerts issued for popular beaches around the country last year.

Fury with the water industry intensified on Thursday when Thames Water revealed its funding crisis had deepened after shareholders refused to give the troubled utility extra cash.

It is understood investors pulled the funding plan that was agreed last summer after the regulator Ofwat refused to bow to the debt-laden water giant’s demands for a 40 per cent bill hike for customers and an easing of capital spending requirements, as well as leniency on penalties for failing to meet targets.

Labour shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said: “It is sickening that this Conservative government has turned a blind eye to illegal sewage dumping that has put thousands of people in hospital.

“To make matters worse, consumers face higher water bills while water bosses pocket millions in bonuses.

“Labour will put the water companies under special measures to clean up water. We will strengthen regulation so law-breaking water bosses face criminal charges and give the regulator new powers to block the payment of any bonuses until water bosses have cleaned up their filth.

“With Labour, the polluter – not the public – will pay.”

Sir Keir Starmer’s party has also pledged to end self-monitoring and force all companies to monitor every single water outlet under independent supervision, as well as introducing tough fines for illegal sewage discharges.

Richard Walker, former chairman of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Labour’s plan will take the tough action required to get our vital utilities back to serving the public interest.

“Everyone deserves to enjoy our beautiful coastline and rivers without the fear of getting sick because some fat cat has been shovelling out dividends rather than investing in vital improvements.”

And Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Pollution and nature loss are a public health disaster. Billions could be saved every year for the NHS by cleaning up filthy rivers, curbing air pollution, and bringing nature back to life. All parties should make big polluters pay and ensure water companies invest in nature recovery for the sake of public health.”

Storm overflows dump untreated sewage into rivers and seas, usually during heavy rainfall, to stop sewers backing up.

Water firms have said they want to triple investment to £10bn over the period 2025-2030 to tackle the problem, which would be paid for through consumer bills.

A Conservative spokesperson said: “Labour’s botched-together announcement today is entirely made up of measures this government is already delivering under our Plan For Water.

“It shows that, unlike the Conservatives, Keir Starmer and his party have no plan for cutting sewage spills and holding water companies to account. They would take us back to square one.”

The government has launched a consultation to ban water bosses’ bonuses when criminal breaches have occurred, quadrupled company inspections next year, fast-tracked £180m of investment to cut spills, and launched a whistleblowing portal for water company workers to report breaches.

Why William was not with Kate in her diagnosis video revealed

The reason the Princess of Wales did not have her husband by her side in the video revealing her cancer diagnosis has been revealed.

Sitting on a bench surrounded by greenery on the grounds of Windsor Castle, Kate cut a lone figure as she told the world that she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy.

As many wondered why Prince William was not in the emotional video, a palace source told People: “It is a message from the princess about her health, and she wanted to personally deliver the message on her own.”

As a series of health scares rock the royal family, both the King and the Princess of Wales have stepped back from public duties.

The Queen represented King Charles on Thursday at the historic Royal Maundy service at Worcester Cathedral, which he missed with “great sadness” as he continues to undergo cancer treatment.

He is expected however to attend the Easter Sunday service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle this weekend in what will be his first public appearance since he was diagnosed with cancer.

Easter getaway traffic creates 20-mile Good Friday motorway queues

Easter getaway traffic has caused “pretty horrendous” queues of up to 20 miles on key motorways, as millions of people took to the roads.

An estimated 2.6 million car journeys were expected to be made on Good Friday, and by lunchtime they had created “significant” congestion around the M25 and roads in the South West and South East.

The RAC said holidaymakers heading south were behind much of the congestion after forecasters predicted sunnier spells there over the next few days. Drivers were warned that journeys could take twice as long on some routes.

Queues of 15 to 20 miles built up on the M4 and M5 interchange near Bristol, which added 45 minutes to journey times.

The western side of the M25 London orbital motorway was described as “pretty bad” and “a lot worse than normal”, with 40-minute queues.

RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Everyone’s heading to Devon and Cornwall – that’s the attraction, and there’s been a bit of better weather. It’s causing some pretty horrendous queues.”

The M20 in Kent was also busy, with congestion approaching Folkestone on the coast.

There were also hold-ups on the A628 between Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire after two separate accidents, National Highways reported.

Tourist board VisitEngland said around 11 million people in the UK were planning an overnight Easter trip, generating an estimated £3.2bn for the economy.

Around 14 million trips by road could be made over the weekend, a survey by the RAC and transport analysis company Inrix suggested.

Tourists at the Port of Dover faced a wait of two hours to be let through.

And ferry services by DFDS at Dover were running with delays due to strong winds in the Channel after Storm Nelson caused widespread disruption on Thursday when winds not far off gale-force were recorded.

Wightlink said ferries to the Isle of Wight were busy, but running on time.

On the railways, passengers faced line closures because of engineering work and unexpected chaos.

The closure of the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Milton Keynes for an upgrade was flagged months in advance, and many people travelled late on Thursday to avoid it.

The main trans-Pennine route had buses running instead of trains between Manchester and Huddersfield.

Great Western Railway was forced to close the main line from London to Exeter after flooding between Newbury and Westbury damaged infrastructure.

Passengers heading for the UK’s fourth-busiest airport, London Stansted, faced problems getting there as the Stansted Express line suffered “major disruption”.

Airports reported high numbers of people flying, with 175,000 due to leave from Stansted, 105,000 from Luton, 160,000 from Manchester, 79,000 from Birmingham, and 89,000 from Edinburgh between Friday and Monday.

Turkey, Dubai and the Canary Islands were popular destinations – and trips to Dublin were also in demand.

Storm Nelson brought gusts of up to 74mph on Thursday, while a Met Office yellow warning for rain and wind covered London and the South East, the South West and East of England.

More than 170 flood warnings and alerts remained in place on Friday.

But Met Office experts forecast higher temperatures for the Easter weekend than those of most of the week.

The forecaster said Britons can expect rising temperatures for their bank holiday weekend, with highs of 16C predicted for Sunday.

Deputy chief meteorologist Dan Harris said: “The weather is expected to gradually improve following the widely unsettled spell of the past few days, with a fairly typical mix of spring-like weather across the UK.

“There will be some sunshine, and it will feel increasingly warm for most as the winds become lighter.

“However, the West and especially South West is likely to see passing showers too, which could be quite heavy and frequent at times.”

Additional reporting by PA

Against all the odds, Gladiators is the most radically kind show on TV

Culture tends to move at such a pace that it’s rare for you and your children to have the exact same televisual epiphany. However, I’m fairly sure my kids and I have all had a form of awakening watching our respective eras of Gladiators: the musclebound game show that has tested strength, speed and the figure-revealing elasticity of Lycra every Saturday night on BBC One since mid-January.

I never thought the series, a reboot of the Nineties ITV mainstay, would work in 2024. I honestly thought it would be an irrelevant joke; a show out of step with modern sensibilities; something that sensitive, tut-tutting woke liberal parents like me would instantly find fault with. After all, it’s competitive, there’s a gender binary, it had the aura of a racist past back in the day (thanks to Black Gladiators being crassly named things like Shadow or Nightshade), plus it generally flies in the face of body positivity by only having a hegemony of lean gym people on show. And yet, something quietly revolutionary has happened with this latest BBC version: they’ve reinvented sports to be radically more respectful, joyful and essentially nicer than anything I’ve ever seen before.

Most reviews of Gladiators have been a springboard for adults to revel in their own nostalgia, from The Guardian’s Joel Golby evoking eating ham and pineapple pizza to The Spectator’s James Delingpole railing against the old show having “Queen’s excruciating ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ thumping on auto-repeat”. But in its bedtime-friendly slot of 5.50pm, Gladiators is very clearly a family show, made for kids and their grown-ups to enjoy together – making a solo adult review feel a bit awkward, like a 36-year-old reviewing a soft play centre.

I’m keen to stress therefore just how much my own children, aged six and nine, have loved the show, from the title sequence of episode one onwards. Yes, the sheer skimpiness of the Gladiators’ clothes made me urgently order a copy of Let’s Talk About the Birds and the Bees, but despite the anatomical detail the show is coated in an innocence that’s so finely balanced and well-played that I’m genuinely in awe of the team who made it, for making family telly that’s wholesome but not bland or worthy, and not slathered in irony either. By comparison, we watched seven minutes of a first-generation Gladiators on YouTube, at which point the commentator made a crass remark about host Ulrika Jonsson’s cleavage, prompting me to leap up, turn off the screen and do a quiet shriek while we got the Uno cards out.

Kids aren’t stupid. They know that much-maligned father-and-son hosts Bradley and Barney Walsh are making deliberately awful jokes. They know too that the excellently vain, perma-pouting “baddy”, Legend, is laying it on like a pantomime villain. Incidentally, well played again by the BBC for a timely skewering of a narcissistic man, especially in the context of a show that could otherwise pong of gym culture self-absorption.

Of course, there’s still a natural credulousness among young viewers, but there’s also an implicit believability to the show that feels genuinely rare for such big-budget, high-spectacle telly. In this debut BBC series, this mostly came from the fact that two contenders – Finley in the quarter-finals and Chung in the recent semi-final – were injured to the point where they sadly had to be replaced by runners-up, a truth about the potential danger of this stuff that was thankfully not airbrushed or reshot out of existence, but left in to show the vulnerability of the athletes competing.

Thus because Gladiators is believable, its most radical aspect really shines. It’s that everyone (except cartoon villains Legend and Viper) is unfailingly nice to each other, whether they’ve won or lost. Contenders will praise the strength of a Gladiator who’s just prodded their groin with a pugil stick. Gladiators will talk with conviction about an opponent’s courage and skill at the end of a game, no matter the result. Both might dramatically tumble into a safety net, but they’re rolling around laughing seconds later, not scrapping or hurling abuse about each other online. The contenders, right up to the gruelling Eliminator round, support each other with such sincere grace and respect – never lapsing into schmaltz – that the show elevates itself into a strange undiscovered headspace where competitive sport is actually, y’know, quite pleasant and not a toxic maelstrom of ultra-competitiveness. The fact that the show is bolstered by two figures from mainstream football – match commentator Guy Mowbray and former super referee Mark Clattenburg (branded by his iconic Euro 2016 tattoo) – feels almost retrograde since football could learn so much about what family-friendly entertainment should look like.

There’s still room for improvement. After so many iterations (Sky also relaunched the show back in 2008), the show is crying out for a female “baddy”, for instance. While Sabre occasionally came close, literally hissing at the microphone once as she stormed off post-defeat, there’s never been a sense that the females are allowed to be as funny, camp and comically contrived as the men. The show would also benefit from explaining why there’s an ambient camera in the dressing room, something that even my kids thought was a bit creepy.

But it’s been nothing short of a brilliant reinvention for a modern era, one that I can attest makes kids very happy and makes analogue parents like me a bit – OK, I’ll admit it – nostalgic for the days of must-watch Saturday night terrestrial TV. In this Olympic year, who would have thought that a show with Bradley Walsh, some foam fingers and a soft-rock theme song would best uphold the event’s credo – that it’s not about the winning, but the taking part that matters?

The DUP must keep Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s policy of sharing power

We cannot comment on the reason for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s resignation as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, except to say that the due process of law must be respected.

But his sudden departure from the leadership of the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland does have implications for the government there. It was only last month that the devolved administration was restored in Belfast after a two-year suspension. This was a welcome step forward after difficult negotiations not just between Sir Jeffrey and Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, but between different strands of opinion within the DUP.

That the DUP will now face a leadership election, in which there is likely to be a candidate opposed to the restoration of devolved government, puts the newly functioning administration at risk.

Will Tory failure to help renters cost them even more votes?

The Renters (Reform) Bill is becoming a landlords’ charter, according to campaigners for the rights of tenants in the private rented sector. Michael Gove, the housing secretary, has written to Conservative MPs announcing changes to the bill to “bolster landlord protections” in the hope that these will overcome the resistance to the planned law.

The revised bill started its parliamentary passage in the House of Lords this week and will come before the Commons after the Easter recess.

The bill had been delayed by the threat from a group of pro-landlord Tory MPs to vote against it. They argued that the abolition of “no-fault” evictions would tilt the balance too much in favour of tenants and make private renting uneconomic for landlords, forcing them to sell.