INDEPENDENT 2024-04-04 16:06:21


Met Office names Storm Kathleen as snow and 70mph winds to tear into UK

Storm Kathleen will barrel into the UK this weekend with dangerous 70mph gusts, torrential downpours and snow in some areas.

The 11th named storm of the season is forecast to hit the west coast of England, Scotland and Ireland on Saturday, before moving across to other parts of the country.

The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings for rain, snow and wind that come into force on Friday.

Gusts of 50mph are widely expected across the country, with more exposed areas, such as the coast seeing winds of 60-70mph. The forecaster said coastal areas can also expect to see large waves.

The Met Office also warned that heavy rain could cause travel disruption, with a chance of flooding for some homes and businesses.

A snow warning is also in place on Friday and covers a large portion of central Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“Snow is likely to cause some travel disruption on Friday morning, particularly on higher routes,” the forecaster said.

Saturday will experience “unseasonably wet and windy” conditions, including heavy rain across parts of Scotland and potential outbreaks across western parts and North East England, Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said.

However, temperatures will be mild, despite the wind and rain, he added: “There is a good chance we could see highs of 20C which would be the first time we have seen 20C this year.”

Looking ahead at the next 10 days, Mr Burkill said: “There will be some wet weather around, could be quite heavy at times, but there are also some signs of something a little bit drier coming up later on.

“For the time being though, low pressure in control as we go through the next few days, various areas of low pressure pushing their way across, bringing spells of wet weather and some blustery conditions too.

“As we head towards Friday though, we have an area of low pressure pushing towards us and this feature has actually been named Storm Olivia by the Portuguese met service. It is going to bring some blustery, showery weather across parts of the UK.”

He added: “Now it’s pretty unusual for us to get an area of low pressure as deep as this so close to the UK during this time of year at this stage of April.

“So it is going to be unseasonably windy and there will be some heavy rain around at times particularly across northern and western parts.

“But worth noting that across parts of the South East actually we’re not going to see a huge amount of rain on Saturday and we’re going to drag in some very warm air.”

It is the second time a UK named storm has reached the letter K, following Storm Katie in March 2016.

No storm season has ever got beyond the letter K. The Met Office began naming storms in 2015.

Last year’s storm season, which ran from September 2022 to August 2023, made it only as far as the letter B, with Storm Betty in August.

By contrast, this year’s season has seen storm Agnes in September 2023, Babet in October, Ciaran and Debi in November, Elin, Fergus and Gerrit in December, Henk, Isha and Jocelyn in January 2024, and now Kathleen in April.

Not all of the alphabet is used when naming storms. The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are omitted, in line with convention established by the US National Hurricane Centre.

It means the storm names still available for the current season are Lilian, Minnie, Nicholas, Olga, Piet, Regina, Stuart, Tamiko, Vincent and Walid.

The Met Office’s list of storm names is shared with Met Eireann in Ireland and KNMI, the Dutch national weather forecasting service. Kathleen was named by Met Eireann.

Additional reporting by PA

Armed robbery ringleader found guilty of murdering police officer

The mastermind behind an armed robbery that ended in police officer Sharon Beshenivsky being shot dead almost 20 years ago has been found guilty of her murder.

Piran Ditta Khan was on Thursday convicted of murdering Pc Beshenivsky, who was shot dead while interrupting a raid at family-run Universal Express travel agents in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in November 2005.

Unarmed, she and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn were shot at point-blank range by one of the three men who had carried out the robbery as he emerged from the business.

Two months later, Khan fled the country for Pakistan, where he remained until he was arrested in 2020 and extradited back to the UK last year to stand trial.

The 75-year-old is the last of seven men to be convicted for their roles in the crime, with Khan said to be the group’s ringleader who had orchestrated the plot.

Although he did not leave the safety of a lookout car during the raid, he played a “pivotal” role in planning it and knew that loaded firearms were to be used.

He was also the only one of the group who was familiar with Universal Express and had used them in the past to send money to family in Pakistan, the court heard.

Khan had denied the murder charge, and claimed the business’s owner, Mohammad Yousaf, owed him £12,000 and that debt collector Hassan Razzaq offered to get his money back after the pair met through a business associate.

Khan said he thought the men Razzaq sent would “intimidate” the staff at Universal Express, or at worst, “slap them”, and that he had no knowledge an armed robbery was due to take place.

However, jurors heard Khan, who was living in Enfield, London, at the time, was driven to Yorkshire by Razzaq on a reconnaissance trip five days before the raid.

The day before the robbery, they travelled up again to a “safe house” in Leeds where they spent the night.

Francois Baron, who was working on renovating the house, later told police he had heard the robbers discussing the plot in one of the bedrooms.

Mr Baron said he heard gunman Muzzaker Shah asking Khan: “Uncle, is it safe?” Khan was said to have replied: “Yes, it’s safe. Genuine.”

Jurors heard Shah asked: “How much can we get?” and Khan replied: “Minimum £50,000, maximum target 100 grand.”

Prosecutors said the three robbers who were to go into Universal Express then changed into smart clothing, telling jurors this was because Khan knew they would have to appear “respectable” in order for staff to let them in through the electronically locked door.

In three cars, the group then drove in convoy to Bradford, where Muzzaker Shah and brothers Yusuf Jama and Mustaf Jama went into the travel agents posing as customers.

After initially asking about plane tickets, the three men jumped over the counter and started demanding money, striking several of the staff with their weapons, tying their hands and threatening to “shoot the youngest” if they did not hand over cash.

The group demanded £100,000, later saying they would not leave with less than £50,000, jurors heard.

Waqas Yousaf, Mohammad Yousaf’s son, told the robbers they did not have that kind of money and managed to press an alarm which alerted the police.

Pc Beshenivsky and Pc Milburn, who were about to finish their shift, responded to the alert, the trial was told.

The robbers shouted “the Feds are here” before fleeing with around £5,400, with one of them gunning down the officers as they approached the doors of Universal Express.

Pc Beshenivsky, 38, who had three children and two step-children, was shot on her youngest daughter’s fourth birthday and had only been an officer for nine months when she died from her injuries.

Pc Milburn, who survived being shot in the chest, told police the pair “didn’t have a chance” to get away from the gunman, and that they would have run away if he had given them any warning.

Khan was convicted of murder by a majority of 10-1 after 11 jurors deliberated for almost 19 hours over four days.

He was also found guilty of two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, also by a majority of 10-1. He was unanimously convicted of two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon while he had pleaded guilty to robbery.

Detective Superintendent Marc Bowes of West Yorkshire Police said: “Today as always our thoughts remain with Pc Sharon Beshenivsky and her family, Sharon went to work to protect the public, she responded to a call for help alongside her colleague Teresa but tragically never came home.

“This verdict is the culmination of 18 years of hard work, tenacious grit and determination to bring Khan before the courts.”

Impact filming video had on Kate laid bare as it is revealed Harry ‘regrets’ hurting relationship

The Princess of Wales overcame her inherent shyness when she delivered her emotional news on camera, according to a royal expert.

Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith praised Kate’s “poised and “sincere” delivery and admitted it was no easy feat for the naturally introverted princess.

She was “sincere, dignified, poised, and she was forthright” in her delivery, but the announcement likely wasn’t easy, Bedell Smith said. She told People: “She is inherently shy, and for her to do that took a lot.”

Meanwhile, Prince Harry is ‘regretful’ after his relationship with Kate broke down ‘spectacularly’, claims royal biographer Duncan Larcombe.

The Duke of Sussex and the Princess of Wales enjoyed a close bond before Harry’s relationship with his family became fractured after he made multiple public bombshell allegations about his relatives.

Kate revealed her cancer diagnosis to the world on 22 March, however it is understood neither Harry nor Meghan were told of the announcement ahead of time, laying bare the extent of the fallout.

Royal biographer Duncan Larcombe told the Mirror: “Bombshell news like Kate’s puts things into perspective and Harry isn’t immune from being filled with regrets and what-ifs. Kate was like the sister Harry never had and he is probably full of regret at how his relationship with her and William has collapsed so spectacularly.”

World’s oldest man dies two months before 115th birthday

The world’s oldest man has died two months before his 115th birthday, as local officials paid tribute to his “optimism for life”.

Juan Vicente Perez, from Venezuela, died this week at the age of 114, having been confirmed as the world’s oldest living man by Guinness World Records when he was aged 112 years and 253 days on 4 February 2022.

Mr Perez lived through two World Wars and the Covid pandemic, and was married for 60 years to Ediofina del Rosario Garcia, until she died in 1997.

Born on 27 May 1909, Mr Perez attributed his long life to “working hard, resting on holidays, going to bed early, drinking a glass of aguardiente [a strong liquor] every day, loving God, and always carrying him in his heart”.

He and Ms Garcia had 11 children, including six sons and five daughters. They later had 42 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

He celebrated his 110th birthday in 2019, becoming the first male supercentenarian from Venezuela.

Freddy Bernal, the governor of Tachira, Venezuela, where Mr Perez lived, wrote on X: “Our dear Juan Vicente Perez Mora, today with deep sadness and pain we say goodbye to you, to that archetype of a man from Tachira, humble, hard-working, peaceful, enthusiastic about family and tradition.”

He added: “My old Don Vicente, we will always remember him for his optimism in life, for faith, hope and that deep love for our state of Tachira.

“He will always be a symbol of goodness, wisdom and joy, which is why his legacy will live forever in our hearts and in our lives. Rest in peace my dear old man, my Don Juan Vicente. We will never forget you.”

President Nicholas Maduro wrote: “Juan Vicente Perez Mora has transcended into eternity at 114 years old, from the town of El Cobre he gave Venezuela the Guinness Record for being the oldest man in the world.

“I send my hug and condolences to his family and to all the people of El Cobre, Tachira state. May God receive him in his holy glory!”

The world’s next oldest living man is expected to be Gisaburo Sonobe of Japan, who is aged 112, pending confirmation from his family, Guinness World Records said.

Savvy spending guide: 5 ways to shop more mindfully and save money

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. This information is from an independent third party, these are their own views and do not necessarily constitute the views of American Express.

Whether you’re trying to be more sustainable, save money or a bit of both, there’s no doubt that adopting a more mindful approach to shopping has real benefits for us and the planet we live in. So, whether you’re splashing out on a new wardrobe item or the latest piece of tech, how can you ensure you shop savvily, and don’t end up disappointed or having to throw good money after bad?

According to finance coach Ellie-Austin Williams, the founder of financial wellbeing community ‘This Girl Talks Money’ and author of Money Talks: A Lifestyle Guide for Financial Wellbeing, it’s all about having a strategy when it comes to spending.

“A lot of it is just about taking your time to make the decision and being confident that you have explored all the options,” she explains. “Work out what you actually need or want as well as why, do your research, and then buy smartly.” Here Ellie shares her advice for savvy spending, so you’ll never regret a splurge again…

Whether it’s a new tech item for work or one of your hobbies, a vital piece of homeware or a new pair of shoes – investment buying is about adopting a more thoughtful, mindful approach to spending, which will pay off in the long run.

“For me, investment purchases are where you have to spend a little bit more money up front but in the long term, you’ll save money because you’re buying something that will stand the test of time, that’s going to be better quality and is going to meet your needs for a longer period,” says Ellie.

When it comes to things that you use or wear everyday – whether a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or a new sofa – it’s worth making sure you’re buying something that will last. “Sometimes paying a bit more for higher quality materials will mean that something lasts several times longer as something that’s half the price so overall you end up spending less,” says Ellie.

It’s not about spending more money for the sake of it – the best buy won’t always be the priciest one. But when you are looking to drop some cash on something more significant than your small, everyday purchases, it can pay off to spend more upfront.

There’s nothing better than the feeling of buying the right thing, at the right time, for the right price. But too often we can end up feeling like we’ve made a mistake with our purchases. So how should you approach an investment buy?

“I think the key question to ask yourself is, why am I buying this?” says Ellie. “Is this something that I need or want? If it’s something that you want, that’s fine, but know why you want it. Is it something that actually is going to elevate or enhance your life in a valuable way or is it just part of a trend or fad?”

Be realistic with what you can afford, too. When it comes to any non-essential buys, Ellie always recommends prioritising essentials and long-term finances first. “So, figure out how much you want to put into your savings and then look at what’s leftover as disposable income.”

Work out your budget before you start browsing. “There will nearly always be higher end options, as well as cheaper ones, but be focused in your research and look for the best option within that budget,” says Ellie. “If you’re buying a washing machine and your budget is £600, don’t spend time looking at the £1000 machines that have great reviews but you can’t afford.”

Don’t rush it, either. One good strategy for buying bigger or more expensive items is to go home and think about it, or put it in your virtual basket and leave it there for a few days. “It’s good to sit on investment purchases for a little bit,” says Ellie. “A day or two – maybe longer if it’s a bigger purchase. Just to see if you feel the same about it once the initial buzz of the idea has worn off.”

An easy mistake to make with investment buying is assuming you should always go for the more expensive item where possible. The latest phone release might be getting all the headlines – but do you really need everything it offers, or would a lower range or slightly older model suit you just as well?

It’s all about working out what product best suits your needs, says Ellie. “For example, I don’t do a lot of heavy video editing or gaming so I don’t need a super high processing speed laptop and have saved money on that,” she says. “But I do a lot of filming on my phone for my social channels and the lowest level model doesn’t have the best quality camera. So it’s all going to be individual to your specific needs and usage.”

Especially when you’re buying out of your comfort zone, speaking to an online sales advisor or – even better – going into a store can be helpful in pinning down which specific product is going to be right for you. “If you’ve got the time to actually talk to someone with some expertise, that can be really helpful in finding an item that really suits your needs rather than just buying something that’s new and shiny and might require spending more money than you need to. You’ll get the chance to try it out, talk through the product and functions, and look at alternatives.”

Even if you intend to buy online eventually – if you have a specific online or app deal or discount code for example – it’s worth looking at things in person first.

While getting the advice of salespeople is useful, do your own research, too. When it’s a big purchase, make sure you look at independent consumer review websites like Which?, even if you have to pay a small fee to access them.

“Sometimes paying for a subscription to a site like this is worth it if you’re going to spend a lot of money on an item, to get a well-rounded assessment, see the pros and cons in one place and to see it compared to similar products,” says Ellie.

Search online for write-ups in national news titles or specialist magazines, and check out customer reviews on the big retailers’ sites. “I look at the negative reviews just to see if there are any specific complaints that consistently pop up,” says Ellie.

Seek advice closer to home, too. “Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to cut through the noise and overwhelm.” Social media can be a great place to ask for opinions and recommendations, including in any relevant social media groups you’re a member of, such as on Facebook or Reddit.

Once you’ve figured out what it is that you need (or want!), make sure that you’re shopping around and buying in the most cost-effective way.

“Google Shopping is a good starting point to compare prices, as it searches a wide range of retailers, including Amazon, Currys, John Lewis and Tesco, as well as less traditional sites such as eBay, Etsy and daily deals site Groupon,” says Ellie. “But use the filters to select retailers that you know and trust. If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Look into price-tracking sites – these have browser extensions that scour the internet for coupons and promo deals and automatically apply them at online checkouts. There are also specific sites that track Amazon prices and show the pricing history so you can see if you’re buying at a good time.

Money Saving Expert have created a special tool to help you find bargain buys in Amazon Warehouse (where you can buy customer returned or slightly damaged products for low prices). Also explore fashion and sale aggregate sites – many of these have discount alert functions, allow you to create watchlists of items from different online retailers, and set target sales prices, so you can maximise your discounts.

“A lot of retailers offer discounts of 10 per cent on your first purchase if you sign up to mailing lists, so that can be worth doing, and you can always unsubscribe later,” says Ellie. If you’re already signed up with a retailer, it’s worth leaving something in your online basket without buying it – sometimes they’ll email you with an offer to tempt you to complete the purchase.

Be clever about when you buy, and hold out for seasonal discounts. “If you don’t need something urgently then it can be worth waiting for one of those calendar moments to see if you can get a discount. The obvious ones are Black Friday and after Christmas, but there can be deals throughout the year.”

And don’t rule out buying pre-loved options via sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace. “It’s a great way to get things that are high quality but that are usually out of your price range,” says Ellie, “and many items are sold unworn with tags.”

By making purchases on your credit card, you can take advantage of cashback offers and exclusive retail discounts, making your buy even savvier. “Also make sure that you’re checking the big cashback websites like TopCashback and Quidco before you make any purchases,” says Ellie. “Some retailers are on certain sites but not others so check them all. These are all little things that you can do to help you to save a bit extra.”

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Russia claims to be in direct confrontation with Nato as four die in Kharkiv strikes

Relations between Russia and Nato have slid to the level of direct confrontation, the Kremlin’s spokesman has claimed.

Dmitry Peskov said the US-led military bloc was already involved in the conflict in Ukraine and continued to expand towards Russia’s borders.

Meanwhile, at least four people were killed when Russia launched a deadly double drone strike on the northeast Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, officials said.

Russia fired 15 drones across the entire region, according to governor Oleh Synehubov, but most of the damage was to the region’s namesake city. Images showed a large hole torn into the side of a 14-storey building in the city.

At least three of those killed were employees of Ukraine’s state emergency service who had rushed to the site of the first attack at the tower block, only to become victims of a second strike. At least a dozen people were injured.

A key Nato ally suggested the UK should consider introducing conscription as a measure of protection against future war with Russia.

The Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas said he recommended it. Estonia introduced military conscription in 1991, the year the Soviet Union fell.

Why are Tory MPs rebelling against the Criminal Justice Bill?

The government is facing yet another political embarrassment in the coming weeks, this time a sizeable rebellion on its latest “law and order” bill. And the current Criminal Justice Bill is a very silly bill indeed, according to its critics, at least as it pertains to the difficult issue of rough sleeping.

As has been picked up by the press, it will criminalise “nuisance” rough sleeping, and allow the police to arrest someone if an “excessive” smell is coming from them or their makeshift bedding, or even if they look like they are preparing to sleep rough. A fine of up to £2,500 may be imposed if they refuse to move on. “Insulting words” are also actionable, even though the world of the rough sleeper isn’t well suited to polite discourse about their predicament.

Such odd, if not grotesquely cruel, clauses in the bill have understandably attracted cross-party opposition. The bill has made good progress through the House of Commons so far, but amendments will be tabled when the House returns from recess after 15 April, at the “report” stage. The Lords, a revising chamber designed to improve badly drafted legislation, may also take a view.