INDEPENDENT 2024-05-09 10:04:22


Huge fire breaks out at industrial estate as businesses evacuate

Businesses have been evacuated and residents are being urged to close their windows after a huge fire broke at an industrial estate in Staffordshire.

Footage shared on social media shows large plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky near the A460 Orbital Island in Cannock with 10 fire engines rushing to the scene at 6:15am.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire started at Super Smart Services – a distribution warehouse “which contains a variety of different materials for delivery”.

Have you been affected by this incident? Email holly.evans@independent.co.uk

Residents have been ordered to close their windows due to the smoke, with pictures on social media showing thick fumes are visible for nearly 20 miles.

Sam Winter, a 32-year-old scaffolder caught footage of the fire. He told the PA news agency: “I drove out of Cannock Chase to a plume of smoke, so I drove all the way following it to get a video as my mum works across the road from there.”

Another person wrote on social media that they had heard a “series of explosions” in the early hours of the morning.

The fire service said that no-one was in the building at the time of the blaze, though firefighters are still tackling the blaze.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said in a post on X, formerly Twitter: “Fighters are asking all residents to close windows and doors due to smoke and all local businesses to evacuate.”

The Uk Health Security Agency in the West Midlands also echnoed this advice and urged people to remain indoors, with motorists encouraged to keep their windows closed and turn off their air conditioning.

West Midlands Railway confirmed that the fire was not affecting railway services and trains are still running through the area.

Meanwhile, the Cannock Orbital shopping centre is among the businesses reported to have shut as a result of the incident.

Rob Humphries, who lives in Abbots Bromley, noticed smoke while out walking his dog.

The 36-year-old, who took a picture of what he saw, said: “I was out on the morning dog walk and spotted a huge plume of smoke in the distance.

“It appeared to be coming from the other side of Cannock Chase, in the direction of Cannock.”

More follows on this breaking news story

Teacher accused of sex ‘laughed when boy said he’s not old enough’

A teacher accused of having sex with teenage boys laughed and said “Oh shut up!” when one said, “I’m not old enough,” a court heard.

Rebecca Joynes made a comment about driving after picking a 15-year-old boy up after school in her car and going to her flat where they had sex, Manchester Crown Court heard.

The boy, known only as Boy A, said he would not know about that as he was too young to drive – which Joynes while laughing replied, “Oh shut up! Stop saying that!” it is alleged.

Joynes, 30, is on trial accused of six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, including two while being a person in a position of trust.

She became pregnant by a second teenage boy, boy B, while she was on bail for allegedly having sex with boy A, a jury has heard.

On the second day of the trial jurors watched the video interview boy A gave to police officers.

Boy A told police Joynes had given him 10 of the 11 digits of her phone number and he worked out the missing digit to first make contact with her.

Within days they were exchanging Snapchat messages and after finishing school on a Friday afternoon he went home, changed out of his school uniform and Joynes picked him up at a pre-arranged point in her white Audi A1 car.

The police officer asks boy A: “What were you wanting to happen?”

He replied: “To be honest, I was not expecting that to happen, what happened. I didn’t expect anything.”

“What were you hoping to happen?” the officer continued.

“I don’t know,” the boy said, adding: “But anyone in my position, when you are my age, my year. If you ever see her – she is good looking.”

Boy A said he expected to do what had been planned – go to the Trafford Centre and back to her flat.

He said: “I remember her saying you might as well come to her apartment, and I said, I may as well stay.

“She said, ‘OK. That works for me.”

After picking the youngster up, Joynes then drove to pick her dog up from day care and dropped it off with her parents in Wirral telling the boy she had arranged for them to have it overnight.

He did not see the hand over to her mother as Joynes parked in another street, “probably because how young I look,” the boy said.

Boy A told the officer about a conversation on the journey.

He said: “She said something about driving. I went, ‘I wouldn’t know because I’m not old enough,’ and she said, ‘Oh shut up’ laughing, said something like, ‘Stop saying that’ but laughing.”

After visiting the Trafford Centre where the youngster said Joynes bought him a £345 Gucci designer belt they went back to her flat at Salford Quays where they twice had sex, it is alleged.

However rumours began to circulate and a police investigation followed as the defendant was suspended by her school and later she told police that no sexual activity had taken place.

She was subsequently bailed on condition she have no unsupervised contact with anyone aged under 18.

But it later emerged that Joynes had been in a long-term sexual relationship with another teenage boy she had been in contact with while suspended.

The youngster is the father of Joynes’s young daughter.

Joynes claims sexual activity with Boy B did not start until he turned 16.

Neither boy must be publicly identified by law.

Joynes denies two counts of sexual activity with Boy A, two counts of sexual activity with Boy B and two counts of sexual activity with Boy B while being a person in a position of trust.

The two-week trial continues.

Trump called out for audibly cursing during revealing Stormy Daniels testimony

Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial will resume at Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday following Wednesday’s recess, with the porn star Stormy Daniels expected to return to the witness stand to face more cross-examination from the defendant’s lawyers.

Ms Daniels appeared on Tuesday to regale jurors with her account of how she met Mr Trump, the infamous sexual encounter she says they had in July 2006 and the events leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

After lunch on Tuesday, the defence moved for a mistrial citing Ms Daniels’ “prejudicial” evidence, which was denied by Judge Juan Merchan.

As cross-examination began, the witness was confronted about whether she “hates” Mr Trump and wants to see him in jail – to which she replied she wants to see him held accountable for his actions.

Elsewhere, Mr Trump spent his day off from court hosting an event at Mar-a-Lago for people who bought his superhero NFTs, rather than hitting the campaign trail, and attacked Joe Biden on Truth Social over escalating events in the Middle East, once again insisting the war in Gaza would never have happened if he had remained president.

Alex Woodward is covering Mr Trump’s trial in Manhattan and will be providing regular updates on proceedings.

Baby Reindeer’s ‘real Martha’ to give tell-all Piers Morgan interview

The woman who allegedly inspired Richard Gadd’s hit Netflix series Baby Reindeer will give her first TV interview this Thursday (9 May).

Scottish lawyer Fiona Harvey, 58, who has been labelled the ‘real Martha’ has received death threats from Baby Reindeer viewers and will speak on Piers Morgan Uncensored to “set the record straight after being unmasked by fans”. News of the interview has been met with controversy.

In the series, comedian Richard Gadd plays a fictionalised version of himself who gets stalked by a lonely and mentally ill woman called Martha, whom he meets while working at a pub.

Following the series’ success curious fans have tried to discover the inspirations behind the show, which members of the cast have vehemently discouraged.

It comes after Richard Gadd urged Baby Reindeer fans to stop trying to uncover the identities of the real people who inspired the Netflix show.

Although the story is rooted in real events, Gadd changed names and specific details of the story to protect the identities of the people involved.

“Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be,” he told fans on Instagram. “That’s not the point of our show.”

Jessica Gunning, who played Martha in Baby Reindeer, similarly told Glamour: “I think it’s a real, real shame, because it shows that they haven’t watched the show properly.

“Netflix and Richard [Gadd] went to extreme lengths to try and make sure that the identities were kept private for a reason.”

Speaking to the Daily Record after filming her first TV interview, Harvey said she felt “set up” and “used” by Morgan.

“There was a heavy emphasis from Piers Morgan on Gadd and the emails I am supposed to have sent,” she claimed.

“I wouldn’t say I was happy. It was very rapid to try to trip me up. He did it fast paced to catch me off guard.

“It seemed to me that I was set up. I feel a bit used.”

The interview will be available to watch on Thursday (9 May) at 8pm BST on YouTube’s Piers Morgan Uncensored.

Nasa reveals what it looks like to fall into a black hole

Nasa has used an ultra-powerful supercomputer to create what it claims is a realistic visualisation of what it would look like to be sucked into a black hole.

Scientists at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland produced the simulation to see how the universe would appear once beyond the event horizon of a supermassive black hole.

The project took five days to run on the US space agency’s Discover supercomputer, producing around 10 terabytes of data.

“People often ask about this, and simulating these difficult-to-imagine processes helps me connect the mathematics of relativity to actual consequences in the real universe,” said Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who created the visualisations.

“So I simulated two different scenarios, one where a camera – a stand-in for a daring astronaut – just misses the event horizon and slingshots back out, and one where it crosses the boundary, sealing its fate.”

The supermassive black hole used for the simulation is equivalent to the one located at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, which is roughly 4.3 million times the mass of the Sun.

The black hole’s event horizon measures around 25 million kilometres (16 million miles), while the speed of the camera entering it is approaching the speed of light.

Orange and yellow photon rings around the black hole become distorted as the camera enters an area where space-time is warped. Inside the black hole’s centre the visualisation goes black as the camera reaches a one-dimensional point called a singularity.

“Once the camera crosses the horizon, its destruction by spaghettification is just 12.8 seconds away,” Dr Schnittman said

A separate video shared by Nasa last week shows the vast scale of black holes by comparing the TON 618 black hole to the size of the solar system.

Off the beaten track in Costa Dorada

Blessed with swathes of golden sandy beaches between sea and mountains, Costa Dorada has an abundance of landscape to explore.

Jet2holidays makes it even easier to land your perfect active trip to Costa Dorada. Flying from 10 UK airports in 2024 and 11 in 2025, they provide package holidays you can trust and look after you every step of the way, with hotel, flights, free return transfers, 22kg baggage and 10kg hand luggage included – giving plenty of space to pack in the hiking boots and water shoes.

Here, we round up some of the best ways to immerse yourself in the region’s grand nature.

With roads being smooth and often car-free, Costa Dorada is an ideal destination for biking. There’s the Serra del Montsant mountain range for pushing those uphill challenges or coastal paths for smooth-sailing along the rugged cliff edges and golden sand beaches. The route from Falset can take in the lush wineries and rolling vineyards the area is known for. Start from this mountainous village and follow the road to the village of Margalef near the mountain edge before heading back to Falset. Or to take in the sea and mountains, start in the coastal resort of Salou before winding up the steep hairpin bends of La Mussara mountain. Make your way back to the sea at the coastal resort of Cambrils – known as the gastronomic hub of this region – for some well-deserved tapas.

There’s an abundance of coastal paths that navigate around the more secluded parts of the shores here. Camino de Ronda in Salou stretches for 6.5 km, curving in a U-shape along rocky coast and over golden sand beaches. The route can be stretched out to around 9km to cover the coastal path of Salou by starting in Vila-seca, La Pineda. The route runs between sea and mountains, with 23 viewpoints dotted along the way. It passes by plenty of places to stop for a spot of lunch with views over the Mediterranean Sea, too. If you want active pit stops along your walk, there are places along the route that offer up water sports.

Take a day trip out to the coastal city of Tarragona to explore its Roman ruins. The city was once a popular destination for Roman emperors, with the Amphitheatre dating back almost 2,000 years. There are other ruins along the coast to explore, with Roman, Spanish, Arabic and Moorish history weaved into the architecture. While in the port city, check out the Roman tombs and walled Medieval Old Town, before strolling along the harbour with its small fishing boats and pastel-hued houses.

Costa Dorada has an impressive total of 26 Blue Flag beaches, recognised for their calm, safe waters, cleanliness and environmental management. They’re particularly family-friendly, with resorts Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda being ‘Certified Family Destinations’ with dedicated facilities for families during the summer. Yet there are still many beaches that remain quiet and more secluded. Playa de la Pineda Platja is the main beach in the coastal resort of Vila-seca, La Pineda, yet remains fairly quiet. It also benefits from being close to Aquopolis Water Park with its giant slides and pools. While not being Blue Flag-accredited, Playa Llarga in Salou is outside of the city centre (but close enough to attractions like PortAventura amusement park), surrounded by a small pine forest that immerses you in nature.

The towering peaks of Montserrat National Park are one of the greatest symbols of Catalonia. The mountainous landscape is peppered with grottos and caves, while birds of prey soar above in the sky. While offering untouched nature, it overlooks one of the best wine regions in the area, with vineyards and wine cellars to visit. Head here for a full day hike or visit one of the four mountain villages in the area for a gentle walk. Elsewhere closer to ground level, Parc Sama Botanical Gardens in the coastal resort of Cambrils has an abundance of forest and foliage, with 1,500 species of flora and fauna. There’s also a lake with a canal and waterfall to stroll around.

What does Natalie Elphicke’s defection to Labour mean for the Tories?

Everyone loves a defection, but Natalie Elphicke’s switch from Labour to the Conservatives has raised more than the usual quota of questions. Unlike, say, the defection of Lee Anderson from the Conservatives to Reform, which was entirely predictable, Elphicke’s move has left friend and ex-friend alike somewhat mystified.

Though no one’s idea of an intellectual, Elphicke has always presented as an unusually partisan Tory and, as MP for Dover and Deal, an enthusiastic supporter of “stop the boats” and government immigration policy, with only the caveat that the latter wasn’t hard enough. She was also a devout Brexiteer, though in this case despite, rather than because of, the fact that she represented the major Channel port of Dover in parliament.

Generally she was seen as being on the centre-right of the party, and supported Penny Mordaunt and then Liz Truss for the leadership in 2022. No one, in other words, saw this one coming, and Keir Starmer made the most of the “prize” at Prime Minister’s Questions, with most of those in the chamber unaware of her switch until they spied her on the opposition benches.

Ofcom – and parents – must do more to protect children online

It is now six months since the elephantine gestation of the Online Safety Act was completed and it became law. It is fair to say that the internet hasn’t changed much in that time.

Children are still being exposed to harmful and damaging material. WhatsApp groups are still full of juveniles who shouldn’t be on the platform in the first place, and whose activities are encrypted, beyond the reach of the law and capable of being used for the vilest of purposes. Paedophiles and fraudsters are, so far as can be judged, as active as ever. The X platform, formerly Twitter, carries more misinformation, conspiracy theories, racism and misogyny than ever.

Lives are still being blighted by being exploited online and through bullying; people, including children, are still dying by suicide; and the transformation of youth from healthy family-oriented outdoor adventure to indoor, solitary, sedentary game-playing continues.