INDEPENDENT 2024-05-15 01:07:26


Manhunt for escaped French inmate ‘The Fly’ after prison officers shot dead in van raid

A suspected drug boss nicknamed ‘The Fly’ is at the centre of a nationwide manhunt after escaping from a prison van which was ambushed by four gunmen in northern France.

Mohamed Amra, 30, was being transported from a court hearing in Rouen to a secure jail in Evreux when the fatal attack unfolded shortly after 11am on the A154 motorway in Val-de-Reuil in Normandy.

Two prison officers were killed, with one leaving behind a five months pregnant wife, with three more guards seriously injured.

The escaped prisoner fled alongside the attackers in two vehicles, which were abandoned and found burned a short while later. A police source told Le Parisien that Amra is the head of a narcotics network, and had been jailed for 18 months last week for a series of burglaries.

Hundreds of police officers and gendarmes had been mobilised, with president Emmanuel Macron vowing that everything was being done to find the perpetrators.

Footage from the scene near the commune of Incarville appeared to show a hooded attacker in all black firing an assault rifle at the prisoner convoy. One of the attackers was injured in retaliatory fire, a prison officer union boss said.

Teacher accused of sex with students ‘ruined dream job with mistakes’

A teacher told a jury she had ruined her “dream job” with stupid “mistakes” but denied having sex with two teenage pupils.

Rebecca Joynes, 30, admitted she had broken safeguarding rules as a teacher by being in contact with the boys on Snapchat and then having them back at her apartment in Salford Quays.

She was already suspended from her high school job and on bail for alleged sexual activity with Boy A, 15, when she allegedly took the virginity of a second boy, known as Boy B, 16, who she later became pregnant by. Neither teenager can be identified.

Joynes denies any sexual activity took place with Boy A, whose semen was recovered from her bedsheets and said that the relationship with Boy B only began after he had left school and she had lost her job as a teacher, so no legal offence was committed as she was no longer in a position of trust.

On Tuesday, the defendant was cross-examined by prosecutor, Joe Allman, for a second day, as he pointed out “similarities” in both cases.

He said both boys were 15 when she began taking each one into her flat and both had been communicating with her on Snapchat – where messages are deleted and not recoverable by police.

In both cases, the activity was a secret from their parents and they both flirted with her, Boy A, calling her “sexy” and Boy B, sending her a message saying, “Get your t**s out.”

“What did you reply?” Mr Allman asked.

“Laughing faces,” Joynes replied.

Mr Allman said instead of shutting such behaviour down, Joynes gave “ambiguous” responses.

“Can we remind ourselves, this is a 15-year-old boy,” Mr Allman said.

“I know, yes,” Joynes said.

Joynes maintained that sex with Boy B only began after he turned 16 and had left school and she was dismissed from her job.

Mr Allman said: “So, even though you have been having Boy B around your flat since the age of 15, sex only began within five days of being dismissed?”

“Yes,” replied Joynes.

Mr Allman continued, “You did not find him sexy until the point it became legal.”

Boy B has told the jury that while he was still at school, Joynes firstly straddled and kissed him at her flat, and then on a second occasion, they had full sex.

This was after Joynes had been arrested, suspended from her job and bailed while police investigated allegations of contact with Boy A.

Joynes said Boy B contacted her to see how she was and, as she was lonely, she liked the attention and a friendship grew.

They would go for walks and he would visit her flat, as she preferred staying in her apartment in Salford rather than with her parents on the Wirral.

Joynes said: “Speaking to my family, I had made mistakes, I had basically ruined my chances with my dream job.”

Mr Allmans said Joynes had a supportive family, a sister and a best friend back home, but instead chose the company of a 15-year-old boy in Salford.

“How on earth can that second scenario be a draw for you?” Mr Allman asked.

Joynes said: “I was stupid but I did choose that option, obviously I was breaking my bail conditions.”

The defendant claimed that her relationship with Boy B soured and he became “controlling”.

Mr Allman said: “Let’s look at the reality of the situation. You were 29, living in a flat, had a good income, drove an Audi A1. He was a child, you were an adult. He was a pupil, you were a teacher.

“He lived with his mum and dad, they were not supposed to know about your liaisons with him. Who was controlling who?”

Jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard Joynes and Boy B rowed and could not decide on whether to keep their baby or have an abortion.

Boy B says he tried to end the relationship but did not know how to, he called Joynes a “paedo” and told her to find someone her own age but claimed that she put emotional pressure on him to keep their relationship going.

Mr Allman cited a letter she wrote to Boy B, saying: “Every inch of you is perfect. You are all I ever dream about.”

Joynes said: “This was a year after he left school. I was in love with him. I was pregnant with his child.”

Joynes denies six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, including two while being a person in a position of trust.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday morning.

First official portrait of King since Coronation unveiled

The first official portrait of King Charles since his Coronation has been unveiled at Buckingham Palace.

Painted by renowned portrait artist Jonathan Yeo, the King, 75, can be seen in the abstract work wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards against a red backdrop.

The new painting measures 8ft 15in by 6ft 15in and features a butterfly landing on the Monarch’s shoulder.

It went down a storm with Queen Camilla, who is reported to have looked at the portrait and said: “Yes, you’ve got him.”

Yeo admitted that he was nervous about painting the King, joking: “If this was seen as treasonous, I could literally pay for it with my head, which would be an appropriate way for a portrait painter to die – to have their head removed!”

The King is not the first famous face the artist has painted and he has also created portraits of Sir David Attenborough and Malala Yousafzai.

While it is not known if the King has seen the completed portrait yet, he did see it in its “half-done state”.

“He was initially mildly surprised by the strong colour but otherwise he seemed to be smiling approvingly,” Yeo said.

Opening up about his artistic process, Yeo explained that “[my] interest is really in figuring out who someone is and trying to get that on a canvas.”

The choice of outfit for the portrait was an apt one and reflects the King’s position as Regimental Colonel in the Welsh Guards – a role has occupied since 1975.

The decision to include the butterfly was said to reflect the transformation King Charles has undergone since officially being crowned last May.

“In [the] history of art, the butterfly symbolises metamorphosis and rebirth,” he said.

The inclusion of the butterfly, however, was not the artist’s idea but the King’s.

Yeo recalled: “I said: ‘When schoolchildren are looking at this in 200 years and they’re looking at the who’s who of the monarchs, what clues can you give them?’

“He said: ‘What about a butterfly landing on my shoulder?’”

‘OnlyFans, drugs and 9/11 taunts’: Dublin to New York portal taken offline

It was supposed to bring two cities closer together, but the Dublin-New York portal has been closed down temporarily after reports of “inappropriate behaviour”.

Sculptures had been placed in both cities, featuring live streams that allowed residents of one place to see the other. The innovative idea allowed grandmothers to see their grandchildren, performances of Irish jigs were beamed across the Atlantic and there was even a proposal.

But in less wholesome behaviour, New Yorkers and Dubliners were seen flashing their rear ends at each other, an OnlyFans model bared her breasts and one Dubliner even taunted the Americans with images of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Another woman was escorted away by Irish police after she was seen grinding against the portal itself as others made rude gestures at each other.

In a statement, a spokesman for Dublin City Council said: “The overwhelming majority of interactions are positive.

“The Portal offers a window to other cities and is connecting people and cultures in a unique manner – what we are seeing between Dublin and NY is reflective of a wider narrative of cultural behaviour. Unfortunately, we have also been witnessing a very small minority of people engaged in inappropriate behaviour, which has been amplified through social media.

“While we cannot control all of these actions, we are implementing some technical solutions to address this and these will go live in the next 24 hours.

“We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days with our partners in New York to ensure that Portals continue to deliver a positive experience for both cities and the world.”

The Portals Organisation said: “As Portals Organisation, we do not intend to suggest people to interact with Portals in any particular way – our goal is to open a window between far away places and cultures that allows people to interact freely with one another.

“We encourage people to be respectful and from our position as observers, we see that the absolute majority of experiences is on the bright side.”

Rory McIlroy files for divorce from wife Erica after seven years

Golfer Rory McIlroy has filed for divorce from wife Erica Stoll after seven years of marriage.

McIlroy filed the divorce papers in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday, according to TMZ Sports.

In a statement to The Independent, representatives for the 35-year-old golfer confirmed that the divorce had been filed. They “stressed Rory’s desire to ensure this difficult time is as respectful and amicable as possible”, adding that he would not be making further comment.

The couple met in 2012, when Ms Stoll worked as a PGA transport official. Mr McIlroy and Ms Stoll first became romantically involved in 2014 after he called off his engagement to tennis superstar Caroline Wozniacki the day after sending out their wedding invites.

They married in 2017 and have a daughter, Poppy Kennedy McIlroy, born in 2020.

The divorce filing was made a day after Mr McIlroy, who competes for Northern Ireland, won the Wells Fargo Championship and just days ahead of the PGA Championship. He was seen practising at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday morning.

The world number two told Sky Sports News after the four-day tournament that he was feeling good ahead of the PGA Championship.

“Coming into this week, at a golf course I am comfortable with, my golf swing feels more comfortable than it has done,” he said. “Going to a venue next week where I have won, it feels like the stars are aligning a little bit. But I have a lot of golf to play and a lot of great players to try to beat.

“I am going into the next major of the year feeling really good about myself,” he said on Sunday.

The couple’s split comes amid chaos in the golfing world created by the launch of Saudi-funded tour, LIV Golf. McIlroy has been a central figure over the last two years, harshly criticizing LIV and then changing his views and pushing for some form of reunification.

He resigned from the PGA Tour board last November, then was involved in a plan to rejoin the board by replacing US golfer Webb Simpson, a seven-time PGA Tour winner.

That move was met with resistance from other player directors. Instead, McIlroy was appointed to a committee that is negotiating with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia over potentially becoming a minority investor.

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.

It’s time we gave Ukraine the tools it needs to finish the job

The presence in Kyiv of the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, at what is becoming a critical juncture in Ukraine’s war of survival against Russia, is, of course, extremely welcome.

Were they being undiplomatically honest, however, the Ukrainians would admit that they would far rather have received a bumper consignment of Patriot missile defence systems, F-16 fighters and Abrams armoured vehicles than the distinguished statesman. That way, they might have a better chance of preventing the Russians from destroying their second city, Kharkiv. Such a denouement is unlikely – but the possibility of it cannot be dismissed.

Like Mr Blinken, Joe Biden has obviously been preoccupied with the Middle East in recent months – and, while a superpower has more than sufficient political and diplomatic “bandwidth” to cope with multiple crises, the decision to send America’s most senior diplomat to Ukraine is an important visible signal that the West is not entirely distracted by the war in Gaza.

Can Labour’s new deal for workers satisfy the unions and business?

For a movement literally founded to promote the interests of working people, the Labour Party has found itself troubled by the question of workers’ rights and the power of trade unions to a remarkable degree. Today, as they will doubtless continue to do over the coming months in the run-up to the general election, the party’s leaders in parliament are negotiating with the Labour Trade Union Organisation (LTUO) in an effort to decide what Labour’s next manifesto should say about employment and industrial relations law.

The LTUO is the umbrella body that represents the 11 trade unions that are affiliated with the party and fund much of its activities. It is led by Mick Whelan, the general secretary of the train drivers’ union, Aslef.