INDEPENDENT 2024-05-17 10:03:59


Residents in ‘dreadful state’ after water contaminated with parasites

A husband says his wife collapsed after drinking water feared to be contaminated with a parasite, as residents in the affected area are warned to boil their mains supplies for at least another week.

Around 16,000 households and businesses in the Brixham area of Devon have been told not to drink their tap water until further notices after dozens fell ill with diarrhoea or vomiting.

The UK Health Security Agency confirmed there had been 22 cases of cryptosporidium in the area, forcing a primary school to shut and local authorities to issue emergency supplies of bottled water.

South West Water (SWW) apologised for initially offering just £15 compensation to those affected.

Cryptosporidium is a diarrhoea and vomiting illness that can be caught by drinking contaminated water. It can also be spread through animal and human contact.

Symptoms, including stomach pains and fever, can last between two and three weeks, with most healthy people recovering fully.

Chaz Attwood told Sky News his wife had been ill for 16 days after drinking the contaminated water.

“My wife has been drinking water to keep hydrated because she’s diabetic and the insulin that she’s had to have has doubled, and basically that affected her to start with,” he said.

“So that’s made her worse. We’re in a dreadful state. She was so weak I even phoned 999, and told the guy what was happening because she’d collapsed.”

Eden Park Primary School in Brixham said it would close on Thursday after failing to receive assurances or bottled water from South West Water.

In a statement, South West Water announced they would increase the compensation to £100 “to say sorry for the stress and worry the situation has caused”.

Laura Flowerdew, South West Water’s chief customer and digital officer, also said, “We sincerely apologise for the impact this is having.”

The company also said it is still working with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and others “to urgently investigate how cryptosporidium is getting into its network”.

Brixham, which has a population of around 17,000 people, is a busy fishing harbour as well as popular holiday hotspot.

On the town’s social media pages, many residents have been sharing concerns after suffering symptoms of the disease.

Anthony Mangnall, MP for Totnes, a constituency which includes Brixham, said he was aware of concerns over the quality of drinking water in the town.

He said: “SWW believe they have located the source of the issue and initiated a fix but are continuing their investigations and will be testing their network to ensure water is safe.

“The boil water notice is therefore likely to be in place for at least a further six or seven days, with bottled water available throughout this period.

“Vulnerable customers and those on the Priority Services Register will continue to receive regular deliveries of bottled water, while those who are unable to access bottled water stations will be able to call SWW to receive a delivery.

“I have also been assured that all schools, care homes and non-household vulnerable customers have received deliveries of water bottles.”

Two bottled water stations have been set up at Broadsands Car Park in Paignton, and Fresh Water Quarry Public Car Park in Brixham.

Mr Mangnall added: “I am very concerned about SWW’s response to this situation, as they have been slow to act and communication with customers has been very poor.

“This has certainly undermined trust in our water network and I will certainly keep working with colleagues at Defra to ensure SWW are held to account over this issue.”

The list of symptoms of the waterborne disease provided by the UKHSA includes watery diarrhoea, stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss and fever.

It is most common in young children aged between one and five years, the agency said.

Trump in Florida for son’s graduation after Michael Cohen grilled

Donald Trump will be in Florida on Friday for the high school graduation of his teenage son Barron Trump before jetting out for a fundraising dinner in Minnesota.

The Republican presidential candidate’s hush money trial wrapped up for the week on Thursday after a day of heated cross-examination in which key witness Michael Cohen was grilled by defense attorney Todd Blanche.

The former “fixer” for the defendant spent the entire day on the stand in Judge Juan Merchan’s Manhattan courtroom, with much of the questioning revolving around previous occasions in which he had lied under oath.

Mr Blanche zeroed in on whether Cohen, who received tens of thousands of calls per year, could specifically remember what was discussed in a 90-second call in 2016.

The witness remained calm and steadfast during his testimony, walking the jury through the strategy allegedly employed by Mr Trump’s inner circle to delay making the $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to buy her silence about the sexual encounter she claims he had with the politician in July 2006.

Judge Merchan has now asked both sides to prepare for closing arguments on Tuesday.

Alex Woodward is covering the trial from Manhattan Criminal Court.

BBC responds as Giovanni Pernice ‘quits’ Strictly Come Dancing

The BBC has addressed claims that Giovanni Pernice will not be returning to Strictly Come Dancing following alleged behind-the-scenes tensions with his celebrity partners.

Pernice’s future on the show has been in question ever since Sherlock star Amanda Abbington requested “tense footage” of her rehearsals with the pro after she unexpectedly quit the show in 2023.

While the 33-year-old has brushed off any claims of wrongdoing, it was claimed earlier this year that the Italian dancer had caused difficulties with two other former celebrity partners during their time on the show.

Reports alleged that Good Morning Britain presenter Ranvir Singh and former Love Island host Laura Whitmore, who previously said she was “uncomfortable” with Pernice, had a “tearful summit” with Abbington about their respective “difficult experiences” with the dancer, “who is well known to be intense during training”.

On Thursday (16 May), it was reported by The Sun that Pernice has officially quit the show. An internal memo listing this year’s professional dancers has allegedly been circulated at the BBC without the Italian performer’s name on it.

A source told the publication: “He wants to focus on other TV projects, and feels he’s achieved all he can on Strictly, having won the trophy back in 2021 and reaching the final an unprecedented four times.”

Upon request for comment, the corporation told The Independent: “The Professional Dancers for Strictly Come Dancing 2024 will be announced in due course.”

The Independent has contacted Giovanni Pernice for comment.

The BBC had been “very keen” to keep Pernice, who has been a part of the show since joining in 2015. Last month, it had been reported that his future on the programme was assured, although the BBC neither confirmed nor denied the news. The corporation appeared to be in “tense talks” with the dancer in a bid to keep him.

Amid the ongoing controversy, Pernice has been supported by fans and by one of his former celebrity Strictly partners, Debbie McGee. Despite the criticism of the dancer’s training methods, no formal complaint appears to have been filed with the BBC.

Professional dancers are typically confirmed a month before the show begins in September, with the programme line-up announced in August.

Speaking on The Mirror’s Invite Only podcast, Pernice said: “It was a shame that she had to leave for medical reasons because I think, in my opinion, we could have gone all the way.”

Pernice said his reputation as a “perfectionist” comes from “caring” about the celebrity he’s partnered with, adding: “In every single part of the world, if [you’re] a professional dancer, we have to get these people on the Saturday night looking the best as they can.”

MP asks Netflix to substantiate Baby Reindeer’s ‘true story’ claim

An MP has written to Netflix to ask them to prove that Baby Reindeer was based on a true story after the ‘real’ Martha rebutted many of the claims made in the smash-hit series.

Pressure is growing on the streaming service to justify their hit series – which follows a struggling comic as he is relentlessly harassed and stalked by a woman for more than four years – after Piers Morgan’s interview with Fiona Harvey.

Scottish MP John Nicolson has now written to Netflix to substantiate what it told a Parliamentary committee last week in regards to the accuracy of the TV show.

Netflix executive Benjamin King told the Culture Media and Sport Committee: “obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker”.

However, Mr Nicolson said it is clear this evidence is “disputed” and said he would be writing to the company to “ask them to substantiate the claim they made”.

Scottish lawyer Ms Harvey – who claims she is the ‘real’ Martha – appeared on Piers Morgan’s Uncensored last week to “set the record straight”.

During the interview, which has amassed over 10 million views, Ms Harvey denied that she had any criminal convictions during her interview and said the Netflix show’s suggestion that she did was “defamatory”.

She has threatened to sue Netflix after fans on the show identified her by matching social media posts featured in the show with her own.

In the series, which has been watched by 65 million people and makes the statement ‘this is a true story’, it is suggested that stalker ‘Martha’ goes to prison.

However, there has been little evidence found to prove this.

Mr Nicolson told the BBC: “the charge made – of a conviction – is very important. Journalists can find no evidence to back up the Netflix claim.”

Piers Morgan also alluded to the lack of evidence when justifying his controversial interview with Ms Harvey.

He told the BBC the true story claim was “serious failure by Netflix” as “nobody’s found any evidence whatsoever that she has any criminal record, let alone for anything to do with Richard Gadd.”

Explaining why he invited her on the show he ITV’s Lorraine : “She has a right to have her say and was happy to come on the show, I tried to be very fair and balanced and tried to get to the truth. I think she lied in the interview but is she a convicted stalker?

“The key point is, if she isn’t, then the Netflix claim at the start of every episode saying ‘this is a true story’ becomes problematic.”

Morgan continued: “Have they defamed her? If you accuse someone of being a convicted stalker and they are not, that is a pretty serious claim to make.”

Morgan’s interview was met with consternation when the broadcaster announced the “world exclusive” on Wednesday May 8.

Upon announcing the interview in a social media post, the replies section was flooded with messages from users calling the interview “irresponsible” and “unethical”.

Since the interview, Ms Harvey has said she felt “used” by Morgan, who she said placed “a heavy emphasis” on the thousands of emails she allegedly sent Gadd.

The 58-year-old has also demanded one million pounds from the Uncensored host after she claimed she was only paid £250 for the appearance.

Responding to Ms Harvey’s request for one million pounds and her feelings of being taken advantage of, Morgan insisted that they paid her fairly.

The Independent has contacted Netflix for a comment.

Stephen Fry among stars calling for Kevin Spacey’s Hollywood return

Sharon Stone, Stephen Fry and Liam Neeson are among the stars to have called for Kevin Spacey to be allowed to resume his career as an actor.

The actors shared statements of support with The Telegraph in the wake of the Channel 4 documentary Spacey Unmasked, which aired fresh allegations about the American Beauty star.

Spacey was last year acquitted of a number of sexual offences alleged by four men in the UK to have taken place between 2001 and 2013.

Each of Spacey’s accusers gave evidence in the trial, describing him as a “vile sexual predator”, “slippery” and “atrocious, despicable, disgusting”.

In response, the two-time Oscar-winner described the allegations against him as “madness” and a “stab in the back”.

The jury acquitted Spacey of all charges.

Basic Instinct star Stone told The Telegraph: “I can’t wait to see Kevin back at work. He is a genius. He is so elegant and fun, generous to a fault and knows more about our craft than most of us ever will.”

Neeson told the newspaper: “I was deeply saddened to learn of these accusations against him. Kevin is a good man and a man of character. He’s sensitive, articulate and non-judgmental, with a terrific sense of humour. He is also one of our finest artists in the theatre and on camera. Personally speaking, our industry needs him and misses him greatly.”

Fry, meanwhile, admitted that Spacey had been “both ‘clumsy’ and ‘inappropriate’ on many occasions” but that to “bracket him with the likes of Harvey Weinstein” and “to continue to harass and hound him, to devote a whole documentary to accusations that simply do not add up to crimes … how can that be considered proportionate and justified?”

The former QI host added: “Surely it is wrong to continue to batter a reputation on the strength of assertion and rhetoric rather than evidence and proof? Unless I’m missing something I think he has paid the price.”

The White Lotus star F Murray Abraham also said he “vouched for” Spacey “unequivocally” and lambasted his critics for chastising “a man who has publicly accepted his responsibility for certain behaviour, unlike so many others”.

Spacey was one of the most recognised faces in Hollywood when allegations of sexual misconduct were first made in 2017, leading streaming giant Netflix to cut ties with the then-star of House of Cards.

The actor Anthony Rapp was the first to accuse the Hollywood A-lister of misconduct, telling BuzzFeed News that Spacey tried “to seduce” him when he was just 14. In 2022, a New York jury dismissed Rapp’s claims of sexual abuse.

Channel 4’s recent documentary interviewed 10 men not involved in the 2023 criminal trial.

Spacey described the claims as “anonymised and non-specific”, before writing off the programme as “a dying network’s one-sided ‘documentary’ about me in their desperate attempt for ratings”.

He added: “Each time I have been given the time and a proper forum to defend myself, the allegations have failed under scrutiny and I have been exonerated.”

Channel 4 stood by its documentary, broadcast over two nights last week, saying in a statement: “Spacey Unmasked is an important film exploring the balance of power and inappropriate behaviour in a work environment, aiming to give a voice to those who have previously been unable to speak out.”

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.

Winning over big business is a major milestone for Starmer

Rumours swept Westminster in advance of Sir Keir Starmer’s event in Essex about another defector. Could it be Stephen Metcalfe, the MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, an unusually loyal Conservative backbencher? Or Dame Priti Patel, the MP for another Essex seat? Or Georgia Harrison, the Love Island star and women’s rights campaigner, who comes from Essex?

It was none of those – but Labour did win a surprise endorsement, delivered by video link, that was possibly more significant. Seb James, the managing director of Boots, appeared on a screen at the launch of Labour’s election pledge card, to praise Sir Keir’s emphasis on economic growth that will “put more money in people’s pockets”.

This is important symbolically, not least because James is an old friend of David Cameron’s (the pair were at Eton together and were fellow members of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University). But it is also a defection of substance. Boots is a high-street brand that has to be careful about embroiling itself in politics. It speaks volumes about the steadiness, competence and respectability of Sir Keir and his shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, that the chief executive of such a well-known chain is happy to associate himself with them.

What does Russia and China’s anti-US alliance mean in practice?

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Xi Jinping, his Chinese opposite number and host, agreed on Thursday to deepen their “strategic partnership” while accusing the United States of trying to “violate the strategic balance” in world affairs.

They issued a 7,000-word joint statement full of coded references to Russian and Chinese leadership of the world against attempts by the US to assert its hegemony over regions of the world that it ought to stay out of.

The document talks about “the deepening of the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation entering a new era”, and says that Russia and China “are determined to defend their legitimate rights and interests, resist any attempts to hinder the normal development of bilateral ties, interfere in the internal affairs of the two states, and limit the economic, technological or foreign policy potential of Russia and China”.