INDEPENDENT 2024-05-30 10:06:31


Urgent hunt for girl, 9, missing for two days

Police are urgently appealing for information about a schoolgirl who has been missing for two days.

Soraya, nine, was last seen in Canning Town in London on Tuesday, and is believed to be in the company of her mother.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Police said: “Police are appealing for the public’s help to trace a young girl who has gone missing from Hemel Hempstead.

“Soraya, aged 9, was last seen in Beckton Road in Canning Town, London at around 5pm on Tuesday 28 May.

“She is usually seen wearing colourful leggings. Soraya is not believed to be alone, and likely to be in the company of her mother.

“She also has links to the Canning Town area of London.”

They added officers are growing increasingly concerned for her welfare and for anyone with information to come forward to Hertfordshire Police or to contact 101.

Kate and William’s unseen holiday snap as princess ‘turns corner’ in treatment

A Welsh bed and breakfast has shared a never-seen-before picture of the Prince and Princess of Wales taken on a getaway last year.

Duffryn Mawr Country House shared the picture featuring the royal couple with their staff to their social media.

“It’s been 1 year since we welcomed William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to Duffryn Mawr!” the social media post read.

It added: “So kind and friendly, it was a pleasure to have them stay here.”

Since their visit to the bed and breakfast, Kate has been diagnosed with cancer and has been absent from public appearances.

It has been reported that the princess has been “out and about” with family in recent days as she continues her course of preventative chemotherapy, sparking some speculation has turned to when Kate will return to official engagements.

Though some conflicting reports suggest Kate could return as early as autumn and as late as into the new year, the Palace and royal insiders have been keen to stress that no official comeback date has been planned.

However, according to Vanity Fair, the royal has recently “turned a corner” with her treatment and is feeling a lot better.

‘Most significant Beatles guitar ever to be auctioned’ sells for £1.5m

A guitar used by John Lennon is believed to have set a new world record for the highest-selling instrument sold at auction in Beatles memorabilia history – going for a cool £1.5m.

The 12-string Hootenanny acoustic, which was used in the recording of the Fab Four’s 1965 album and film Help! , was discovered in an attic, having not been seen or played for more than 50 years.

After being used by The Beatles, the guitar, made by Bavarian firm Framus, came into the posession of Scottish musician Gordon Waller, known as one half of pop duo Peter and Gordon, who later gave it to his band’s road managers.

Decades later, new owners living in the rural British countryside rediscovered the guitar in the midst of their move and put it up for auction with an estimate of £485,000 to £647,000.

The instrument was acquired via a phone bid at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York on Wednesday (29 May), as part of a two-day music icons sale by Julien’s Auctions.

“We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to have set a new world record with the sale of John Lennon’s lost hootenanny guitar,” David Goodman, chief executive of Julien’s Auctions, said in a statement.

“This guitar is not only a piece of music history but a symbol of John Lennon’s enduring legacy.

“[The sale] symbolises what we do best at Julien’s – creating opportunities for people to reconnect with the cultural touchstones that have shaped the moments that matter most throughout their lives.”

He added that the “unprecedented” sale was “a testament to the timeless appeal and reverence of The Beatles’ music and John Lennon”.

Fans can see the guitar being played in the scene of the Help! movie where the band perform “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, and was played during recording sessions for “Help!”, “It’s Only Love”, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “Girl”.

It was also used on the rhyhtm track for “Norwegian Wood”, when it was played by George Harrison.

Darren Julien, the co-founder and executive director of Julien’s Auctions, said he had travelled to the UK to verify the guitar at the house it was being stored in and also managed to salvage the original case, which had been thrown in a bin.

He told The Independent ahead of the auction of how he was able to identify the instrument: “The woodgrain of a guitar is like a fingerprint in that no two guitars are the same.

“Not only is the woodgrain a perfect match to the guitar that John and George are playing, but so is the pickguard which can be exactly photo matched.

“Because the guitar has been undisturbed for approximately five decades, it is in the exact condition in terms of aesthetics that it was when John and George played it.”

Julien noted that the Framus guitar held additional importance due to the fact that it had been played by both Lennon and Harrison, calling it “the most significant Beatles guitar to ever come up for auction”.

Mysterious plague wiping out sea urchins across world, scientists say

A mysterious sea urchin plague has spread across the world, causing the near extinction of the creature in some areas and threatening delicate coral reef ecosystems, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the scientific journal Current Biology, found populations of two sea urchin species – the long-spined Diadema setosum and the banded-spiny Echinothrix calamaris – may have been completely wiped out in some parts of the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Western Indian Ocean.

The deaths have been attributed to an egg-shaped single-celled microorganism with hairlike attachments, which causes the sea urchins to lose spines, experience tissue breakdown, and eventually die within as little as two days.

Tel Aviv University marine biologist and lead author of the study, Dr Omri Bronstein, told The Independent that witnessing the mass deaths was “heartbreaking”.

“These are the animals we know and love very much,” he added.

“When they are alive, the family of sea urchins affected by the disease are completely black with very long and sharp spines, but when they die, they lose their spines and tissues, showing their completely white and smooth skeleton.

“They almost look like bleached corals but more severe in the sense that the spines are also gone – imagine seeing a human with no hair with their inner skeleton exposed. It’s a hard sight.”

One of the most notorious sea urchin mass deaths took place in the Caribbean Sea in 1983, affecting a black-spined urchin species called Diadema antillarum . At the time, scientists were unable to identify the cause of the event because of limited technology.

Nearly four decades later, another mass death event of the same species took place in the Caribbean Sea in 2022. Initially, researchers were unable to find any traces of bacterial or viral infections in the creatures, but eventually identified the microorganism behind the disase.

Following the Caribbean die-off, the first known mass mortality of Diadema setosum, a species related to Diadema antillarum, was reported in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in 2023, with the same pathogen found to be responsible.

Now that the disease-causing microorganism has spread to multiple regions in the Middle East, researchers of the study are asking for immediate monitoring and conservation action to protect these sea urchins.

“Functionally, the sea urchin family attacked by this pathogen is already extinct in the Red Sea,” he said. “It’s a serious threat now for the entire Indo Pacific.”

He added there is a “real risk” of these urchins becoming functionally extinct all over the world: “All you need is one vessel that cruises down the Red Sea and a few weeks, and the pathogen is there.”

Dr Bronstein warned the mass deaths could result in a rapid increase in algae, which urchins normally feed on. This may in turn disrupt the health of coral reefs in affected regions.

“My worst fear is that we would have significant algal bloom, leading to coral reefs being suffocated and dying in overfished and less protected areas around the world,” he said. “Once this happens, even if the sea urchins returned, it would be too late for the reefs.”

Dr Bronstein also told The Independent the loss of coral reefs would impact people in Europe and the West just as much as it would affect those living next to these marine rainforests, disrupting political stability, food security, cancer drug research, and economies in addition to biodiversity.

He added: “We’re still trying to figure out several key questions – for example, why here, why now? How did this pathogen really travel from the Caribbean to the Red Sea?”

He is working with colleagues to complete a study that he hopes will answer these questions and manage the crisis.

French Open LIVE: Latest tennis scores and results from Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic returns to action as the French Open second round continues after an instant classic between Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka lit up a day of rain at Roland Garros.

The tournament will have to play catch-up after rain washed out the entire day’s schedule on the outside courts yesterday, but Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka headline the action on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The roof guarantees there will be action there, with Gael Monfils carrying the hopes of the home crowd as the veteran Frenchman takes on the Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the night session.

Before then, Djokovic takes on Roberto Carballes Baena as the Serbian continues his bid to win a record 25th grand slam title at Roland Garros, while Alexander Zverev returns to action after defeating 14-time champion Rafael Nadal in his opening match on Monday. Zverev, who is looking like the favourite for the men’s title, faces David Goffin.

Yesterday, the favourite for the women’s title Swiatek saved match point on her way to defeating a resurgent Osaka in a thrilling three-set battle. Swiatek, who prevailed in almost three hours, then called out the French Open crowd for making noise during points, while Carlos Alcaraz was far from his best in seeing off the Dutch qualifier Jesper de Jong.

Follow all the latest tennis scores and results from Day 5 at Roland Garros below:

5 of the best things to do with kids in Queensland

Whether it’s riding the roller coasters of the Gold Coast, meeting koalas at a wildlife sanctuary or zip lining through the canopies in the Daintree, Queensland isn’t short on things to do for families – and Travelbag can help take the hassle out with a tailor-made trip to fit. Here are some of the best things to do across the region if you’re travelling with kids.

Nicknamed the ‘theme park capital’ of Australia for good reason, the Gold Coast is something of a playground for families. Kick off your trip with a visit to Dreamworld – the largest theme park in the country, offering rides, shows and other attractions, alongside adrenaline-pumping slides at the neighbouring WhiteWater World waterpark.

Elsewhere, swing by Warner Bros Movie World for rides inspired by superheroes, Scooby Doo and other iconic characters or head to Wet ‘n’ Wild to experience Australia’s biggest water park. Set among 20 acres of tropical gardens, you’ll find slides for all ages here – including the trapdoor-style AquaLoop, which sends riders plunging down a sheer-drop freefall.

Queensland is home to more than a million hectares of rainforest, and no family visit here would be complete without a trip to the Daintree, around two hours north of Cairns. The oldest tropical rainforest on earth, you’ll find adventures for every age here – from crocodile cruises on the river to a treetop adventure through the canopies – with plenty of wildlife to spot along the way.

Closer to Cairns, you can hop on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for a birds-eye view of the lush, leafy surroundings, or take a ride on the family-friendly Kuranda Scenic Railway – a historic, 130-plus year-old train that meanders through the spectacular Barron Gorge National Park, passing mountains, waterfalls and carpets of trees on a journey to long remember.

Over on the Sunshine Coast, you’ll find more in the way of wildlife-watching at the acclaimed Australia Zoo. Founded by Steve Irwin’s family and expanded under the vision of Steve and his wife Terri, this 1,000-acre plot is home to more than 100 species – from kangaroos and koalas to crocs and quokkas – with plenty to keep kids occupied, from a ‘zoo keeper for a day’ programme to wildlife encounters with the residents. There’s also a dedicated team of conservationists on site, and an animal hospital visitors can tour for a behind-the-scenes peek.

Australia wouldn’t be Australia without its wildlife, and Queensland isn’t short on family-friendly spots to admire its koalas and kangaroos from. For an especially interactive experience, head to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can swing through the canopies on a treetop course (complete with 14 zip-lines), go behind the scenes to see the wildlife rehabilitation centre, or join a twilight tour to witness Tasmanian Devils and other night-time creatures at play.

For more in the way of family-friendly adventure, pay a visit to Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge – an architectural feat home to one of only three bridge climbs in the world (open to anyone over the age of six). You’ll be harnessed up before you climb to the summit with a guide, admiring the city skyline, Scenic Rim mountains and Moreton Bay from on high; climb at twilight for especially magical views as the lights twinkle below.

Book it: Explore the Gold Coast and Brisbane on Travelbag’s 12-day self-drive Gold Coast Family Holiday, or speak to Travelbag’s experts to find out how they can tailor-make a trip to fit.

Why is this election so divided between Britain’s old and young?

In this battle for votes, it is often said there isn’t much difference between Labour and the Conservatives, especially on the broad thrust of economic policy. But one of the more striking features of the campaign is the very different ways the two main parties are chasing the support of particular generations.

With every fresh policy announcement, the Conservatives seem to be targeting older voters while Labour is targeting the young. It exacerbates what has been a growing intergenerational divide. The latest in a long list of demographic dividing lines is Rishi Sunak’s pledge to scrap “ripoff” or “Mickey Mouse” degrees. This polarising trend carries some important implications for the future of British politics.

The Rwanda report has turned ‘stop the boats’ into Sunak’s epitaph

After two years, countless attempts to get refugees deported, endless legal wrangles and numerous pieces of legislation, the Rwanda plan remains more a theoretical construct than a functioning part of the machinery of state.

Whatever Rishi Sunak’s motivations for calling his surprise general election, the suspicion must be that even he – who has inexplicably made it the flagship policy of his administration – didn’t expect the flights to actually take off for Kigali this summer.

For Mr Sunak, the promise of the Rwanda plan is more useful to him than further evidence of its essential redundancy. Rather than risk another run-in with the European Court of Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court on whether the scheme is lawful and constitutional, he has instead opted to pretend that the “deterrent effect” is already making itself felt.