The Telegraph 2024-07-11 12:17:27

Crossbow attacker kills BBC racing commentator’s family

The wife and two youngest daughters of John Hunt, a BBC racing commentator, have been killed in a crossbow attack at their home…

Neighbours heard piercing scream before ‘absolute chaos’ broke out in suburban cul-de-sac

The first indication that something truly awful had happened in Ashlyn Close came when a scream pierced the still suburban surroundings.

It echoed across the quiet cul-de-sac, just as people were starting to come home from work, leading neighbours to rush towards the modern detached house from where the chilling cry had emerged.

At 7pm, John Hunt, the BBC Five Live racing commentator, had returned home from a day’s working at Lingfield racecourse to make an unimaginable discovery.

In the house, his wife Carol, 61, and daughters Hannah, 28, and Louise, 25, had all been critically injured after being violently attacked.

The three women died at the scene shortly after paramedics arrived.

A 46-year-old neighbour, who did not wish to share their name but works in the media, recalled the moment.

“It was between 6.30pm and 7pm last night and it literally just sounded like kids, somebody, screaming, and then it was more shrill and I was like, ‘that’s definitely a woman screaming’, and within 15 minutes, it was absolute chaos,” they said.

“We had armed police running down, screaming ‘stay in your house’…. they shut us off and basically put us into lockdown.”

The resident said multiple ambulances, helicopters and “at least 16 police cars” arrived at the scene at high speed, with armed police going from house to house to question locals, requesting doorbell camera footage and urging them to stay indoors.

Sarah Fernandez, 52, arrived at home just after 7.30pm to find Ashlyn Close swarming with armed police.

She said: “I was the last car allowed into the street before the police closed off access. There were about 15 armed police vehicles parked up. It’s really frightening. We’ve never had anything like this before here.”

On Wednesday morning, police issued the name of a man they wanted to speak to in connection with the grisly discovery.

Officers said the man in question, Kyle Clifford, a 26-year-old former serviceman from Enfield, north London, was armed and dangerous.

Clifford was believed to be carrying a crossbow but officers said other weapons may also have been used.

Armed police officers and specialist search teams were “responding at pace”, police said.

At a press conference held at 12.30pm at Hertfordshire Police HQ in Hatfield, Chief Superintendent Jon Simpson, addressed Clifford personally, urging him to hand himself in.

Addressing the assembled TV cameras he said: “Kyle, if you’re seeing or hearing this, please make contact with the police.”

As the police manhunt spread across Hertfordshire and north London, with officers focusing their searches on properties in Enfield, details began to emerge that threw a potentially troubling light on one of Louise Hunt’s recent relationships.

A near neighbour of the Hunts said Louise had been left so upset by a recent break-up with her boyfriend she had crashed her car into a telegraph pole outside the family home.

He suggested that Louise had been in a relationship with the man now wanted in connection with the murders of the three women and that the relationship had ended badly.

In a telling gesture, just days before the incident, Louise had shared a tweet in which the author praised “women who leave” for having the “strength” to choose themselves.

It stated: “I admire women who leave. IDGAF if you left after the 1st time or the 12th time I admire that s—! IDGAF if ppl were calling you dümb for 11 years but in the 12th year you decided you was done.

“It takes a lot of strength to break a tie. It takes a lot of self-love to choose yourself.”

Neighbour Glyn Nicholas, 77, said: “Louise split up with her boyfriend a few days ago and she crashed her car into a telegraph pole because she was so upset coming home. She’s a lovely, caring girl. She runs a dog grooming business in Bushey.

“Her sister Hannah and mother Carol are lovely as well. It’s all so sad. Louise was a sweet, lovely girl. They all were. This is so sad for everyone,” he said. “And to think I only heard John’s voice on the radio yesterday morning, commentating from Lingfield, a few hours before all this happened.”


Local councillor Lawrence Brass, who lives close by the scene, echoed the shock felt by those living nearby. He said: “The worst thing that’s ever happened in this part of Bushey is a bit of illegal fly tipping and then suddenly we get three murders and we’re all a bit shellshocked.

“This is a very traditional, quiet, leafy suburb, we don’t get this sort of thing in this area and I want residents to know that the council will be ensuring that the liaison team is down here and doing everything they can to comfort them and make sure that they are reassured that everything is being done.

“But we’re worried that this guy is still floating around somewhere.”

Police were worried too – and as the hours ticked by it became increasingly clear that a peaceful suburb of Enfield was the focus of their manhunt.

Footage emerged from earlier in the day of armed officers raiding a house close to Gordon Hill railway station, the last address of Clifford’s older brother Bradley, who is currently serving a life sentence for murder.

Helicopters buzzed overhead and larger and larger numbers of officers could be seen patrolling the streets.

A “coordinated search” was being undertaken, police said, with a car of possible interest found.

At least one primary school, St Michael’s, went into a form of lockdown, according to reports.

As the day wore on they appeared to be increasingly interested in the Hilly Fields Park area, a bucolic haven just to the north of the residential area popular with dog walkers.

Officers could be seen teaming up with the London Fire Brigade to use a drone to search the area.

All at once, the search for the former soldier seemed to narrow – activity was seen in and around Lavender Hill cemetery on the edge of the park.

Rae Cresswell, 26, a local resident who filmed police sweeping into the graveyard, said: “I saw about 10 officers coming in, it was around 3pm I’d say.

“I was quite worried because they were armed and there were dogs with them.”

About an hour later, police abruptly started moving back the members of the public and press who had gathered near the cemetery.

Then aerial footage emerged appearing to show a person being stretchered through the graveyard, accompanied by multiple armed officers.

Police announced that the suspect had been found alive but injured. No shots had been fired and police said he was receiving medical treatment. No one else is being sought in connection with the case.

Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit said: “This continues to be an incredibly difficult time for the victims’ family and we would ask that their privacy is respected as they come to terms with what has happened.

“This investigation is moving at pace and formal identification of the victims is yet to take place.”

She added: “We have had an overwhelming number of calls and would like to express our gratitude to the members of the public who have contacted us. We would still appeal for anyone with information or footage to please contact police directly and refrain from commenting on social media as this could affect the progress of the case. 

“We have set up an information portal where people can submit any information, photos or video footage which they feel could assist us with our investigation.

“This incident will of course be of concern to local residents. Additional local officers will be in the area today so please do speak to them if you need to.”

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Biden tells Starmer ‘football’s coming home’ because of him in White House meeting

Joe Biden told Sir Keir Starmer that “football’s coming home” because of him after England reached the final of the Euros.

The US president congratulated the Prime Minister on the 2-1 semi-final victory over the Netherlands as he welcomed him to the White House for their first face-to-face talks.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office shortly before 6pm local time (11pm BST), the pair were asked: “Is football coming home?”

“It looks like it,” Sir Keir answered, to which Mr Biden added: “It’s all because of the Prime Minister.”

The Labour leader replied: “Not lost a game under the Labour Government.”

The president later hailed Britain as the “knot” binding Nato together after Sir Keir congratulated him on hosting the alliance’s 75th anniversary summit.

“I kind of see you guys as the knot tying the transatlantic alliance together,” Mr Biden said.

“The closer you are with Europe, the more you’re engaged, because we know where you are, we know where we are.”

Sir Keir replied: “I think that’s absolutely right. Now we go into a cup final on Sunday, on top of all that.”

The Prime Minister earlier met a host of Nato leaders, including Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, as they gathered in Washington DC.

Sir Keir also met Volodymyr Zelensky, who thanked him for approving the use of British-donated Storm Shadow missiles in strikes on Russia.

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End your run now, George Clooney tells Biden as he hosts Nato leaders

George Clooney called on Joe Biden to end his election campaign as the US president welcomed world leaders to a Nato summit in Washington DC on Wednesday.

The Hollywood star, who is a major Democratic donor and described himself as a friend of the president, said Mr Biden was no longer “the same man” voters saw in 2010, nor the candidate who stood for office in 2020.

Calling for the Democratic Party to “figure it out” at its national convention next month, he added: “We are not going to win in November with this president.”

The 81-year-old president is facing growing pressure from figures in his own party to make way for a younger nominee before November’s presidential election, following his disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump on June 27.

At least eight House Democrats have openly called on Mr Biden to not seek re-election, but Peter Welch became the first in the Senate to explicitly do so on Wednesday.

“For the good of the country, I’m calling on President Biden to withdraw from the race,” the Vermont senator said in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

Clooney and Mr Welch’s remarks came as Mr Biden welcomed world leaders to Washington for the annual Nato summit, and met Sir Keir Starmer for the first time.

Both leaders will deliver press conferences on Thursday, with the spotlight particularly focused on Mr Biden after his recent string of gaffes.

Nancy Pelosi, the former House Speaker and Democratic grandee, said on Wednesday that she would support whatever decision Mr Biden makes on his campaign, ignoring his public insistence that he will fight on.

“It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run,” she said. “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision.”

Mr Biden appeared to have silenced doubters within his own party this week with a forceful letter to his colleagues and an interview with ABC in which he said only the “Lord Almighty” could convince him to stand down.

But when Clooney became the latest high-profile Democrat to use his platform to urge Mr Biden to reconsider his campaign, it added to concerns about his health on Capitol Hill.

“The one battle he cannot win is the fight against time,” Clooney said in an article for The New York Times.

“None of us can. It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at [a] fund-raiser was not the Joe “big f—ing deal” Biden of 2010.

“He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

In 2010, Mr Biden was caught on a hot microphone telling Barack Obama that his landmark health legislation was a “big f—ing deal.

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, met congressmen on Wednesday and said he would pass their concerns to the president.

‘Terrifying threat of a Trump presidency’

Some Democrats are worried that Mr Biden will not only lose the presidency, but make Democrats in congressional races more unpopular. 

They have said that the presidency and both branches of Congress could fall to Trump, making it more difficult for Democrats to oppose his policies. 

Ritchie Torres, a Democrat representative in New York, said that Democrats needed to consider the “down-ballot effect of whomever we nominate”. 

“Blindness is not bliss,” he said, “amid the terrifying threat of a Trump presidency.”

Mr Biden’s presence on the ballot could turn New York, a previous safe haven for Democrats, into a “battleground” state, data shows.

An analysis by Cook Political Report, an election forecaster, suggested Mr Biden is likely to lose in the swing states of Nevada, Arizona and Georgia.

Mr Pelosi, 84, said the critics should wait until after the Nato summit before making any decisions about going public with demands for him to stand down.

So far, seven Democrats have issued public statements, with more speaking to journalists about their concerns behind the scenes.

Mr Clooney said that “every senator and congress member and governor that I’ve spoken with in private” believed the Biden campaign was headed for disaster.

There is no mechanism for Mr Biden to be deposed by his party, and any change in nomination would be made under a process designed by him.

Sir Keir flew into the Nato summit on Tuesday night after being sworn in as an MP in Parliament and met Mr Biden in the White House on Wednesday.

Asked what he wanted to get out of the meeting, he said he hoped to build on “a very special relationship we have between the UK and the US”.

“We make a unique contribution in Europe to Nato and therefore it’s a very good opportunity for me to talk to the President about how we take forward the important work at this summit,” he said.

He also suggested that Mr Biden was not too old for the job, arguing that his own government’s pledge to force peers to retire at 80 was not a reflection on the capabilities of any leader.

“We’ve got 800-plus members of the House of Lords, it’s simply too big. We need to reduce it,” he said.

“So it doesn’t reflect on how other elected representatives are chosen in other countries, it’s to do with the size of the House of Lords.”

Mr Biden’s Nato press conference on Thursday will be closely watched by critics for gaffes that will spur on their attempts to remove him.

His first event of the summit on Tuesday night appeared to pass without a hitch, and supporters hope that the scripted appearance will enable him to avoid any public mistakes.

Joe Biden’s health: Just how fit is the president?

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Concerns about his age come as Nato members discussed whether Ukraine should be allowed to use long-range missiles to strike military targets inside Russia.

Sir Keir said the UK government would continue to allow its weapons to be used by Kyiv in cross-border attacks, but stopped short of confirming whether that included Britain’s air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

He said the weapons would “obviously be used in accordance with international humanitarian law”.

The chief of defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, had previously said the weapon could only be used inside “Crimea and mainland Ukraine”.

Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, separately said that missile-equipped F-16 fighter jets would be delivered to Ukraine imminently, and would “be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer”.

Ruben Brekelmans, the Dutch defence minister, said the discussions were focused on whether Kyiv can use long-range missiles to strike Russian aircraft before they mount attacks on Ukrainian territory.

He told The Telegraph the discussions were “about the range that those munitions can be used in Russia”.

Nato members will on Thursday release a communique setting out their joint approach to Ukraine for the next year.

The US and Germany have successfully blocked an attempt by some Eastern European countries to set out a timeline for Ukraine joining the alliance, amid concerns that could draw the West into direct conflict with Russia.

Instead, members will offer more military hardware and a “well-lit bridge” to membership that gives more detail on the criteria for membership than at last year’s summit in Lithuania.

In a nod to the ongoing conflict, Russia served “chicken kievs” at a dinner to celebrate assuming the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on July 1.

The menu used the Russian spelling of Kyiv’s name, which is also commonly used for the dish.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, said: “The moral decay of Russian diplomacy is glaring.”

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Queen joins celebrities in Wimbledon’s Royal Box for women’s quarter-final

The Queen has arrived at Wimbledon to watch Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina face off against Russian-born Elena Rybakina in the tournament’s quarter-final.

Her Majesty was joined by an array of celebrities in the Royal Box including actors Keira Knightley, David Suchet, Richard E Grant and ABBA guitarist Björn Ulvaeys.

Other dignitaries included The Archbishop of Canterbury, Fergal Sharkey, the former punk frontman turned environmental campaigner, and Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England.

The Queen, wearing a cream linen giraffe dress by designer Anna Valentine, was seen shaking hands with ball boys and ball girls as she passed through the gates of SW19.

She later met former British tennis players Jamie Delgado and Laura Robson before taking her seat in the Royal Box.
The long shadow of Russia’s war with Ukraine was cast over Centre Court on Wednesday afternoon as Svitolina, 29, faced off against Rybakina, the world number four.

Only two days before, Svitolina had called for the All England Club to ban Russian players from competing after she broke down on court over the bombing of a children’s hospital in Kyiv.

Rybakina, 25, from Moscow, had represented Russia before switching to Kazakhstan in 2018 when she was offered funding and training by the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (KTF) to support her career.

Svitolina, who has worn a specially approved black ribbon on her chest during her tournament run in solidarity with those killed in Ukraine, said earlier she would shake her opponent’s hand after the match, saying: “She changed her nationality, so it means she doesn’t want to represent her original country, so it works,” she said.

The late Queen had been an infrequent visitor to Wimbledon, making only four visits during her 70-year-long rule.
First in 1957, then 1962, 1977 and finally in 2010 when she watched Andy Murray triumph over Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.

Royal biographer Brian Hoey, explaining the infrequent number of visits in his book Royalty Revealed: A Majestic Miscellany, wrote: “Tennis is not on the list of royal favourite sports.”

The Duchess of Gloucester has been earmarked as a likely candidate to present the Wimbledon trophies this weekend if the Princess of Wales is unavailable, as she continues her recovery from cancer treatment.

Debbie Jevans, chair of the All England Club said they would give the Princess “as much flexibility as possible” in determining whether she is able to fulfil her ceremonial duties as Club Patron on finals weekend, including leaving a decision until the morning of the women’s final on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic, the seven-time Wimbledon champion, has sailed through to the semi-finals after his opponent, “honorary Brit” Alex De Minaur crashed out of the tournament with a hip injury.

Only an hour and half before they were to meet on Centre Court, Australia’s De Minaur, the world number nine, announced his withdrawal at a press conference.

A despondent De Minaur said it would have been “disrespectful” not to face Djokovic while not “100 per cent” ready.
De Minaur disclosed he had felt a “loud crack” while sliding to win a match point against France’s Arthur Fils on Tuesday.

He said: “It is devastating, no way to beat around the bush, you know… I haven’t really been able to enjoy what I have achieved this week, I knew as soon as I felt that ‘pop’ I knew something bad had happened.”

Asked when he might return to the court, he replied: “If I’m completely honest, I don’t know, they haven’t been able to tell me a definite recovery plan because this is such a unique injury, it is based on pain a little, right now it can be anywhere from three to six weeks it just depends on how quickly my body heals.”

De Minaur, 25, is seen as much a representative for the UK, as he is for Australia, over his romance with Katie Boulter, the British No1.

Boulter, 27, was knocked out this year by rival British player Harriet Dart, 27, in the second round of the tournament.

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Girl, six, who died after suspected bug outbreak at school was ‘special to everyone’

The grandmother of a six-year-old girl who died amid a suspected infectious bug outbreak at a primary school says the child was “special to everyone”.

Bethany-Rose Alice Riley was sent home from Millstead Primary School in the Everton area of Liverpool on June 26 and died later that day, her family said.

Another child, believed to be five and in the same class, also died after being sent home from the special needs school.

Although the cause of the deaths is not yet known, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said they were “unlikely” to be due to giardia, as has been suggested locally.

Bethany’s family said they are still waiting for answers and suggested that an illness contracted from the school may be the cause of her death.

Susan Paton, her grandmother, told The Telegraph: “She was so special to everyone. She wasn’t the size of a normal six-year-old, she couldn’t do anything for herself.

“She’s had two post-mortems and it’s come back it’s not natural causes that she’s died of. It’s definitely something that’s triggered that, that’s killed her off.

“She means the world to me. She’s not the first grandchild I’ve lost. I’ve lost two others and I lost a son as well so it’s quite heartbreaking.

“Nobody’s coping with it. Nobody’s coping with it whatsoever because it’s so sudden.”

She added: “Bethany passed the same day as she was sent home from school. It’s not the first time she’s been sent home from school.”

Asked if she thought an infectious bug may be the cause of her death, she said: “I do”.

Parasites not normally serious risk to health

Giardiasis, an infection of the digestive system, is caused by tiny parasites known as giardia lamblia.

The infection can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, stomach cramps, flatulence and bloating, but is generally not a serious risk to health and can be treated easily with antibiotics.

It can be spread by direct contact with infected people or animals, or from swallowing contaminated water, food or drinks.

Any parents concerned that they or their child are displaying symptoms are urged to contact health specialists.

In a moving tribute to her daughter, Bethany’s mother, Rebecca Melling, said her life had shattered into “a million pieces” .

Calling her daughter “my beautiful little sass queen”, Ms Melling wrote on Facebook: “I had the best six years full of love … I hope you are with the angels playing, laughing. I love you so much, my beautiful little queen. Sleep tight, save a space for me.”

Millstead Primary School said its community was “devastated” by the deaths, and that the two pupils had “filled their classes with joy”.

Michelle Beard, the head teacher, said: “We have sent our sincerest condolences to both of their families. Both children filled their classes with joy during their time with us, and they will forever be in our hearts.

“We are working closely with our families, staff and pupils to support them as we come to terms with this terribly sad news.”

The Liverpool Echo first reported on a suspected giardia outbreak at Millstead last month, with public health measures put in place to try to tackle the number of infections linked to the school, which caters for children with special educational needs.

Emma Savage, a consultant in health protection for Cheshire and Merseyside health protection team, said: “UKHSA is aware of the sad deaths of two children who attend Millstead Primary School, and our thoughts are with the family, friends and school community.

“The deaths are unlikely to be due to giardia. Giardia usually causes a self-limiting gastrointestinal illness, which can spread easily in households and school settings.

“Investigations are ongoing, and we have provided information and advice to the school and parents. Public health measures have been put in place to help prevent further cases.”

Millstead Primary School declined to comment when contacted by The Telegraph.

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‘I very much exist’ says Reform candidate after internet sleuths claim she is fake

The Reform UK candidate for Glasgow North has been forced to insist “I do indeed exist” after internet sleuths claimed she was fake.

A social media conspiracy sprang up about Helen Burns after voters could find no social media presence linking her to Reform and she failed to appear on the election trail or at the count.

Some claimed that she was a fake name on the ballot paper.

Speaking from her home in the East Midlands, Mrs Burns admitted to The Telegraph that she was a “paper candidate” who did not campaign but said she wanted to stand in Scotland because it holds a “special place in my heart”.

Maybe voters were able to sense her love for the country as she came fourth in the seat, 280 miles away from her home in Coalville, getting more than 1,600 votes.

Not the only one accused of being fake

She is one of a number who has been accused of being a “ghost candidates” for Nigel Farage’s party after their pages on the party website contained no photographs, generic contact details, they had no obvious social media presence and they were not seen on the election trail.

Reform UK says that it is “absurd” to suggest that any of the 609 candidates it put up for last week’s election were not real.

Earlier this week, Mark Matlock, the party’s unsuccessful nominee in Clapham and Brixton Hill, south-west London, released a video of himself dancing in order to silence conspiracy theories that he was AI generated.

When traced by this newspaper to her detached new-build home in Leicestershire, Mrs Burns was equally defiant.

A PA for Reform whose husband has Scottish roots, Mrs Burns told The Telegraph: “Hello, I am here and I do exist. I am a real person. All the people who stood for our party are really people.”

In a statement to her doubters, she added: “You may have seen the fake news spread by media outlets over the past few days, claiming I don’t exist. I do, indeed very much exist.”

She said that she stood for Reform as she believed in Nigel Farage and his vision for the county.

“I stood for a constituency in Scotland as the country holds a very special place in my heart,” she explained. “We have travelled to many areas in Scotland over the past 20 years, and indeed got married in a small hunting lodge near Aviemore in 2019. This was featured in Scottish Wedding Magazine.

“I believe in Britain, and I believe Britain needs reform.”

‘Nigel in drag?’

The search for Mrs Burns began after internet sleuths were unable to find any information about her online or a social media presence linking her to Reform UK.

Users asked whether Mr Farage’s party had a “random Scottish name generator” to create fake individuals to put on the ballot paper, an accusation that would have amounted to electoral fraud.

As they were still unable to locate the candidate, she was given an almost mythical status, with one user saying: “Helen Burns is the friends we made along the way.”

Scottish comedian Kim Blythe made a series of videos about her search for Mrs Burns, suggesting that she could be “Nigel in drag” or the “masked singer”.

In a third video, Ms Blythe travelled to London, joking that the trip was a mission to locate the candidate. She filmed herself calling out “Helen” in Westminster and went to Reform UK’s nearby address, only to discover that it was a “virtual office”.

Even Mrs Burns’ rivals for the Glasgow North seat joined in the hunt.

Iris Duane, who stood for the Greens, joked that “she was in me all along” when footage emerged of the camera panning to focus on her when Mrs Burns’ share of the vote was announced at the Glasgow Emirates Arena.

Ms Blythe said that this proved that “we are all Helen”.

Daniel O’Malley, the Liberal Democrat candidate, used a Spartacus reference and announced: “I’m Helen Burns”.

“I would like to address the Helen Burns in the room …. or lack thereof. No she was not at the count or any of the hustings, even the one chaired by John Curtice,” Mr O’Malley told social media users.

“Questions need to be asked about the legitimacy of [Reform UK]. This is about trust in our election process.”

He neglected to mention the fact that even in the face of her absence he had won fewer votes than Mrs Burns – 1,142 to her 1,655.

‘Why would we have put up fake candidates?’

Mrs Burns, a mother of two and grandma of two, explained: “A snap election had been called, and Reform, which I have officially represented since the start of the year, had hoped to have a candidate in every single constituency.

“Some hopeful candidates couldn’t stand because there wasn’t enough time to get the vetting.

“Our constituents were really upset in some areas asking why there wasn’t a Reform candidate representing them. I was a paper candidate and was given every opportunity to represent my constituency.

“But I didn’t go there, I didn’t need to. I have visited Glasgow many times in the past.”

Gawain Towler, a Reform UK spokesman, said that the suggestions that they had fielded fake candidates on the ballot papers, which require both local election agents and 10 nomination signatures, were “preposterous”.

“It is as if people have never heard of paper candidates before, this has been a part of the British political system for longer than we have been alive,” he told The Telegraph.

He said that because the election was called at such short notice they had very little time to find candidates and even the Tory Party, which called the poll, did not have a full slate.

After Rishi Sunak announced the date, Reform “called round and asked if there was anyone willing to stand as a paper candidate” and many agreed, he said.

“Why would we have put up fake candidates? If we wanted fake candidates then we would have put up a full slate, but we didn’t,” he said.

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