Video shows racist attack after failed Met probe

Police investigating a serious racist attack after apologising for failures in an earlier inquiry have been passed mobile phone video of the incident.

BBC Newsnight understands the footage shows two attackers, one of whom makes what seem to be monkey chants directed at three women in London.

The women said officers in the initial investigation made racist assumptions about them, hampering the inquiry.

The Metropolitan Police denies this, but said it is reviewing its work.

Last week Newsnight revealed serious failings in the police investigation into the attack on the three women, all of Somali descent, on 22 December last year.

Police closed the case in April, saying they had no CCTV evidence or leads.

But Newsnight found that officers failed to obtain CCTV from nearby shops or take witness statements, even from the victims, for nearly two weeks after the attack.

By the time the police tried to recover security camera footage from shops in Kilburn Lane in early January, it had been recycled – and overwritten by new material.

The Met reopened the case last week and apologised to the women. A source close to the investigation said the Met now has 21 lines of enquiry into the unsolved hate crime.

The former chief constable of Surrey Police, Bob Quick, told the programme the Met’s response had been “woeful”.

Niyad Farah, 38, was kicked unconscious in the attack and taken to St Mary’s hospital, Paddington for treatment. It was categorised as racially motivated GBH with intent – a very serious hate crime.

Ms Farah told Newsnight that one officer asked her if she had been “buying anything” from the attackers. She believes he was implying they were buying drugs and knew the men.

She said she thought the officer believed “it was almost impossible for a racist attack to happen in that area”.

The Met denies racist assumptions were made and says it accepted from a very early stage this was a vicious attack by strangers. But in response to Newsnight’s investigation it apologised for failing the women.

In a statement, the Met admitted the incident “should have been escalated and prioritised at an earlier stage” adding “there was a delay in the necessary follow-up enquiries being made just after the incident, and this hindered the subsequent investigation”.

“This shouldn’t have happened, and we are sorry for letting the victims in this case down. This was an appalling attack which should have been investigated with greater urgency,” the force said.

The Met has also referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

It confirmed it has received new information relating to the attack.

Watch Newsnight’s full investigation on iPlayer.

Newspaper headlines: Red wall revolt and Covid vaccine milestone

Several papers lead with the letter from more than 50 Conservative MPs in the north of England, who are demanding a strategy to exit the tightest coronavirus restrictions.

According to the Daily Mail headline, it’s a “revolt” by “red wall MPs”. It points out that their intervention “is a significant challenge” to Boris Johnson because there are “enough MPs to overturn his Commons majority”.

The Daily Telegraph names the former cabinet ministers David Davis, David Mundell and Esther McVey as among the signatories who fear that their communities will be “left behind” – particularly after Chancellor Rishi Sunak shelved his planned three-year spending review next month in favour of a one-year version.

It says they want Mr Johnson to reaffirm that he won’t “downgrade pledges to spend big on infrastructure plans for the North”.

The Daily Express hails a “milestone” in the search for a Covid vaccine, with older volunteers apparently showing a “strong immune response” to a jab under trial at Oxford University.

People aged over 55 were found to have low levels of side-effects – offering hope that an effective vaccination programme will soon be possible.

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The Daily Mirror contrasts an image of Mr Johnson serving hot plates of hospital food with his refusal to extend the free school meals programme during the holidays. “Can’t you feed the nation’s hungry kids too?” it asks.

In a play on words referring to his public school education, the Daily Star condemns his policy as an “Eatin’ Mess”. The Metro says a “volunteer army of caring Britons” has “stepped up to the plates” instead.

Huffpost UK presents evidence of the Tory backlash. One former minister concludes the party is on the wrong side of the culture war Mr Johnson sought, while another MP complains they trusted ministers, who made fools of them and left them “desperately fighting the flak back in our constituencies”.

The former science minister and policy chief George Freeman predicts the Conservatives will suffer “annihilation” in next year’s local elections, unless they change tack.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Johnson is preparing to give councils extra money for holiday clubs to provide children with at least one free meal a day outside term time – a suggestion made by the government’s food tsar, Henry Dimbleby.

The paper adds that the scheme could be combined with extra study time for pupils catching up after lockdown, “enabling ministers to argue it was a planned policy, rather than an about-turn”.

The Times uncovers more details of the drama on board an oil tanker whose crew was threatened by a group of stowaways. A recording of the captain’s mayday call reveals the stowaways had surrounded the control room before special forces stormed the vessel.

A source tells the paper they turned violent “when they realised that they weren’t going to be allowed to get off and disappear into the British countryside”.

And the Sun suggests it will be “all fright on the night” this Halloween, after Downing Street announced that trick or treating would be permitted in areas in tiers one and two of the Covid restrictions.

It says “millions of fun-starved kids” can “take part in the ghoulish festivities” – as long as they follow the rule of six and stay out of people’s homes.

Aston Martin: Mercedes to take 20% stake in luxury brand

Germany’s Mercedes-Benz is to raise its stake in Aston Martin Lagonda as part of the UK carmaker’s recovery plan.

Aston Martin, which has haemorrhaged cash since a disastrous stock market flotation, said Mercedes will increase its holding “in stages” from 5% to 20%.

The announcement, made after the London stock market closed, called the deal a “strategic technology agreement”.

It comes months after Formula One team owner Lawrence Stroll took a majority stake in the British luxury marque.

The deal will give Aston Martin, whose profitability over the decades has never matched its status as one of Britain’s premier brands, access to Mercedes’ electric car technology.

Mercedes first teamed up with Aston Martin in 2013, taking a 5% stake in a deal that saw the two companies work on engine development.

Aston Martin, popularly known as James Bond’s favourite car company, has plans to grow sales to about 10,000 by 2025, up from 5,862 vehicles sold last year.

The company also said on Tuesday that it had a long-term strategy to increase its revenues to £2bn and attain earnings of about £500m in five years’ time.

Mr Stroll, a Canadian billionaire and executive chairman of Aston Martin, said: “This is a transformational moment for Aston Martin. It is the result of six months of enormous effort to position the company for success to capture the huge and exciting opportunity ahead of us.”

Wolf-Dieter Kurz, head of product strategy at Mercedes-Benz Cars, said: “With this new expanded partnership, we will be able to provide Aston Martin with access to new cutting-edge powertrain and software technologies and components, including next generation hybrid and electric drive systems.”

The first stage of the investment deal will see Mercedes increase its stake to 11.8% as part of a £140m share issue.

Aston Martin’s shares have crashed since the company was floated on the London stock market in 2018 at £19 each. By the time chief executive Andy Palmer was eased out in May, the price was down 94% as investors bailed on fears over falling sales and rising costs.

Mr Palmer was replaced by Tobias Moers, the former head of Mercedes’ performance car division AMG.

Separately on Tuesday, Aston Martin posted a £29m pre-tax loss for the third quarter, down from a £43m profit in the same period last year.

Essex lorry deaths: Drivers 999 call played in court

The driver of a lorry in which 39 people died called 999 and described finding “loads” of migrants “jammed” into his trailer, a court heard.

The Vietnamese men, women and children were found dead in a container on an industrial estate in Purfleet in Essex on 23 October 2019.

Maurice Robinson is said to have waited 23 minutes before calling for help.

The 26-year-old has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter while two men are on trial for the same charge.

One of the men, and a further two men, face people smuggling charges.

The court was shown CCTV of Robinson collecting the trailer, which had been transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium, and driving out of Purfleet port.

After discovering the bodies, prosecutors said, he made several phone calls to others accused of roles in the people-trafficking scheme and drove the lorry in a loop around the industrial area, before calling the emergency services 23 minutes later.

During a call to the ambulance service, he said none of the migrants was breathing.

“No. There, there’s, err, loads of them, there’s immigrants in the back but they’re, they’re all lying on the ground,” he said.

“I went and lifted a trailer from Purfleet, the freight terminal, and I got around to where I was gonna park up for the night and I heard a noise in the back and I opened the door and there’s a bunch of them lying.”

Asked how many people were involved, Robinson, of Craigavon, County Armagh, said: “The trailer is jammed. I don’t know.”

Jurors have heard the victims suffocated inside the sealed trailer as the temperature reached 38.5C (101F).

Earlier the court heard how one of the people in the container was recorded on a mobile phone saying “I cannot breathe”.

Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, was also recorded saying: “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.” A voice in the background then says: “He’s dead.”

Cargo operator Jason Rook said in a statement he noticed a “decomposing smell” as he unloaded the trailer at Purfleet.

He said the ship carrying it arrived at about 23:50.

He said: “As I just passed the doors and reached the left hand side of the trailer I suddenly caught a strong smell that I can only describe as a decomposing smell.”

Between 22:00 and 22:30 it was believed that carbon dioxide in the trailer reached the “toxic threshold”, the court heard.

Jurors heard how the trailer was loaded onto the Clementine at the port of Zeebrugge at 15:00 on 22 October last year.

Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, deny the manslaughters of 39 Vietnamese people, aged between 15 and 44.

Mr Harrison, of Mayobridge, County Down, Christopher Kennedy, 24, of County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, deny being part of a people-smuggling conspiracy, which Mr Nica has admitted.

The trial continues.

Wales lockdown: Baby clothes join essentials list

Baby clothes have been listed as essential items that should go on sale in supermarkets during Wales’ lockdown.

The Welsh Government has also said customers should be able to ask for non-essential items in exceptional circumstances.

But ministers say the principle of restricting non-essential goods will stay until lockdown ends on 9 November.

The Conservatives have called the rules “absolute madness” while Plaid said the public health message had been lost.

The new guidance, issued after meetings with businesses and trade unions, follows a backlash after supermarkets closed off sections of their shops selling clothes and other items.

Earlier, business groups had appealed for customers to be “trusted to make their own decisions” on what was essential to them.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said it had “positive discussions” and that it had “clarified that a sensible system should be introduced whereby customers can ask to buy non-essential items by exception under the regulations”.

“We are hopeful this provides a workable solution for retailers and customers,” it said.

“However, we cannot move away from the central principle that retailers must restrict the sale of non-essential goods for the duration of the firebreak.

“We continue to work closely with the sector and would stress that these restrictions are in place to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

“We are asking the public to continue to support the effort by restricting unnecessary journeys and shopping .”

Ministers issued a list that “we consider that the regulations allow” to be sold in supermarkets:

Initially, the Welsh Government said supermarkets and department stores should close off sections of their stores, including clothing aisles.

Officials say there will be further discussions with supermarkets over coming days on how to implement the changes.

Earlier on Tuesday, retailers made their own proposals to “resolve confusion” over sales of non-essential items during Wales’ lockdown.

Stores said such items could remain on shelves and not be cordoned off, with signs instead advising customers to put off non-essential purchases.

“The final liability ought to rest with the customer,” retailers said.

The Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies has called for the Senedd to be recalled to discuss the rules.

Plaid’s leader Adam Price said ministers should admit there was confused messaging over the policy.

Greater Manchester mayor moving on from Covid funding row

Greater Manchester’s mayor is “moving on” from the funding row with government by launching a scheme to help the region’s businesses.

Tier three restrictions and a £60m package were imposed on the region after Labour’s Andy Burnham and Whitehall failed to reach a deal.

Mr Burnham said he was “hopeful” £5m more could be secured, but his scheme would help during “a hard winter”.

He said the initiative’s full details would be revealed in the coming days.

The “OneGM” scheme aims to draw on the £60m funding, while also drumming up support from larger Greater Manchester businesses to help smaller firms and charities.

Mr Burnham told a press conference he wanted to “move beyond the arguments of recent days” and create a “positive, practical mood”.

He said the initiative was about “rallying people together” to “see what we can achieve”.

“This is the Greater Manchester family coming together on a cross-community basis to say how we’re going to support people and businesses through what is going to be a really challenging winter,” he said.

He added that the region still hoped to receive the £65m it had asked government for, once backdated support for businesses under tier two measures was included.

Speaking at the press conference, actress Julie Hesmondhalgh welcomed the scheme, which she said she hoped would help those in the arts sector and freelancers who had “fallen through the gaps” of government support.

She said the sector was “going to need a lot of help”, adding: “It’s bad now but it’s only going to get worse.”

Coronavirus: Robin Swann says 13 deaths heartbreaking

Health Minister Robin Swann has said it is “heartbreaking” that Northern Ireland has recorded 13 Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours.

It is highest daily figure of virus-related deaths since May.

It brings the total number of Covid-related deaths in NI recorded by the Department of Health to 671.

A further 722 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland in the most recent reporting period.

Across Northern Ireland’s hospitals, there are 360 inpatients who have tested positive for Covid-19, including 38 in intensive care.

Mr Swann called on people to “dig in”, and follow the regulations and the advice from the NI Executive.

“I never thought we would go back to seeing deaths in double figures, that’s where we were back in May, but unfortunately we are where we now see those,” he said.

The health minister said that areas such as the Derry and Strabane District Council area, which have had local restrictions in place for weeks now, had seen “significant decreases” in positive cases.

He said that Northern Ireland as a whole, which has had tighter restrictions in place for a week and a half, is also seeing a small decrease in positive cases.

“While we’re seeing a decrease in the positive cases at the minute, it will take a few weeks for that decrease to work through to our hospitalisations and to ICUs.”

Speaking to BBC Newsline, Mr Swann also said anyone who believes Covid is a hoax should “just stay in the house, stay out of the road”.

“Talk to a nurse, talk to a doctor, talk to a hospital porter, talk to someone who is currently working across our health service, even in a care home to see the reality of what Covid means,” he added.

“If they think this is some sort of great hoax that is being manipulated across the world, never mind here in Northern Ireland, they’re deluded.”

It comes as demand for space in hospitals across the country increases, with some health trusts asking patients to stay away from hospital emergency departments.

There are 33 patients currently waiting for a bed in Antrim Area Hospital, a rise of five since Monday.

Patients have been asked by the Northern Health Trust not to attend the hospital’s emergency department unless they require urgent medical care.

The trust’s director of operations said that the number was “not unique to Antrim Hospital – a number of our hospitals are under pressure”.

Wendy Magowan said that 180-200 staff are self-isolating across the trust.

“This morning, we are sadly coming in to a similar picture [as Monday],” she said.

“There’s 35 [waiting for general admission] but 33 of those are waiting for beds so they’re managing at the moment but as ambulances and referrals start to build the situation is likely to repeat again.”

The chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland said there is “a real risk” of health services being overwhelmed in next few weeks.

On Monday, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland reported a higher daily number of Covid hospital inpatients, at 342, than the previous 8 April peak, when the number hit 322.

Ms Magowan said that if there had been the same number of patients waiting for admission this time last year it “would’ve been awful but Covid has completely complicated that”.

By Louise Cullen, BBC News NI health reporter

Beds are easy, it’s the staffing of those beds that poses the challenge.

When I spoke to an intensive care doctor last week he said if anybody needs intensive care they will get it, they may just not get it at the hospital they have arrived at, because those critical care beds can be scaled up in the surge plans so that people will be able to be cared for.

We’re about to enter the ninth month of this pandemic, we’ve nearly 35,000 people testing positive in Northern Ireland and almost 20% of them are in the last week, so that is ramping up and the increased community transmission will inevitably translate into increased demand for hospital care and hospital admissions.

That seems to be what we are seeing.

It’s not just challenges here and now, it’s how those challenges are going to manifest over the winter months with the usual winter pressures coming as well.

The Northern Trust’s director of operations said that the trust was seeing a “normal increase in respiratory illnesses but with Covid on top of that, it does make it more complicated”.

“This time last year, if we had 27 patients waiting for admission, we could’ve cohorted those patients, risk assessed them and safely kept ED moving, but now those patients have to be isolated until they can safely be put into a Covid or non-Covid pathway in the hospital,” said Ms Magowan.

“We are seeing a rise in the number of respiratory admissions but we are certainly seeing a rise in Covid admissions too.”

Ms Magowan said that there were 59 patients being treated for Covid-19 across the trust on Monday, a rise from 39 on Friday.

“Because yesterday we were working at 113% capacity, it is literally one patient in, one patient out,” she said.

“It makes things very difficult. Discharging has its own complications, particularly in cases where patients need extra support because we have to follow Covid guidelines.”

The chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland Dr Tom Black said that the lack of intensive care beds is not the biggest concern as further capacity can be made available in the Nightingale Hospital.

But Dr Black told BBC Radio Foyle that Monday’s rising number of hospital admissions shows that hospitals in Northern Ireland are now operating at full capacity and a “triple whammy” of rising cases, lack of available staff, and threat of further winter pressures will cause additional problems.

“This second wave seems to be much worse than the first wave,” he said.

“We’re not seeing the same mortality because the doctors have become very good at keeping people alive with the use of steroids and other drugs, but the concern that we have is does the health service become overwhelmed?

“GPs have been under a lot of pressure over the last six, seven eight weeks. Now it is the turn of emergency departments.

“They are under fierce pressure, general medical wards are under fierce pressure and, as I say, it’s not just about having the number of beds, but it’s having the number of staff.”

Covid-19: Patient rise halts non-essential operations in Leeds

Most non-essential operations in Leeds are being postponed after the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients rose to a higher level than at the first wave’s peak.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said it had 263 Covid patients on Tuesday, with 22 in intensive care units (ICU).

The trust runs Leeds General Infirmary and St James’ Hospital and expects ICU numbers to go up in the next 48 hours.

It said “only essential operations are going ahead in most cases”.

Hospital staff have been told the rapid rise of admissions means that it is “looking even more likely” that Leeds will be moved into tier three of coronavirus restrictions.

The trust, which has about 1,800 beds, said there were 148 Covid patients in its hospital on Tuesday last week, a rise of 115, or 78%, in a week.

A spokesperson said: “We are standing down some planned operations due to current pressures which means that some patients will have their treatments postponed.”

In an internal statement obtained by The Independent, the trust’s deputy chief medical officer David Berridge said: “This also means that it is looking even more likely that Leeds will move into tier three, following discussions across the city and with the government.”

West Yorkshire is yet to have any tier three restrictions imposed, unlike the surrounding counties of South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

The trust statement continued: “Not only is the number of Covid cases increasing but so is the rate of increase.

“Local modelling based on prevalence data indicates that it may continue to rise for the next two weeks.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said the majority of admissions over the weekend were older people with respiratory conditions.

Talking to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service, Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman believed tier three restrictions in nearby Kirklees were “inevitable”, and new rules could be imposed on the borough “quite soon”.

On Monday, a trust running three hospitals in South Yorkshire and north Nottinghamshire said the number of patients it had admitted with Covid-19 had doubled in a week.

Rotherham Hospital also reported a jump in cases to beyond the spring peak.

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