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.

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.

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Security did not approach bomber over racism fears

A security guard had a “bad feeling” about suicide bomber Salman Abedi but did not approach him for fear of being branded a racist, an inquiry has heard.

Kyle Lawler, who was 18 at the time of the Manchester Arena attack, was stood 10 or 15ft away from Abedi.

He later told police he was conflicted because he thought something was wrong but could not put his finger on it.

About five minutes later, Abedi detonated a bomb packed with 3,000 nuts and bolts at 22:31 BST on 22 May 2017.

Abedi, 22, dressed all in black and carrying a large rucksack, had been reported to security by a member of the public at 22:15.

Around eight minutes before the bombing, Showsec steward Mohammed Ali Agha alerted Mr Lawler to the report and both began observing Abedi.

In his statement to police, Mr Lawler said: “I just had a bad feeling about him but did not have anything to justify that.”

The witness added that Abedi was “fidgety and sweating”.

Mr Lawler said he attempted to use his radio to alert the security control room but claimed he could not get through due to radio traffic.

He then left the arena and took up his position outside the City Room and made no further attempt to raise the alarm.

Mr Lawler agreed he simply “gave up” trying to use the radio and just got on with his job.

The Showsec security guard also told police: “I felt unsure about what to do.

“It’s very difficult to define a terrorist. For all I knew he might well be an innocent Asian male.

“I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.

“I was scared of being wrong and being branded a racist if I got it wrong and would have got into trouble. It made me hesitant.

“I wanted to get it right and not mess it up by over-reacting or judging someone by their race.”

Mr Lawler agreed that on five separate occasions after the bombing, he made statements, verbally or in writing, where he “deliberately shortened” the time between him leaving the City Room to the bomb going off, “so no one would say, why didn’t you do something?” the inquiry was told.

He added he “had a guilty feeling, I had a lot of blame on myself”.

The public inquiry continues.

Essex lorry deaths: Suffocating mans last words recorded

One of the 39 Vietnamese people who died in a container bound for the UK was recorded on a mobile phone saying “I cannot breathe”, a court has heard.

The men, women and children, aged 15 to 44, were found dead in the trailer in Essex on 23 October last year.

The Old Bailey heard 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.”

Two men are on trial accused of manslaughter.

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

The trailer, being transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium, was found on an industrial estate in Purfleet.

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

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 BST.

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 BST 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 BST on 22 October last year.

At 18:25 BST, a young Vietnamese woman took a series of selfies on her phone showing the sweltering conditions inside.

Over the next couple of hours, occupants attempted to make phone calls, with one calling the emergency number for Vietnamese police, without success.

The court heard that, in the background of one of the recordings, a voice could be heard saying: “Come on everyone. Open up, open up.”

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.

Pride of Britain Award winner: Life after abuse does exist

Rebecca Beattie was a victim of domestic and financial abuse for five years.

Her ex-partner would gamble and use her bank cards to withdraw money and take out big loans.

When she tried to end the relationship, he assaulted her so badly that she needed reconstructive surgery.

But now, Rebecca’s won a 2020 Pride of Britain award for setting up an ethical clothing brand which helps support domestic violence victims.

Warning: There is a distressing image related to domestic violence below.

“Throughout my relationship, the violence started becoming more frequent, I suffered a lot of physical and emotional abuse,” Rebecca tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“I made the decision to end the relationship. A couple of weeks after, my ex told me he was going to kill me and assaulted me,” she says.

But it wasn’t only physical abuse. Rebecca, who’s from York, says she was economically abused for years.

She was left with thousands of pounds of debt which will take 16 years to pay off.

“I was left in a very poor financial state, and I remember being sat with my son one night and we were really struggling.”

Her ex-partner was later jailed and Rebecca decided she wanted to do something to support other victims of abuse.

That’s when the idea for Always BU came about – and with the help of The Prince’s Trust she set up her own fashion company.

“It’s dedicated to raising awareness and educating people about domestic violence. I wanted to help others and turn my negative into a positive,” she says.

For every product sold, 5% is donated to ICAS – the same domestic violence charity that helped Rebecca during her tough times.

According to government statistics, an estimated 2.4 million people experienced domestic abuse between April 2018 and March 2019.

Around two thirds of those were women.

During the first three weeks of lockdown, 16 women and children died at the hands of men – the highest in 11 years.

Calls to a domestic abuse helpline rose by 49%.

“Now more than ever, it’s really important that people speak out and let the victims know that they’re not alone,” Rebecca says.

Now, she hopes that her winning the Pride of Britain Young Achiever award will show other victims that “life after abuse does exist.

“I sat there the whole time thinking, ‘I’m sat next to Prince Charles, I cannot believe this is happening’.

“No matter what dark place you may be in, there is light at the end of the tunnel and anything is possible.”

BBC Action Line has information and support for people who have experienced domestic abuse.

The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards will be broadcast on ITV this Sunday at 9pm.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Sir Ken Dodd and Cilla Blacks gravestones vandalised

The gravestones of entertainment stars Sir Ken Dodd and Cilla Black have been damaged in an act of vandalism that has left a council “appalled”.

Liverpool City Council said the pair’s graves in Allerton Cemetery were both “vandalised overnight”.

Graffiti sprayed on Black’s headstones has since been removed, while Sir Ken’s stone has been taken away for cleaning.

The council, which has not reported the attack to the authorities, urged anyone with information to contact police.

A spokesman could not give details of the damage to Sir Ken’s grave, but the graffiti on Black’s made a derogatory reference to music legend John Lennon.

Black, whose career spanned more than 50 years and saw her develop from 1960s pop starlet to TV royalty, died at the age of 72 in 2015.

Sir Ken, creator of the Diddy Men and one of the most popular comedians of his time, died three years later at the age of 90.

Channel migrants: Four dead as boat sinks near Dunkirk

Two adults and two children have died after a boat carrying migrants sank, French officials have said.

A large search and rescue operation began earlier after the vessel was seen in difficulty near Dunkirk.

Two children – aged five and eight – and a man and a woman have died. Fifteen others have been taken to hospital, French officials said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the “tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel”.

“I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people,” she said.

The search operation is ongoing off the coast of Dunkirk, according to the Prefecture of the Nord department.

Conditions in the English Channel have been rough throughout the day, with a gale warning issued overnight by the Met Office.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said it was “terrible that tragedy has struck in the Channel again”, adding: “People traffickers have no regard for life, no matter how old or young.”

The stricken vessel was first spotted by a passing sailboat at about 09:30 local time, which alerted French authorities.

Four French vessels, one Belgian helicopter and a French fishing boat have been taking part in the rescue operation.

An investigation has been opened by the public prosecutor in Dunkirk to try to identify the cause of the sinking.

More than 7,400 migrants have reached the UK in small boats this year, up from 1,825 in 2019.

The UK government has vowed to make the crossings “unviable” and called for boats to be stopped at sea and returned to France.

The UN Refugee Agency said in August it was “troubled” by the plans to intercept and return boats, adding that the numbers making the crossing “remain low and manageable”.

Charity Care4Calais said the “loss of life should be a wake-up call for those in power in France and the UK”.

It said creating a new system which would allow asylum-seekers to apply for refuge in the UK from outside its borders would “put an end to terrifying, dangerous sea crossings and stop tragedy striking again”.

At least two other people are thought to have died while attempting the crossing this year, with one body found on a beach near Calais on 18 October.

Abdulfatah Hamdallah, from Sudan, died while trying to row to the UK in August.

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