Jo Sheen: Three arrests over woman missing for 11 months

Three people have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder a woman who has been missing for almost 11 months.

The last known sighting of Jo Sheen, 44, was when she travelled from Fareham to Southampton with a friend on 5 December.

Hampshire Constabulary conducted detailed searches around Empress Road in Southampton in August.

Three men, aged 29, 50 and 63, have now been arrested and remain in custody.

Officers said they were treating Ms Sheen’s disappearance as a murder investigation.

“Joanne is still missing and her body has not been recovered,” the force said.

Ms Sheen, who has no permanent address, car, or bank account, was officially reported missing on 22 February after no-one had heard from her for months.

She is described as being about 5ft 1in tall, slim, with long dark brown hair.

Police launched their first appeal in April and are continuing to appeal for information.

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Abedi missed by security as he blended in

Salman Abedi “blended in too well” to be picked up by security on the night he detonated a suicide bomb at the Manchester Arena, an inquiry has heard.

James Allen, arena manager for premises owner SMG, said he was not aware that teenagers as young as 16 were employed as stewards before the attack in 2017.

Mr Allen told the inquiry he had also been unaware there was a CCTV blind spot in the City Room foyer area.

He said significant changes had been made to security in the area.

Counsel to the public inquiry, Paul Greaney QC, asked Mr Allen if he thought it was acceptable that stewards contracted to work at the venue were under 18.

He said: “I’d like to think we’d have people with more experience.”

Mr Allen told the inquiry he had not been aware there was a CCTV blind spot in the foyer of the arena, and said the failure of staff to check the place where Salman Abedi was hiding was a “missed opportunity”.

Mr Greaney said: “Salman Abedi was 22 years of age, a dropout from university, he was entirely undistinguished in life, and you’ll probably have seen that he even struggled to get into the toilets.

“How was it that he managed to defeat the security arrangements at the arena that night?”

Mr Allen said: “Because I believe he blended in too well.”

Twenty-two people were killed and many more injured when Abedi detonated an explosive as fans left an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017.

Mr Allen said making any changes to the security in the foyer before May 2017 would have depended on someone approaching the company and telling them the area was unsafe.

Mr Greaney said: “Would it be a fair criticism… that SMG were doing throughout this period, sitting on one side waiting for someone to tell them what to do?”

Mr Allen replied: “No.”

The court heard that since the attack, SMG had instructed a US firm to review security.

There are now between 30 and 35 walk through metal detectors used for events, and the CCTV system has been upgraded.

Mr Greaney said it would be an issue for the inquiry as to whether the changes could have been implemented before the attack and whether any more could be done.

The inquiry continues.

Father jailed over sons death in M62 race

A man who caused the death of his son after racing with another driver at more than 100mph has been jailed for four-and-a-half-years.

Israr Muhammed, 41, from Batley, West Yorkshire, hit a tree after crashing off the M62 in East Yorkshire when a tyre blew out.

His three-year-old son, Say Han Ali, died and his daughter and wife suffered “life-changing” injuries.

Adam Molloy, the other driver, was also jailed for four-and-a-half-years.

The pair were found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving following a trial last month.

Muhammed was also convicted of two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and causing death while uninsured.

Humberside Police said Molloy, 29, from Normanton, West Yorkshire, failed to stop after the crash and was later traced and arrested.

He was also found guilty of two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Passing sentence at Hull Crown Court, Judge David Tremberg said Muhammed was driving “in an erratic and unsafe manner” for many miles before the accident, failing to give way at a roundabout and weaving in and out of traffic.

“Expert assessment of the footage reveals that each of you was travelling in excess of 100mph and there were roughly 10 metres between your cars as you sped along,” he said.

“Other drivers formed the impression that you were racing and driving like idiots.”

Sgt Rob Mazingham said officers carried out an “extensive and exhaustive investigation” into the crash near Goole on 1 July 2018.

“The car that Israr Muhammed was driving was not roadworthy, its rear tyre was 16 years old and defective and the resulting blow-out caused the series of events that led to the death of his three-year-old son and the serious, life changing injuries of his wife and second child,” the officer said.

Harry Vaughan: Neo-Nazi teenager sentenced

A high-achieving grammar school pupil who secretly promoted neo-Nazi terrorism online has been sentenced.

Harry Vaughan, 18, from south-west London, had pleaded guilty to 14 terror offences and two of possessing indecent images of children.

Passing sentence at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “You are a dangerous offender.”

He sentenced Vaughan to two years detention in a young offenders’ institution, suspended for two years.

The 18-year-old was also ordered to attend a rehabilitation programme.

The judge said Vaughan had lived at home with his family and been an “A* student”, adding none of them knew that from the age of 14 he had been involved with groups on the internet.

Vaughan’s father, who was in court, is a clerk in the House of Lords and his mother is a teacher. Vaughan had been a pupil at Tiffin Grammar School in Kingston upon Thames.

The judge told the teenager neo-Nazi material found during police searches showed “the depth of your extreme right-wing mindset”.

He added that expert evidence stated Vaughan’s ideology was a “hybrid” of neo-Nazism and left-hand path Satanism.

Vaughan was prolific online and hid behind a series of aliases.

He uploaded self-made propaganda images to a neo-Nazi website promoting the now-banned terrorist organisation Sonnenkrieg Division.

He also possessed – and posted online – a series of weapons and explosives manuals.

The 18-year-old previously pleaded guilty to 12 counts of possessing documents useful to a terrorist, one count of encouraging terrorism, and one of disseminating terrorist publications.

He also admitted two counts of possessing indecent images, relating to videos showing young boys being raped.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “What this case tells us is that anybody can be affected, anybody can be radicalised.”

He said Vaughan is a “very intelligent young man” but he “now has convictions for terrorist offences which will stay with him for life and I think that is a saddening case and also a salutary example of how this can affect young people”.

Inside the Johnny Depp court case

In May 2016, Amber Heard, a 30-year-old actress, arrived at a Los Angeles court seeking a restraining order against her husband, the Hollywood star Johnny Depp.

As she left the building, she found herself surrounded by photographers, journalists and film crews. On her cheek was what appeared to be a mark. The court was also shown photographs of what looked like facial bruising.

She said Depp had “violently” attacked her and in a rage had thrown a mobile phone at her face with “extreme force”. There were also allegations of other incidents of domestic violence. She said she had endured “excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse” and “angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults”. Depp denied the abuse.

The restraining order was granted, and soon after the marriage was over.

Four years later the couple were back in court, but this time in London. However, this was not Amber Heard’s case – she had not chosen to be here. This was a libel action Depp had brought against a British newspaper, The Sun.

At the heart of the case was his assertion that the allegations of physical abuse were an “elaborate hoax”. Depp employed one of the best-known libel barristers in the country to try to prove the claims were untrue.

Over the next three weeks, Heard arrived at court each day and walked past her former husband’s fans, who were convinced that it was their hero who was the victim and it was she who had assaulted him. In court her story, photos, memories and the accounts of her friends were all exposed to the world and said by Depp’s team and supporters to be part of a plot to falsely prove that he was, as The Sun had claimed in April 2018, a “wife beater”.

It was not just the fans and media who were watching carefully. Lawyers were already wondering, if he won, what impact this would have on women coming forward with claims of domestic violence.

Outside, Johnny Depp would arrive each day to cheers. But his behaviour and lifestyle were also under the microscope – and a judge has now ruled that The Sun’s allegations were “substantially true”.

“Would you like a Johnny Depp face mask?”

A woman holding a cardboard box offered me a small brown envelope. Inside was a black-and-white bandana and personal note of thanks from Johnny Depp. The woman, who was part of the actor’s entourage, disappeared into court as all around me fans and onlookers began to inspect their new scarves.

This was a strange court case.

The rest of Britain was in lockdown, buses and streets in central London were deserted, and yet here, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, there was a crowd, sometimes more than 200 strong. Some wore masks but when Johnny Depp arrived, all attempts at social distancing collapsed in the crush to catch a glimpse.

Inside the High Court, it was even more peculiar.

The Royal Courts of Justice are huge, gothic and deeply solemn. It’s a place of stone arches and hushed tones. And in July it was almost empty. I say almost, because there were a few people – a handful of journalists hurrying through security, and also lingering in the hallways and passages a scattering of Depp fans.

One woman showed me her arms, which were covered in tattoos of Johnny Depp. Another man arrived each day dressed as Jack Sparrow, the star’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean.

And then at around 10:00 each day they would gather at the door to Court 13. As Depp walked past they would offer messages of support and, towards the end of the case, he was seen giving them all a hug. A little chant of “Johnny, Johnny” could be heard as he walked into court.

Ten minutes later, he was sitting in the witness stand trying to convince a High Court judge he was not a “wife beater”.

The accusations were shocking. Heard said she had been assaulted by him on more than 14 occasions. She said she had, at times, been in fear for her life and left with a broken nose, black eyes and split lip. Vicious, drunken tirades had, she said, lasted for days. There was also a 15th allegation too traumatic and personal to be heard in open court.

It felt like a criminal trial; Depp was being accused of repeated assaults on his former partner, the sort of violence that has sent others to prison. But this wasn’t a criminal trial.

It was easy to forget this was a libel battle between Depp and News Group Newspapers, the publishers of The Sun, because no-one from the newspaper was called to the witness stand. Dan Wootton, the journalist whose article had said there was “overwhelming evidence” that the actor was a “wife beater” was not even on the list of 79 names cited in the trial’s documents.

And what a list of names it was. The case began with an email exchange about the perils of addiction between Depp and Sir Elton John and then continued with references to a bewildering cast of characters. James Franco, Marilyn Manson, Elon Musk, Winona Ryder, Kate Moss and Vanessa Paradis were all guest stars in a story that took a private world of the Hollywood A-list and blew it apart.

We were shown text messages and video footage of meetings in lifts. The super-rich spend millions protecting their privacy and here was a couple revealing a telephone directory’s worth of secrets. No star would do this unless they felt there was something bigger at stake. For Depp, that was restoring his reputation.

But why did this battle begin in the UK?

The article with the Dan Wootton byline, in particular the phrase “wife beater” in a headline that was later changed, had given Johnny Depp a chance to test his ex-wife’s claims in court – and what’s more, an English court.

It would require a much longer article to explain all the differences, but the essence of the legal split between England and America is that if you write something defamatory in London, the burden is on you to prove it is true.

In America, the defamed person has to prove it isn’t true, a very different task. It sounds a slender legal nicety but it can make all the difference.

England and Wales’s libel law was tightened in 2013, but it is still one of the best places in the world for the rich (and it is a rich person’s game) to take on the media. If you want to win a libel case and you have a choice about where to bring it, lawyers will suggest buying a ticket to Heathrow.

And if you want to understand how big an issue this was for Depp’s reputation, look at what he was trading. He lived in a world of security guards and private planes. Going to court blew it apart.

If you ever wondered what it was like to be Depp, this case lifted the lid on his privileged but erratic existence, his temper and his history with drink and drugs.

Amber Heard was 22 when she met Johnny Depp on the set of the film The Rum Diary in 2009. He was 23 years older and in a long-term relationship with singer and actress Vanessa Paradis. Heard’s wife at the time was the artist Tasya Van Ree.

Two years later, Heard was living with Depp in a penthouse in downtown LA, Depp having separated from Paradis, his partner of 14 years. Heard and Depp married in February 2015, and just over a year later it was over.

Since then, Amber Heard has become a vocal campaigner on the issue of domestic and sexual abuse. The UN Human Rights Campaign named her as a Human Rights Champion for her work promoting women’s rights. She became an Ambassador for Women’s Rights for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and she has given speeches and written in the Washington Post and New York Times about her experience of domestic violence.

In the era of Me Too, she was a leading figure, speaking up for women who had suffered in silence by revealing the abuse she had endured at the hands of one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She was Amber Heard, actor, model, activist and domestic abuse survivor.

When Johnny Depp described her accusations as a hoax, he was not just challenging her story, he was ripping away the foundations of her public profile. There was a lot at stake here.

The entire process, which involved an almost brutal public examination of a couple’s private life, has been a warning to anyone who wants to use the courts to restore a reputation.

It was clearly a deeply troubled relationship, but the case depended on proving who had done what to whom.

And in the end, the judge decided it was true to describe Depp as a “wife beater”.

Information and support: If you, or someone you know, have been affected by domestic abuse, the following organisations may be able to help.

Avian flu: Hundreds of birds culled at Kent farm

Hundreds of birds are to be culled at a farm in Kent where an outbreak of avian influenza of the H5N2 strain has been detected.

A 1km restricted zone has been placed around the premises near Deal “to prevent the disease spreading”.

Public Health England (PHE) said the risk to the UK population was “very low” but it was “looking for evidence of spread to control and eliminate it”.

All 480 birds at the site are to be “humanely culled”.

PHE’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all remaining poultry and captive birds at the farm will be culled.”

There will be no impact on food supply as the farm does not supply poultry, meat or eggs commercially, she added.

Bird keepers have been told to remain alert for signs of disease and to report suspected cases immediately.

“We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it,” Ms Middlemiss said.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, consultant in acute respiratory infections at PHE, said bird flu was an “uncommon infection” in humans.

But he advised people not to touch sick or dead birds and to wash hands thoroughly with soap after contact with any animal.

The Food Standards Agency said properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, were safe to eat.

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