Eamonn OKane: Former champion boxer helps deliver his daughter

Champion boxers are used to the big events, but delivering a baby was one former fighter’s toughest bout yet.

The arrival of Hollie Grace O’Kane, weighing in at nine pounds four and half ounces, almost left retired boxer Eamonn O’Kane on the canvas.

Eamonn and wife Nicola were waiting on ambulance crews last Friday after she went into labour.

But the former middle weight champion had to step into the maternity ring to help deliver the new bundle of joy.

In his boxing days, the former middleweight champion was known as Eamonn “King” O’Kane, but to his wife Nicola he is now Eamonn “The Midwife” O’Kane.

“I was very nervous, and that is putting it lightly,” the Commonwealth gold winning athlete told BBC News NI.

Nicola had just been to a routine hospital appointment, but had started to feel “short, sore niggles” when arriving back to the house in Feeney, County Londonderry.

Initially the couple thought this was just a reaction to treatment, but it soon transpired that she was going into labour.

The call went out for a community midwife, but about nine minutes after the call was made “the niggles” got a lot stronger and they were instructed to get to Altnagelvin Hospital.

“We tried to get Nicola out into the car, but she couldn’t get in.

“I then called 999 and Joanne, who was on the phone, was absolutely brilliant.

“I was told to get towels, get Nicola comfortable and she [Joanne the emergency call handler] was keeping me informed about where the ambulance was.

“It was nerve-wracking. I am a typical man and I don’t know anything about what happens,” Eamonn said.

However, as the couple waited for the ambulance Eamonn and Nicola were dealt a sucker punch when they saw the ambulance going past their house and down the wrong lane.

“The sat-nav doesn’t take you to my house and I was left trying to describe down the phone where we were so that Joanne could tell the ambulance where to go.

“By the time they got up to us the baby was just coming out.

“It was a crazy, surreal experience and I am glad to say I delivered my daughter.”

“He was cool and calm and just did everything they said on the phone,” Nicola said.

“By the time they [the ambulance crews] got here, round the back door and up the stairs the baby’s head was out and they took over the responsibility, but they still gave him a good role.”

“He was very heroic and I am so proud of him,” the now mother of four added.

The family praised the work of Joanne and the ambulance crew and said her brothers are absolutely delighted they have a baby sister just in time for Santa’s arrival.

Holy grail rail posters collection saved from attic

An archive of railway posters from the golden age of steam found in a disused attic is up for sale.

The daughter of a former British Railways employee found the collection of 170 items in the “collapsing loft” of a West London home.

Some of the art deco posters date back to the 1930s and are valued at between £2,000 and £3,000.

David Bownes, from Twentieth Century Posters, described the collection as “sensational”.

He said the woman who contacted him about the posters had “no idea” of their value.

“You dream of a loft find – it’s like the holy grail,” he said.

“This loft was in terrible condition. Part of the roof had collapsed in.

“The posters were all rolled up and there were boxes of photographs and ephemera from the Great Western Railway’s publicity office.

“It was just sensational.”

Mr Bownes said the woman’s father had worked for the former British Railways (Western Region) publicity office at Paddington in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“Back then, redundant publicity, including posters, was routinely consigned to the skip, but it seems that this employee had the vision to preserve examples for posterity,” he said.

One of the posters, already sold for £2,100, is a 1955 piece by renowned artist David Shepherd entitled Service By Night.

Other artworks include Charles Mayo’s 1939 work Speed to the West and a 1930s publicity poster for the Wye Valley Railway by F Gregory Brown.

Terror sentence changes will apply to Northern Ireland

The DUP and Ulster Unionists have welcomed confirmation that the government will use its power to include NI in recent legislation on the sentencing around terrorist offences.

The move overrides approval being blocked by executive disagreement.

The legislation stipulates two-thirds of a custodial sentence must be served before parole is considered.

The Ministry of Justice in London said it wanted a unified approach to sentencing arrangements.

The Terrorist Offenders Bill was passed at Westminster earlier this year.

The bill was introduced in response to an Islamist-related terrorist incident in London last January.

The attacker, Sudesh Amman, had been freed from prison 10 days earlier.

In October, Stormont’s Justice Minister Naomi long told the government there was no consensus to bring forward a Legislative Consent Motion giving approval to Northern Ireland’s inclusion.

However, the government has chosen to bypass Stormont over the content of its Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Bill.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said: “It would have been preferable had a motion been brought and passed by the assembly, but these are excepted matters and it is right the government will ensure Northern Ireland is covered by this legislation.

“Ensuring that serious and dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in custody is something which no sensible person could argue against.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie claimed Mrs Long had a part to play in the government having to act.

He said: “The justice minister needs to explain why she initially supported this bill, then tried to dilute it and finally sought to stop this happening.”

Jack Whitehall dwarf routine complaints upheld

The BBC has upheld two complaints from viewers objecting to a recent routine by comedian Jack Whitehall, about the time he met a dwarf at a pop concert.

The offending bit featured in his Live at the Apollo set on BBC Two.

The corporation’s board of content concluded on Thursday that the material will not be re-broadcast.

They noted that while Whitehall was allowed to exaggerate stereotypes “for comic effect,” it was not OK “to take a stereotypical view of dwarfism itself”.

In doing so, the stand-up took the routine “beyond the expectations of audiences in relation to material of this kind,” they added, in a statement online.

However, the board said the 32-year-old’s fans will have acknowledged that his “self-deprecating style of comedy” was primarily intended “to show up his own inadequacies and failings”.

Aside from his stand-up shows, Whitehall has recently hosted the Brit Awards on several occasion.

He is perhaps best known for starring as JP in the series Fresh Meat; and as Alfie Wickers in the Bad Education TV and film series; as well appearing alongside his real life dad Michael, in Travels with My Father.

Krispy Kreme price swap PC sacked for gross misconduct

A police officer accused of trying to buy a £9.95 box of doughnuts for seven pence by sticking on a cheaper barcode has been sacked for gross misconduct.

PC Simon Read, from Cambridgeshire Police, was found to have switched the price for the cakes at a Wisbech supermarket on 10 February.

A misconduct hearing found he had breached professional standards of honesty and integrity.

PC Read, who had denied the charges, was dismissed without notice.

At the two-day hearing in Peterborough PC Read said he had made an honest mistake at a Tesco Extra self-service till.

While in uniform, he said he purchased four items from the store – the tray of 12 doughnuts, the carrots, a sandwich and a drink.

The hearing was told he scanned the carrots barcode twice and failed to scan the doughnuts barcode, paying around £4 for the items instead of about £14.

He said: “I simply scanned where I believed the barcodes were and placed them down (in the bagging area).”

The panel ruled his explanation was “lacking in credibility”.

Sharmistha Michaels, chairwoman of the disciplinary panel, said: “On the balance of probabilities we are satisfied that PC Read did intentionally scan the wrong barcode.”

PC Read had previously said: “I didn’t check the screen. I wish I had have done.”

Ms Michaels said CCTV footage showed him looking at it at the time as he selected his method of payment.

She added that if he intended to pay the correct price he could have checked that he scanned the right barcode and it if was a “genuine mistake” he had opportunities to put it right.

His actions were “incompatible with his role as a police officer”.

Mark Ley-Morgan, a lawyer who set out the misconduct case, said it was “an officer effectively stealing while in uniform”.

Carolina Bracken, PC Read’s lawyer, said he had an “unblemished career”, had served in the armed forces, before he joined Cambridgeshire police in January and had served with Thames Valley Police from 2008.

Ms Bracken said the case weighed heavily on him and he had received prank calls in the night from people offering him doughnuts.

PC Read has the right to appeal the decision.

After the ruling the Jane Gyford, deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police, said: “The public should be able to trust that police officers in their duty will act with honesty and integrity at all times.

“I hope this outcome offers reassurance to our communities that our officers and staff will be held to account for their actions.”

Rural broadband: Where has all the money gone?

Internet and network providers have asked the government to clarify why its promised £5bn investment in rural broadband has been reduced to £1.2bn.

Industry bodies said they wanted clarity on how and when the remaining £3.8bn would be allocated.

The change was announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review.

The government has also watered down its election pledge to reach every home in the country to the lower target of 85%.

Providing all homes and businesses in the UK with gigabit broadband speeds by 2025 was one of Boris Johnson’s most ambitious election pledges.

It came with the promise of £5bn to get the job done – but in the spending review it was announced that only £1.2bn of that would be made available over the next four years.

The Independent Network Co-operative Association (Inca), which represents small alternative broadband providers, said it would be pressing the government to make the full funds available earlier.

“The whole point of the funding programme is to ensure that hard-to-reach areas don’t get left behind in this massive upgrade to the UK’s digital infrastructure,” said chief executive Malcolm Corbett.

“For more than a year, the sector has been told that £5bn would be allocated to ensure no homes and businesses were left behind in the gigabit digital revolution. However, the chancellor’s spending review allocating just £1.2bn in the period 2021-25 came as a surprise to all in the industry.”

And he added that investments from BT as well as from the smaller network providers Inca represents were made on the understanding that “government will play its part too”.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) also said it wanted “clarity” on how and when the money would be spent.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been contacted for comment but has not yet responded.

It is expected that commercial rollouts of ultra-fast broadband will reach up to 80% of homes and businesses anyway – but for the remainder, where the commercial cost of connecting premises is considered to be too high, subsidies from the government will be crucial.

According to Ofcom, there are almost 600,000 homes and businesses that do not have access to a broadband connection higher than 10Mbps.

When Boris Johnson stood for the Conservative leadership in June 2019 he described the policy of Theresa May’s government – which would have seen every home get full fibre broadband by 2033 – as “laughably unambitious”.

But his own plan to give everyone a gigabit connection by 2025 was seen as laughably ambitious by some in the broadband industry. It did, however, focus minds, and we have seen the rollout of full fibre accelerate over the last year.

But now the government is, very quietly, admitting that the sceptics were right – that target just cannot be achieved. This is not a U-turn, a source insisted – “we were always explicit that it was challenging” and both the pandemic and the decision to exclude China’s Huawei from sensitive networks had made things even harder.

And the reason why only £1.2bn out of the £5bn set aside to reach the “uncommercial” 20% of homes will be spent by 2025?

That’s because government conversations with broadband suppliers made it clear that they just could not spend that money in such a short timeframe.

When I put that to someone at a major broadband firm, I could almost hear his eyebrows being raised over the phone.

The industry has been pressing ministers for more clarity on how and where taxpayers’ money will be spent. Now, with much less cash available and the 2025 target dropped, the danger is that companies will concentrate on building their networks in areas where they can make a commercial return – and put their plans for rural Britain on the back-burner.

Why are Scottish ministers selling a superyacht?

A vintage “superyacht” found in storage at a nationalised shipyard is being sold off by the Scottish government.

The 25m (82ft) vessel was discovered after ministers took over the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow, which went into administration in 2019.

Built by a Dutch firm in 1952, it remains unclear how the yacht ended up at the yard.

The new management at Ferguson said they had no purpose for the yacht and had therefore decided to sell it.

Described as a “gentleman’s motor yacht”, it was launched in 1952 as Anahita V but will require a “complete renovation and restoration”.

It includes a master suite and two guest suites, a skipper’s cabin and a three-berth crew cabin, as well as two deck saloons, a wheelhouse and a galley.

It was designed and built by Feadship, a Dutch company said to have a “global reputation” for building luxury yachts.

Anahita V was subsequently renamed Mossie, Yankee, Clipper III, Beau Geste, Inspiration and La Vie Vite before returning to her original name.

She spent her early years on the East Coast of the US, before moving to California where she cruised between Mexico and San Diego.

The yacht was once seized by the US authorities for “undeclared importations”, after which she was in federal ownership for years, until she was auctioned off in the 1980s.

Her next owner lived on board for the following thirty years, before selling to an American owner who planned a complete restoration.

Why the yacht was purchased by the previous owner of the Clyde shipyard is not known, according to the current director.

Tim Hair, turnaround director at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow, said the yacht was part of the inventory of assets compiled when the shipyard went into administration.

“We do not know why it was purchased and have no reason to keep the vessel,” he said.

Mr Hair added that the yard did not have the resources or tools to renovate the yacht, and so the best course of action was to sell it.

“Perhaps someone can bring what was once a stylish and elegant yacht back to life and into service,” he added.

Ferguson went into administration following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd – which buys and leases CalMac ships on behalf of the Scottish government – over the construction of two ferries under a £97m fixed price contract.

When the Scottish government began operating the yard under a management agreement with the administrators last year, about £50m of taxpayer loans to Ferguson Marine were written off.

The Scottish government has kept paying the shipyard’s running costs, including its wage bill for 300 people, following administration.

The shipyard had previously been rescued by businessman Jim McColl after it faced administration in 2014, and work on “superyachts” was one of the ideas he put forward for the future of the yard.

Essex lorry deaths: Van driver misled into people-smuggling

A van driver has told a court he was “misled” by an acquaintance into people-smuggling five days before 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead.

Valentin Calota, 38, said he thought he was transporting cigarettes from Essex to London on 18 October 2019.

The Old Bailey heard the migrants in his van had made the same journey from Zeebrugge to Purfleet as those found dead in a trailer on 23 October.

Mr Calota, of Birmingham, denies being involved in a people-smuggling plot.

The Romanian haulier said his acquaintance, Gheorghe Nica, offered him £700 to transport cigarettes and he was unaware there were people in the van.

He told the court he was “angry” he had been duped by Nica.

“I’m angry with him. But more than that I’m angry with myself because the mistake that brought me here was mine,” he said.

“I should not have accepted involvement in any smuggling of cigarettes. I should have minded my own business and I’m very sorry and apologetic.”

Mr Calota told the court he met Nica in a car park in Tilbury, Essex, picked up a van and then drove it to Orsett.

He said Nica told him to stay in the van and “look ahead” to “make sure nobody comes”.

Mr Calota said he could hear noises when Nica went to the back of the van but he assumed the cigarettes were being loaded.

“As you can imagine I was nervous, I was looking ahead. My heart was beating very fast,” he said.

The court heard Mr Calota was wearing a Bluetooth headset and listening to the radio on the journey from Essex to London.

He told the jury he did “not for one moment” think there were people onboard.

When he arrived in London, Nica told him again not to get out of the van and to look ahead, the court heard.

Mr Calota said: “I saw a number of people carrying holdalls on their shoulders. The holdalls looked square as if they are cartons of cigarettes.

“I thought that those cigarettes were being unloaded.”

Mr Calota told the jury he thought it was a “mistake” when he was arrested in connection with the deaths of the 39 migrants.

He said he gave a no comment police interview as he feared for his family’s safety if he was to “snitch to police”.

Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, of County Down, deny 39 counts of manslaughter.

Mr Calota, Mr Harrison and lorry driver Christopher Kennedy, 24, of County Armagh, deny being involved in a people-smuggling plot, which Nica has admitted.

Irish haulier boss Ronan Hughes, 41, and lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 26, have previously admitted manslaughter.

The trial continues.

Swansea bus crash: Driver Eric Vice charged over death

A bus driver has been charged with death by dangerous driving after a crash which killed a woman last December.

Jessica Jing Ren, 36, died 11 days after the bus crashed into a railway bridge on Neath Road in Swansea.

Eric Vice, 64, from Dunvant, Swansea, has been charged with death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Mr Vice is due to appear at Swansea Magistrates’ Court on 23 December.

Ms Ren, a mother of one, was a visiting academic at Swansea University’s accounting and finance department from Huanghuai University in China.

Eight people were injured in the crash, including Olympic gold medallist and 400m hurdles world record holder Kevin Young.

The crash happened at 09:40 GMT on the morning of 12 December while the bus was travelling from Swansea University’s Singleton Campus to its Swansea Bay campus.

After the crash, Ms Ren was airlifted from Swansea to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, but she died on 23 December.

Paying tribute to her at the time, her family said in a statement: “A much loved and talented academic, Jessica will be deeply missed by her family and her friends both in China and in Swansea and will leave a great void in their lives.”

Nicola Sturgeon accused of sheer hypocrisy over Alex Salmond papers

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “sheer hypocrisy” over her government’s failure to publish legal advice from its court battle with Alex Salmond.

MSPs have twice voted for the government to hand over papers to a special inquiry committee.

Scottish Conservative group leader Ruth Davidson said the fact they had not yet done so suggested Ms Sturgeon “has something to hide”.

The first minister said the government was cooperating fully with the inquiry.

And she said it was “right and proper” that time was taken to consider whether to waive legal privilege and hand over the papers.

The ministerial code states that legal advice should not be divulged outside of exceptional circumstances, and that law officers must give their consent before this can happen.

A Holyrood committee was set up to review the government’s botched investigation of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.

The government had conceded its approach had been unlawful after the former first minister challenged it in a judicial review – and agreed to pay him £500,000 in legal expenses.

The inquiry committee has repeatedly asked to see the Scottish government’s legal advice from the case, but Deputy First Minister John Swinney told them it was an “important legal principle” that such advice be kept private.

He argued that publishing would undermine the ability of ministers to seek full and frank advice from lawyers in future.

MSPs have now voted to urge the government divulge the advice twice inside the span of three weeks, most recently on Wednesday by a margin of 65 to 55.

Ms Davidson pointed out that the first minister had previously pledged to “provide whatever material” the committee requested, and asked why she had “broken her promise”.

The Scottish Tory MSP suggested that “the only conceivable reason she is breaking her promise is because she has something to hide”.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that the government was cooperating, and that she had recused herself from the decision-making process as the committee is in part investigating her actions.

She said the ministerial code stipulated that a certain process must be followed before advice could be divulged, and said this was being considered by Mr Swinney.

Ms Davidson said Ms Sturgeon had in the past “lectured people about the will of parliament”, and said it was “sheer hypocrisy” that her government was now failing to abide by it.

She added: “This cynical obfuscation only serves to show why this advice needs to be brought into the open.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “The government is not ignoring the votes in parliament, what it is doing is going through the process that the ministerial code explicitly sets out before legal advice can be divulged.

“If we didn’t go through that process, we would be breaching the ministerial code.”

The inquiry committee is to resume hearings in the coming week, having been unable to call two civil servants as witnesses on Tuesday because the government said papers supporting their evidence were not yet ready to be published.

Convener Linda Fabiani – an SNP MSP – has repeatedly hit out at “prevarication” and “obstruction” by the key players involved.

Ministers say they are waiting for Mr Salmond’s lawyers to sign off hundreds of documents before the are released to the committee – and say they are prepared to go to court to settle the matter if no agreement can be reached.

Meanwhile Mr Salmond’s lawyers say many of the papers they have been handed are irrelevant – but that others are potentially significant, and should have been handed over to them during either the judicial review case or Mr Salmond’s criminal trial, which saw him acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault.

They have also asked both the government and the committee to commit to funding Mr Salmond’s representation, saying it “cannot be fair” that he as a private citizen has spent “hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds supporting this inquiry”.

In Wednesday’s debate, committee member Murdo Fraser said the government was “cynically running down the clock on the inquiry” by stalling over whether to hand over key documents.

Another committee member, Jackie Baillie, said Mr Swinney’s pace in considering the matter “makes a snail look like a sprinter”, adding that the government was “treating parliament with contempt”.

Mr Swinney replied that this was not a matter of releasing “a few documents”, and that hundreds of pages would have to be reviewed and redacted to be in line with court requirements and data protection law.

He said: “This would be a serious and significant decision for the government to take, and an equally serious and significant undertaking to fulfil.”