Sinn Féin member Brian Stanley apologises over insensitive tweet

A Sinn Féin member of the Irish parliament has apologised for a tweet about an IRA bombing in which 18 soldiers were killed in 1979.

Brian Stanley said the content of the now-deleted tweet was “inappropriate and insensitive”.

The post had linked the Narrow Water bombing, near Warrenpoint, to another at Kilmichael, County Cork, in 1920.

That incident saw 17 members of the Royal Irish Constabluary (RIC) killed.

Mr Stanley wrote: “The 2 IRA operation that taught the elite of d British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners.”

The tweet was condemned by First Minister Arlene Foster, who described it as “shameful”.

She said she planned to raise it with the Ceann Comhairle, the chairperson and speaker in the Dáil (Irish parliament).

In a Twitter post, she said: “Although deleted it is outrageous that someone with such warped view can hold a senior position in the Dáil.

“Sinn Féin talk about respect and equality but there’s not much sign of respect for victims.”

In a statement on Sunday night, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said the party had noted Mr Stanley, who is also the chair of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, had deleted a tweet that was “inappropriate and insensitive and that he has apologised”.

The spokesperson added: “We all have a responsibility in this decade of centenaries to remember and commemorate the past in a respectful manner.”

Esther Dingley search: Six teams look for her in Pyrenees

Search teams and a helicopter have been out in the Pyrenees looking for a missing British woman who has spent six years on a campervan tour of Europe.

Esther Dingley, 37, last messaged her partner Dan Colegate via Whatsapp a week ago, when she was on top of Pic de Sauvegarde on the France-Spain border.

She had been due to return from her solo walking trek on Wednesday but has not been seen.

French authorities said six search teams had been out looking on Sunday.

A helicopter was deployed on the Spanish side of the border and another one is expected to go up on Monday on the French side.

The mountain gendarmerie unit in Bagneres-de-Luchon said teams had been out on Sunday in the area between Port de la Glère and Port de Vénasque.

According to the gendarmerie, witnesses told the Civil Guard in Spain they saw Ms Dingley on Pic de Sauvegarde, which is 2,730m above sea level, last Sunday.

A spokesperson said: “The problem is that we are in lockdown here so there aren’t that many hikers on the paths.

“Nobody has come forward with any information about her.”

On Monday mountain rescue teams are expected to search the more inaccessible areas while the weather remains good.

Ms Dingley had been travelling in the couple’s camper van while Mr Colegate stayed at a farm in the Gascony area of France.

The weekend she set out on the trek, the couple’s story about their adventures around Europe in the camper van since 2014 was published by BBC News.

Ms Dingley had started walking from Benasque in Spain on Saturday and had planned to spend Sunday night at Refuge de Venasque in France, Mr Colegate said.

Mr Colegate, who has gone to the Luchon area to help look for his partner of 18 years, said she had been away for a month and their last conversation had been about “how excited we were to see each other as this was her last trip before driving back”.

The couple had lived in Durham before deciding to pack up their lives and go travelling after Mr Colegate nearly died from an infection.

Nottingham student halls party broken up by police

A party of 200 people at a halls of residence was broken up by police.

The gathering in the courtyard outside St Peter’s Court, Radford, which houses University of Nottingham students, stopped after midnight.

Nottinghamshire Police said officers were unable to arrest anyone as the crowd dispersed when they arrived, but they were still investigating.

It was one of a number of parties the force broke up overnight, prompting a plea to follow the rules.

Students across England are being tested next week as part of the government’s plan to allow them to return home between 3 and 9 December.

Shortly after 21:00 GMT officers handed out five £200 fines after responding to reports of a party in a field in Gonalston.

They said they were still trying to find the organiser and a driver who crashed into a police car as they fled the scene.

At about 22:30 officers were called to a flat in Pilcher Gate, in the city centre, where they gave £200 fines to 21 people.

Shortly after 23:30 two people were arrested in Valley Road, Carlton, on suspicion of assaulting a police officer who had been at another illegal gathering.

Just after midnight officers broke up a “large party” in St Ann’s and issued the organiser with a summons to appear in court.

Det Supt Andrew Gowan said: “The very last thing we want to be doing as police officers is to be punishing people for gathering together and having fun.

“However, the current national restrictions are in place to protect the wider public from harm and we will keep enforcing them for as long as we need to.

“It is deeply disappointing that so many needed such an expensive reminder that the rules apply equally to everyone.

“We understand that this is a difficult time but there really are no excuses for this kind of behaviour where people are blatantly ignoring the restrictions in such large numbers.”

The Crown should carry fiction warning, says culture secretary

The culture secretary has said the creators behind TV series The Crown, based on the lives of the Royal Family, need to make clear the show is fiction.

“I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact,” Oliver Dowden told the Mail on Sunday.

He praised the Netflix drama, now in its fourth season, as a “beautifully produced work of fiction”.

But said: “It should be very clear at the beginning it is just that.”

Mr Dowden told the paper he intended to write to Netflix this week to express his concerns. The production company has so far declined to comment.

The latest series, which stars Olivia Colman as the Queen, has attracted criticism from some quarters for its depiction of royal events, in particular the breakdown of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The Mail on Sunday has led calls for a disclaimer to be added to the series.

Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, previously told ITV’s Lorraine Kelly he was worried some viewers would take the storylines “as gospel”.

“I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events’,” he said.

Peter Morgan, the show’s creator, has defended the fictionalised account of real-life events, describing the script as a “constant push-pull” between research and drama.

Actor Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles in the current series, told BBC Breakfast: “What Peter does so brilliantly is he takes the historical facts… and then paints in between those ‘punctuation moments’.”

“Sometimes people will want to believe this is what happened. It’s always worth checking in and remembering that we’re actors, we’re not real and it’s not a real story,” he added.

But former Buckingham Palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter has accused the show of “stretching dramatic licence to the extreme”.

“It’s a hatchet job on Prince Charles and a bit of a hatchet job on Diana,” Mr Arbiter told the BBC.

And former royal correspondent Jennie Bond told the BBC Newscast podcast she feared some viewers might treat the show “as a documentary”.

It comes after Sarah Horsley, widow of Major Hugh Lindsay, said she was “very upset” by the depiction of her late husband’s death, in 1988, in an avalanche – after she asked for it not to be included in the drama.

Mrs Horsley told the Sunday Telegraph last weekend that The Crown’s producers replied with “a very kind letter”, saying “that they understood my concerns but they hope I will feel that they deal with difficult subject matters with integrity and great sensitivity”.

It is reported that viewing figures for season four of The Crown have already reached 29 million.

21 Savage: Tyrece Fuller charged with murdering rappers brother

A man has been charged with murdering the brother of a Grammy-award winning rapper in south London.

Terrell Davis, the brother of US rapper 21 Savage, was found injured in Ramillies Close, Lambeth, last Sunday. He died at the scene.

He was also a rapper and performed as TM1way.

Tyrece Fuller, 21, of Tavy Close, Lambeth, was charged on Saturday and will appear before Bromley magistrates on Monday.

In an online tribute, 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, posted a picture of the pair on Instagram as young boys and more recent images of Mr Davis.

He wrote: “Can’t believe somebody took you baby bro.”

Though based in the US, the rapper was born in Newham, London.

Dave Prowse: My first recollection of him was he was enormous

The first thing many people noticed about Dave Prowse was his size.

His imposing frame would take the bodybuilder and actor, who has died at 85 after a short illness, to Hollywood – and a galaxy far, far away.

As a young man, it took him to the doors at The Glen, the Bristol dance hall where he worked.

“There was never any trouble at The Glen,” remembers David Warren, who told the BBC he used to visit the venue on Mondays and Fridays.

“I was standing on the edge of the dance floor – it must have been in 1961 – and was conscious of someone standing next to me. I looked down and saw a pair of feet. I have big feet – size 11 – but these were enormous, huge.

“I turned and looked up and up and up. He was a giant.”

Yet for many of those who got to know Dave Prowse, it was his generosity and kindness they remembered.

“We lived a few doors away from Dave and his family when I was growing up,” Sandra Weakner told the BBC.

“Every Sunday morning all the children in the road would have keep fit with Dave and his children in his front room.

“I remember one occasion his daughter and I were told by Dave we were doing better than the boys. It made our day, especially as my brother was also doing it.”

Sandra, whose maiden name is Barrett, remembers Prowse travelling to the United States to play his most famous role.

“I remember him going off to America when he was being Darth Vader. We were out in the street waving him off.

“They were such a lovely family.”

Marina Grant was 14 when she first met Prowse. She lives with a disability and uses callipers to support her legs.

“My father heard Dave on the radio talking about how he used to wear a calliper as a child for his club foot,” she told the BBC.

“My dad got in touch with Dave and he kindly offered to give me personal training sessions at his gym for free.”

They stayed in touch for a time.

“Dave and his wife Norma even came to my wedding in 1989,” she said.

“He was a lovely man.”

Ian Edmed also trained at Prowse’s gym, in the 1970s and 1980s.

“My first recollection of him was he was absolutely enormous,” he told the BBC.

“He set me off on a lifetime in weights. And he was just one of those people who was larger than life. He was an inspiration to everyone who trained at his gym.

“He was an innovator. There weren’t many gyms in London at the time and it drew people from quite a way.”

Prowse’s was not the only famous face Ian recalls recognising there.

“The number of people I met there – Andy Ripley, the England rugby player; [bodybuilder] Frank Zane, Mr Olympia; Peter Davison, who went on to play Doctor Who, and his wife Sandra Dickinson.

“I missed Arnold Schwarzenegger – he turned up one evening.

“Dave was the type of person who people flock to.”

Ian moved away, but returned to they gym when his son, Scott, was born.

“Dave signed a photo for him. We’ve dug out the picture to send to my son today,” he said.

“For people of my generation, he’ll always be remembered as Darth Vader.

“When the mask was finally taken off and it was a different actor underneath he wasn’t very happy, I can tell you.”

But if there was any resentment – his voice was also dubbed – it didn’t stop him from engaging with the legions of Star Wars fans.

Derek Reeves is the chairman of the Croydon Symphonic Band, an award-winning amateur community wind band. A few years ago the band was due to perform music from Star Wars at Fairfield Halls.

“We had a phone call out of the blue,” he told the BBC. “It was Dave Prowse.

“He lived nearby and asked if he could come to the concert. He was a gentleman who was happy to stay behind and sign autographs after the concert and have photographs taken with the audience and band members.”

Prowse was a regular fixture at conventions, too. Attendees or exhibitors paying tribute on social media have emphasised his graciousness and generosity.

Mike Sparkes, 51, from Colchester, was at a wrestling reunion in 2010 when he unexpectedly bumped into Prowse.

“Back in the 1970s he trained a lot of the British wrestlers at the time,” Mike explained.

“He was an absolute gentleman. I grew up knowing him as the Green Cross Code man and he chatted to my then 10-year-old daughters about crossing the road and road safety.”

“He told them that he had helped your mum and dad learn road safety – meaning myself and my wife Helen – which he did as we grew up with the public information films,” Mike said.

“It was the only time I met him personally. But it is a really sad day today.”

Mairead Philpott jailed for killing her six children in Derby blaze released

A mother who was jailed for killing her six children in a fire has been released from prison.

Mairead Philpott, 39, was jailed for 17 years in 2013 for the manslaughter of her children at her home in Derby a year before.

Jade Philpott, 10, John, nine, Jack, seven, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five, died on the morning of the blaze. Duwayne, 13, died three days later.

The Ministry of Justice said it cannot comment on individual cases.

“Offenders released on licence face strict conditions and can be returned to prison if they breach them,” a spokesperson said.

The Sun newspaper reported she has now been released, as the sentencing judge said she only had to serve half her term.

The children were killed after Mick Philpott, 63, poured petrol on the floor of the house in Victory Road and set it alight on 11 May, while Mairead spoke to emergency services.

Prosecutors said it was an attempt to frame his former lover, who also lived at the house, in a bid to get custody of her children.

Their defence argued he did not mean to harm the children and it was a “plan that went disastrously wrong”.

In her sentencing remarks, Mrs Justice Thirlwall said it was clear the fire was Mick Philpott’s plan.

But she said Mairead’s children died because she put her husband first.

Mick, who was the father of five of the children, has to serve a minimum term of 15 years in prison for his part in the killings.

Mairead and Paul Mosley, a family friend who was also sentenced to 17 years, were both told they would have to serve at least half their sentences.

This is why she could now be released.

RAF jets scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft over North Sea

Two RAF fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian military aircraft flying over the North Sea on Saturday.

The Typhoons were launched from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray after two Russian Tu-142 Bear F planes were detected near UK airspace.

The RAF said the Russian aircraft were used for anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol.

It added that it was “essential” their movements were “carefully monitored” when operating so close to the UK.

A statement also said Russian military aircraft flying within “the UK Flight Information Region” could be a “hazard” in the busy airspace over the North Sea.

Such aircraft do not “squawk” by transmitting information on their position and movements to UK air traffic controllers, causing civilian planes to be re-routed to prevent them flying too close.

The Typhoons “shadowed” the Russian planes on Saturday to “deter this unprofessional activity and mitigate risks associated with Russian military aircraft flying in this busy international airspace”, the RAF said.

An RAF Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire was also deployed to provide air-to-air refuelling for the Typhoons, while Nato allies assisted with monitoring the Russian planes.

Controllers from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire coordinated the mission, liaising with Nato partners at the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany.

An RAF spokesman said: “The crew did a fantastic job, locating aircraft that were not easy to detect very quickly.

“Again, the RAF has scrambled to defend the interests of the UK and Nato. It demonstrates the efficiency and resilience of our personnel, aircraft and systems.”

The RAF jets were launched at 08:00 on Saturday and the incident concluded by early afternoon.

Half of calls to Met Police victim helpline unanswered

The Met Police is only answering half of the number of calls it receives to its victims of crime helpline, figures released to the BBC show.

In January 2019, 80% of calls to its Crime Management Service (CMS) were answered. By September this year, that figure dropped to 49%.

One caller described it as “the worst experience I’ve had in my life”.

The force said there had been a “massive increase” in demand and it was taking measures to improve the service.

The phone number, 0208 284 5100, was set up in 2016 for victims to use to get an update on an investigation into a crime they have reported.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act showed the average time someone waited to speak to an officer had tripled to 13 minutes, and the maximum time someone waited before hanging up had increased from 21 minutes to 45 minutes.

On Twitter, people have complained about not being able to get through to the helpline for more than a year.

Homer Beklik said he had been trying to speak to someone about three burglaries at his home in north London for the past six months.

He said: “It’s the worst experience I’ve had in my life. I can’t get through. I call at night, I call during the day, I call every hour and it’s the same old.

“I have also exchanged maybe 50 or 60 direct messages with the Met Police on Twitter. It’s always the same, ‘we’ll get back to you, we’ll be in touch’. It’s the same old story.”

Mr Beklik has reported two watches as being stolen from his home. One was given to his brother when he was an ambassador by General Charles de Gaulle, who led France during World War Two, and the other was given to Mr Beklik by the prime minister of Kuwait.

He continued: “For the past few years that I have been residing in the UK I have had three burglaries and it’s the same old story – nobody cares.

“It’s over £250,000 of my belongings taken and they just give you excuses and say ‘we will call you’ – it’s really a mess.

“Every time you have a complaint they refer you to a number and every time I call I was just part of the queue.”

When it launched, the unit had 14 staff on the phones who would handle between 200-250 calls per day from 09:00-17:00 BST Monday to Friday. In 2019, this was increased to 24 staff due to its hours being extended to 21:00.

Previously all 32 London boroughs answered their own calls but the system was centralised in April 2016 to make it a more “efficient” process, and so victims did not have to rely solely on a response from the officer conducting the investigation.

In a statement, the Met said it was working to better match staffing to where the demand was greatest.

It added it was also working to “better signpost callers to online contact to enable the most efficient resolution of their inquiry, however it wanted to ensure that a crime victim could always speak to a member of the team if they wish”.

“The officer investigating the case is best placed by far to provide an update to a victim of crime, but the CMS will continue to be there to support victims,” it said.

Turkey cull after bird flu discovered at Northallerton farm

All 10,500 turkeys will be culled at a farm in North Yorkshire after bird flu was confirmed at the site.

The H5N8 strain of avian influenza was found at a turkey fattening premises near Northallerton on Saturday.

The birds will be humanely culled to stop the disease spreading, the Department for Rural Affairs (Defra) said, as it investigates the source.

Risk to public health from the virus is very low, Public Health England (PHE) added.

A temporary control zone of 3km (1.86 m) and 10km (6.21 m) is in place around the infected site.

Defra’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it.

“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.”

The disease can spread to poultry and other captive birds when wild birds migrate from mainland Europe during winter, Defra added.

Routine health advice is being offered to those working on the farm.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, consultant in Acute Respiratory Infections at PHE, said the World Health Organisation has never confirmed any cases of H5N8 in humans to date.

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