British Airways memorabilia sale hits snag as demand soars

They flew off shelves: slippers, cups and saucers, blankets and bedding, towels, even drinks trolleys.

British Airways’ online sale of thousands of surplus stock not needed for its aircraft caused a stampede of buying from aviation enthusiasts and bargain-hunters.

In the first 24 hours of the sale, 5,000 purchases were made, with the website getting 250,000 page views. In the first four days, 1,900 six-packs of Club World class bread baskets were snapped up.

Meal trolleys were among the first to sell out. Items from the now-retired Boeing 747s in BA’s aircraft fleet were in big demand.

Trouble is, the sell-off seems to have been so popular it risks becoming a PR headache.

While there are plenty of satisfied customers, there are also plenty of dissatisfied ones – just check Twitter, Trustpilot and the frequent flyer website Head for Points, where buyers are venting annoyance about broken and missing items, non-deliveries and lack of responses from BA and the company it used to handle the sale, Whatabuy.

“Such an unnecessary own goal,” said Nick Hadjinikos, whose girlfriend is still waiting for her plates and bread baskets.

The director at communications consultancy Kallinos said: “During the ordering process, the site kept crashing after payment information had been submitted. This was the big worry, so I put in a couple of emails to Whatabuy and never heard back.

“Then I took to Twitter and found we were not alone. BA should have spotted the problem and headed it off. I think most of the stuff was snapped up by hawks and ended up on eBay.”

Another buyer, Simon Saunders, told the BBC: “The whole thing is a shambles. Whatabuy replied to my third email and simply said, ‘You will get your stuff in due course.'”

Comments on the Head for Points website include:

Travel enthusiasts

Whatabuy did not respond to BBC requests for comment. But in an email to a customer complaining about their order, the company said it had seen “an unprecedented level of demand” and processing was taking longer than usual. The company also said there had been IT issues.

Head for Points’ Rhys Jones said complaints to his website revealed obvious problems with the sale, but he still believes the majority of his readers seem delighted with their purchases.

“This sale seems to have captured the imagination of travel enthusiasts. It offers them a chance to get hold of some authentic BA memorabilia,” Mr Jones said.

That’s why John Granger bought some mugs, plates and a blanket – a gift for partner Tim. “It was curiosity and nostalgia. We love flying so much but have not been able to travel during the pandemic. It’s a reminder of our travels.

“The crockery is actually high-quality bone china [designed by William Edwards].” He paid £44.70 (including P&P) for the lot. “That’s remarkable value. I’m not sure why BA was selling them so cheap.”

Kirill Maksaev and partner Alexander Smotrov bought £100 worth of BA crockery and would have snapped up more, had they been quicker off the mark. They haven’t got the items yet, but are not concerned. “It’s fine. We can wait. We’ve had the confirmation email,” said Kirill.

The purchases will be part of the mini-museum Alex has set up in his home – boarding passes, amenity bags, napkins, crockery and branded goods marking his years of air travel. “We are plane spotters: we are passionate about aviation,” Kirill said.

BA said it had expected a huge amount of interest from aviation fans, bargain hunters and people looking for “unique” Christmas gifts.

“But of course, no one could have predicted quite how popular it would be and how quickly items would sell out,” the airline told the BBC.

“We are working hard to ensure all customers receive their orders as quickly as possible and in time for Christmas. We’re in touch with those who may not have received their items yet to reassure them they’re on their way.”

And the airline promised refunds “for any items that are not in the condition advertised on the site”.

Would BA do it again? “We’ll consider our options once we’ve reviewed the success of the scheme and any learnings,” the airline said.

Lightwater Valley fined £350k over boys rollercoaster fall

A theme park where a boy fell from a rollercoaster has been fined £350,000 for health and safety breaches.

The seven-year-old was airlifted to hospital with head injuries after falling from the ride at Lightwater Valley in North Yorkshire in May 2019.

York Magistrates’ Court heard the ride no longer operated and the park viewed the accident with “great sadness”.

The boy fell from the Twister attraction during the spring half-term holiday, the court heard.

Bosses at the theme park, near Ripon, admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Judge Adrian Lower was told the boy had not been wearing a seat belt and fell through a gap between the seat and a restraining bar.

But the boy and his mother, who was in the car with him, were not told they had to wear a seat belt, the court heard.

Judge Lower was told the effectiveness of the restraining bar was not enough to hold the youngster in position.

Prosecutor Craig Hassall said the victim suffered serious head injuries following the fall and was airlifted to hospital in Leeds.

His mother saw him slip under the restraint as he was ejected from the car which was between two and three metres from the ground at the time

Mr Hassall said seatbelt rules were not universally understood by ride operatives and that maintenance of seatbelts was not adequate or in effective working order.

In June 2001, 20-year-old Gemma Savage from South Yorkshire died when two of the rollercoaster’s cars collided.

Times apologises over Reading knife attack slur

The Times has apologised after incorrectly suggesting an organisation supported a man who killed three men in a knife rampage in a Reading park.

The newspaper will pay damages to advocacy group Cage and its outreach director Moazzam Begg after suggesting they excused Khairi Sadallah’s actions.

Sadallah has admitted three counts of murder but denies the stabbings in Forbury Gardens were terror-related.

Cage said it was awarded £30,000 in damages by The Times.

The apology centres over a June story in response to Cage and Mr Begg commenting on police and media reaction to the attack.

The Times said it incorrectly accused them of excusing Sadallah’s actions by reference to failings by the police and others.

The News UK-owned newspaper also said it wrongly stated Cage and Mr Begg had refused to comment on their involvement with the suspect, despite them having no involvement with Sadallah.

“We apologise to Cage and Mr Begg for these errors and the distress caused, and we have agreed to pay them damages and legal costs,” The Times said in a statement.

Cage said it would use the damages to “expose state-sponsored Islamophobia and those complicit with it in the press”.

Mr Begg said in a statement: “Over the years, Muslims in Britain have become accustomed to reading sensationalist and defamatory headlines in popular newspapers.

“We can only hope that this settlement serves as a reminder to others that the truth is not negotiable.”

Zillur Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors, who represented Cage and Mr Begg, said he was “delighted” by the “substantial sum of damages” over the article.

He said: “It exemplifies the gravity of the allegations and provides the vindication to which Cage and Mr Begg are entitled.”

News UK has been contacted for comment.

Avonmouth explosion: Boy, 16, among four workers killed

A 16-year-old boy was among four workers killed in an explosion at a waste water treatment works.

Teenager Luke Wheaton, Michael James, 64, Brian Vickery, 63, and Raymond White, 57, died in the blast in Avonmouth, Bristol. A fifth person injured is recovering at home.

It happened at 11:20 GMT on Thursday in a silo that treated biosolids.

Wessex Water said it was working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the cause of the blast.

It is understood Mr James was a contractor working at the site, while Mr Vickery and Mr White were employees of Wessex Water and Luke was an apprentice at the firm.

Luke was a former pupil at Bradley Stoke Community School in Bristol and had recently started an apprenticeship at the plant.

In a post on Facebook, the school said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the “tragic passing of our former student Luke Wheaton”.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” it added.

A witness reported hearing a “very loud explosion” that “shook buildings” and another said they saw about 10 ambulances driving to the scene.

Avon and Somerset Police declared a major incident in the immediate aftermath.

Supt Simon Brickwood said he wanted to “extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those involved”.

“We appreciate the impact this incident has had on the local community and we thank those affected for their patience while our investigative work is carried out,” he said.

“This is likely to be ongoing for some time and we will be keeping the victims’ families informed throughout.”

Investigators are due to speak to the fifth victim when it is appropriate to do so.

Formal identification of the victims is yet to take place and post-mortem examinations are under way, police said.

On Thursday, Avon Fire and Rescue Service described the scene of the incident as “very challenging”.

Search and rescue dogs were drafted in to locate casualties following the blast.

Colin Skellett, chief executive of Wessex Water, said the firm was “absolutely devastated” by what had happened.

“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives during the tragic event on Thursday,” he said.

“I know from the thoughts and comments I have received from so many, that this has affected the whole Wessex Water family.

“We are determined to find out what happened and why and we will work with the relevant authorities to do just that.”

A police spokesman confirmed the blast, in a chemical tank, was not terror-related.

Biosolids are “treated sludge”, a by-product of the sewage treatment process.

According to Wessex Water, the sludge is treated in anaerobic digesters, oxygen-free tanks, to produce agricultural fertiliser and renewable energy.

Police said a cordon at the site was likely to remain in place for several days while the blast is investigated by a team of chemical and mechanical experts, who are working with the HSE.

Giles Hyder, HSE’s head of operations in the South West, said: “We send our deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically died. It is important a joint investigation is carried out.

“We will provide specialist support to what is likely to be a complex investigation under the command of the police.”

Post-Brexit trade talks paused amid significant divergences

Talks to reach a post-Brexit trade deal have been paused, because UK and EU negotiators say “significant divergences” remain.

Michel Barnier and David Frost said conditions for a deal between the two sides have not been met.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and PM Boris Johnson will discuss the situation on Saturday.

State aid subsidies, fishing and enforcement of new rules remain the key sticking points in negotiations.

If a deal is not agreed by 31 December, the two sides will trade on World Trade Organization rules, meaning the introduction of taxes on imports.

Releasing identical statements on Twitter, Mr Barnier and Lord Frost said: “After one week of intense negotiation in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.

“On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations.”

A senior UK government source told BBC News the statement shows how far apart both sides are and that the trade talks have run into problems.

Earlier, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the government was “committed to working hard to try and reach agreement” but emphasised that the UK couldn’t “agree a deal that doesn’t allow us to take back control”.

He added that “time is in very short supply and we are at a very difficult point in talks”.

What happens next with Brexit?

The Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said it was important for the 27 EU member states to give negotiators “the space to conclude these talks”. He added that he “fervently hoped” a trade deal can be agreed.

Meanwhile, France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, warned that his country could “veto” a deal if it did not satisfy their demands.

The European Parliament would need to ratify any deal before it can be implemented and UK MPs are likely to get the chance to vote on legislation implementing the agreement.

And the 27 EU national parliaments could also need to ratify an agreement – depending on the actual contents of the deal.

Cardiff teacher jailed for pupils indecent photos

A teacher at a Cardiff school has been jailed for six years and three months after obtaining indecent photos of his pupils, over four years.

Richard Edmunds, 40, admitted to downloading intimate images from his female pupils’ phones and computers.

Thousands of indecent photos and films of other children were found on his computer, with nearly 100 in the most serious category A.

Judge Daniel Williams said Edmunds groomed his victims.

Edmunds pleaded guilty at Newport Crown Court to 19 offences as his trial was about to begin last month.

The court heard that whilst Edmunds was a teacher at Radyr comprehensive school, he befriended female pupils and offered to help them with technical problems on phones and computers.

Whilst doing so, he downloaded images of the pupils and obtained access to their storage clouds.

Prosecution barrister John Ryan told the judge that Edmunds repeatedly asked the girls to send pictures to him.

Two pupils were encouraged to send nude photographs to him, as Edmunds told them they could earn money from doing so through a fictional friend’s website.

One of the girls, who was under 16 at the time, sent 30 photos to him, the court heard.

The court heard that she was told she needed to send 200 a day in order to earn significant amounts of money.

Edmunds was arrested after Childline contacted the police.

Mr Ryan told the court that what Edmunds had done had “crushed bubbly personalities and crushed confidence, caused nightmares and caused victims to become insular”.

In personal impact statements, one of the girls said she “hit rock bottom” and felt going to school “was now horrendous”.

Edmunds admitted three charges of possession of indecent photographs of a child, two charges of causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child and 14 charges of securing unauthorised access to computer material with intent to gain possession of indecent images of children.

Judge Williams said: “You abused the trust of teenage girls at a difficult, challenging and vulnerable time in their lives when confidence and security are in short supply”.

He added that Edmunds had “no true remorse”.

Senior crown prosecutor Ann Haile said it is hoped “this serves as a reminder that the images and data on electronic devices are never completely private but will be used to secure justice if necessary”.

Speaking after the sentencing, Ann Haile of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Edmunds had “preyed on vulnerabilities” for his own satisfaction.

“Instead of protecting children against the dangers of exploitation, this individual used his position of trust to do the opposite,” she added.

“While we hope [this] sentence helps those affected to move on with their lives, knowing that the offender has been brought to justice, we also hope this serves as a reminder that the images and data on electronic devices are never completely private but will be used to secure justice if necessary.”

Protected River Lugg was bulldozed

The Environment Agency said it had “used its powers of entry” to attend an incident at a river, amid claims a protected stretch of river was “bulldozed”.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) described the damage caused to the River Lugg in the county as a “crime against the environment”.

The trust said it had “huge repercussions for wildlife downstream”.

West Mercia Police said it was assisting with an investigation.

The trust said all bankside and riverside habitats had been “completely obliterated”, after the river and its banks were “bulldozed, straightened and re-profiled into a sterile canal”.

Wildlife affected by the damage of the one-mile stretch (1.5km) includes crayfish, otters and salmon, lampreys and dragonflies and a host of rare river wildlife, the HWT added.

Dave Throup, area manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We are treating this very seriously along with Natural England and the Forestry Commission who have taken immediate action in an attempt to prevent any further works at the site.”

He said they were “mounting a wide-ranging investigation” with other agencies and he was unable to comment further.

The wildlife trust said it hoped for a prosecution after it claimed a 16-tonne bulldozer was used by people “well aware” the river was a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Commenting on the damage, HWT chief executive Helen Stace said: “A large stretch of one of the UK’s most important rivers, the Lugg, has been devastated, with dire consequences for wildlife and water quality downstream – this is a tragedy.

“The bankside trees are all grubbed out and burnt, the river gravels have been scraped away, and the beautiful meanders of the river have been straightened and re-profiled.

“This is a crime against the environment. Swift action needs to be taken.”

She added she expected the case to be dealt with in a “serious and robust manner”.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson arrested in bribery probe

Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

He and four others were held as part of an investigation into the awarding of building contracts in the city.

It is understood the Labour Party has suspended Mr Anderson pending the outcome of the case.

The year-long police probe focussed on 32-year-old property developer Elliot Lawless, who was arrested in January.

It is not known whether he is among the five arrested earlier.

Liverpool City Council said it is co-operating with Merseyside Police.

A police statement said those arrested include two men, 33 and 62, both from Liverpool, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

A 46-year-old man from Ainsdale has also been arrested on suspicion of the same offence.

The other two arrested men are a 72-year-old man from Liverpool and a 25-year old from Ormskirk, who have been arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.

Christmas singles flood UK top 40 chart

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, with festive singles accounting for more than half of this week’s UK top 40 chart.

Twenty-one seasonal songs appear in the latest rundown, led by Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You.

Mariah is at number two, kept off the top spot by Ariana Grande’s Positions.

Martin Talbot, head of the Official Charts Company, said it was “very unusual” to see such a “surge of interest” in festive tunes.

The appetite for Christmas music “essentially started in November”, Talbot said, with people throwing themselves into “familiar TV, film, books and music as comfort from the miserable tone of so much of this year’s news”.

Wham’s Last Christmas and Fairytale of New York by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl have both gone back into the top 10 this week.

“The public are also buying their Christmas trees and putting up their decorations much earlier this year too, almost certainly finding solace in Christmas at the end of a year that most people want to put behind them as soon as possible,” Talbot said.

“Who could dispute that, in 2020, we all deserve to start celebrating Christmas earlier than ever?”

Little Mix, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa and Tate McRae are among the artists with non-Christmassy singles in the top 10.

The 21 Christmas singles in the top 40:

Gary Barlow’s latest release Music Played by Humans topped the album chart, which he said felt to him like “Christmas Day”, adding: “What an honour, what a privilege, I can’t believe it. This could, possibly, mean the most to me than any other before.”

He was followed by Steps’ new album What the Future Holds at number two.

The album chart also featured plenty of Christmas cheer, with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe’s Together at Christmas at number three, Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra at number eight with Jolly Holiday, and Michael Buble’s Christmas at number nine.

Miley Cyrus, AC/DC, Little Mix, Kylie Minogue and Shakin’ Stevens also made it into this week’s top 10 album chart, while BTS fell from number two last week to number 33 with Be.

Avonmouth explosion: Four people killed at water works named

Three men and a teenager killed in an explosion at a waste water treatment works in Avonmouth, Bristol have been named.

Michael James, 64, Brian Vickery, 63, Raymond White, 57, and Luke Wheaton, 16, died in Thursday’s blast. A fifth person injured is recovering at home.

The explosion happened at 11:20 GMT in a silo that treated biosolids.

Wessex Water said it was working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the cause of the blast.

A major incident was declared by police in the immediate aftermath of the explosion.

A witness reported hearing a “very loud explosion” that “shook buildings”, and another said they saw about 10 ambulances driving to the scene.

Supt Simon Brickwood, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: “I’d like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those involved in yesterday’s tragic incident.

“We appreciate the impact this incident has had on the local community and we thank those affected for their patience while our investigative work is carried out.”

Colin Skellett, chief executive of Wessex Water, said the firm was “absolutely devastated” by what had happened.

“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives during the tragic event on Thursday,” he said.

“I know from the thoughts and comments I have received from so many, that this has affected the whole Wessex Water family.

“We are determined to find out what happened and why and we will work with the relevant authorities to do just that.”

A police spokesman confirmed the blast, in a chemical tank, was not terror-related.

Biosolids are “treated sludge”, a by-product of the sewage treatment process.

According to Wessex Water, the sludge is treated in anaerobic digesters, oxygen-free tanks, to produce agricultural fertiliser and renewable energy.

1 2 3 5