Armed police respond to Swindon town centre gun alert

Armed police were called to a busy shopping street following reports of a man carrying a gun.

Officers went to The Parade in the centre of Swindon just after 12:30 GMT.

A 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of having a firearm in a public place and an air rifle was recovered from the scene, Wiltshire Police said.

The force said there was no need for the public to be alarmed.

Det Sgt Justin Downes said: “The public may have seen lots of police officers around the town today responding to this incident.

“I want to reassure people that this was dealt with quickly.

“As this took place in the middle of the day, in a busy part of Swindon, I would like to appeal to anyone who may have seen or heard anything suspicious to contact us.”

Rosalind Knight: Friday Night Dinner and Carry On actress dies aged 87

Actress Rosalind Knight – whose credits include early Carry on films and Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner – has died aged 87, her family has said.

The TV, film and theatre actress appeared in Carry On Teacher and Carry On Nurse in the 1950s.

More recently, she played the character known as “Horrible Grandma” in Channel 4 comedy show Friday Night Dinner.

In a statement, her family said the “well-loved” actress who had a “glorious career” died on Saturday.

Her other screen credits include 1957’s Blue Murder At St Trinian’s, where she played a schoolgirl and a teacher in The Wildcats Of St Trinian’s in 1980.

She also starred as retired prostitute Beryl in BBC sitcom Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, which ran from 1999 to 2001, with Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus.

Knight’s family said in their statement: “She was known to so many generations, for so many different roles, and will be missed as much by the kids today who howl at Horrible Grandma in Friday Night Dinner as by those of us who are old enough to remember her in the very first Carry On films.”

Her daughters, theatre director Marianne Elliott and actress Susannah Elliott, said she would be remembered for her “immense spirit and sense of fun, and her utter individuality”.

Harry Dunn: CPS pursue case against suspect despite immunity ruling

The Crown Prosecution Service has said there remains a “realistic prospect of conviction” for Harry Dunn’s alleged killer despite a High Court ruling she had diplomatic immunity.

Mr Dunn, 19, died when his motorbike was in a crash with a car near RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire, in 2019.

The suspect, 43-year-old Anne Sacoolas, later left for the United States on diplomatic immunity grounds.

Mr Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said her family was “really pleased”.

Mrs Sacoolas, whose husband Jonathan worked as a technical assistant at the RAF base, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving in December, but an extradition request was denied by the US in January.

A legal challenge by Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn’s father Tim Dunn claimed Mrs Sacoolas should not have been granted immunity.

But in November High Court judges concluded that Mrs Sacoolas “enjoyed immunity from UK criminal jurisdiction at the time of Harry’s death”.

Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn have been granted permission to appeal against the decision.

The East Midlands chief crown prosecutor, Janine Smith, has written a letter to Harry Dunn’s family.

It said: “Having considered the judgment, and notwithstanding the outcome in respect of diplomatic immunity, I am satisfied that there remains sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it remains in the public interest for the prosecution to continue.

“The CPS remains of the view that Mrs Sacoolas should return to the UK to stand trial.

“I do hope this confirmation is of some small comfort to Harry’s family and friends at this challenging time of the year.”

Mrs Charles said: “My family and I are really pleased to see this letter from the CPS.

“We are approaching our second Christmas without Harry and without justice for Harry.

“Our pain is raw and real and we need to get this done sooner rather than later.

“In our darkest hour we know we can continue to count on the CPS to continue to do their job.”

Mocked drive-through Santas grotto now magical

Organisers of a drive-through Santa’s grotto described as “shambolic” have blamed “teething problems” and insisted that improvements have been made.

The event in the grounds of Taverham Hall, near Norwich, opened on Friday.

Later that day, the event’s Facebook page contained complaints about traffic chaos and “creepy” performers.

But Ollie George, from organisers We Make Events, said the feedback was now “much more positive”. Saturday grotto visitors found it “magical”, he added.

People commenting on social media on Friday said they queued for up to three hours in rush-hour traffic, having bought tickets for a time slot.

Many turned away with tired, upset children, with one parent stating: “Would’ve been quicker to get to the North Pole.”

Mr George said a Scrooge-like character had since been removed after being deemed “too frightening for very young children”.

Louise Purdy, who visited on Friday, previously said: “The Scrooge guy called us all mutants, said Santa has crashed his sleigh and the presents are in the mud, and there was a man in chains by a tree just staring at the car.”

Mr George also said the entry system had been altered to alleviate the traffic issues, although he pointed out that some customers had not arrived at their allotted time and this had caused congestion.

He said the organisers had “taken on board the complaints and concerns that we have received” and were still making improvements.

“We’re asking everyone who didn’t have a great experience to get in contact and we are in the process of refunding people who are eligible.”

Fire-hit Royston church marks Christmas in innovative way

A church devastated by fire two years ago said Christmas continued to be celebrated in “innovative ways”.

The blaze at St John the Baptist Church in Royston, Hertfordshire, ravaged interior woodwork, the roof and tower when it broke out on 9 December 2018.

Restoration work is under way and the bells, that were damaged and have been recast, will be hung early in 2021.

Treasurer Phil Burchell said he hoped worshippers could return to the 13th Century building by next Christmas.

Debris was cleared from the church during the first phase of restoration, and the roofs of the tower and nave were removed.

Work on the tower has been completed, the roof has been made watertight and a temporary cover and scaffolding has been removed.

Investigators ruled out arson and the church said much of the work would be covered by insurance.

However, £60,000 has been raised through cash donations and a further £16,000 has been raised through a “sponsor a chair” scheme.

Mr Burchell said: “There is still a long way to go before we will be able to once again meet as a congregation in our beautiful house of prayer and where we will be able celebrate Christmas.

“This is very much our main hope for 2021.”

Meanwhile, he said this Christmas would be celebrated in “many innovative ways” due to the “hard work of many people”.

These include a carol service that has been recorded remotely and will be streamed on the church’s YouTube channel on Sunday.

People have been asked to tie a ribbon on the gates to the churchyard in memory of a loved one – the church traditionally asked people to hang a bauble on the Christmas tree in the nave.

And the church will host Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services at the Roman Catholic Church’s hall in Royston.

Christmas murder in 1909 reunites long lost family

A family ripped apart by a murder that shocked a Welsh community has been reunited – more than a century after the brutal killing.

Gwen Ellen Jones was lured to her death on Anglesey by a jealous lover on Christmas Day, 1909.

Her killer William Murphy became the last man to be hanged at Caernarfon jail for his crime.

But it orphaned two children – and sparked another mystery, which has only now been uncovered.

The tragic and traumatic story of how Gwen Ellen died was rediscovered by researcher Dr Hazel Pierce, and led to a HistoryPoints smartphone plaque being placed at her former home in Bethesda, Gwynedd, revealing details of the events that unfolded on 25 December, 1909.

The 35-year-old had been living on and off with 49-year-old labourer and former soldier William Murphy in Holyhead.

Dr Pierce described him as a “jealous, possessive and controlling man”.

He found out Gwen Ellen had taken up with another man, Robert Jones, in Holyhead and moved into new lodgings down the street “where he watched her every move”, said Dr Pierce.

Gwen Ellen was due to return to her family home in Bethesda the day after Christmas, to spend it with her adopted daughter Gwladys and her son – thought to have been fathered by Murphy.

But on Christmas night, Murphy lured her away outside the Bardsey Island Inn in Holyhead.

He strangled her and cut her throat.

After handing himself in to the police, he told officers: “I am not sorry for it. I am glad I have done it – I shall get a bit of rest now.”

He was hanged at Caernarfon jail on February 15, 1910, without ever showing a hint of remorse for the murder, only telling the priest as he walked to the gallows: “I hope the Lord will have a little mercy left for me.”

Gwen Ellen’s children Gwladys and William John were taken into care and never saw each other again.

But after the story gained publicity a year ago, it led to descendants of Gwen Ellen’s family and her adopted daughter being reunited.

The great-nephew of the murder victim and the niece of Gwladys are now in contact with each other – and have been sharing what more they know.

“After Gwen’s murder, my aunt Gwladys, who was only 13, was sent to a care home in Bontnewydd (near Caernarfon), and then adopted by a family from Bolton who had been following the case in the newspapers,” said the niece of Gwladys – Gladys Hughes, who is from the Llanrwst area of the Conwy Valley.

It was the Llanrwst Workhouse where Gwladys was born, and where she was originally adopted.

“My aunt always looked on Gwen as her mother, and although I was very close to her, she would never speak about Gwen or what happened.”

She was at home with her adoptive grandfather when the terrible news of the murder reached them.

She also had to give evidence in Murphy’s trial, and was reduced to tears on the stand by questioning from the killer himself.

Of course, she also lost her family – for a second time – and was sent to live in an English speaking mill town in Lancashire – more than a hundred miles (160km) from where she grew up.

But according to Gladys, her aunt did her best to put her traumatic childhood behind her and was successful, becoming a St John’s nurse.

Gladys said it had been “wonderful” to make contact with another part of the family lost following the murder.

Gwen Ellen’s great-nephew Gwynfor Parry agreed. His grandmother had been Jane Jones, Gwen Ellen’s younger sister.

“When I saw the photograph of Gwen Ellen Jones in the news reports last year, I was struck by how much she resembled my grandmother, Jane,” he said.

Gwen Ellen’s sister lived in Menai Bridge on Anglesey, which was referred to in the killer’s trial as one of the locations his victim would visit regularly.

But it also led to Dr Pierce uncovering another possible secret in the family history – there may have been a third child orphaned by the horrific murder.

“I looked further into the family and found someone living in Jane’s home in the 1911 census who Gwynfor had never heard about,” said Dr Pierce.

It was a child named Hannah who was aged two and had been born in Holyhead in the year Gwen Ellen died.

The child was described as Jane’s adopted daughter.

“So could Gwen have had another baby shortly before her death, which Jane adopted?” asked Dr Pierce.

“We have an old family bible with dates of births of family members going back to the 1850s – but many details have been rubbed out,” said great-nephew Gwynfor.

“I wonder if this is one of the reasons why?”

The night-riding mum who cycles 10 hours a day

When most people are asleep, mother-of-four Leonne Hutchinson has been cycling around the streets of Edinburgh in the dead of night.

She has clocked up more than 10 hours every day on her bike as she pits herself against the other 297,000 players across the world who compete in a virtual game called Turf.

They win points by cycling, running or walking to as many zones as they can.

It often takes the 51-year-old piano teacher deep into historic graveyards and down dark alleyways in the early hours of the morning.

Leonne’s commitment saw her win the silver medal in November after clocking up 317 hours and covering 1,400 miles (2,200km).

Leonne said she started playing to do something for herself after 17 years of raising her children, who are now aged eight, 13, 15 and 17.

She said: “I’m immensely proud of myself. It has been a massive effort to achieve silver.

“I never gave up. Even when I was talking to my demons and crying on my bike, I managed to overcome every obstacle.

“It has also been a personal achievement for me. Juggling four children and a job – and putting Scotland on the map for the first time in the game – has given me a lovely warm glow.”

The game was invented in Sweden, and Leonne said she was the first person from outside the Nordic countries to make it on to the medal board.

“I am very thrilled and have received a lot of messages from around the world to congratulate me,” she said.

Leonne said she has had to become very organised.

“What I’ve had to do is phenomenal. I have had to set up a diary for the children as a point of notice for them so they know where I am that day and what the plan is.

“Some days I don’t make it home in time to pick up the kids from school, so that’s when I call the local childminder or neighbours or friends.”

Leonne said her husband had been very supportive, and now does all the shopping and cooking.

“I gave up my career in IT to be a stay-at-home mum but four months ago I decided I needed to get back a part of me,” she said.

“After 17 years of me running the house I needed some time back for me. It has been a mental challenge overcoming the days I don’t want to go out, but I’ve done it and I feel a great sense of achievement.

“It has really helped me to know myself and has given me great confidence.”

Leonne said she had learned a lot about Edinburgh and the Lothians while cycling to different zones in the game, and been to places she hadn’t known existed.

“Initially I was a bit spooked when I was visiting zones that were deep into graveyards, but I soon worked out that it’s just our concept of being scared and that the anxiety is unfounded as they are usually pretty deserted.

“I also work out an escape route before I go in.”

She said her biggest issue had been getting chased by dogs which were not on leads.

When restrictions were eased in the summer she also cycled in Dunbar, West Lothian, Dunfermline, Glasgow, Dundee, Falkirk, Stirling, Livingston, Ratho and Broxburn.

Leonne collected 1.405 million points in November – just 50,000 short of the gold medallist – and is on track for silver again in December.

But that would mean cycling every day, including Christmas Day.

Everyone who plays the game is anonymous, but chooses a nickname. Leonne – who was born in Cork – is called Féarglas, which is Irish for green grass.

There is a strategy element to Turf, as players can steal zones from each other and accrue extra points at different times.

The non-profit game was invented in Sweden by military helicopter pilot Andreas Pantesjo and programmer Simon Sikström.

It was originally aimed at children, but has instead been mainly adopted by adults in their 40s and 50s.

Andreas said it had been an “extraordinary achievement” by Leonne, adding: “Not every Turfer is like her.

“It is not just that she has done this distance – you cannot just start going in any direction.

“You also need to work out where to go, and what time of day or night in order to score the most points. You get points from takeovers and from holding on to the zones, until someone takes them from you.”

Boudicca revolt: Essex dig reveals evidence of Roman reprisals

The destruction of a “clearly high status” Iron Age village “may represent reprisals after the Boudiccan revolt”, an archaeologist has said.

More than 17 roundhouses were discovered in a defensive enclosure at Cressing, near Braintree in Essex.

The site was burned down and abandoned during the late First Century AD.

“The local Trinovantes tribe joined the AD61 rebellion and after Boudicca’s defeat we know the Romans punished everyone involved,” said Andy Greef.

The excavation by Oxford Archaeology East ahead of a housing development began during the first lockdown and lasted eight months.

The enclosure was “clearly an important place” with an “avenue-like entrance” and continued to expand after the Roman invasion in AD43, so archaeologists were surprised it was not resettled after its destruction.

Further evidence of the settlement’s abandonment was the complete lack of Roman burials in subsequent centuries, Mr Greef added.

Despite this, the site remained a centre of “votive offerings” – possibly linked to the cult of the Roman god Mercury – until the end of the Roman occupation in the Fourth Century AD.

Mr Greef said: “More than 100 brooches, 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings and a lovely copper alloy cockerel figurine were discovered.

“It could be there was a shrine on the site that continued to attract people and, as it’s very close to the Roman road Stane Street, it was easy to access.”

The dig also revealed “one of the most significant assemblages of late Iron Age pottery from Essex in recent years”.

Many months of analysis lie ahead, but once completed, it is hoped some of the finds will find homes in Essex museums.

Grenfell Tower inquiry: Whistleblower refusing to give evidence

A self-described whistleblower at the company which made the cladding used on Grenfell Tower has refused new requests to give evidence to the public inquiry.

Claude Wehrle, who worked for Arconic, say he fears he might breach a law in France which prevents evidence being given to proceedings abroad.

An inquiry letter seen by the BBC reveals he is one of at least two employees who are holding out.

Seventy-two people were killed in the fire in North Kensington in June 2017.

The inquiry is now in its second phase and is examining the causes of the fire, including how the Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition which allowed the blaze to spread in the way it did.

Last month, Mr Wehrle told the BBC, working jointly with CBS, that he could not speak without permission from Arconic’s lawyers. Arconic says that is not true.

Though Mr Wehrle no longer works at the US company, when contacted by phone in November in France, he claimed that law firm DLA Piper was influencing his decisions.

“DLA Piper is handling everything,” he said. “Everything has to go through them.”

“I am a good soldier and I follow what is asked of me, and on this point, it is very touchy and important for me to follow the rules.”

DLA Piper is an international law firm which is representing Arconic and its current employees during investigations by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and the Metropolitan Police Service.

A joint investigation by the BBC and CBS News has uncovered emails suggesting the firm was handling legal approaches to Mr Wehrle earlier this year.

However, in a statement, DLA Piper said it was no longer advising “certain other individuals associated with [Arconic’s architectural subsidiary] AAP SAS in France”.

Arconic has been paying for Mr Wehrle to have legal representation since July but stressed that it did not have any influence over his decisions.

Another firm in France, Navacelle Law, said it was now representing him independently.

A letter to “core participants” of the inquiry, seen by the BBC, reveals Mr Wehrle is one of at least two former employees of the cladding manufacturer Arconic who remain intent on not giving oral evidence.

That is despite a statement this week by the French government. It said there was no reason for any French citizen to fear criminalisation at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

When the BBC spoke to Mr Wehrle in November he said “my target is not, and will never be, to go against Arconic”.

“It is awful what happened, for sure, but… the fire didn’t only have one cause. It is linked to a lot of events that happened one after the other.”

Mr Wherle said he had given the inquiry “as much as possible, I gave many, many, many exchanges of emails”.

When asked whether he felt that he had done the right thing by raising concerns internally he said, “that’s for sure.”

“In French we say “donner d’alert”. I don’t know if you know what I mean by this: whistleblower.”

“That was my role and it was a difficult situation, trust me,” he said.

Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle Hesham Rahman in the fire, delivered a letter of protest to the French Embassy this week.

“We need these people to come to the country and tell the truth. It’s in the interest of public safety,” he said.

“Thousands of people are living in homes with the material that caused the spread of the fire and caused the deaths of their families and they must come here in the interest of public safety.

“They must come and tell the truth so we make sure that this never happens again.”

Mr Wehrle was a technical manager at Arconic and his testimony is central to the inquiry’s investigations into why flammable cladding was installed on the tower.

His knowledge of concerns within the company goes back at least as far as 2010.

During this period Arconic tested its Reynobond PE aluminium cladding product and found it to have worse performance than expected when exposed to fire.

In an email that year to colleagues, Mr Wehrle said that his company’s concerns about the performance of the cladding were something “we have to keep as VERY CONFIDENTIAL”.

The BBC has also previously revealed that he emailed customers in 2015 to warn them that according to the new tests the cladding used at Grenfell Tower had a fire rating of class E, on a scale from A1 to F.

In the email he said he was attempting to address “concerns about the product’s fire reaction class in the UK”.

However, Arconic did not inform the body which issues product specification certificates in the UK.

The company says it was not responsible for designing cladding systems which used its product or for ensuring they met the requirements of the building regulations.

Mr Wehrle has failed to respond to recent approaches from the BBC.

Additional reporting by: Haley Ott of CBS News