Harry Dunn: Suspect Anne Sacoolas worked for US intelligence

The woman accused of killing Harry Dunn was working for a US intelligence agency at the time of the crash, a court has heard.

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

Suspect Anne Sacoolas returned to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity, and an extradition request was blocked.

A court in Virginia has heard her work was “especially a factor” in her leaving the UK.

Her barrister told the court she fled the UK for “security issues” and feared she would “not get a fair trial” if she returned.

The comments about her role were made at a court in the state, where an application to dismiss a civil claim for damages submitted by Mr Dunn’s family is being heard.

When asked by the judge why Mrs Sacoolas had “fled” the UK, her barrister John McGavin said he could not respond “completely candidly”.

“I know the answer but I cannot disclose it,” he said.

Speaking after the hearing, family spokesman Radd Seiger called on the UK government to “urgently reinvestigate” whether Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity, given “the admission in open court by Mrs Sacoolas’s counsel that she was employed by US intelligence services at the time of the crash”.

Under the agreements at RAF Croughton dating back to 1995, anyone working at the base from the US as part of the “administrative and technical staff” would have their immunity pre-waived, meaning they would not be immune from criminal jurisdiction.

The Dunn’s barrister Agnieszka Fryszman had earlier told the court the British government had endorsed the civil claim and called on the judge not to dismiss it.

Mrs Sacoolas, whose husband was based at RAF Croughton, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving after the crash.

A Home Office extradition request was refused by Donald Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo in January 2020 and last week the new Biden administration said the decision was final.

The judge said he would decide on the application ahead of a further hearing at the same court on 17 February.

Harry Dunn: Suspect Anne Sacoolas fled due to security issues

A woman accused of killing Harry Dunn “fled” the UK after his death due to “issues of security”, a US court has heard.

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

Suspect Anne Sacoolas returned to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity, and an extradition request was blocked.

A court in Virginia has heard both she and her husband were employed by a US intelligence agency.

Her barrister told the court this was “especially a factor” in the couple leaving the UK and she feared she would “not get a fair trial” if she returned.

The comments were made at a court in the state, where an application to dismiss a civil claim for damages submitted by Mr Dunn’s family is being heard.

When asked by the judge why Mrs Sacoolas had “fled” the UK, her barrister John McGavin said he could not respond “completely candidly”.

“I know the answer but I cannot disclose it,” he said.

Speaking after the hearing, a spokesperson for the family called on the UK government to “urgently reinvestigate” whether Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity, given “the admission in open court by Mrs Sacoolas’s counsel that she was employed by US intelligence services at the time of the crash”.

Their barrister Agnieszka Fryszman had earlier told the court the British government had endorsed the civil claim and called on the judge not to dismiss it.

Mrs Sacoolas, whose husband was based at RAF Croughton, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving after the crash.

A Home Office extradition request was refused by Donald Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo in January 2020 and last week the new Biden administration said the decision was final.

The judge said he would decide on the application ahead of a further hearing at the same court on 17 February.

PM names head of school pandemic catch-up plan

The prime minister has announced an “education recovery commissioner” to oversee how England’s schools can catch up from the disruption of the pandemic.

This will be Sir Kevan Collins, until recently head of the Education Endowment Foundation, which examines evidence for what works in education.

He will have to develop a “a long-term plan” for helping pupils make up for lost learning.

Boris Johnson said “no child will be left behind” because of the pandemic.

The announcement says getting education back on track and fully opening schools is a “national priority”.

Sir Kevan has had a long career in education, a former teacher who went on to be the director of children’s services and chief executive of Tower Hamlets, east London.

As Education Endowment Foundation chief executive, he ran an organisation that tested ideas for raising achievement, with the aim of breaking the link between deprivation and poor outcomes in school.

He will now oversee efforts to help schools recover from the disruption of the pandemic and lockdowns, which has seen pupils studying from home and exams cancelled over two academic years.

“School closures have had a huge impact on children’s learning,” says the announcement from Downing Street and the Department for Education.

Sir Kevan will lead an effort to help children “make up their learning over the course of this Parliament”.

“Our top priority is to get schools open again,” Mr Johnson said.

“Once they are, we will make sure that teachers and students are equipped with the resources and the time they need to make up for lost learning.”

England’s Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said Sir Kevan would be a “tremendous asset to those young people, their families, and everyone working in education, who have my lasting gratitude for their efforts to support young people throughout the pandemic”.

Catch-up funding of £1bn has been announced, including subsidies for tutoring services.

Ofsted, England’s education watchdog, has warned of a “significant” loss of learning during the pandemic, particularly affecting the disadvantaged.

A study from the National Foundation for Educational Research found primary-school reading and maths levels were below where they had been three years ago.

Beckham-backed cannabis skincare firm to sell shares

A company backed by David Beckham, which uses compounds found in cannabis to make skincare and athletic products, plans to sell shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

Cellular Goods has sold a stake to DB Ventures, the footballer’s investment firm, Sky News reported.

The company makes its products in labs, rather than from plants.

It is part of a growing market for products which use chemicals found in cannabis for skin regimes.

The BBC has approached Mr Beckham and DB Ventures for comment.

Two of the main active chemicals found in cannabis plans are cannabidiol – often used in skincare products – and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While THC is a controlled substance, cannabidiol is not.

Cellular Goods aims to sell products from September 2021, according to its website, which will make it the first firm of its kind to debut on the LSE.

Cannabis companies can list on the LSE so long as they are medicinal, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog decided last year.

While many recreational drug companies have sprung up in the US, where states in including California have legalised it, those companies can’t raise money in London, as it is illegal in the UK.

“The last few years have seen massive growth and awareness of the importance of wellness and self-care and we believe cannabinoids will prove to be the king of wellness ingredients,” said Cellular Goods chief executive Alexis Abraham.

“The appetite for cannabinoid products is huge and the biosynthetic cannabinoids we will be exclusively using are cleaner, greener, purer, and frankly the future.”

PM announces commissioner for school catch-up plan

The prime minister has announced an “education recovery commissioner” to oversee how England’s schools can catch up from the disruption of the pandemic.

This will be Sir Kevan Collins, until recently head of the Education Endowment Foundation, which examines evidence for what works in education.

He will have to develop a “a long-term plan” for helping pupils make up for lost learning.

Boris Johnson said “no child will be left behind” because of the pandemic.

The announcement says getting education back on track and fully opening schools is a “national priority”.

Sir Kevan has had a long career in education, a former teacher who went on to be the director of children’s services and chief executive of Tower Hamlets, east London.

As Education Endowment Foundation chief executive, he ran an organisation that tested ideas for raising achievement, with the aim of breaking the link between deprivation and poor outcomes in school.

He will now oversee efforts to help schools recover from the disruption of the pandemic and lockdowns, which has seen pupils studying from home and exams cancelled over two academic years.

“School closures have had a huge impact on children’s learning,” says the announcement from Downing Street and the Department for Education.

Sir Kevan will lead an effort to help children “make up their learning over the course of this Parliament”.

“Our top priority is to get schools open again,” Mr Johnson said.

“Once they are, we will make sure that teachers and students are equipped with the resources and the time they need to make up for lost learning.”

England’s Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said Sir Kevan would be a “tremendous asset to those young people, their families, and everyone working in education, who have my lasting gratitude for their efforts to support young people throughout the pandemic”.

Catch-up funding of £1bn has been announced, including subsidies for tutoring services.

Ofsted, England’s education watchdog, has warned of a “significant” loss of learning during the pandemic, particularly affecting the disadvantaged.

A study from the National Foundation for Educational Research found primary-school reading and maths levels were below where they had been three years ago.

Texas officials apologise after Chucky missing child alert

Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) have apologised after sending out an emergency message featuring the horror character Chucky.

An Amber Alert message, used to warn of missing children, was sent out featuring the Child’s Play villain along with his fictional child, Glen.

Screenshots of the message show the suspect was listed as a doll dressed in denim overalls wielding a large knife.

The alert was sent out during a test malfunction, DPS officials said.

“We apologise for the confusion this may have caused and are diligently working to ensure this does not happen again,” they said in a statement to local news outlets.

The unusual test message listed Glen, from 2004’s Seed of Chucky, as the missing child.

Both Glen and Chucky were described as having red or auburn hair and blue eyes, with their height and weight reflecting their fictional size in the Child’s Play horror franchise.

First released in 1988, the film’s plot centres around the soul of a serial killer possessing a toy doll. The film gained a cult following after its release and has spawned a handful of sequels and remakes.

US media reports suggest the fake warning message was sent out three times via email.

The Amber Alert system was first developed in the US in 1996 – seeking to send vital information out fast so that the public can help assist and identify children in immediate danger.

The warnings are sent out to local media outlets as well as directly to the public through social media and messaging systems.

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Belfast murder: Lone gunman behind killing of Daniel McClean

A lone gunman was responsible for the murder of a man in north Belfast on Tuesday night, police have said.

Daniel McClean, 54, was shot “a number of times” while sitting in a parked car on the Cliftonville Road.

In 2019, the victim had been identified in court as being a dissident republican.

Police said his killing was a “brutal and calculated murder” and officers are keeping an “open mind” about the motive.

Det Supt Jason Murphy said dissident republican involvement was one line of inquiry.

The shooting was reported to police at about 20:15 GMT and Mr McClean was pronounced dead at the scene.

Det Supt Murphy said the shooting was carried out by someone who “has no regard for life”.

“It was carried out in a built up residential area, putting families living there at risk and it is extremely fortunate that no-one else was injured as a result of this shooting,” he said.

“I have no doubt that local people will have been left extremely traumatised by this ruthless murder.”

The senior officer said the gunman “crossed from Clifton Crescent and fired a number of shots at close range”.

“This gunman was wearing dark clothing and gloves and after the shooting, walked back towards Clifton Crescent.

“I am appealing to anyone who was in the area of Clifton Crescent at its junction with the Cliftonville Road between 19:30 and 20:30 on Tuesday to contact us,” he continued.

Mr Murphy also appealed for anyone with CCTV or dash-cam footage to contact police.

He said police believed many answers about the murder “lie within the community”.

“We will work tirelessly to seek justice for his murder to find the answers to his family’s many questions,” he said.

The murder has been widely condemned by political representatives.

Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín described the shooting as “shocking” and called for witnesses to speak to police.

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said it was a “senseless and horrific” shooting.

Alliance Party councillor Nuala McAllister said police needed as much information as possible to “get to the bottom of this quite gruesome crime”.

DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst condemned the shooting and said his thoughts were with the victim’s family.

Sir Elton John lobbies Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden over EU touring

Sir Elton John has had “very positive” talks with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden about EU travel for UK musicians, but said visa-free touring is not currently “on the cards”.

Last month, the star signed a letter demanding action to cut red tape and fees for musicians after Brexit.

The matter was “swept under the carpet” before the UK left the EU, he said.

He said it was now his “duty” to try and help improve the post-Brexit conditions for younger stars and crews.

Up-and-coming acts hoping to tour the continent when it’s safe to do so will be “up against a brick wall” of fresh “bureaucracy”, “paperwork” and added “finances”, he said.

“It’s much more difficult for young artists to get this together because of all the red tape,” Sir Elton told BBC arts editor Will Gompertz. “Every country has these different rules, there’s so much procedure to go through.

“People like myself are not really affected by it, we have a foundation of people who can look after it, it still has to be done but it’s much easier,” the 73-year-old continued.

“[But] we find ourselves in the situation because of Brexit, this has arisen. How do we fix this? How can we fix this?

“I want the situation to be resolved, so that young people don’t have the difficulties of trying to tour in Europe, because it will affect their careers, it will stunt their growth and their creativity.”

Sir Elton has had hits with songs like Rocket Man, I’m Still Standing and Candle in the Wind. He noted how music had always been one of “Britain’s biggest exports”, pointing to the likes of Dua Lipa and Lewis Capaldi as well as leading ballets and operas.

He said he and Mr Dowden spoke for about 20 minutes and discussed ideas like the potential creation of a website, backed by record labels, that could “help them with the logistics of touring in Europe”.

He explained: “If they can be helped through this it will take away a lot of their fears, and make life easier. I’m sure we can establish this, and we have to basically, otherwise they’re going to have not much of a future, and that is a crying shame, as there’s so many great artists out there.”

Mr Dowden tweeted to say he had “a v positive call” with Sir Elton and husband David Furnish, and that there was “lots of work going on in Govt on this”.

Sussex music hall singers racist gravestones to be re-engraved

A “derogatory racist expression” will be removed from the headstones of two music hall singers.

But the gravestones of G H Elliott and Alice Banford, who both wore blackface, will return to the East Sussex graveyard from where they were removed.

They were moved from St Margaret’s Church, in Rottingdean, last June due to their “offensive” inscriptions.

Mark Hill QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Chichester, has now ruled the headstones should be altered.

It comes after the families of both singers were contacted by church officials over the re-engraving.

The performers, who wore blackface up until the 1950s, died in 1962, and their headstones were erected within weeks of each other.

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced proposals to “retain and explain” controversial historic statues or monuments.

However, in his judgement, Mr Hill said while there was a need to be “honest about past wrongs” and avoid “airbrushing history”, the headstones had “no intrinsic heritage significance”.

He described a word on the headstones as “derogatory and racist”, adding: “It evokes degrading stereotypes of people of African heritage.

“It is likely to cause distress to those visiting the churchyard.”

Local concern about the gravestones was first raised in April 2019 when a resident wrote to St Margaret’s complaining the word was not acceptable.

The matter escalated after the toppling of the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol last June.

The Archdeacon for Brighton and Lewes, Martin Lloyd William, said he found the inscription on the gravestones “deeply offensive”, and they were covered up before being removed.

Mr Hill added: “Refacing and re-cutting the existing lettering to replace the derogatory term would remove the cause of offence with the least possible damage to the integrity of the headstone.

“The mission of St Margaret’s is likely to be compromised if it were perceived as condoning the continuing display of racist terminology, notwithstanding it may have been acceptable in the past.”

Police in new appeal over womans body on Fortrose beach

Police have made a new appeal for help in identifying a woman whose body was found on a beach in the Black Isle.

Members of the public made the discovery near Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club at Fortrose on Saturday.

The woman is described as white, aged between 25-35 with an athletic build and long, dark brown/auburn hair. Her death has not been treated as suspicious.

Police said they had been unable to identify her so far.

As part of the inquiry, officers hope to trace a woman seen in nearby Rosemarkie on Wednesday 27 January.

She was wearing a light coloured raincoat, a brimmed hat, dark grey leggings, thick-soled shoes and was carrying a small rucksack.

Police Scotland has appealed for sightings or CCTV images from the area.

Det Insp Craig Still said: “We have yet to confirm who the woman seen in Rosemarkie is and we cannot rule out that she may be the woman found on the beach.

“I would urge anyone who recognises her description to please come forward.”

He added: “I’m also appealing for witnesses who may have seen a woman looking upset in the local area last week.

“Alternatively, if you have concerns about a female family member or friend who matches this description and has not been in contact, then please let us know.”