Murder investigation over missing woman Bennylyn Burke and two-year-old daughter

The disappearance of a woman and her two-year-old daughter is now being treated as a murder investigation, Police Scotland has said.

Avon and Somerset Police issued an appeal last week to trace 25-year-old Bennylyn Burke and two children from South Gloucestershire.

A man, 50, was arrested on Friday at a property in Troon Avenue, Dundee.

He has been charged in connection with the deaths of Ms Burke and her daughter Jellica.

Police said inquiries are ongoing to establish their whereabouts.

The second child reported missing has been traced and is being supported, the force added.

Det Supt Graeme Mackie, from the force’s major investigation team, said: “We are now treating the disappearances as a murder investigation and I would urge anyone with any information to please come forward and speak to us.

“This is a complex enquiry involving both local officers in Dundee and specialist resources from across Police Scotland.

“Bennylyn’s next of kin have been updated on the arrest and are being supported by colleagues from Avon and Somerset Police.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very difficult time.

“There will be an increased police presence in the area for a considerable period of time and I would like to thank the local community for their cooperation.”

Det Supt Mackie asked anyone with information to speak to local officers or to call Police Scotland via 101.

The arrested man is expected to appear at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday.

Ms Burke and two children were reported missing on 1 March. Avon and Somerset Police put out an appeal for information two days later.

The force said the 25-year-old was last seen at her South Gloucestershire home on 17 February.

Officers in Dundee attended the property in Troon Avenue at around 15:20 GMT on Friday.

There was a large police presence around the property, which is near Downfield in the north of Dundee, with dozens of police and forensic officers at the scene.

Police Scotland closed off the street with a cordon around the house.

A blue tent has also been erected in the front garden to cover a waste skip and yellow polythene has been used to cover windows at the back of the property.

Rhondda: Murder investigation into Wenjing Xus death

A murder investigation has now been launched, with police naming a 16-year-old who died in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

South Wales Police closed off Baglan Street, Treorchy, at about midday on Friday, with the girl reported to have died and two men injured.

Officers have now named the victim as Wenjing Xu, with her death being treated as murder, and men aged 38 and 31 in custody.

In a tribute, her family said she had “a very gentle soul”.

Describing her as “a very quiet person”, it continued: “Wenjing helped the whole family, working in the family takeaway.

“She enjoyed school and worked very hard. She was loved by her family.”

A police cordon was erected around a takeaway restaurant called Blue Sky on Friday, with a small white tent placed outside the premises.

Senior investigating Officer, Det Ch Insp Mark Lewis, said: “This is a tragic and shocking incident – our thoughts are with Wenjing’s family and friends at this extremely difficult time.

“I can reassure the community that at this time we are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.”

A 31-year-old man, known to the victim, was arrested on suspicion of murder, and a 38-year-old man is also in police custody in connection with the incident.

Both are being treated in hospital as a result of injuries sustained during the incident.

The public had been urged by police to “refrain from speculation” about the incident. Local MP Chris Bryant tweeted he was aware of “disturbing events”.

The girl’s family is being supported by specially trained officers and efforts are being made to contact other relatives.

Resident Sarah Belgrove, 54, who lives a few doors from the scene, said the air ambulance was forced to land some way from Baglan Street.

“The paramedics who got out of the helicopter flagged down some cars to give them a lift to the scene,” she said.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said it was called to an “incident at an address in the Ynyswen area of of Treorchy” at 12:00 GMT.

“We attended the scene with one rapid response vehicle, three emergency ambulances, our hazardous area response team and the Wales Air Ambulance,” said a spokesperson.

Supt Rich Jones, from South Wales Police, said there would be a “significant police presence in Baglan Street over the weekend” as investigations continued.

Rhondda MP Mr Bryant said lots of people knew the girl and her family and would be “absolutely devastated”.

“You don’t think of these kind of events happening in the Rhondda,” he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

Stadium walks held to call for end to football betting ads

About 300 people, including former gamblers, are taking part in walks calling for an end to betting adverts in football.

A number of MPs and families of addicts who took their lives are also participating in the Big Step walks to local football stadiums this weekend.

Organiser James Grimes said they were encouraging people to contribute to the government review of the Gambling Act.

“We are trying to amplify the voice of people with lived experience,” he said.

About 300,000 adults and 55,000 children in Britain are considered to be problem gamblers, according to the latest data.

Mr Grimes said he gave up a 12-year addiction on his 28th birthday three years ago.

“I lost every single penny I had in the world on a lunch break and went home, cried, hid in my room, turned my phone off for three days, lost my job and I probably was suicidal,” he said.

“I couldn’t imagine a life with gambling anymore and I couldn’t imagine a life without it.”

This weekend’s walks are being held as the government considers restricting bookmakers from sports sponsorship due to concerns that it helps to normalise gambling.

It is part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which has its deadline for evidence on 31 March.

Three-quarters of Premier League teams and 87% of clubs in the Championship have betting sponsors or partners.

More than 7,000 people have signed a petition to end gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, which Mr Grimes hopes to hand over to 10 Downing Street once they get 10,000 signatures.

Their stance was echoed by a landmark House of Lords report in 2020.

Mr Grimes said participants in this weekend’s walks – the fourth in a series of similar events since 2019 – were calling for more action from the government and football industry.

While a whistle-to-whistle ban has stopped betting adverts during live sports TV broadcasts, he also wants a ban on the marketing of gambling firms on pitchside hoardings.

“The reality is children will be watching it,” Mr Grimes said.

He added that his Gambling with Lives charity was getting messages from addicts “on the brink” every week, and there had been an escalation in betting among online gamblers during lockdown, while betting shops were shut.

Both the EFL, which is sponsored by Sky Bet, and the Premier League have said their clubs comply with regulations.

An EFL spokesman said: “While we fundamentally believe that the gambling sector should contribute financially to the game from which it benefits, it is important that operators’ sponsorship agreements with football are activated in a socially responsible manner and seek to protect people from gambling related harm.”

A spokesman for the Betting and Gaming Council said advertising “enables TV channels to broadcast more live action than would otherwise be possible and plays a vital role in differentiating legally licensed operators from those in the unregulated and illegal black market”.

He added that they would “continue our work on further improving standards and promoting safer gambling”.

Probe after council leader calls MS Bethan Sayed a cow

A council leader has stepped back from his role after an audio recording of him calling a serving Senedd member a “cow” was circulated.

Neath Port Talbot council’s Rob Jones made the comment about Plaid Cymru’s Bethan Sayed at a meeting in 2019.

He said a recording had been made without his knowledge, and edited to produce “a damning commentary on me”.

The Labour member said it did not reflect the values he holds and has referred himself to a watchdog.

He has asked the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales to investigate the matter.

Ms Sayed, who is the MS for South Wales West, described the choice of words as “despicable”, while Plaid leader Adam Price has written to First Minister Mark Drakeford calling on him to act.

The recording is understood to have been made in 2019 at a private meeting of the Labour Party in the Pontardawe area.

Mr Jones said during the two hour meeting the audio recording was made without his knowledge and consent, as issues including schools reorganisation, selection of candidates to fight elections, distribution of Labour Party literature, political tactics and opposition party individuals were discussed.

“The final recording has clearly been edited to produce a damning commentary on me,” he said in a statement.

“The contents of the recording do not reflect the values I hold as an individual or those of the Labour Party, nor do they meet the standards of accountability required of a public representative.

“During the conversation it can be heard that I made a derogatory remark about a serving MS. I have written to that individual offering an unreserved apology for the statement that I made during this private meeting.”

Mr Jones said he has stepped back from his role as council leader until the ombudsman inquiry is completed.

Ms Sayed responded by saying: “I find the choice of words on the recording, and the tone used by councillor Rob Jones in his criticism of me, other councillors and community members, to be despicable.

“Many comments made in this recording suggest worrying and deeply improper practices at the top of Neath Port Talbot Labour-run council, and I call for a full investigation into this issue, as a matter of urgency.”

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has called for First Minister Mark Drakeford to undertake a “swift investigation” as leader of the Labour Party in Wales, and to confirm the validity of the recording.

Mr Price said this would “ensure the necessary action is taken to send a clear signal that misogynistic comments of this nature by anyone, against anyone, is not condoned and has no place in public life in Wales”.

“If it is confirmed that the person making these comments is a senior office holder of your party then I expect you to demands their resignation with immediate effect,” he said in a letter to Mr Drakeford.

An official for Neath Port Talbot council said it will be conducting its own investigation while Mr Jones has “stepped back from his position as Leader”, with any official duties referred to deputy leader Edward Latham in the interim.

David Rees, the Labour MS for Aberavon in Port Talbot, told BBC Wales that he heard the recordings on social media.

He added: “I think it’s appropriate that the leader has decided to step down and now we can wait for the investigation.”

Soldier killed at Castlemartin range named as Sgt Gavin Hillier by father

The father of a soldier who was killed during a live-fire training exercise at an army range has paid tribute to his son on social media.

Gavin Hillier, a sergeant in the Welsh Guards, was fatally injured at Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire on Thursday.

Earlier on Saturday, Dyfed-Powys Police said it had opened an investigation into the death of the soldier.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been approached for comment.

In a Facebook post, Sgt Hillier’s father said he was “heartbroken” and “absolutely devastated”.

Sgt Hillier was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 2019 by Prince Charles, who is the colonel of the Welsh Guards.

He is the fourth member of the military to die at the range since 2012.

Police said officers were liaising with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Ministry of Defence.

The Defence Accident Investigation Branch is also involved in inquiries into the soldier’s death.

“It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on 4 March. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time,” an army spokesman said on Friday.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

An army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

According to the MoD, the Welsh Guards have a “dual role” as “light role infantry” and “world class ceremonial soldiers, guarding the Royal Family and royal palaces such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London and conducting state ceremonial duties”.

Jonathan James Cresswell charged with murdering partners sister

A man has appeared in court charged with murdering a 21-year-old woman who police initially thought had taken her own life.

Jonathan James Cresswell, 33, of Briar Hill Gardens, Greysteel, is accused of the murder Katie Simpson following an incident in Gortnessy Meadows, Lettershandoney, on 3 August 2020.

The defendant appeared before Dungannon Magistrates’ Court via video link on Saturday.

He was remanded in custody.

The court heard Mr Cresswell called an ambulance to the house and said he had found Ms Simpson attempting to take her own life.

She was dressed only in a shirt and underwear and her mobile phone was missing.

She died in Altnagelvin Hospital.

Following his arrest, Jonathan Creswell who was in a relationship with Ms Simpson’s sister, admitted throwing her phone in a field, something he described as “a silly mistake”.

He also told police that he’d been in a sexual relationship with the victim for the previous four years.

A prosecution lawyer said Mr Creswell had been in a controlling and coercive relationship with Ms Simpson since she was a young girl.

The lawyer told the court that Ms Simpson had a lot to look forward to and her sister was due to give birth.

He said: “Life was looking good for Katie.”

But she died in intensive care, having never regained consciousness.

The defence said that the post-mortem examination report showed her cause of death as pneumonia.

Due to the delay in the examination, the pathologist said that they could not determine if Ms Simpson had been strangled or had hanged.

Mr Cresswell was refused bail due to a risk of reoffending and concerns about interfering with witnesses and the police investigation.

He is due to appear in court again on 1 April.

LGBT: Herefordshire Catholic schools sex and relationships lessons damaging

A school’s sex and relationships programme which teaches that LGBT people cannot marry or have sex has been criticised as “wholly damaging”.

A Fertile Heart is being taught at St Mary’s Roman Catholic High School in Herefordshire through the Archdiocese of Cardiff.

LGBT charity Stonewall said it was “upsetting” to see “misinformation” still being taught.

The archdiocese said lessons were based on the Catholic understanding of life.

The programme was criticised earlier this week by Herefordshire Council who said it was “at odds” with encouraging children to respect differences.

As well as its stance on gay marriage, the programme also teaches that contraception is wrong, and men are “created to initiate sexual relationships” while women are “receiver-responders”.

Chris Hyde, an LGBT activist from Hereford, said the programme was “wholly damaging not only for LGBTQIA [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, and asexual and/or ally] young people, but those around them too”.

“You can see how if your home life isn’t supportive, and your school life is actively telling you not to be what you are, how that could have extremely detrimental effects through life,” he said.

He also branded the attitudes to women’s role in sex as “archaic misogyny”.

“We need positive teaching that reflects modern life,” Mr Hyde said.

“I’m sure the school can find a way to honour their religious beliefs, keep the parents happy and not continue a cycle of hatred towards women and LGBTQIA people.

“If they can’t, they aren’t trying hard enough.”

Stuart Wetson, head teacher of the school in Lugwardine near Hereford, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that St Mary’s was a Catholic school and its policy was inspired by the religious teachings of the Roman Catholic faith.

The Equality Act 2010 means schools cannot unlawfully discriminate against pupils because of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation.

Ofsted, which last visited the school in 2019 – before new government guidance on relationships and sex education (RSE)- rated it as outstanding in all areas.

In a statement, the watchdog said that once inspections resume, “we will look at schools’ RSE teaching as part of our ‘Personal Development’ judgement”.

The Archdiocese, as well as the school and A Fertile Heart programmers, have defended the lessons and said they prioritise “love, tolerance, human dignity and respect”.

Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, from Stonewall, said almost half of LGBT pupils were never taught about LGBT issues at school.

“Every child and young person deserves an education which reflects the world we live in and celebrates diversity,” she said.

“That includes teaching about LGBT+ people and our lives.”

Sarah Everard: Family desperate to see missing woman

The family of a woman who has been missing since Wednesday say they long to see her again and have urged anyone with information to contact police.

Sarah Everard, 33, was last seen at a friend’s house in Leathwaite Road in Clapham, London, at about 21:00 GMT when she left through the back gate.

She is thought to have walked across Clapham Common, and was due to arrive home in Brixton 50 minutes later.

Her family said not being in contact was “totally out of character” for her.

“With every day that goes by we are getting more worried about Sarah,” they said.

“She is always in regular contact with us and with her friends and it is totally out of character for her to disappear like this.

“We long to see her and want nothing more than for her to be found safe and well.

“We are desperate for news and if anyone knows anything about what has happened to her, we would urge you to please come forward and speak to the police.

“No piece of information is too insignificant.”

Detectives said after Ms Everard left her friend’s house, she went onto the A205 South Circular and is thought to have crossed Clapham Common.

It is unclear whether she returned to her home.

She was last seen wearing a green rain jacket, navy blue trousers with a white diamond pattern and turquoise and orange trainers.

She was also thought to have been wearing green earphones and a white beanie hat.

Police have asked people to check dashcam and doorbell footage from these areas:

Specialist officers and volunteers from London Search and Rescue are carrying out searches in the area of Clapham Common and the walking route between Clapham and Brixton.

Det Ch Insp Ian Kenward said: “We are also growing increasingly concerned for her welfare and have officers working round the clock to try and find her.

“I would ask anybody who was in the Clapham Common area on Wednesday night to think about whether you saw Sarah or any suspicious activity around the time of her disappearance.”

Arrest over missing woman Bennylyn Burke and two children

A 50-year-old man has been arrested in Dundee in connection with the disappearance of a woman and two children.

Avon and Somerset Police issued an appeal last week to trace 25-year-old Bennylyn Burke and two children from South Gloucestershire.

Officers investigating the disappearance went to a house in Troon Avenue, Dundee, on Friday afternoon.

Police Scotland said inquiries were ongoing.

Det Supt Graeme Mackie, from the force’s major investigation team, said: “Officers in Dundee attended a property on Troon Avenue around 15:20 on Friday, 5 March, 2021, as part of an inquiry into a missing 25-year-old woman, Bennylyn Burke, and two children from South Gloucestershire.

“As a result, a 50-year-old man has been arrested in connection with this and inquiries are ongoing. Bennylyn’s next-of-kin have been made aware and are being supported by colleagues in Avon and Somerset Police.

“There will be an increased police presence in the area over the coming days and we thank the local community for their cooperation at this time.”

Det Supt Mackie asked anyone with information to speak to local officers or to call Police Scotland via 101.

Ms Burke and the two children were reported missing on 1 March. Avon and Somerset Police put out an appeal for information two days later.

The force said the 25-year-old was last seen at her South Gloucestershire home on 17 February.

A large police presence remains in Troon Avenue, which is near Downfield in the north of Dundee, with dozens of police and forensic officers at the scene.

Police Scotland has closed off the street with a cordon around the house.

A tent has also been erected in the front garden of the detached property.

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