Darren ONeill: Man convicted over Tyrella one-punch killing

A 23-year old man has been convicted of the manslaughter of his friend in what was described as “one-punch” incident at a County Down beach.

Darren O’Neill, 22, died in hospital after being punched by Joseph Dorrian, of Lakeview, Crumlin, County Antrim, at Tyrella beach in June 2019.

Dorrian claimed he was acting in self-defence when he struck Mr O’Neill.

However, the prosecution said it was an “unnecessary, unjustified, unlawful act” and a blow struck “in anger”.

Mr O’Neill died two days after the friends got into a fight at Tyrella.

It took the jury three hours to come to a unanimous verdict.

The judge at Downpatrick Crown Court told Dorrian that while he was releasing him on continuing bail, he “must expect an immediate custodial sentence”.

The week-long trial heard the two had got into an argument after Mr O’Neill took his father’s brand new car and, according to witnesses, began “raking it about” and “doing hand-break turns and driving at speed”.

When he came back, Dorrian slapped him and Mr O’Neill hit him back, the court heard.

One of their female friends, who tried to intervene, was pushed away by Mr O’Neill, who called on Dorrian, “come on, hit me”.

Dorrian struck Mr O’Neill’s jaw with his right fist causing him to fall.

He got up but then collapsed to the ground again.

Despite attempts to revive him, during which CPR was carried out, he was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he died.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Christopher Johnson said his death was due to blunt trauma to the head which tore an internal artery, causing a bleed on the brain and a cardiac arrest.

Mr O’Neill also had a fractured bone in his neck, which Dr Johnson said showed “there must have been some element of force behind this punch”.

Dorrian said he had not intended to hurt his best friend.

“The day was meant to be a fun day at the beach,” he said.

He said he had “panicked” when initially questioned about what happened, and denied changing his story to “sugar coat and underplay” his actions.

He denied losing his temper at Mr McNeill’s “rough’ driving,” rejecting prosecution claims that he was “absolutely furious” with Mr O’Neill.

Dorrian accepted that they had exchanged words and, at one stage, had squared up to one and other before he “noticed a change in his [Mr O’Neill’s] body language”.

“I said to him: ‘What are you going to do Darren, hit me?’ and he swung a dig and I pulled my head back the ways,” he claimed.

Dorrian said this blow glanced off his shoulder and hit his chin.

He said then he had “just reacted”.

“I was frightened of receiving more punches and I wanted it to stop. I pushed my hand out in reasonable force to give him the indication to stop,” he said.

He also denied “dumping” his first account and “reconstructing” a version which better suited his claims of self-defence, as he’d “goaded” his friend into fighting when Mr O’Neill was “in a physically vulnerable state and unfit to fight” due to his intoxicated state.

“The bottom line,” suggested the prosecution, was that Dorrian “just couldn’t resist, and you let him have it,” describing this blow to the jaw as “unnecessary and unwarranted”.

He added: “Unfortunately, for you and more unfortunately for Mr O’Neill, you caused his death.”

Dorrian will be sentenced in March once probation and other reports on him are completed, along with victim impact statements from the family of Mr O’Neill.

Droves of Pampas grass pickers at South Shields beach

A boom in the popularity of Pampas grass with interior decorators has led to “droves” of people picking the plant which grows wild near a beach.

The grass, near Littlehaven Beach in South Shields, forms part of a wind defence to stop sand blowing onto roads and helps protect the coastline.

South Tyneside Council warned anyone found removing it could be prosecuted.

Councillor Ernest Gibson said while the grass may look “beautiful in vases” people were “damaging the environment”.

The grass, which was popular in the 1970s, can sell for up to £40 a bunch and has proved a popular addition to people’s homes.

It is thought that photographs on social media sites such as Instagram may have influenced people turning up and taking it, Mr Gibson added.

“Pampas grass is quite expensive to buy if you went to a florist. It’s cheaper to come to South Tyneside and take it away,” he said.

“But what we are doing is urging people not to come here and take it away, it’s there for a reason.”

The Pampas grass helps to bond poor soils found at the coast, while Marram grass helps to prevent erosion in the dunes.

Signs are to be erected warning people not to pick the grass because it is already in need of replenishment, the council said.

“Through Covid, we have a massive amount of people coming to the coastal town, it’s Benidorm without the sunshine,” he added.

“It’s great to see people at the seaside enjoying it [the grass] and that’s what it’s part of. It’s there for everybody to view.”

Garden designer George Wright said Pampas grass was “very popular” and he had seen demand increase two or three times at his nursery in West Boldon. He also expressed concern for the area.

“Once they take the flower heads themselves they take the seeds. Eventually this will become very much a patchy area and they will all start to decline.

“Pampas grass is becoming more and and more popular at the moment and I think a lot of it is people are starting to extend their houses into the garden so they want something nice in there, and also it’s being used for interior decoration in houses.”

Sky ramps up film and TV plans to compete with streaming giants

Sky UK is ramping up the number of original and exclusive films and TV shows it offers in an attempt to compete with streaming giants.

The company said Sky Cinema will host 30 new original films in 2021 – up from two last year. That will increase to one new film per week by 2022, it said.

Overall, it said there will be 50% more original films and TV shows this year.

The move comes amid increasing competition with services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+.

In 2020, Sky offered 80 original films and TV shows, two of which were films. This year, the company will release 125 in total, of which 30 will be movies.

The company’s definition of “originals” includes Sky creations, co-productions and films and series bought from the US and elsewhere that it will have exclusively.

“The primary aim is to add value to Sky Cinema subscriptions,” Sky UK’s managing director of content, Zai Bennett, told The Guardian. “We have direct relationships with customers into their homes… it’s a powerful thing.”

Forthcoming films will include A Boy Called Christmas, an origin story of Father Christmas adapted from Matt Haig’s best-selling novel, and a Danny Boyle-backed biopic about the Britpop record label Creation Records.

On Sunday, it was announced that Sir Kenneth Branagh will play Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a new Sky TV series about the UK’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. The five-part drama will be directed and written by Michael Winterbottom.

Sky has previously said its spending on original content will more than double to £1bn by 2024. The new investment in original films is on top of that.

The popularity of streaming is at an all-time high, due in part to the lockdowns prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. British viewers spent 40% of their waking hours watching TV during the height of the pandemic.

The number of UK subscribers to streaming services in the UK reached 32 million last year, led by Netflix with 12.8 million. Sky had around 8.4 million UK subscribers in the second half of 2020.

Essex Boys: Triple killer Jack Whomes to be released from jail

One of the notorious “Essex Boys” killers is to be released from jail.

Jack Whomes, 59, was jailed for life in 1998 for the execution of three men on isolated farmland at Rettendon, in December 1995.

He maintains his innocence and in 2018 saw his minimum term cut from 25 to just over 22 years for “exemplary” behaviour behind bars.

A Parole Board spokesman confirmed a panel had “directed the release of Jack Whomes following an oral hearing”.

In one of Britain’s most notorious gangland killings, drug smuggler Whomes was convicted of killing three men in a row over drugs.

Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe were gunned down with a pump-action shotgun after their Range Rover was ambushed in Rettendon.

Whomes’ accomplice Michael Steele lured the trio to the country lane and ordered him to carry out the triple shooting, the original trial was told.

The case gained national attention and became known as the “Essex Boys murders” after it inspired a film of that name starring Sean Bean.

Steele, of Great Bentley, Essex, and Whomes, of Brockford, Suffolk, were both jailed for life at the Old Bailey in January 1998.

As first reported by Essex News and Investigations, the Parole Board said in its written decision that since being in an open prison “there had been no concerns reported” about Whomes’ behaviour “which the panel was told had been exemplary”.

“Whomes had been tested many times in the community via periods of temporary release and witnesses recommended that he should now be released on life licence,” said the board.

It added that the “risk management plan was robust enough to manage Mr Whomes in the community”.

Whomes – who has launched a series of legal bids to clear his name – has been approved for released following his second Parole Board review.

After his first, in 2019, he was moved to an open prison.

A Parole Board spokesman said the panel had “carefully examined a whole range of evidence” including details of the murders, behaviour change and the impact of the crime on victims.

He added: “Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.”

Hercule Van Wolfwinkle: Worthing pet artist raises £50k for homeless

A pet portrait artist has raised £50,000 for a homeless charity with his self-confessed “rubbish” pictures.

Phil Heckels, from Worthing, West Sussex, began working under the alias Hercule Van Wolfwinkle in 2020.

He drew his dog and put it on Facebook, offering paid-for commissions as a joke, but genuine requests flooded in.

His trademark wonky legs and crooked eyes have proved wildly popular with pet owners, with dozens of people contacting him every day.

Additional merchandise has also been created, including tea towels and calendars.

Due to the volume of requests, it is a lottery which he does and does not get to.

The pictures are also accompanied by comedy fake profiles on each pet and reviews from the ‘customers’, which Hercule writes himself.

The portraits were initially marketed at the joke price of £299, and that became his original fundraising target.

Now he has ambitions to reach £75,000, and has a publicly vowed to get his first tattoo – his signature on his buttocks – on reaching that goal.

Hercule said: “This whole thing is absolutely brilliant. To be honest it still doesn’t feel real.

“I remember being sat on the sofa with my wife, laughing that we would never reach £299, and now we’re here.

“I’d love do this forever, it’s just working out how we keep it going because I’ve basically created a second full-time job for myself.

“The money and publicity for Turning Tides has been phenomenal.”

He said he was “overwhelmed” by the amount raised for Turning Tides – a charity which supports rough sleepers.

A book featuring some of Hercule’s artwork is also set to be published in May, with a percentage of the profits also being donated to Turning Tides.

The portraits are not directly paid for.

Anybody can make a donation within their means to Hercule’s JustGiving page, and send him a picture to draw.

People were keen to pay him something, but he told the BBC previously that he wouldn’t take the money as “the pictures are rubbish”.

Five-month-old baby killed in Waterbeach pram crash

A five-month-old baby was killed after a van mounted the pavement and crashed into his pram.

Louis Thorold died after the van left the road, having collided with a car on the A10 in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire at about 15:30 GMT on Friday.

His mother Rachael Thorold, 36, who was pushing the pram, is in hospital.

Louis’s father Chris Thorold said in tribute to his son: “You were only with us for a short time, but you made us the happiest people in the world.”

Police said Ms Thorold, who is currently on maternity leave from her role as a planning policy manager for Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey, was in a critical but stable condition.

The Renault Master van driver and the driver of the car, a grey Mazda 2, suffered slight injuries.

Mr Thorold, the finance director of Marshall Aerospace, said he “cannot describe how heartbroken we are that [Louis is] gone”.

He added: “You are such a happy little boy and your joyful smile and laughter will never leave us.

“Your ma-ma is fighting to stay with us and we are praying that she will make it through.

“You will always be in our hearts and do not worry, I am taking care of all your animals.

“We love you so much and we know you will now be safe with granny, grandad and great grandpa in Heaven.

“Take care my little Lou, sweet dreams.”

A Cambridgeshire Police spokeswoman said inquiries were ongoing and no arrests had been made.

The force has appealed for witnesses or dashcam footage.

Det Sgt Mark Dollard called it an “extremely tragic and sad incident” and sent the family “our deepest condolences”.

“While it is too early to say how the collision happened, I want to remind all road users of their responsibilities to drive with care,” he added.

Pataks former owner Kirit Pathak dies in Dubai car crash

Kirit Pathak, the former head of curry sauce manufacturer Patak’s, has died in a car crash in the United Arab Emirates, the brand’s owners have said.

The 68-year-old died in hospital on 23 January after the crash in Dubai.

His family’s business, which has its headquarters in Leigh, Greater Manchester, was sold to Associated British Foods (ABF) in 2007.

ABF’s George Weston said Mr Pathak had had “astute business acumen and a passion for authentic Indian cuisine”.

Patak’s was set up by Mr Pathak’s mother and father in 1956, after they arrived in Britain from Kenya, accompanied by their four sons and two daughters with only £5 between them.

They began by selling samosas from their tiny kitchen and eventually, under the control of Mr Pathak, built up a business worth about £200m that supplied 90% of Britain’s 7,500 Indian restaurants and sold cooking sauces, curry pastes, chutneys and pickles in more than 40 countries worldwide.

The 68-year-old was also responsible for dropping the “h” from the family’s name on the firm’s labels in an effort to make it easier for English speakers to pronounce.

ABF managing director Andy Mayhew said Mr Pathak’s “visionary leadership” had “turned Patak’s into one of the UK’s most successful food brands”.

He said he had been a friend for more than 13 years and he would “miss enormously both his good company and wise counsel”.

Mr Weston said Mr Pathak, who lived in Bolton before moving to Dubai after the sale of the business to ABF, had been “a great man who was blessed with entrepreneurial flair, astute business acumen and a passion for authentic Indian cuisine”.

“[He] and his family revolutionised the way we eat at home and he leaves behind a legacy that not only employs hundreds of people but is enjoyed by millions of homes worldwide every day,” he added.

Manchester Arena Inquiry: No government urgency over venue security

There has been “no government urgency” to tighten security at venues in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing, the inquiry into the attack has heard.

Representing the families of some of the 2017 attack’s 22 victims, Pete Weatherby QC told a hearing a failure to set out a timetable for change had raised the risk of “further outrages”.

A plan for a law to improve venue safety has been paused due to Covid-19.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

Twenty-two people were murdered and hundreds more injured when Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in the foyer of the Manchester Arena as fans left an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017.

Mr Weatherby made his comments as lawyers for bereaved families gave closing statements in the phase of the inquiry looking at security arrangements at the arena.

Representing seven bereaved families, he said it was not individual failings that were at the heart of the tragedy, but the fact that there is currently no clear standard of protective measures with which those responsibility for safety had to comply.

He said the “loss of 22 innocent lives must lead to real change without further delay”.

“To pretend the position in 2017 and now is acceptable or that systems in place were, or are, in any sense adequate is to accept that the same can be allowed to happen again.”

He said the failure by government to even set out a timetable for change was a “complete lack of commitment” which “increases the risk of further outrages… as every day passes”, adding “reasonable and proportionate measures” could have stopped what he saw as “a foreseeable and readily preventable outrage”.

He told the inquiry that there must not be too much blame placed on “young inexperienced security stewards” who were “poorly trained and barely supervised” and police officers, who were “poorly briefed and trained and completely unsupervised”, adding that the question to be asked was “how were their failures allowed to happen?”

Earlier, Duncan Atkinson QC, representing six bereaved families, described a “scandalous state of affairs” in relation to risk assessments at Manchester Arena.

He said the evidence showed that operators SMG and security provider Showsec “prioritised commercial concerns above security and compliance with the law”, and said risk assessments had become a “tick box exercise” divorced from the national terrorism threat.

Both those claims were denied by the companies earlier in the inquiry.

Mr Atkinson also said he rejected steward Kyle Lawler’s evidence that he failed to report suspicious behaviour by Abedi because of fears over racism, as CCTV footage showed the then 18-year-old’s “calm and jovial demeanour” as he left the foyer.

Mr Atkinson said the only credible explanation was that neither Mr Lawler or his steward colleague Mohammed Agha recognised the threat Abedi posed.

The inquiry continues.

Jenners department store to close after 183 years trading in Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s famous department store Jenners is to close for good with the loss of 200 jobs.

Frasers Group said it would cease trading on 3 May, after 183 years in the city, as it had been unable to reach agreement with the site’s owner.

The iconic building in Princes Street is owned by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen who said in 2019 he planned an “exciting renovation”.

He is understood to be developing a hotel and retail space at the site.

A Frasers spokesman said: “Despite the global pandemic, numerous lockdowns and the turbulence caused for British retail, the landlord hasn’t been able to work mutually on a fair agreement, therefore resulting in the loss of 200 jobs and a vacant site for the foreseeable future, with no immediate plans.

“Our commitment to our Frasers strategy remains but landlords and retailers need to work together in a fair manner, especially when all stores are closed.”

In 2017, Mr Povlsen bought the building, reportedly for £53m.

The Danish businessman, whose parents set up Scandinavian fashion company Bestseller, is believed to be worth £4.5bn and is one of Scotland’s biggest landowners. As well as owning Bestseller he is a major shareholder in online retailer Asos.

He has previously revealed plans to use much of the Princes Street building for a hotel with the rest reserved for retail.

The plans included the restoration of the building’s Victorian facade and central atrium, which is a three-storey, top-lit grand saloon.

A rooftop restaurant and bar would overlook nearby St Andrew Square while a private terrace for the hotel’s corner suite would have views of the Mound and Arthur’s Seat.

Jenners has dominated Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare since the mid-19th Century.

It was opened in 1838 by local drapers Charles Jenner and Charles Kennington, who found themselves out of work after being sacked for taking a day off to go to the races in Musselburgh.

Initially called Kennington & Jenner, the boutique store proved popular for keeping the people of Edinburgh in fine silks and linen, which could normally only be found in London.

By 1890 the shop had changed name to Charles Jenner & Co and had expanded to adjourning buildings, making it one of the biggest stores in Scotland.

But just two years later fire destroyed the shop and ambitious plans – backed by the local council – were launched for a new look Jenners.

Celebrated architect William Hamilton Beattie, who also designed the Balmoral and Carlton Hotel, was brought in for the redesign.

Charles Jenner died in 1893 before the work was completed in 1895.

In 1911 the popular store was given a Royal Warrant.

After struggling in the the 21st Century, the Jenners brand was sold to rivals House of Fraser for £46m in 2005.

In 2018, House of Fraser was bought by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct group.

Fraud epidemic is now national security threat

Fraud has reached epidemic levels in the UK and should be seen as a national security issue, says think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The scale of credit card, identity and cyber-fraud makes it the most prevalent crime, costing up to £190bn a year.

UK intelligence agencies should play a greater role in responding, the RUSI argues in a report.

Policing should be better resourced, working more closely with the private sector, it adds.

The report argues that the scale of fraud against the private sector has an impact on the reputation of the UK as a place to do business,

Meanwhile, the amount lost by the government in fraudulent claims represents a “heist” on the public purse, undermining faith and trust, it says.

It is the crime UK citizens are most likely to fall victim to, but the failures in responding risk undermining public confidence in the rule of law.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales found 3.7 million reported incidents in 2019-20 of members of the public being targeted by credit card, identity and cyber-fraud.

The private sector takes the biggest financial losses. One estimate from 2017 put the cost of fraud to businesses at £140bn.

Fraud against the public sector, including benefit, tax credit and student loan fraud, is estimated to cost £31-48bn a year, the upper figure larger than the UK’s annual defence budget.

The losses go beyond the financial, the authors say.

“Fraud has the potential to disrupt society in multiple ways, by psychologically impacting individuals, undermining the viability of businesses, putting pressure on public services, fuelling organised crime and funding terrorism,” they add.

The report cites evidence that terrorist groups and lone actors turn to fraud in order to finance their activities,

In one case, eight supporters of the Islamic State group were convicted of defrauding UK pensioners out of more than £1m, which was alleged to be used in part to fund travel from the UK to Syria.

The men carried out a type of courier fraud in which they pretended to be police officers, telling victims that their bank accounts had been compromised and needed to be transferred.

But despite the growing scale of the problem, there is no national strategy for tackling the issue, while the police response is underfunded and lacking focus.

This makes fraud “everyone’s problem but no-one’s priority”, according to the report, written by RUSI experts Helena Wood, Tom Keatinge, Keith Ditcham and Ardi Janjev.

The digitisation of everyday life – accelerated by Covid – has only increased the risks, with organised crime groups showing increased sophistication in their tactics.

“The UK has become a target destination for global fraudsters,” the RUSI argues.

But the extent to which international criminals focus on the UK is hard to gauge, because intelligence agencies have not traditionally focused on the issue.

One senior fraud professional interviewed by the researchers said that despite 30 years of investigating fraud, they still had no idea what proportion of the threat emanated from overseas.

Classifying fraud as a national security issue would help ensure the right level of resourcing and prioritisation, the authors argue.

They also recommend more focused intelligence direction from the National Security Council, including greater tasking for GCHQ as well as the National Crime Agency to understand the issue.

They call for better information-sharing and use of data analytics, as well as more money and attention from police forces to address what they call a “responsibility vacuum”.