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Abdul Ezedi: Body recovered from Thames confirmed as Clapham chemical attack suspect

23 February

A body recovered from the River Thames has been confirmed as Clapham chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi.

Marine police teams had been searching the river in London for Ezedi, who was accused of throwing a strong alkali substance on his ex-partner and her daughters, aged three and eight, on 31 January.
A huge search operation was launched for the 35-year-old suspect after the attack as CCTV images showed what appeared to be serious injuries to his face.
The Metropolitan Police said on 9 February it was likely Ezedi had entered the Thames in the area of Chelsea Bridge in London. CCTV showed him leaning over railings just hours after the assault.
A body was found in the search on Monday 19 February near Tower Bridge at Tower Pier.
Confirming on Friday the body had been formally identified as Ezedi following a post-mortem, Met Police Commander Jon Savell said: "We have worked to formally identify Ezedi as quickly as possible.
"As the public would expect, our enquiries continue into this atrocious attack."
Mr Savell said the 31-year-old mother who was targeted in the attack is still in hospital but is in a stable condition and is no longer sedated.
He added that officers have still not been able to speak to her, but hope to as soon as she is well enough.
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Police officers were also injured in the attack on Lessar Avenue, near Clapham Common, along with neighbours who tried to help the family.
A friend of the injured mother told Sky News the victim is still in critical care, has lost her sight in one eye and that "physically and mentally there is a very, very long road ahead for her and the girls".
They added that the mother is "desperate to be reunited" with her daughters.
The friend added that the mother is "already making so much progress" and is "determined to get out of hospital as quickly as possible".
They added the mother is the "strongest, most independent person we know".
In the days after the attack it emerged Ezedi was granted asylum in the UK in 2020.
This was despite the fact he was handed a suspended sentence for a sexual offence in November 2018.

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Paula Vennells: Former Post Office chief executive formally stripped of CBE

23 February

Paula Vennells, the former chief executive of the Post Office, has had her CBE formally stripped from her by the King for "bringing the honours system into disrepute".

Ms Vennells received the honour in 2019 but was widely criticised amid the fallout from the Post Office scandal.
She ran the organisation while it routinely denied there was a problem with its Horizon IT software system, and had said last month she would give up the honour.
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The action was announced on the Cabinet Office website, which also revealed that grime artist Wiley - real name Richard Cowie - has had his MBE stripped for "bringing the honours system into disrepute" as well.
He said in 2020 that he would hand back his honour after posting antisemitic comments on social media in which he described Jewish people as "cowards and snakes", and also compared Jews to the Ku Klux Klan.
And he has also previously been subject to a police wanted appeal over charges of burglary and assault by beating.
Ms Vennells was portrayed by an actor in the ITV drama, Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which brought the scandal to the wider attention of the public earlier this year.
More than 700 sub-postmasters and mistresses had their reputations ruined by allegations of theft and false accounting, with many left bankrupt or in prison, as a result of the Horizon computer system.
Between 1999 and 2015, many people who ran branches were found guilty, and despite years of campaigning, only a small number of them had their convictions quashed.
The government has since pledged to exonerate those who were wrongly convicted.
In 2022, a statutory public inquiry began into what has been described as the "worst miscarriage of justice in recent British legal history", with hearings still under way.
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Ms Vennells was chief executive of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, and was given her honour after leaving the role "for services to the Post Office and to charity".
She started at the company in 2007 as a group director, having previously worked in business but also training as a Church of England deacon.
When she took over as chief executive, she bowed to pressure to begin investigating alleged issues with the Post Office's IT system, in use since 1999.
A privately commissioned report found no widespread accounting or IT issues.
But by 2017, a group of Post Office staff had brought their case to the High Court - and Ms Vennells came under increasing criticism.
In December 2019 the case concluded, and Mr Justice Fraser ruled the sub-postmasters should have their convictions quashed and that the Horizon system was to blame for the scandal.
Mr Fraser described the Post Office's evidence in the case as "institutional obstinacy".
Following the ruling, Ms Vennells said: "I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 subpostmasters as a result of their convictions which were overturned."
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Lord Arbuthnot, a Conservative peer who championed the sub-postmasters' cause, said: "The hallmark of Paula Vennells' time as CEO was that she was willing to accept appalling advice from people in her management and legal teams.
"The consequences of this were far-reaching for the Post Office and devastating for the sub-postmasters. However, there seem to have been no consequences for her."

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Scarlet Blake, who killed a cat and put animal in blender, found guilty of man's murder

23 February

A woman who filmed herself killing a cat before putting the animal in a blender has been found guilty of murdering a man four months later.

Warning: This story contains descriptions and an image that readers may find distressing
Scarlet Blake, 25, live-streamed the dissection of a family pet to New Order's 1987 hit True Faith after watching a Netflix documentary called Don't F*** With Cats.
In the programme, Luka Magnotta kills kittens before filming a murder while the same song plays in the background.
Prosecutors said Blake, who is transgender, had a "fixation with violence" and found Jorge Martin Carreno, 30, while searching the streets of Oxford looking for someone to kill in the early hours of 25 July 2021.
The body of the BMW factory worker, a Spanish national who was walking home alone after a night out with work colleagues, was found in the River Cherwell at Parson's Pleasure around 24 hours later.
Oxford Crown Court heard a murder investigation was launched two years later when Blake's former partner Ashlynn Bell, who lives in the US, told detectives Blake had confessed to killing Mr Martin Carreno using a homemade garrote.
Blake pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage over killing the cat but denied murdering Mr Martin Carreno by inflicting blows to his head before trying to strangle him and then putting him in the river where he drowned.
Four months before his death, she used food and a crate to capture a cat and take it to her home, where she killed it.
In the video, in which Blake dissects the animal, removing the fur and skin, she says: "Here we go my little friend. Oh boy, you smell like shit. I can't wait to put through the blender."
Prosecutors said it showed she had a "disturbing interest in what it would be like to harm a living creature".
"It was an interest that went beyond mere fantasy," Alison Morgan KC told jurors, who were also shown videos of Blake and a partner engaging in consensual strangulation with ligatures.
"She described herself to others as being someone who derived sexual gratification from the thought of violence and the thought of death," said the prosecutor.
CCTV footage shows Mr Martin Carreno trying to find his way home, while Blake walked the streets, wearing a facemask and distinctive combat-style jacket with hood over her head, while carrying a rucksack.
"He died because he encountered the defendant on that night," said Ms Morgan.
"He died because he met a person who had a fixation with violence and with knowing what it would feel like to kill someone."
Blake, who was born in China and came to the UK aged nine, blamed Ms Bell for making her kill the cat.
She said Mr Martin Carreno was still alive when she left him at the riverbank and that she had made up details of killing him to please her ex-partner after seeing his death in the news.
"I told Ashlynn that I killed that person, I made up the details in a dramatic way," she said.
"I told her I used a garrote that I made to try and remove the person's head, but it was more difficult than I would have imagined and then I dumped the body in the river, which is what they are now pulling out."
'Full of passion and kindness'
Mr Martin Carreno's family paid tribute to "an extraordinary being full of passion and kindness" who was one of three triplet brothers.
"Today, his absence leaves a deep wound in our hearts," they said in a statement. "His life was stolen, cutting short his projects and dreams."
"This tribute is a reminder of Jorge but also a call to justice. There can be no peace until justice is served. We ask not only for justice for him but also for protection to prevent other people, other families, from suffering the immense pain caused by such cruel and senseless murders."
Thames Valley Police detective superintendent Jon Capps said several aspects of the case were "truly disturbing to see, hear and deal with".
"This defendant showed calculated cruelty. The acts Blake has been convicted of are barbaric and chilling. The murder was premeditated with total disregard and disdain for life," he added.

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'We must recognise cost of giving up' support for Ukraine, David Cameron tells UN

23 February

Lord David Cameron has warned the UN about the consequences of withdrawing support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

The foreign secretary was speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the eve of the second anniversary of the invasion.
It comes as Ukraine faces acute shortages of ammunition, with European countries struggling to find enough stocks to send to Kyiv, and American military aid worth $60bn (£47bn) stalled over political differences in Congress.
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Lord Cameron said: "Two years on, I recognise some want to rethink. There is a sense of fatigue, there are other problems, a compromise might seem attractive.
"But this is wrong.
"We must recognise the cost of giving up.
"Putin has said there will be no peace until Russia's goals are achieved, and in his recent interview, he studiously avoided confirming he was satisfied with the land seized from Ukraine at present.
"This is not a man seeking compromise - rather, this is a neo-imperialist bully who believes that might is right."
He added that, if Putin were to "eke out some kind of win, the rest of the world would suffer too".
Lord Cameron was asked by Sky US correspondent Mark Stone about how he plans to convince American politicians to support Ukraine.
Lord Cameron said that "history teaches us that when we don't involved and help defend a country against a dictator's invasions, when we eventually get involved, the price that is paid in money, and the price that is paid ultimately in American lives is greater".
The Tory peer started his UN speech by saying he warned about the dangers of Vladimir Putin in 2008, when he was leader of the opposition, and Russian troops entered South Ossetia in Georgia.
And he spoke of how he was prime minister in 2014 when Putin's "little green men" entered Crimea.
"I said that if we did not stand up to Putin, he would be back for more," the foreign secretary told the UN.
"Now, having tried and failed to conquer all of Ukraine, the lesson of this history is clear. If we do not stand up to Putin, he will be back for more."
He added that he believes the world "has started properly to wake up to Putin's menace".
Lord Cameron went on to criticise the Russian leader's "ahistorical claim" Ukraine's existence "is anti-Russian".
"A claim which runs contrary to the principle of self-determination - one of the foundations of the United Nations."
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The foreign secretary criticised the Russian claims that Western nations are "somehow out to dismember Russia" - a "central lie" in the conflict as he and other leaders spent years trying to build relationships with Moscow.
"We did that because we profoundly believe that a secure, stable Russia, at peace with its neighbours, is in our interests and the world's," he said.
"It is a tragedy that Putin prefers to hark back to the ninth century to justify aggression rather than taking up this offer of a different path."
The secretary went on to explain why he believes "we must stay strong".
A "win" in Ukraine for Putin "would not end there".
"Putin could easily apply his distortions of history elsewhere, such as Moldova or the Baltic States, and others will be emboldened to turn to fighting when it suits them," Lord Cameron said.
"No country with a large, aggressive neighbour would be safe."
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Lord Cameron ended his speech by saying: "So yes, we should stand by Ukraine - but not just for Ukraine, not just for Europe, but for the world and a simple principle.
"The security of borders, the sanctity of nations, the principle of self-determination.
"Ukraine's fight is our fight the world's fight, and the world must stay strong."

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Wiley stripped of MBE after antisemitic social media posts

23 February

The rapper Wiley has been stripped of his MBE after he made antisemitic posts on social media.

Often referred to as the 'Godfather of Grime', he received the honour for services to music in 2018.
But in 2020 he was banned from X, Facebook and Instagram after a series of posts in which he described Jewish people as "cowards and snakes" and also compared them to the Ku Klux Klan.
Wiley, whose real name is Richard Cowie, told Sky News at the time that he was sorry "for generalising" but refused to distance himself from most of the comments.
An official notice in the London Gazette has now confirmed his MBE will be "cancelled and annulled" for "bringing the honours system into disrepute".
His honour was one of three withdrawn, with ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells also stripped of her CBE.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which petitioned for the Wiley move, commended the forfeiture committee for "using its powers to make clear that anti-Jewish racists cannot be role models in our society".
"Antisemites like Wiley must understand that we will work tirelessly to hold them to account," it said.
"For four years, we have worked to ensure that Wiley faces ruinous consequences for his unhinged antisemitic tirade, for which he has shown no remorse. Today's decision is a vindication of that effort."
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Wiley, 45, was one of the pioneers of the grime scene and has had six top 10 tracks in the UK, including Wearing My Rolex and Heatwave.
In September 2021, he was charged with assault and burglary over an alleged break-in.
He was wanted by police the following year after he failed to show up for a court date related to the case.
In June 2023, he entered guilty pleas at London's Snaresbrook Crown Court for an assault on an emergency worker and for criminal damage to property valued under £5,000, said the Crown Prosecution Service.
He was given a one-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months for each offence and was also ordered to pay the assault victim £470 in compensation, the CPS added.

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