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General election: ‘Spineless’ Starmer accused of dodging weekly TV debates | Politics News

Rishi Sunak and senior Tories have sparked the first major row of the election campaign by accusing “spineless” Sir Keir Starmer of “chickening out” of weekly TV debates.

The prime minister has challenged the Labour leader to take part in six TV clashes during the campaign debating issues like tax, the cost of living and security.

But Labour’s high command has hit back, claiming Sir Keir‘s priority is spending time on the road talking to voters, and revealed that he will take part in two TV debates with the PM.

Politics latest: Sunak’s announcement gets brutal review from top Tory

Realistically, TV schedules in June and early July are packed with the group stages and knock-out matches in the Euro 2024 football tournament – with England the favourites – meaning six election debates are highly unlikely.

But undaunted by a football and politics clash, Mr Sunak threw down his challenge to the Labour leader in an article from The Daily Telegraph in which he declared: “There are big issues at stake in this election.

“Do we continue cutting taxes or raise taxes on working households as Labour would do?

More on General Election 2024

“Do we prioritise energy security and your family’s finances in our approach to net zero or put environmental dogma first as Sir Keir Starmer and Ed Miliband would?

“And, above all, how do we give this country the secure future it deserves?”

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Could the Euros affect the election?

Mr Sunak added: “I want to debate these issues with Sir Keir Starmer. But he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t have a plan and doesn’t have the courage to say what he wants to do.”

Using tougher language, Tory chairman Richard Holden turned up the heat on Sir Keir, telling the Daily Express: “It’s no surprise spineless Sir Keir Starmer is chickening out of debates that he publicly promised to do just months ago.

“It’s time for Sir Keir to grow a backbone. The public deserves to hear and scrutinise what the man who wants to be our prime minister has to say before he changes his mind, again.”

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A six-week race for the keys to Number 10

Back in January, Sir Keir said on TV election debates: “I have been saying bring it on for a very, very long time. I’m happy to debate at any time.”

And rejecting the Tory claims of a U-turn, Labour sources told Sky News Sir Keir will speak to voters and take questions from media throughout the election campaign.

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“Labour believes spending time on the road talking to voters across the country is the priority and so Keir Starmer is planning to take part in the two debates with the largest audience: BBC and ITV,” said a senior party source.

“We won’t be tearing up the format established in previous elections just to suit this week’s whims of the Tory party.”

Sky News election debate in 2010
Image:
Sky News election debate in 2010

TV election debates took off in the UK in the 2010 general election when Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg took part in three debates, on ITV, Sky News and the BBC.

It was claimed they were responsible for the “Cleggmania” that eventually led to Mr Clegg becoming deputy prime minister in Mr Cameron’s coalition government.

During the debates, the phrase “I agree with Nick”, used frequently by Mr Cameron and Mr Brown, became a catchphrase successfully deployed by the Liberal Democrats during the election campaign.

At the last general election, in 2019, there were two debates between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn and it seems likely there will be two again in this campaign.

Teacher accused of sex with teenage boys ‘laughed when one said he wasn’t old enough to drive’ | UK News

A teacher accused of having sex with two teenage boys laughed and said “Oh shut up! Stop saying that!” when one of them told her he wasn’t old enough to drive, a court heard.

Rebecca Joynes also became pregnant by one of the teenagers, referred to as Boy B, while she was on bail for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old known as Boy A, the jury was told.

The 30-year-old is on trial accused of six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, including two while being a person in a position of trust.

On the second day of her trial on Wednesday, the jury was shown a video of an interview Boy A gave to police officers.

He told police he first began interacting with Joynes by phone after she gave him 10 of the 11 digits of her mobile number.

Boy A was then able to work out the missing digit to make contact with her.

Within days they were exchanging Snapchat messages and after finishing school on a Friday afternoon he went home, changed out of his school uniform and Joynes picked him up at a pre-arranged point in her white Audi A1 car.

The police officer asks Boy A in the interview: “What were you wanting to happen?”

He replied: “To be honest, I was not expecting that to happen, what happened. I didn’t expect anything.”

“What were you hoping to happen?” the officer continued.

“I don’t know,” the boy said, adding: “But anyone in my position, when you are my age, my year. If you ever see her – she is good-looking.”

Boy A said he expected to do what had been planned – go to the Trafford Centre and back to her flat.

He said: “I remember her saying you might as well come to her apartment, and I said, I may as well stay.”

She said: “OK. That works for me.”

After picking the youngster up, Joynes then drove to pick her dog up from day care and dropped it off with her parents in Wirral telling the boy she had arranged for them to have it overnight.

He did not see the hand-over to her mother as Joynes parked in another street, “probably because of how young I look”, the boy said.

Boy A told the officer about a conversation on the journey.

He said: “She said something about driving. I went, ‘I wouldn’t know because I’m not old enough,’ and she said, ‘Oh shut up’ laughing, said something like, ‘Stop saying that’ but laughing.”

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After visiting the Trafford Centre, where the youngster said Joynes bought him a £345 Gucci designer belt, they went back to her flat at Salford Quays where they twice had sex, it is alleged.

Rumours began to circulate and a police investigation followed as the defendant was suspended by her school.

She later told police that no sexual activity had taken place with Boy A.

She was subsequently bailed on the condition she have no unsupervised contact with anyone aged under 18.

But it later emerged that Joynes had been in a long-term sexual relationship with Boy B, who she had been in contact with while suspended.

The teenager is the father of Joynes’ young daughter.

Joynes claims sexual activity with Boy B did not start until he turned 16.

Neither boy can be publicly identified by law.

Joynes denies two counts of sexual activity with Boy A, two counts of sexual activity with Boy B and two counts of sexual activity with Boy B while being a person in a position of trust.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday morning.

Home Office accused of ‘celebrating failure’ as it vows to close 150 asylum hotels by May | Politics News

The Home Office has promised to close 150 migrant hotels by May after figures showed aid spending on asylum seekers in the UK rose to £4.3bn in 2023.

The department said the number of people staying in taxpayer-funded accommodation had dropped from 56,000 in September to fewer than 20,000 people currently as part of a drive to end the “damaging” practice.

Approximately £8m a day was spent housing thousands of asylum seekers in hotels last year, prompting the government to seek out alternative accommodation sites, including the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, and disused military bases at Scampton in Lincolnshire and Wethersfield in Essex.

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who resigned over Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, announced last October that the government would be “exiting” 50 hotels by the end of January, with more to follow.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the process would continue “until the last hotel is closed”.

“We promised to end the use of asylum hotels and house asylum seekers at more appropriate, cheaper accommodation; we are doing that at a rapid pace,” he said.

Politics latest: Starmer’s wife ‘intimidated’ by protest at family home – as Labour suspends candidate

“These closures deliver on the government’s plan to cut the use of hotels in the asylum system and we will keep going until the last hotel is closed.”

But Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the announcement amounted to the Conservatives “celebrating failure”.

“So-called ‘asylum hotels’ didn’t exist before the Tories lost control of the asylum backlog, and Rishi Sunak promised to end them by the end of 2023,” he said. “Yet here we are with around 250 still in use come mid-April.”

The Home Office announcement followed findings from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) which said the amount of aid spent on hosting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK soared last year to £4.3 billion.

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Sky’s Becky Johnson reports from one of the 50 asylum hotels that the government says are about to close – but the migrants there are simply moving to another one.

The ICAI said the figure was driven up by the Home Office paying out £2.5bn on hotel accommodation for the year, saying it had “continuing value for money concerns” over the department’s spending.

“Far from reducing as the costs of schemes for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees fell, the amount of aid spent within the UK was driven up further by the Home Office’s spending on hotel accommodation for asylum seekers,” the watchdog said.

Last month, a report by spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the government’s alternative plans for housing asylum seekers will actually cost the taxpayer £46m more than the hotels they seek to replace.

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The Home Office is expected to have spent at least £230m developing four major projects at the end of March – the Bibby Stockholm barge, the former RAF bases and ex-student accommodation in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

But the NAO found that only two of the sites have opened so far – the Bibby Stockholm and the Wethersfield site – and they were only housing around 900 people by the end of January.

Both have suffered a number of setbacks, including an outbreak of Legionella on the barge in the days after it took its first asylum seekers, while, according to the NAO, the set-up costs for Wethersfield have risen from £5m to £49m.

Next week, MPs are expected to vote on amendments to the Safety Of Rwanda Bill, which aims to declare Rwanda a safe country to deport asylum seekers to. It effectively aims to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that the policy of sending people who had arrived in the UK illegally to the African country is unlawful.

Policeman accused of domestic abuse still not questioned – a year after investigation began | UK News

A police officer who was suspended by his force over allegations by his ex-wife of domestic abuse and sexual violence has still not been questioned – more than a year after the investigation began.

Sky News reported last March that the officer had been removed from duty after West Yorkshire Police launched an investigation into the claims by his former partner.

A year on, she has spoken of her disappointment that he has not been formally questioned as part of that investigation.

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From March 2023: Officer’s ex-wife speaks out

“Given how serious the reports are that I’ve made and in the current climate, I can’t even find words to describe how I feel about that,” she told Sky News.

“In my personal opinion, I do feel like they did have enough information to even just start at least questioning my ex-husband about the allegations.”

It actually took more than 19 months after she says she first reported her allegations to West Yorkshire Police for an investigation into her ex-husband to begin. She says she requested that another force carry out that investigation.

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police told Sky News that that request was being facilitated and that a complex investigation was ongoing.

“Video interviews conducted with the victim have now been concluded. It has been necessary for this aspect of the investigation to have been completed before the investigation can progress.

“Given the investigation remains active, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further on the specifics of this case at this time.”

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West Yorkshire Police

The force said it encouraged anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse to contact them: “All reports are taken seriously, including those involving West Yorkshire Police officers and staff and these reports will always be fully investigated.”

Last January, the National Police Chiefs’ Council asked all chief constables in England and Wales to take immediate action to look into allegations about officers. They had no comment to make on this case.

Campaigners say the promises of action nationwide have yet to be delivered.

Harriet Wistrich, founder and director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “Unfortunately from the other cases that we’ve looked at, and we’ve looked at quite a lot of cases involving allegations of domestic abuse by police officers, it seems to be a bit par for the course with a lot of these cases that they’re very slow to investigate.”

The ex-wife of the officer in West Yorkshire says she feels fortunate that her allegations have led to an investigation.

“I think the public lost trust in the police, particularly since Wayne Couzens,” she said.

“The only way that this is going to end is if the public stand up to the police and, if the police are not being right, if they’re potentially a perpetrator, reporting them and just keep reporting, until something gets done.”

Groups accused of ‘extremism’ hit back at Michael Gove and say re-assessment ‘will motivate us’ | UK News

Two groups set to be re-assessed under the government’s new definition of extremism have hit back at Michael Gove – with one saying the minister’s latest move will only bolster their organisation.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the communities secretary named two far-right organisations and three Islamist groups as ones “we should be concerned about”.

They will now be assessed against the new definition and if it’s deemed they are extremist, their members will be banned from meeting ministers or elected public officials, and the groups will be unable to receive public money.

One of the organisations named as giving “rise to concern for their Islamist orientation and views” was CAGE International.

Their spokesperson told Sky News he believes CAGE will see “a lot of unity off the back of this [announcement]” and claimed: “I genuinely think that Michael Gove is going to end up being our biggest fundraiser this Ramadan.”

Cerie Bullivant said the threat of losing access to public money isn’t a worry, as the group has never received it.

He said: “We haven’t had any government money, ever. We’re supported by our community, by the grassroots and by people who care about justice.

“We have never sought, and would never ask for, government money.”

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Michael Gove names the groups to be re-assessed

Mr Bullivant said organisations such as Black Lives Matter and feminist campaigners Sisters Uncut have sent their “support”.

CAGE has vowed to “keep speaking out and working to our goals regardless” of Mr Gove‘s comment, he added.

A spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain, another of the named groups, said the funding threat “won’t make any difference” to them either.

Yasmine Adam told Sky News: “We don’t take any money from the government.

“We won’t be changing any of our stances and we won’t be changing any of our activity and action.

“We just see this as another bump in the road but if anything, this will motivate us to continue calling out the government. It will only motivate us to continue going on.”

Read more from Sky:
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Yasmine Adam, spokesperson for Muslim Association of Britain
Image:
Yasmine Adam, spokesperson for Muslim Association of Britain

She also attacked Mr Gove for using parliamentary privilege to name the groups in the Commons, which essentially prevents them from suing him.

“We challenge Mr Gove and say if he has any shred of evidence for any of his claims, he wouldn’t be hiding behind parliamentary privilege,” Ms Adams said. “And we’d be more than happy to challenge it legally.”

In the coming weeks, the government is expected to publish a list of groups officially covered by the new definition.

Extremism is now described as “the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance” that aims to “negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”, or “undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights”.

It also includes those who “intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve” either of those aims.

The 2011 definition described extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and belief” as well as “calls for the death of members of our armed forces”.

Mother accused of murdering her three-year-old son says she caned him because Bible allows it, court hears | UK News

A mother accused of murdering her three-year-old son has claimed she used a bamboo cane to beat him because the Bible told her she could “chastise her child”, a court has heard.

Christina Robinson, 30, called the emergency services to her home in Bracken Court, Durham, in November 2022 and claimed Dwelaniyah had gone limp while eating a cheese bun.

But Richard Wright KC, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court the boy had suffered a serious, fatal head injury after being shaken violently by his mother.

The prosecution said the child’s legs were heavily bandaged, hiding burns which covered up to 20% of his body and would have caused excruciating pain for several weeks prior to his death, having been forcibly and deliberately scalded in the bath.

Jurors were shown paramedics’ body-worn footage as they tried to save the boy at the house, where Robinson said the youngster had hurt himself in the shower but she had not thought he needed hospital treatment.

Neighbours heard whimpering at night but did not know the source of the sound, the prosecution said.

Dwelaniyah, whose heart had stopped beating, was taken to hospital but could not be saved.

Bruises on his body showed he had been hit by a cylindrical object and tests on a bamboo cane found in the house showed traces of his blood and skin, the court heard.

Mr Wright told jurors: “The defendant admits that she hit him with a weapon but says that she was allowed to do so because the Bible tells her that she should chastise her child.”

A post-mortem revealed he had been the victim of a series of assaults and had sustained several non-accidental injuries, the jury was told.

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The prosecutor said: “The defendant now asserts that beating a child with a cane so that she drew blood was consistent with her being an adherent of the teachings of the Bible.”

Robinson denies murdering Dwelaniyah and child cruelty.

The case was adjourned to Wednesday.

HMRC accused of ‘dangerous and sinister’ new tactics in tax crackdown linked to 10 suicides | Politics News

HMRC has been accused of using “dangerous and sinister” new tactics in a tax crackdown that has already been linked to 10 suicides.

The government has recently come under pressure over the “Loan Charge” – controversial legislation which made tens of thousands of contractors who were paid their salaries through loans retrospectively liable for tax their employer should have paid.

The clampdown has been branded on par with the Post Office Horizon scandal as the unaffordable bills have been linked to suicides and bankruptcies, while one woman had an abortion due to the financial strain she was under, a debate in parliament heard last month.

HMRC has been criticised for going after individuals – including teachers, nurses and cleaners – rather than the firms that profited from promoting the schemes as tax compliant.

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However ministers have resisted pressure to overturn the policy, saying a review conducted by Lord Morse in 2019 resulted in a series of reforms to reduce the financial pressures of the some 50,000 people affected.

Crucially this included cutting the policy’s 20-year retrospective period so only loans received after December 2010 were in scope.

However it has emerged that HMRC have been pursuing people involved in loan schemes prior to 2010 through a different mechanism – a s684 notice.

This effectively gives HMRC the discretion to transfer a tax burden from an employer to an employee for the tax years excluded from the Loan Charge.

Conservative MP Greg Smith, co-chair of the Loan Charge APPG, said it “flies in the face” of what Lord Morse intended and risks more people taking their own lives because of the unaffordable bills.

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Loan scheme causing tax turmoil

‘I could lose my home’

Sky News spoke to people who said they had experienced suicidal thoughts and feared becoming homeless after unexpectedly receiving the notices.

While the s684s don’t state how much tax is owed, one father-of-three said his bill could be as high as £250,000 as this is how much HMRC have previously tried to claw back from his time in a loan scheme pre-2010.

The IT consultant, who asked to remain anonymous, said he attempted to settle his tax affairs years ago but communication with the tax office “fizzled out” and following the Morse review he believed the “nightmare” was behind him.

Then in November he received a brown envelope containing an s684 and now he is worried HMRC is “going to absolutely hammer me” just as he is approaching retirement age.

“I have three children and in the worst case scenario I will lose my home.

“I can’t think of another government policy that has caused so much suffering. I fear this could really push some people over the edge.”

Wreathes to honour the suicides linked to the HMRC crackdown
Image:
Wreathes to honour the suicides linked to the tax crackdown. There have now been 10 confirmed by HMRC

‘Dreadful landscape’

It is not clear how many people have been sent the notices.

The government previously estimated that 11,000 people would be removed from the Loan Charge by introducing the 2010 cut off.

While the Loan Charge is seen as particularly punitive because it adds together all outstanding loans and taxes them in a single year, often at the 45% rate, the notices mean HMRC can use its own discretion to turn off an employer’s PAYE obligations and seek the income tax that would have been due that year from the employee instead.

Rhys Thomas, director of the WTT tax firm, told Sky News: “There is considerable and understandable confusion amongst taxpayers that when the Morse review removed the loan charge for payments pre 9th December 2010, it was assumed that HMRC had no further recourse for those years.

“Where enquiries were outstanding for the earlier tax years, HMRC will seek to conclude these by utilising tools such as s684 notices.”

He called the situation a “dreadful landscape” as those in receipt of the notices only have 30 days to respond to HMRC over something “that has taken them 15 years to investigate”.

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There is no right to appeal the notices, so the only way to challenge HMRC is through a costly Judicial Review.

“It’s causing a huge amount of distress and anxiety; it’s hugely concerning and for lots of people it’s come as a surprise,” Mr Thomas said.

WTT is representing around 200 people who are challenging the notices, saying HMRC has not done enough to go after the core parties who should have collected the tax at the time.

A spokesperson for HMRC said the Morse Review “recommend we use our normal powers to investigate and settle cases taken out of the Loan Charge”.

They said they had been issuing the notices since May 2022, having won a case at the Court of Appeal over their use in relation to loan schemes, “so it’s not a sudden change”.

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But campaigners disputed the use of the notices as “normal” and said it is another example of HMRC “abusing its power” to go after individuals rather than the companies that ran and promoted the loan schemes.

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‘We were mis-sold’

These became prolific in the 2000s and saw self-employed contractors encouraged to join umbrella companies that paid them their salaries through loans which were not typically paid back.

HMRC has argued those who signed up to the schemes are tax evaders who need to pay their fair share. But those affected claim they are victims of mis-selling as the arrangements were widely marketed as legitimate by the scheme promoters and tax advisers, and in some cases they had no choice but to be paid this way.

IT consultant Daniel (not his real name), from Stoke, said he did not stand to make any money from the scheme he joined in 2008 and was simply trying to avoid falling foul of complex off-payroll rules known as IR35.

His tax adviser said the scheme was HMRC compliant and the company said they “would sort out my taxes”, he added.

Loan Charge protest
Image:
Loan Charge protest

He said he “did not hear a peep” from HMRC during his time in the scheme and his payslip looked normal as around 20% was being deducted from his salary each month – money experts say will have gone into the profits of those running the company rather than tax to the exchequer.

Now, he is expecting a £30,000 bill after receiving an s684 in November – cash the father-of-four “does not have”.

“If I felt like I had done something wrong I would accept it but I did not make one penny from this scheme, it was all to do with compliance and to make my life as simple as possible.

“This is causing so much stress and frustration. I have had plenty of sleepless nights.

“It feels like the Post Office scandal where we are the little people being backed into a corner and there’s nothing we can do and those who are really guilty are just laughing.”

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HMRC ‘abusing its powers’

The notices have renewed calls for the government to find a new solution to the Loan Charge scandal.

Keith Gordon, a tax barrister, said HMRC “is effectively responsible for this mess because they failed to warn employees that they did not like these schemes”.

Keith Gordon have said HMRC is targeting individuals because it is an easier way of recouping the money
Image:
Keith Gordon said HMRC is targeting individuals because it is an easier way of recouping the money

“Most people, if they got a whiff of HMRC dislike, would have left these schemes but they were sold it as being tax compliant. Why should the blame be on people who were at the very worst merely naïve?”

Campaigners fear the s684s will be used across the board instead of the Loan Charge, which Labour has said it will review if it wins the next election.

Steve Packham, of the Loan Charge Action Group, accused HMRC of being “downright reckless” in light of the 10 confirmed suicides, adding: “This is sinister and dangerous and is another example of how out-of-control HMRC is.

“The government must immediately order a stop to these notices and instead agree to find a resolution to the Loan Charge Scandal before there are more lives ruined.”

Greg Smith. Pic: PA
Image:
Greg Smith, co-chair of the Loan Charge Action and Taxpayer Fairness APPG. Pic: PA


A HMRC spokesperson said: “We appreciate there’s a human story behind every tax bill and we take the wellbeing of all taxpayers seriously.

“We recognise dealing with large tax liabilities can lead to pressure on individuals and we are committed to supporting customers who need extra help with their tax liabilities. We have made significant improvements to this service over the last few years.

“Our message to anyone who is worried about paying what they owe is: please contact us as soon as possible to talk about your options.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK.

Edinburgh pub shooting: Two in court accused of murder as third suspect arrested | UK News

A man and a woman have appeared in court charged with murder and a third suspect has been arrested after a shooting outside an Edinburgh pub on Hogmanay.

Marc Webley, 38, and another man, 39, were gunned down minutes before midnight outside The Anchor Inn on West Granton Road.

Emergency services attended and the seriously injured men were taken to hospital, where Mr Webley was pronounced dead a short time later.

Police Scotland launched a murder investigation and arrested a man and a woman in connection with the case.

Grant Hunter, 32, and Emma McVie, 25, were later charged with murder.

The pair, from Edinburgh, have also been accused of assault to severe injury, danger of life and attempted murder.

They entered no plea to the charges when they appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday.

Both suspects were remanded in custody and are expected back in the dock within the next week.

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A 33-year-old woman has also now been arrested in connection with Mr Webley’s death.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A 33-year-old woman was arrested on Monday 8 January and further enquiries are ongoing.”

British man accused of swindling nearly $100m in wine fraud case pleads not guilty | US News

A British man accused of allegedly defrauding investors of nearly $100m (£79m) through a Ponzi-like scheme involving non-existent luxury wines has pleaded not guilty in a US court.

Stephen Burton, 58, was extradited to New York from Morocco on Friday to face the charges after he was arrested in 2022 after entering that country using a fake Zimbabwean passport.

Federal prosecutors said Burton, along with a co-defendant, ran Bordeaux Cellars, a company they said brokered loans between investors and high-net-worth wine collectors.

Burton pleaded not guilty to the indictment which was filed in 2022 and is being held pending trial.

Burton and co-defendant James Wellesley allegedly solicited $99m from investors from June 2017 to February 2019, approaching them at places including conferences in the US and overseas.

The men told lenders that the loans would be backed by wine they stored for wealthy collectors and promised profits through interest payments.

However, these collectors “did not actually exist and Bordeaux Cellars did not maintain custody of the wine purportedly securing the loans,” the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.

Wellesley, also a British citizen, is currently awaiting extradition in the UK.

If convicted, the defendants could each face up to 20 years in prison for charges of wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Brianna Ghey: Teen accused of murdering transgender girl ‘fantasised’ about killling her but had ‘no intention’ of doing it | UK News

A teenage girl accused of the “frenzied” murder of transgender teenager Brianna Ghey, has told a court she fantasised about killing her, but had “no intention” of carrying it out.

The suspect, girl X, enjoyed “dark fantasies” about killing and torturing people, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Brianna, 16, was stabbed 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back with a hunting knife after being lured to Linear Park in Culcheth, near Warrington, in February.

Girl X and another youth, identified only as boy Y, both deny murder and are blaming each other for the killing.

The pair are both now aged 16 but were 15 at the time of Brianna’s death. Neither defendant can be identified because of their ages.

App to search the dark web

The accused, who gave evidence from behind a curtain, where she couldn’t be seen from the public gallery, said she began to be drawn to films featuring murder and torture and serial killers when she was 14.

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CCTV shows Brianna Ghey on bus before death

She even downloaded an app to search for such things on the dark web, she said.

Richard Pratt KC, defending girl X, asked if watching films about murder and torture made her want to do it.

The teenager said it didn’t but she “found the whole idea of it interesting, different personalities of serial killers and different ways they would carry things out”.

And boy Y, she said, had “similar interests” to her.

Peter Spooner, father of Brianna Ghey arriving with his partner (name not given) at Manchester Crown Court
Image:
Peter Spooner, father of Brianna Ghey arriving with his partner (name not given) at Manchester Crown Court

“I would share the dark fantasies that I have. Things to do with murdering people and torturing people. He would go along with it. He seemed to like that sort of stuff,” she said.

No problem with transgender issue

She denied being “obsessed” with Brianna, but said she found her “different” and “interesting”.

Girl X said she had no problem with Brianna being transgender, but boy Y had referred to Brianna as an “it” in Snapchat messages, because, she said, “he doesn’t agree with people who were trans or gay”.

She also denied trying to give Brianna an overdose to kill her a few weeks before she was stabbed, after telling boy Y she had given Brianna Ibuprofen pills but that she had a high tolerance and had not died.

She said: “I was making a fantasy about killing Brianna even though I had no intention.”

Mr Pratt also asked Girl X about five other children on her and boy Y’s alleged “Kill list”.

Again, she said these were all just fantasies and she had no intention of carrying them out.

The trial continues.