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Acid to destroy masterpieces by Picasso, Rembrandt and Warhol if Julian Assange dies in prison, artist claims | UK News

An artist has defended plans to destroy masterpieces by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt and Andy Warhol with acid if Julian Assange dies in prison.

Andrei Molodkin says he has gathered 16 works of art – which he estimates are collectively worth more than $45m (£42.77m) – in a 29-tonne safe with an “extremely corrosive” substance.

Inside the vault are boxes containing the art and a pneumatic pump connecting two white barrels – one with acid powder and the other with an accelerator that could cause a chemical reaction strong enough to turn the safe’s contents to debris, Molodkin claims.

Famous works of art will be destroyed by acid in a safe if Julian Assange dies in prison, artist Andrei Molodkin says. Pics: AP/The Foundry Studio
Image:
Julian Assange in 2017 – and the safe purported to contain the art that will be destroyed if he dies in prison. Pics: AP/The Foundry Studio

The project – called “Dead Man’s Switch” – is being backed by Assange’s wife Stella, whose husband is awaiting his final appeal against being extradited to the US, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act.

The Wikileaks founder is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The 52-year-old denies any wrongdoing.

He has been held in London’s Belmarsh prison for almost five years and will have his final appeal heard at the High Court in London on February 20 and 21.

Assange’s supporters say he faces 175 years in prison if he is extradited. His lawyer claims the Australian’s life “is at risk” if the appeal fails.

Stella Assange, the wife of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pic: PA
Image:
Stella Assange is supporting Andrei Molodkin’s ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ project. Pic: PA

Molodkin told Sky News: “In our catastrophic time – when we have so many wars – to destroy art is much more taboo than to destroy the life of a person.

“Since Julian Assange has been in prison… freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of information has started to be more and more repressed. I have this feeling very strongly now.”

The Russian dissident has refused to reveal which pieces of art are inside the safe but says it includes works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jannis Kounellis, Robert Rauschenberg, Sarah Lucas, Santiago Sierra, Jake Chapman, and Molodkin himself, among others.

The safe includes acid that can be triggered to destroy the artwork, Andrei Molodkin says. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio
Image:
The works of art are being contained in boxes, the artist says. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio

“I believe if something happened and we erased some masterpiece, it will be erased from history – nobody will know which kind of piece it was,” he says.

“We have all the documentation and we photographed all of them.”

The safe will be locked on Friday and it is being kept at Molodkin’s studio in the south of France, the artist says, but he plans for it to be moved to a museum.

Explaining how the “Dead Man’s Switch” works, he says a 24-hour countdown timer must be reset before it reaches zero to prevent the corrosive material from being released.

Andrei Molodkin's sketches for the project. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio
Image:
Molodkin’s sketches for the Dead Man’s Switch project. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio

He says this will be done by “someone close” to Assange confirming he is still alive in prison each day – which will mean the timer can be reactivated.

If Assange is released from prison, the works of art will be returned to their owners, Molodkin adds.

He admits “many collectors are really scared” about the acid going off accidentally but insists the work has been done “very professionally”.

Molodkin says he would feel “no emotion” if the art was destroyed because “freedom is much more important”.

Artist Andrei Molodkin
Image:
Artist Andrei Molodkin

Giampaolo Abbondio, who owns an art gallery in Milan, says he has provided the Picasso artwork for the safe and has signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from revealing which one.

He said his first response when he was asked to take part was: “No way”, but he was convinced by Molodkin, who he has known since 2008.

“It got me round to the idea that it’s more relevant for the world to have one Assange than an extra Picasso, so I decided to accept,” Mr Abbondio told Sky News.

“Let’s say I’m an optimist and I’ve lent it. If Assange goes free, I can have it back.

“Picasso can vary from 10,000 to 100 million but I don’t think it’s the number of zeros that makes it more relevant when we’re talking about a human life.”

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June 2022: Why is Assange wanted by US?

Artist Franko B says he has provided one of the works which will be kept in the safe.

“It’s a beautiful piece… it’s one of my best pieces,” he told Sky News.

“I thought it was important that I committed something I care about. I didn’t donate something that I found in the corner of my studio. I donated a piece of work that is very dear to me that talks about freedom, censorship.

“It’s important. It’s a small gesture compared to what Assange did and what he’s going through.”

Who is controversial artist Andrei Molodkin?

Andrei Molodkin made headlines last year after selling blood-soaked copies of Prince Harry’s memoir.

The artist had previously projected a sculpture filled with the blood of Afghans on to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Both stunts were in protest over Harry’s remarks in his book about his number of kills in Afghanistan.

Previously, to coincide with the World Cup in Qatar, Molodkin unveiled a replica of the World Cup trophy that slowly filled with crude oil. It had a symbolic price of $150m – a figure that matched the amount of money allegedly spent on bribes and kickbacks to FIFA officials.

Molodkin also presented a sculpture of the White House that reportedly contained the radioactive blood of Nagasaki-born men to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.

In 2022, Molodkin showcased a glass portrait of Vladimir Putin which was filled with the blood of Ukrainian soldiers. An image of the artwork was said to have been live-streamed near Moscow’s Red Square as Mr Putin oversaw Russia’s Victory Day parade.

Back in 2013, Molodkin opened an exhibition called Catholic Blood that featured an installation where he pumped blood donated solely by Catholics around his replica of the Rose Window at Westminster Abbey, which he saw as a Protestant symbol.

Read more:
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Mrs Assange, who has two children with her husband, told Sky News: “Which is the greater taboo – destroying art or destroying human life?

“Dead Man’s Switch is a work of art. Julian’s political imprisonment is an act of real terrorism against democracy.

“The true targets here are not just Julian Assange but the public’s right to know, and the future of being able to hold power accountable.

“If democracy wins, the art will be preserved – as will Julian’s life.”

Assange has been held at Belmarsh prison since his arrest in April 2019 after leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had claimed political asylum in June 2012.

The UK government approved Assange’s extradition to the US in June 2022.

UN agency chief ‘shocked’ as UK and others pause funding over claims staff involved in Hamas attack | World News

The head of the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) has said the decision by nine countries to pause funding for the aid agency is “shocking”.

The suspension of funding by countries including the UK and US followed allegations UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.

“These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip,” commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini said.

Follow live: ‘Ironclad’ intel shows UN agency staff links to Hamas

“UNRWA is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, with over two million people depending on it for their sheer survival,” Mr Lazzarini said.

“Some 3,000 core staff out of 13,000 in Gaza continue to report to work, giving their communities a lifeline which can collapse anytime now due to lack of funding,” he added.

He suggested UNRWA would be “forced to suspend its humanitarian response” if funding was not reinstated.

In the wake of the allegations, the Foreign Office said it was “temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst we review these concerning allegations”.

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Israeli senior adviser says 12 UN members just the ‘tip of the iceberg’

It comes after a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was “documented, clear and ironclad” information showing 12 UNRWA staff members were part of the Hamas force that broke into Israel and killed 1,200 civilians.

Mark Regev said a lot of the information that led to the accusations was shared by Hamas on social media.

“Hamas went live on social media and boasted a lot of the material, so you actually see the faces and the people involved in a lot of the crimes,” he told Sky News.

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UK pauses funding to UNRWA over claims staff were involved in Hamas attack | UK News

The UK will temporarily pause funding to the UN’s relief agency in Gaza over claims members were involved in Hamas’ attack on Israel.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said on Friday it sacked “several” employees over accusations by Israel that 12 employees were involved in the 7 October attack.

In the wake of the allegations, the Foreign Office says it is “temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst we review these concerning allegations”.

Follow latest: US destroys Houthi anti-ship missile in Yemen

It said it was “appalled” by the claims, adding: “We remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza who desperately need it.”

The UK’s decision comes after the US, Italy, Australia and Canada all also suspended additional funding for the UN aid agency.

Finland also announced it would suspend funding after the FCDO’s announcement.

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The UK will temporarily pause funding to the UN’s relief agency in Gaza over claims members were involved in Hamas’ attack on Israel.

In a statement from the Department of State, the US said it was “extremely troubled” by the allegations, and noted it has “temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them”.

It also said: “There must be complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks of 7 October.”

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Ex-Pentagon adviser on UN-Hamas claims

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the decision to sack the staffers was taken “to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance”.

“Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” he added.

Read more:
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Palestinians arrive in Rafah after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in Khan Younis, 26 January, 2024. Pic: AP
Image:
Palestinians arrive in Rafah after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in Khan Younis, 26 January, 2024. Pic: AP

Speaking to the Axios news agency, a senior Israeli official said that the Shin Bet and the IDF provided information which alleged active participation of UNRWA staffers, along with the use of the agency’s vehicles and facilities, on 7 October.

“This was strong and corroborated intelligence,” the official told Axios.

“A lot of the intelligence is a result of interrogations of militants who were arrested during the 7 October attack.”

UNRWA, established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, has repeatedly said throughout Israel’s war on Hamas that its ability to provide humanitarian aid to people in Gaza is on the verge of collapse.

Authorities including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have previously accused the agency of fuelling anti-Israeli sentiment, which it denies.

Post Office could face £100m bill and insolvency over Horizon compensation tax relief, expert claims | UK News

The Post Office could be facing a £100m bill and insolvency after claiming tax relief for its compensation payments to sub-postmasters, a tax expert has claimed.

Dan Neidle, the head of non-profit organisation Tax Policy Associates, said the Post Office claimed £934m tax relief for its compensation payments, and suggested it could be “unlawful”.

The Horizon scandal saw more than 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses handed criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Read More:
Civil servants accuse ex-ministers of ‘cowardly’ blame game over Post Office scandal
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Mr Neidle posted on X saying: “The Post Office claimed £934m tax relief for its compensation payments to the postmasters it persecuted. That’s outrageous. It’s also unlawful – so the Post Office now faces an unexpected £100m tax bill. It may be insolvent.

“Our team of eminent tax and accounting experts reviewed the Post Office’s accounts for the last ten years in detail and one issue stood out: it has treated the compensation it pays to postmasters as tax deductible. That is not correct.

“A source at the Post Office has confirmed to us that HMRC is investigating this and asserting that the Post Office owes tax – in our view they are right to do so.”

More on Post Office Scandal

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HMRC would not confirm or deny investigations and said it would not comment on identifiable taxpayers.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “The disclosed information on taxation in Post Office’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2022/23, published on 20 December 2023, is appropriate and accurate.

“We have regular conversations with government who are our sole shareholder and our correspondence in respect of this issue was about ensuring that the tax treatment of funding we receive from government to pay compensation was treated in the same way as other government funding that we receive.”

Days after the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office aired, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the wrongly prosecuted in England and Wales could have their names cleared by the end of the year under blanket legislation to be introduced within weeks.

Downing Street insists legacy asylum claims cleared – despite 4,537 remaining to be decided | Politics News

Downing Street has insisted that the prime minister has achieved his target of clearing the legacy backlog of asylum claims, despite the government’s own data showing that 4,537 remain.

Rishi Sunak pledged in December 2022 that he would “abolish” the legacy backlog of asylum claims made before 28 June of that year, with the Home Office being given the target of the end of 2023.

On Monday, the department said the pledge had been “delivered”, having processed more than 112,000 asylum claims overall in 2023.

There were more than 92,000 asylum claims made before 28 June 2022 requiring a decision, but 4,537 remain, according to the government’s official data.

Analysis: Sunak's asylum backlog claim isn't true - according to the government's own statistics

Analysis: Sunak’s asylum backlog claim isn’t true – according to the government’s own statistics

It seems the government has shot itself in the foot by misleadingly focusing on a specific promise made by the PM which hasn’t quite been met.

Read here

Speaking to journalists this morning, the prime minister’s spokesperson said the legacy backlog of asylum claims has, in fact, been cleared as promised because all cases have been reviewed, and the remaining ones simply “require additional work”.

The spokesperson said: “We committed to clearing the backlog, that is what the government has done. We are being very transparent about what that entails.

“We have processed all of those cases and indeed gone further than the original commitment. We’re up to 112,000 decisions made overall.

“As a result of that process, there are a small minority of cases which are complex and which, because of our rigorous standards, require further work.

“But nonetheless, it is a significant piece of work by Home Office officials to process such huge numbers in a short period of time while retaining our rigorous safety standard.”

The government has said that the remaining 4,537 more complex cases typically involve “asylum seekers presenting as children – where age verification is taking place; those with serious medical issues; or those with suspected past convictions, where checks may reveal criminality that would bar asylum”.

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Home Secretary discusses government’s work to process asylum claims

However, the CEO of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said it is “misleading for the government to claim that the legacy backlog has been cleared as there are thousands still waiting for a decision”.

And Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper labelled the claim that the backlog has been cleared “totally false”.

She told broadcasters: “They made a whole series of promises about clearing the asylum backlog and they haven’t delivered them.

“Instead, the asylum backlog is still nearly 100,000 cases, and we’ve still got thousands of people, record numbers of people in asylum hotels. So, the government’s just failing on all counts.”

The policy is central to government plans to stop small boat crossings
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Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson has rejected accusations that the government has made “misleading” claims

The prime minister’s spokesperson was also asked about an apparent suggestion from Home Secretary James Cleverly on LBC radio this morning that the government’s goal is to stop small boat crossings entirely in 2024.

Downing Street said they are “not going to set out a deadline”, but said the Rwanda bill – that is due to return to the Commons “this month” – is a “key part” of stopping small boat crossings.

Mr Cleverly did not make the suggestion that boats would be stopped this year elsewhere, and a source close to him said: “Tackling illegal migration is by virtue of what it is, a product of criminal people smuggling gangs, should always be a mission to zero, and as quickly as possible.

“We’ll do what it takes, using a whole range of tactics to get to zero to break the business model of these ruthless smugglers who don’t care if people live or die, just as long as they pay.”

It comes after Mr Sunak admitted to parliament’s liaison committee just before Christmas there is no “firm date” to stop small boat crossings entirely.

Up until today, there had been fears for months that the prime minister’s target would not be achieved, and in an appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee in December, the prime minister was unable to say when the remaining overall backlog of asylum claims would be cleared.

In February last year, the Home Office said thousands of asylum seekers would be sent questionnaires which could be used to speed up a decision on their claims, and about 12,000 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen, who had applied for asylum in the UK and were waiting for a decision, were understood to be eligible under the policy.

In June, the National Audit Office (NAO) said efforts to clear the backlog needed to significantly increase to clear the backlog and questioned whether the plans were sustainable.

Read more:
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The spending watchdog also estimated £3.6bn was spent on asylum support in 2022-23, which amounted to almost double the previous year.

More caseworkers had been tasked with processing applications, which the Home Office has previously said was “tripling productivity to ensure more illegal migrants are returned to their country of origin, quicker”.

But the department’s top civil servant, Sir Matthew Rycroft, revealed in a letter to MPs that just 1,182 migrants who had crossed the Channel had been returned to their home country since 2020, out of a total of more than 111,800 who arrived in that time period.

The majority of those returned were from Albania, with whom the UK has a returns agreement.

Amount paid out by Ministry of Defence for bullying and harassment claims doubles in four years | UK News

The average settlement paid out by the Ministry of Defence for bullying, harassment and discrimination claims has more than doubled since 2020, new figures have revealed.

The average compensation payout made by the MoD for these types of claims reached £235,564 in 2022/23.

Only a few years earlier, in 2020/21, the figure was £100,527.

The number of settlements has also increased by more than 100%, from five to 12 in the same time frame.

Earlier this month it emerged that 60 senior women had complained of a “hostile” and “toxic” environment at the government department, which is responsible for the UK’s armed forces.

And it comes just a day after Sky News detailed the “toxic culture” of sleaze and bullying within the RAF’s elite flying squad, the Red Arrows.

Young female pilots were treated like “fresh meat”, and one claimed she was plied with alcohol by a senior member of the squad, while others said they were harassed for sex.

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Although an investigation was launched, the victims claimed the air force misled the public by telling parliament that none of the allegations heard by the inquiry team met a criminal threshold.

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Red Arrows: Victims break silence

‘Shocking’ data

Labour called the newly released settlement data “shocking” and has urged ministers to “root out” unacceptable behaviour in the department and armed forces.

The figures were obtained by shadow defence minister Maria Eagle, following a written parliamentary question.

She said: “That both the number of settlement payments and the average payout has more than doubled in just two years lays bare the MoD’s problems with bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“Ministers must lead from the top to root out unacceptable behaviour in the MoD and the armed forces. Labour in government will legislate to establish an Armed Forces Commissioner to act as a strong independent voice to improve the lives of serving personnel and their families.”

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “We do not tolerate abuse, bullying or discrimination of any kind, which is why we have introduced many changes to improve the experience for everyone across defence, including improvements to reporting mechanisms, diversity and inclusion training, and increased access to support.

Read more: Teenage soldier killed herself after ‘sexual harassment’

“We actively encourage any personnel who believe they have experienced or witnessed unacceptable behaviour to report it.

“All allegations of unacceptable behaviour are taken extremely seriously and are thoroughly investigated. If proven, swift action will be taken.”

UK’s largest mobile firms sued for £3bn – amid claims they overcharged loyal customers | UK News

Vodafone, EE, Three and O2 are facing a “£3bn-plus” class action claim that alleges they used their market dominance to overcharge on up to 28.2 million UK mobile phone contracts.

The four largest network operators are accused of penalising loyal customers – meaning they paid more than new customers for the same services.

Many contracts involve gradually repaying the cost of a smartphone over a two or three-year period – but it is alleged that, when the device was paid off, firms failed to reduce the monthly bill.

The legal action has been brought by former Citizens Advice executive Justin Gutmann and the law firm Charles Lyndon, and they are seeking damages of at least £3.285bn.

If successful, affected consumers could receive as much as £1,823 each, Mr Gutmann claimed.

The class action has been filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London.

All qualifying consumers will be automatically included in the claim for free unless they follow specific steps to opt out.

The claim follows a “super complaint” from Citizens Advice to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in September 2018, which resulted in the CMA finding: “We do not consider that providers should continue to charge customers the same rate once they have effectively paid off their handsets at the end of the minimum contract period.

“This is unfair and must be stopped.”

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Apple changes connector again

Mr Gutmann said: “I’m launching this class action because I believe these four mobile phone companies have systematically exploited millions of loyal customers across the UK through loyalty penalties, taking over £3bn out of the pockets of hard-working people and their families.

“These companies kept taking advantage of customers despite the financial crisis of 2008, COVID and now the cost of living crisis. It’s time they were held to account.”

An O2 spokesman said: “To date there has been no contact with our legal team on this claim. However, we are proud to have been the first provider to have launched split contracts a decade ago which automatically and fully reduce customers’ bills once they’ve paid off their handset.

“We’ve long been calling for an end to the ‘smartphone swindle’ and for other mobile operators to stop the pernicious practice of charging their customers for phones they already own.”

An EE spokeswoman said: “We strongly disagree with the speculative claim being brought against us. EE offers a range of tariffs and a robust process for dealing with end of contract notifications.

“The UK mobile market is highly competitive space with some of the lowest pricing across Europe.”

Vodafone said: “This has just been brought to our attention and we don’t yet have sufficient detail for our legal team to assess.”

‘Let the bodies pile high’: Boris Johnson did make controversial remark despite ex-PM’s denials, veteran aide claims at COVID inquiry | Politics News

Boris Johnson said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than impose another lockdown in September 2020, according to one of his most veteran aides – despite the former prime minister denying making the remark several times.

Edward Udny-Lister made the revelation to the COVID inquiry today – and also told Lady Hallett that Mr Johnson asked to be injected with COVID live on TV in March 2020 to show the virus was not a threat.

The bodies comment backs up reports in The Daily Mail and allegations made by Dominic Cummings in 2021.

Mr Johnson denied making the remarks on numerous occasions – both on television and in the House of Commons.

Politics latest: Johnson wanted to be injected with COVID on TV

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Misleading the House of Commons was at the centre of Mr Johnson’s resignation from the Commons as an MP.

Lord Udny-Lister worked with Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London, as well as when he was the foreign secretary.

He was one of the most senior aides to Mr Johnson in Downing Street – alongside Mr Cummings – and ultimately replaced Mr Cummings as chief of staff.

Lord Udny-Lister’s statement to the inquiry said: “In September 2020, the R number was rising. A circuit breaker was proposed in response to this increase and the health secretary was pushing hard for this to take place.

“However, the opposition to any form of lockdown was intense.

“I recall the PM saying in September 2020 that he would rather ‘let the bodies pile high’ than impose another lockdown.

“Whilst this was an unfortunate turn of phrase, it should be born [sic] in mind that by this point the government was trying to avoid a further lockdown given the already severe impact on the economy and education.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the former prime minister would be giving evidence to the inquiry in due course.

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2021: PM asked about ‘bodies pile high’ comment

Unlike Mr Cummings, Lord Udny-Lister is a long-term ally of Mr Johnson.

His evidence was given on another illuminating day at the official COVID inquiry.

As well as the above claims, Lord Udny-Lister laid out the dysfunctionality of Downing Street – especially in the early days of the pandemic.

The adviser – who had a desk opposite Mr Cummings – said: “Some of the personalities made it very, very toxic… Dominic Cummings’s relationship with other people had become very strained.”

And messages released to the inquiry revealed that Mark Sedwill – then the head of the civil service – said in July 2020 that “it’s hard to ask people to [march] to the sound of gunfire if they’re shot in the back”.

Simon Case – who is now the head of the civil service – responded by saying: “I’ve never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country.”

Chief Strategic Advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sir Edward Lister, in Downing Street, Westminster, London.
Image:
Lord Udny-Lister was a senior adviser to Boris Johnson

Read more:
Final message between Johnson and Cummings revealed
The moments you may have missed at the inquiry last week

He added that “top-drawer” potential recruits had refused to work in Downing Street because of the “toxic reputation” of the setup.

Lord Udny-Lister also spoke of a distrust or dislike within Downing Street for including devolved administrations within decision-making, as it was felt that that decisions would be briefing or introduced early by Scotland for “political” reasons.

Before the political appointee gave evidence, Simon Ridley – who was head of the COVID-19 taskforce within Number 10 – was before the lawyers.

At one point, he confirmed that the taskforce – which coordinated COVID policy – was “blindsided” by Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out announcement. He said the decision was instead made by the then chancellor and Mr Johnson.

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Another point to come out of Mr Ridley’s evidence was an email sent by Alexandra Burns, a Number 10 official, in April 2020. This asked if there was an “overall strategy” for care homes – adding that looking at Europe made it seem like one was necessary as “once someone gets [COVID] in one of these places many die”.

A diary extract from Sir Patrick Vallance, the former chief scientific adviser, wrote in his diary in October 2020 that he had a “very bad meeting” in Downing Street, in which Mr Johnson called for a “whisky and a revolver” and Mr Sunak was “using increasingly specific and spurious arguments against closing hospitality”.

Russell Brand denies ‘serious criminal allegations’ he claims are being made against him | Ents & Arts News

Russell Brand has denied “very serious criminal allegations” that he claims will be made against him by a newspaper and TV company.

In a video posted on YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter, titled “So, This is Happening”, the comedian denied the allegations that he described as “a litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks”.

He said that while he was “very promiscuous” at the height of his career, his relationships were “always consensual”.

Brand, 48, said: “Now, this isn’t the usual type of video we make on this channel where we critique, attack and undermine the news in all its corruption because in this story, I am the news.

‘Very serious allegations that I absolutely refute’

“I’ve received two extremely disturbing letters or a letter and an email. One from a mainstream media TV company, one from a newspaper listing a litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks, as well as some pretty stupid stuff like my community festival should be stopped, that I shouldn’t be able to attack mainstream media narratives on this channel.

“But amidst this litany of astonishing rather baroque attacks, are some very serious allegations that I absolutely refute.

“These allegations pertain to the time when I was working in the mainstream, when I was in the newspapers all the time, when I was in the movies. And as I’ve written about extensively in my books, I was very, very promiscuous.

“Now, during that time of promiscuity, the relationships I had were absolutely always consensual. I was always transparent about that then, almost too transparent, and I’m being transparent about it now as well.

“And to see that transparency metastasized into something criminal that I absolutely deny makes me question, is there another agenda at play?”

He continued: “I’m aware that you guys have been saying in the comments for a while [saying] ‘watch out, Russell. They’re coming for you, you’re getting too close to the truth, Russell Brand did not kill himself’.

“I know that a year ago there was a spate of articles – Russell Brand’s a conspiracy theorist, Russell Brand’s right wing. I’m aware of news media making phone calls, sending letters to people I know for ages and ages.

‘A serious and concerted agenda’

“It’s being clear to me, or at least it feels to me like there’s a serious and concerted agenda to control these kind of spaces and these kind of voices. And I mean, my voice along with your voice.

“I don’t mind them using my books and my stand-up to talk about my promiscuous consensual conduct in the past. What I seriously refute are these very, very serious criminal allegations.

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Hugh Jackman and his wife separate after 27 years of marriage

“Also, it’s worth mentioning that there are witnesses whose evidence directly contradicts the narrative that these two mainstream media outlets are trying to construct, apparently, in what seems to me to be a coordinated attack.

“Now, I don’t wanna get into this any further because of the serious nature of the allegations, but I feel like I’m being attacked and plainly they’re working very closely together. We are obviously going to look into this matter ’cause it’s very, very serious. In the meantime, I want you to stay close, stay awake, but more important than any of that, if you can, please stay free.”

Brand has not named the newspaper and TV company which he claims have made allegations against him.

Sara Sharif: Girl, 10, found dead at Woking home ‘fell down stairs and broke her neck’, uncle claims | World News

The brother of a man wanted over the death of his 10-year-old daughter told officers Sara Sharif “fell down the stairs and broke her neck”, according to police in Pakistan.

Sara’s uncle, Imran Sharif, is currently held in police custody for questioning, Jhelum police have exclusively told Sky News.

He has not been charged and is not under arrest, they said.

However, Mr Sharif is assisting police in finding his brother Urfan, who he claims he hasn’t seen.

Sara Sharif was discovered at her home in Woking, Surrey, after police were called from Pakistan by her father on 10 August.

Urfan Sharif, 41, his partner Beinash Batool, 29, and his 28-year-old brother Faisal Malik are thought to have travelled from the UK to Islamabad the day before – and are wanted for questioning.

Sara’s exact cause of death remains unknown.

However, Surrey Police said a post-mortem revealed Sara “suffered multiple and extensive injuries”, which they said were “likely to have been caused over a sustained and extended period of time”.

Surrey County Council have also said Sara was previously known to authorities.

Urfan Sharif, left and Beinash Batool. Pic: AP
Image:
Urfan Sharif, left and Beinash Batool. Pic: AP

Pakistani police are seeking to arrest Urfan Sharif, who travelled to the country with Beinash Batool and Faisal Malik as well as five children ranging from one to 13 years old.

It is believed Urfan briefly returned to his family home in Jhelum, Punjab – about 84 miles (134km) away from the capital.

Imran Sharif denied knowing where Urfan and his family were, Jhelum police said.

He told police: “I found out what happened to Sara through the international media.

“My parents told me Urfan briefly came home very upset. He kept saying ‘they’ are going to take his children away from him.”

“They”, an officer said, referred to British authorities.

According to Jhelum police, Imran Sharif claims the family line is that Sara had an accident at home.

He is alleged to have told officers: “Beinash was home with the children. Sara fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Beinash panicked and phoned Urfan.”

Beinash Batool’s family home in Mirpur was searched, but the family of eight was nowhere to be seen, Jhelum police told Sky News.

They added that Urfan’s parents are distressed, and that his father’s “heart condition” is worsening from “stress”.