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Missing Alex Batty ‘had been staying in French guesthouse without his mother’ | UK News

The owners of a French guesthouse have revealed missing British teenager Alex Batty spent recent years staying with them under a fake name without his mother.

Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve said the teenager first arrived at their traditional gite farmhouse in late 2021 and had stayed with them on-and-off ever since.

The couple said they considered him “part of our family” and disclosed he had recently told them he aimed to return to the UK to go to school and live a normal life.

The revelation is the latest piece of the puzzle in solving the mystery of where Alex has been for the last six years.

He was 11 when went on holiday in 2017 with his mother Melanie Batty – who does not have legal parental guardianship – and his grandfather David Batty but never returned.

Alex, now 17, was found on Wednesday after a delivery driver offered him a lift near Toulouse.

This weekend he was reunited with family back in the UK – thought to include his grandmother and legal guardian Susan Caruana.

 Fred and Ingrid owners of french farmhouse
Fred and Ingrid, owners of the French farmhouse

On Sunday Mr Hambye and Ms Beauve issued a statement confirming they had taken Alex under their wing in recent years – but that they did not know his true identity and were told his name was “Zach”.

They said the teenager was accompanied by his mother and grandfather when he first came to their guesthouse in Camps-sur-l’Agly, southern France, two years ago.

The couple said his mother did not stay as she was “looking for a place to live” in a spiritual community, but they agreed to give the teenager accommodation in exchange for him doing chores in their garden and kitchen – and noted he “loved to cook”.

“He stayed with us for some longer or shorter periods. He left several times to join his mother in her successive places of residence between Aude and Ariege,” Mr Hambye and Ms Beauve said.

The couple said he was keen to participate in “the life of the gite,” and got on well with their children as he joined them in activities such as cycling and trips to the beach.

Read more:
Alex fled ‘because mum wanted to take him to Finland’
What really happened after he vanished?
Man who found him says Alex ‘wants to live normal life’

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Delivery driver recalls rescuing Alex Batty

The couple said “Zach” last came back to stay with them in the summer and “as time went on we saw him as part of our family and we think he appreciated the stability and security we represented for him”.

They added the teenager had a room to himself with unlimited internet access and was “completely free to come and go as he pleased”.

Mr Hambye and Ms Beauve said they encouraged him to learn French and study, and helped him “find a school where he could be admitted without prior education”, while also noting that he showed an aptitude for computers.

But the couple said he told them he was eager to to go to school and “get back a normal life” but did not have any identification paperwork that would allow him to get back to Britain.

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Missing British teenager ‘fled from mother’

The gite owners said they offered to drive him to the British consulate to help him get ID, but he said he would “find a way to return to the UK on his own to get new papers”.

The last they heard he had left to “join his mother”. “We reiterated to him that he would always be welcome and that if needed, we were there to help him”.

The whereabouts of Alex’s mother is not known, although French prosecutors believe she could be in Finland.

Meanwhile his grandfather is thought to have died around six months ago.

Ukrainian refugees staying in UK facing homelessness as Homes for Ukraine placements end | UK News

Nine months after arriving in the UK, Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova is searching for somewhere to spend the night.

“I’m just trying to move on and survive,” she says.

Britain opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees on visa schemes last spring.

Now it’s a cold, drab day in early February and Anfisa is facing the unthinkable – she is homeless.

Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova
Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova

Anfisa has been desperately ringing around charities, the local council and anyone she knows trying to find a place to stay for the night. There’s disappointment after disappointment.

But her search for somewhere suitable is complicated by the fact that Anfisa has four dogs who’ve travelled thousands of miles with her from a war zone. And she refuses to be separated from them.

Ukraine war latest – Putin travelling in armoured train because he is ‘scared’ to fly

Hugging each of her mini Yorkshire terriers Betsy, Nora, Daisy and Teddy it’s obvious just how much they mean to her.

Anfisa says: “They are my emotional support. I already lost everything in the war.”

Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova with her mini Yorkshire terriers Betsy, Nora, Daisy and Teddy.
Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova with her mini Yorkshire terriers

We’re in Bracknell in Berkshire and it’s getting dark.

There is an 11th-hour solution available – she could go to a bed and breakfast provided by the local authority. But her dogs would have to be put into kennels, which Anfisa isn’t prepared to let happen.

Anfisa appears to have run out of options when help comes from an unexpected quarter.

Also looking for accommodation she meets some of Bracknell’s homeless community who take her to a local church.

The House of God wasn’t where she was expecting to spend the night.

Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova with her mini Yorkshire terriers Betsy, Nora, Daisy and Teddy.
Anfisa Vlasova with her mini Yorkshire terriers Betsy, Nora, Daisy and Teddy

“I’m so tired and exhausted because all day just running, calling, searching. So at least I got a roof and it’s warm and I got a meal and my dogs are with me,” she says.

Anfisa, who promoted cosmetics in Ukraine, was displaced twice in her home country first from Donetsk in 2014, then she fled from Kharkiv as it was being shelled last year.

She describes the way she’s now living hand-to-mouth as “deja vu”.

Anfisa came to the UK last May to live with a British family on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

She then went to a second host – an elderly man who Anfisa says wanted her to be his carer and companion.

She’s also stayed in an apartment provided by the council and a bed and breakfast.

She’s still looking for a permanent home for herself and her dogs.

Anfisa Vlasova's mini Yorkshire terriers Betsy, Nora, Daisy and Teddy.
Anfisa’s came to the UK with her mini Yorkshire terriers Betsy, Nora, Daisy and Teddy

But whilst Anfisa’s situation is unusual the number of Ukrainian refugees needing help with housing is rapidly rising.

The latest figures show 161,400 refugees are in the UK on visa schemes following the Russian invasion of their country a year ago.

Whilst 46,900 Ukrainians came to stay with family members, most travelled on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme which required British hosts to take refugees in for a minimum of six months.

Available data analysed by Sky News shows 4,295 Ukrainian households are now turning to local councils for somewhere to live after their placements on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme ended.

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Not all local authorities have provided figures and with councils only tracking ‘households’ not people within a household, the actual number will be even higher.

There has been no data collected on Ukrainians who came as part of the Family Visa Scheme.

With no end to the war in sight – most of the Ukrainian refugees we’ve spoken to are parting on good terms from their hosts but now want some independence and a place of their own.

But for most it’s proving difficult.

Tatiana Miller, Ukraine Response Coordinator at Refugee Support in Reading, says housing is the biggest issue for the people she sees.

Tatiana Miller, Ukraine Response Coordinator at Refugee Support in Reading.
Tatiana Miller, Ukraine Response Coordinator at Refugee Support in Reading

She says half of the Ukrainians at the support group will need new accommodation in the next month or two – and renting is proving very difficult.

She says: “The main message is we need compassionate landlords and we need local authorities to work with estate agents to accommodate that.

“The time has come when they (the refugees) need their space back.

Read more:
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NATO’s focus is on heavy weapons and training – not sending fighter jets

“But for Ukrainian people to look for alternative accommodation that means they need to rent and to rent they need a job or have a credit history.

“And Ukrainians don’t have the amount of salary that’s expected.”

Former history teacher Kateryna Korniienko clearly gets on well with her hosts Fiona and Richard Marston who took Kateryna and her two children in on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

Former history teacher Kateryna Korniienko is staying with hosts Fiona and Richard Marston who took Kateryna and her two children in on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
Former history teacher Kateryna Korniienko is staying with hosts in Britain with her two children on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme

She says: “It’s a very good place for us, but it’s not our house, it’s not our property, so every time I remember that I’m just a guest here and I should be polite. I want to keep their life the same as what it was before.”

Whilst Kateryna’s husband Andrew is still in Odesa, Kateryna has started working in Berkshire as a teaching assistant and her children are at a local school.

In Ukraine, Kateryna was a lecturer and history teacher but Fiona says her guest’s qualifications aren’t recognised in the UK – part of the reason why Fiona is keen to help Kateryna move on by standing as a financial guarantor on a rental property.

Fiona said: “I think for all of us we don’t want to go on like this forever.

“But for us, it’s more ‘what does Kate want?’

Former history teacher Kateryna Korniienko is staying with hosts Fiona and Richard Marston who took Kateryna and her two children in on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
Kateryna is staying with hosts Fiona and Richard Marston

“So my understanding is that what Kate wants is as normal a family life as she can have. And so for her, that means living independently.

“There is that balance, isn’t there, that we can suddenly not have to worry about when our family comes to stay. But yes I’ll miss them.”

But Anfisa Vlasova – who spent a night in a church with her four mini Yorkshire terriers – hasn’t found the breakthrough she’s looking for.

Since we last met she’s had several nights sleeping rough.

She shares photographs with us of the tent she shared with her dogs.

Ukrainian refugee Anfisa Vlasova has spent several nights sleeping rough. She shares photographs with us of the tent she shared with her dogs.
Anfisa Vlasova spent several nights sleeping rough in a tent with her dogs

When temperatures plummeted she was offered a place in a hotel but her pets would have had to go into kennels – which she refused.

Anifsa told us before she became homeless she had been offered accommodation by the council for her and her pets – but she turned it down as unsuitable.

In one case she said it was because it was a room with a family who had a cat.

She said: “I just want to hide, you know? Under my blanket, closing my eyes, imagining I’m at home, in my bed, in my flat and I’m just hiding under the blanket at the place which I feel is my own space.

“Since I came here, just I had six months of quite peaceful life with my host family and I am really very appreciative to those people but later on, it’s a nightmare.”

O2 Academy in Brixton staying shut for three months after fatal crush | Ents & Arts News

The O2 Academy in Brixton will remain shut for three more months after two people were killed in a crowd crush.

Owners Academy Music Group (AMG) said it had “reflected deeply” on the incident and had decided to stay closed regardless of an impending licensing decision by the local council.

Security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, were fatally injured when ticketless fans tried to enter Nigerian artist Asake’s show at the south London venue on 15 December.

Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, of Newham. Pic: Met Police
Rebecca Ikumelo and (below) Gaby Hutchinson suffered fatal injuries
Gabrielle Hutchinson has been named as the second woman to have died after a crush at the Asake concert in Brixton on Thursday

Lambeth Council ordered the site to shut shortly afterwards, pending a hearing by a subcommittee on Monday.

Metropolitan Police had sought a longer licence suspension “to allow time to work with the venue to facilitate a safe reopening and to ensure appropriate safeguards, aimed at improving public safety, are in place”.

AMG has now taken the matter into its own hands, saying it “recognises the gravity” of what happened and offered “sincere condolences to the families of those who died”.

The three-month closure will give time for investigations into the incident to take place, AMG said, adding it was “committed to understanding what happened” and “providing full co-operation to the police”.

More on Brixton Concert Crush

“The company’s decision to close for this period will be the case whether or not the licence is suspended, but AMG agrees to the suspension as an enforceable measure,” a statement continued.

An online portal set up by the Met for people to submit details, photos, and videos of the incident remains open.

Some 4,000 people are thought to have witnessed the crush, which left eight attendees needing hospital treatment.

Person staying at Manston migrant processing centre in Kent dies in hospital | UK News

A person staying at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent has died in hospital, the Home Office has said.

They were admitted after becoming unwell and died on Saturday morning.

It is understood the person travelled to the UK by small boat and arrived last Saturday.

There is “no evidence at this stage” to suggest the death was “caused by an infectious disease”, the Home Office said.

There will be no detailed comment until a post-mortem examination has been carried out, the spokesman added.

“We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and provide 24/7 health facilities with trained medical staff at Manston,” he said.

The Home Office tweeted that it was “profoundly saddened by this event” and sent its “heartfelt condolences to all those affected”.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said there would “of course need to be a full investigation into this tragic case”.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said it was “vital that a thorough and speedy investigation takes place to understand what happened and whether all the necessary procedures were followed”.

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Migrant centres: Spike in disease

Manston has been at the centre of controversy in recent weeks.

It is designed to hold up to 1,600 people for no more than 24 hours but, earlier this month, there were about 4,000 on site.

Temporary marquees were set up to house the extra people.

Some migrants were threatening to self-harm and go on hunger strike, with unrest “spreading across the camp”, Sky News was told.

A farmer from Eritrea said he slept on cardboard and was given cold hot dogs for lunch.

Others begged for help via a message in a bottle thrown over the perimeter fence.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that more than 40,000 migrants had crossed the Channel this year.

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, was recently criticised after telling MPs there is an “invasion on our southern coast”.

The UK has agreed a deal with France to try to reduce the number of people making the dangerous journey.

But migration and policing specialists said £8m in extra funding, a 40% increase in officers on French beaches, and enhanced intelligence sharing would not be enough to bring numbers down.

Truss has just removed one of her biggest remaining arguments for staying in power | Politics News

After allowing her chancellor to rewrite the government’s energy price plan, Liz Truss has just removed one of her biggest remaining arguments for staying in power.

Yes, reversing the Kwarteng income tax cut, abolishing the dividend tax changes and the VAT-free shopping scheme are very politically painful.

But abandoning the existing energy price cap scheme from April is on a different level of significance and leaves this government holed below the waterline.

Hunt announcement – live: Chancellor goes further than expected – as MPs say it’s ‘when not if’ Truss goes

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Hunt warns of ‘more difficult decisions’

Now people’s energy bills will be going up from April, just as millions face bigger mortgage payments too, but this is only one of several problems this decision causes.

Boris Johnson always attempted to make the argument that he got big calls right. This is now all but impossible for Liz Truss.

The prime minister has clung on relentlessly to the wisdom of her energy price plan: praising it again on Friday in the awkward mini-press conference, over the weekend in an article in The Sun, and allowing government ministers – like Treasury minister Andrew Griffith on Sky 24 hours ago – to point to it as the one government success.

It wasn’t even part of the mini-budget – announced 48 hours after she entered office – and over a fortnight before Kwasi Kwarteng’s calamitous statement.

Yet politically the Truss team allowed it to morph into the mini-budget’s biggest triumph, even as other parts were thrown in the dumpster.

Truss’s MPs like Robert Halfon could see the folly, but she could not until the very last moment. She clung on to it when everyone else could see the warning lights.

It is hard to overstate what a big deal this is because of the wider signal it sends.

This will be seen as the day when bailout Britain ended. Starting in the pandemic, getting a nation used to bailouts with the furlough scheme and business support schemes, there has been an assumption government will step in when external shocks take place.

This is no more.

Liz Truss had exposed the public finances to near unlimited liability for two years, because she cannot have known the cost of gas rises resulting from Putin’s war.

One of the most dangerous fiscal policies of modern times has been consigned to the bin.

It is for her MPs now to judge whether she still has enough credibility to remain in office after this particular U-turn.

Climber scales The Shard barefoot and surprises couple staying on 40th floor of skyscraper | UK News

A couple staying on the 40th floor of The Shard woke up to a surprise at 6am this morning – a man climbing past their window after scaling the skyscraper barefoot.

Paul Curphey, 52, and partner Treasaidh, visited the iconic structure in southeast London for a birthday trip when they noticed someone “waving at the window”.

The fearless daredevil is thought to be free-climber Adam Lockwood – who shared a terrifying selfie of him balancing precariously close to the edge of the iconic 310m (1,016-ft) building.

The picture, posted on Facebook, is captioned Shard, 04/09/2022 and shows him shirtless with his arm extended, appearing completely at ease despite the dizzying height.

Mr Lockwood has shared a number of escapades on his profile, including pictures at the top of Dubai’s second-tallest building, Marina 101, which measures 425m (1,394ft).

Mr Curphey, a retail businessman from the Isle of Man, snapped a picture of a man who he said was “yelling in a celebratory fashion”.

“He appeared, waving at the window, 40 floors up, already in the deep end so to speak.

“We couldn’t help but urge him on to complete his mission.

The man pictured outside the couple's hotel window on the 40th floor.
The couple snapped the man outside their window on the 40th floor of the iconic skyscraper

“He was smiling, waving, and having the time of his life.”

“(My) partner thought I had pulled all the stops out and managed to get a guy to bring a box of Milk Tray for her birthday,” Mr Curphey joked.

“It was scary to see, but his happy demeanour was amazingly uplifting,” he added.

The Metropolitan Police said a 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of trespass.

Two other men were arrested on suspicion of causing public nuisance during the incident.

The force arrived at the scene, close to London Bridge, around 5.38am on Sunday morning, joined by the London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade.