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Ellie Gould’s killer ‘should never be released’

Image copyright Wiltshire Police
Image caption Ellie Gould’s mum originally believed there was no chance Thomas Griffiths could have harmed her

The mother of murdered teenager Ellie Gould has called her killer a danger to women who should never be released from prison.

Ellie, 17, was found stabbed to death at the family’s Wiltshire home in May.

Carole Gould said Thomas Griffiths, who has been given a life sentence and told he would serve at least 12-and-a-half years, had become “obsessed” with her daughter.

He stabbed Ellie after she ended their relationship, the court heard during his sentencing.

The murdered teenager’s grandmother branded him a “monster” who should face the death penalty.

It was just three months after joining in Ellie’s 17th birthday celebrations that Griffiths stabbed her to death at her home in Calne.

The Gould family maintained they had done their best to make Griffiths, who has turned 18 since the killing, feel welcome.

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Media captionCarole Gould: ‘I’ll never forget that phone call’

“My husband wasn’t overly keen on him (Griffiths) because he didn’t say much,” said Mrs Gould. “I just assumed it was because he was a 17-year-old boy. It was nothing that would ring alarm bells.

“We welcomed him into our home. We ate dinner with him.”

Griffiths even asked to be allowed to do work experience at the family business just days before the murder.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Ellie’s mum called her “the perfect daughter”

Mrs Gould said Ellie was not looking for a serious relationship but Griffiths was. Shortly before her death, his behaviour changed.

“It was only in the last week that she (Ellie) began to spot some signs,” Mrs Gould said. “She said that he’d been acting very strange.

“I said to her ‘what are you going to do?’ and she said ‘don’t worry Mum, I’ll sort it’.

“Little did we know he was going to turn up the next day and do what he did.”

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption “No mother should hold her dead daughter’s hand,” said Carole Gould

It was a phone call from Mrs Gould’s husband Matthew that alerted her to the horrific events of Friday 3 May.

He had come home from work to find Ellie fatally wounded on the kitchen floor.

“I could tell from his voice he was absolutely hysterical,” said Mrs Gould. “I was thinking ‘what on earth has happened?’

“As I was coming through Calne, a police car was trying to weave through the traffic and I thought to myself ‘that’s nothing to do with us, is it?’.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ellie’s body was found at the family home in Calne

It was, and nothing could prepare Ellie’s mother for the scene outside the family home in Springfield Drive.

“There were police cars abandoned everywhere, an ambulance at the end of the drive, and Matt just sobbing.”

As the stunned couple took in the fact Ellie was dead, officers asked them if their daughter had a boyfriend.

Yes, replied Mrs Gould – but she explained to them how devoted Griffiths was. “He wouldn’t harm her,” were her words.

But he had.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Ellie, 17, was a pupil at Hardenhuish School, Chippenham

Within hours, police told Ellie’s parents her death was being treated as murder.

“At that point I just felt like I’d been thrown against a wall,” said Mrs Gould.

“We both said she didn’t have any enemies. Who on earth would want to murder her?”

It was not long before the couple realised Griffiths was the main suspect.

“There was just disbelief that he would do that, and why?”

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Ellie’s killer Thomas Griffiths was present when she celebrated her 17th birthday

In August, Griffiths pleaded guilty to Ellie’s murder at Bristol Crown Court. Mrs Gould said she wanted him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“He’s a danger to society, particularly to women,” she said.

“He became obsessed with Ellie within a matter of weeks. He could become obsessed with another woman and who knows what could happen?”

Ellie’s grandmother Pat Gould said Griffiths was “evil” and she believed Ellie’s murder was premeditated.

Image caption Ellie’s future has been “wiped out by this monster”, said her grandmother Pat Gould

“I believe it should be capital punishment – a life for a life,” she said. “Otherwise he’s being detained at our expense.

“She (Ellie) had a lovely future and a lovely family to support her and it’s been wiped out by this monster.”

Ellie’s family still feel her loss keenly.

“Her life was full and she had all the opportunities in front of her,” said her mother. “She was the perfect daughter.

“When the A-level results came out in the summer, it broke me because I just thought this time next year that would have been Ellie, we would have been talking about her future.

“No mother should hold her dead daughter’s hand. That was heartbreaking.”

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Warm sandwiches found at listeria death hospital

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ian Hitchcock was being treated in hospital for cancer when he ate the sandwich

Sandwiches were kept warm in “ineffective” fridges at a hospital where a patient contracted listeria after eating one and died.

Cancer patient Ian Hitchcock, 52, died on 8 June after eating a pre-packed sandwich while he was being treated at Royal Derby Hospital.

The problems with the fridges were identified on 4 and 5 June when an environmental health officer visited.

The hospital said it has since reviewed how its food is stored on wards.

In a letter to the hospital, food safety inspector Jayne Hassall warned “high risk foods” including sandwiches were being “stored outside temperature control due to ineffective refrigerators”.

Some of the sandwiches were found to be at temperatures above 8C, which is an offence under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.

“This increases the risk of harmful bacteria growing within the food, especially Listeria Monocytogenes which can grow rapidly in warm temperatures and is an increased risk to vulnerable consumers,” Ms Hassall wrote.

Her accompanying report highlighted a particular danger to cancer patients, due to their weakened immune system.

Why was the hospital inspected?

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Listeria infection is rare and usually causes a mild illness in healthy people

The inspection was carried out by Derby City Council at the request of the Food Standards Agency.

It was requested because of an ongoing investigation into a listeria outbreak which had at that point resulted in the deaths of three people at other hospital sites.

The death toll has since risen to six and the government has ordered a review of hospital food.

The Good Food Chain, which made the sandwich eaten by Mr Hitchcock, has been linked to the listeria outbreak.

It voluntarily ceased manufacturing on 5 June and went into liquidation at the end of the month.

What did the inspection report say?

Image caption Ian Hitchcock was being treated at the Royal Derby Hospital

The report said high risk foods such as sandwiches and prepared salads should be stored at 8C or below. However, the inspector found three fridges where the air temperature was higher than 8C. One of these was on a ward and two were in kitchens.

When the sandwiches were tested they were found to be as high as 13.1C (cheese sandwich), 11.4 C (tuna and mayonnaise) and 9.4 C (gammon ham).

The inspector wrote: “I am concerned as food poisoning bacteria, especially Listeria Monocytogenes, can rapidly grow at warm temperatures, such as the temperatures we found these sandwiches to be stored at.

“Vulnerable groups such as individuals with a weakened immune system such as cancer patients, patients undergoing immunosuppressive treatments, pregnant women and the elderly are more susceptible to developing infections as a result of Listeria bacteria.”

She told the hospital it must either replace or repair its fridges if they were not able to operate at 8C or below. She recommended the temperature be set to 5C, saying this was “good practice” for health care organisations.

How did the patient die?

Image copyright Good Food Chain
Image caption The Good Food Chain sold sandwiches under the name Good & Proper

Mr Hitchcock, from Crich in Derbyshire, was being treated at the Royal Derby Hospital after being diagnosed with liver cancer in May.

A pre-prepared sandwich made by the Good Food Chain was eaten at some point during his stay. His family believed the sandwich was contaminated.

He died on 8 June after being transferred to Nottingham City Hospital, and “systemic listeria infection” was found to be a contributing factor in his death.

His full cause of death has been recorded by the coroner as “1a liver failure” and “1b metastatic sigmoid adenocarcinoma and systemic listeria infection”.

The hospital has not given any details on where Mr Hitchcock’s sandwich was stored, but this is expected to be explored when a full inquest is held into Mr Hitchcock’s death.

What has the hospital said?

The hospital said it could not comment specifically on Mr Hitchcock’s care until the inquest into his death had concluded.

Executive chief nurse Cathy Winfield said: “As you would expect, regardless of the fact that the suspected source of the listeria was an external sandwich provider, our response was to review the facilities for patient food storage across our hospitals.

“This review, in conjunction with the council’s environmental health officers and independent reviewers commissioned by ourselves, found a number of improvements that should be made.

“This includes tighter restrictions on the storage of sandwiches and other high risk foods, revised ward kitchen temperature monitoring and new equipment, including fridges.

“We take our responsibility for food safety and hygiene very seriously and have made improvements in all of these areas.”

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Man who hit police dog with tin of beans jailed

Image copyright Dorset Police
Image caption William Sheen admitted arson, assaulting an emergency worker and causing unnecessary suffering to a service dog

A man who injured a police dog by throwing a tin of baked beans at its head has been jailed for six months.

William Sheen, 23, began throwing food at police officers when they tried to detain him at the George Tapps pub in Bournemouth on 21 August.

He also started a fire and barricaded himself in a kitchen storage space, Bournemouth Crown Court heard.

Sheen admitted arson, assaulting an emergency worker and causing unnecessary suffering to a service dog.

The court was told he had been causing a disturbance at the pub on Old Christchurch Road when staff called the police.

Officers from Dorset Police said they found him in a dry storage area of the kitchen shouting “Let me out” before waving a metal object at them and refusing to leave.

A fire was seen coming from the store and Sheen was heard to say “Go away – this place is going to go up”.

The fire service was called to extinguish the flames and a police dog, called Gus, was also sent to the scene.

Image copyright Dorset Police
Image caption Police dog Gus was stunned when he was hit on the head with a tin of baked beans

In a statement, Dorset Police said: “Sheen began to throw items at the officers, including bags of flour and commercial-sized tins of baked beans.

“One of the tins struck PD Gus on the head, stunning him and causing him to back away.”

Police then used a Taser to subdue Sheen and he was arrested.

Ch Insp Heather Dixey confirmed Gus and the police officers involved did not sustain any lasting injuries and are back on active duty.

She added: “This case yet against demonstrates the danger that can be faced by officers and police dogs while dealing with hostile and volatile incidents.”

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Mum shielded kids from dad’s body with tea towels

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Media captionMother’s plea: ‘Find the killer who ruined our lives’

Two young children who witnessed their father being stabbed to death had tea towels put over their heads to shield them from his body.

Christopher Nicol, 27, was attacked inside his flat in Maple Road, Greenock, on 26 September.

Det Ch Insp Martin Fergus said Mr Nicol’s partner covered her children’s faces to get them out of the flat after the “frenzied and brutal attack”.

Mr Nicol’s mother said he ” worshipped his children” and was a brilliant dad.

The five-year-old boy and six-year-old girl have been receiving professional support.

Speaking at a police press conference, an emotional Karen Nicol said he “would have done anything for his children”.

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Christopher Nicol was killed in front of his two young children

“I am devastated by the tragic death of my much-loved son Christopher,” she said. “Our lives have been changed forever. He was a brilliant dad to his two young children who he worshipped and would have done anything for.

“The man responsible has taken one life and ruined the lives of our family. Please, please if you have any information that will help the officers, please call them and Crimestoppers as soon as possible, please.”

Police believe the killer knew who he was targeting, and wrongly thought there was a large amount of cash in the flat. However, Det Ch Insp Fergus said the victim may not have known his killer.

The officer said that just before the attack at 21:05, Mr Nicol had been colouring-in with his five-year-old son in the living room while his six-year-old daughter was helping his partner in the kitchen.

‘Frenzied and brutal attack’

The killer entered the flat after barging past Mr Nicol’s girlfriend when she answered the door.

“This incident is absolutely horrendous,” Det Ch Insp Fergus said. “This has happened during a family scene, within a house in Greenock, a scene that is replicated throughout Britain on any given evening.

“An individual has forced his way in and effectively stabbed Christopher Nicol to death in the presence of his two young children. I don’t think I need to expand any further on how horrific this is.”

Image caption Det Ch Insp Martin Fergus said that what had taken place was “unimaginable”

He said that after the attacker fled the scene, Mr Nicol’s partner, in an effort to shield the children from what had taken place, put tea towels over their heads to get them out of the flat.

“I don’t think people need to imagine, after such a frenzied and brutal attack, what state the father would have been in and to have tea towels placed over five and six-year-olds heads to shield them from that speaks volumes as to how traumatic that was,” the officer said.

“It’s unimaginable what must have taken place. For a five and six-year-old to have witnessed this speaks for itself.”

Det Ch Insp Fergus said police had received a good response after speaking to people in Greenock, but said he firmly believed there was still crucial information that had not been given to officers.

“We are still needing as much information from the public as we can possibly gather in an effort to piece together the events of that evening,” he said.

“I do believe the answer lies within the community.”

Image caption Police believe the killer wrongly thought there was a large sum of cash in the property

He said even the smallest piece of information could be “critical”.

“On the back of Karen’s emotional plea I don’t think I really need to expand any more on the devastating nature of this horrific crime,” he added.

The killer has been described as white, aged 20-30, about 5ft 9in tall, with a slim build. He had a local accent, and an unkempt, reddish, brown beard and moustache. Officers say he also had a “drawn-in” face and decaying teeth, with some visibly missing.

He was wearing a black beanie hat with a logo, possibly Timberland, a black top and black jeans or bottoms.

Anyone with information has been urged to contact Police Scotland via their non-emergency line.

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Dad Wrote A Porno stars quizzed by real ‘Belinda’

A hundred and eighty million downloads, a world tour, an international TV series.

It’s not bad for three friends who started recording their podcast around a kitchen table with cheap microphones.

This week sees the launch of series five of the award-winning podcast My Dad Wrote A Porno, which will be going on another international tour next year.

If you’ve not even started then you definitely need a quick lesson: Jamie Morton’s dad is a retired builder and, in his retirement, he’s taken to writing pornography. He’s got a pen name – Rocky Flintstone.

Of course, knowing your dad is writing pornography is a bit traumatic but Jamie’s embracing it and, in every episode, he reads chapters of Belinda Blinked to friends Alice Levine and James Cooper.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption James Cooper, Alice Levine and Jamie Morton started the podcast in 2015

Another thing you need to know – Belinda Blumenthal is Worldwide Sales Director at Steeles Pots and Pans. Yes. This is pornography rooted in the international cookware market.

And if you know all this already, you’ll also know how series four ended. It took the dramatic side of Rocky’s writing to new levels.

The new series “picks up mere seconds after we left it in book four and the first chapter is called The Aftermath,” James explains.

“There is a lot really packed into the first chapter. And you realise that Belinda Blinked has become half spy novel, half erotica. This storyline is going to continue.”

It’s pretty clear that all three are surprised that they’ve got to a fifth series. Jamie reveals that his dad is already writing books eight, nine and 10.

If you want evidence of a phenomenon then the world tour seems to confirm it, with fans turning up around the world in My Dad Wrote A Porno cosplay.

“People don’t do things by halves when they come to the show,” Alice says. “We’ve had people dressed up as the trellis from book one.

“We’ve had people being locations, even – the pub or buildings from the show.”

Radio 1 Newsbeat got 20 year-old superfan Maddy to put some questions to Alice, James and Jamie.

But she’s not just any super fan. Like Belinda, Maddy also has a job in the pots and pans industry.

Maddy: We actually make pans in the UK and I’m in charge of selling them. I haven’t heard Belinda sell a single one. And as a seller of pans, I’m quite curious on how her business is doing so well, having so many employees without managing to sell any pans?

Jamie: I don’t think she’s signed any deals properly, has she? She gives them away a lot.

James: I think the company she works for has actually done a lot worse since employing her and things are really going downhill. It seemed quite obvious to us how she could turn things around. Stop giving them away. Stop giving away 20,000 at the O2 and then you might start making some money.

Image copyright Netherton Foundry
Image caption Maddy’s in the pots and pans industry

Maddy: Working for Netherton Foundry, I’ve travelled all over Britain and to Germany and France to sell pans – and I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s actually turned on by pans. How has she found so many people so turned on by cookware?

Alice: I feel like Maddy is taking this literally – I’m not sure it’s the touch of the pan and the stainless steel getting her going. I think, for Belinda, it’s the business she is turned on by – the entrepreneur. She’s turned on by suppliers, she’s turned on by distributors, it’s anything in the chain.

Jamie: She’s very attracted to the passion that people have for their job.

Alice: She used to work in crockery and probably felt the same way about people working in crockery. She worked in swimwear too.

Jamie: She’s done so much and diversified her career.

Alice: Like a great international sales director, you are wedded to the product that you sell and she can find excitement in that.

Image copyright Netherton Foundry
Image caption Maddy in action at the foundry

Maddy: My next question is purely practical. I’m questioning the safety of the workers where Belinda works. Our offices and workshops in Shropshire aren’t very safe places to go about these activities because of the machines needed to make pans. Do these workplace activities follow health and safety regulations?

James: I love all the shoutouts Maddy is getting for her company here. Steele’s Pots and Pans’ office where Belinda works is the main office. The factory is in Scotland, so the office is quite a safe place.

Alice: They have a leather room designed purely for sexual antics so, in a way, they’ve taken it out of the work environment and have located a space for it.

James: There’s a lot of security in the building. Key cards have been given a lot of air time – every employee has one. Nobody is getting in who’s not an employee.

Jamie: My dad is very security conscious and he’s very health and safety conscious too. He cares about these things. He’s thought about it.

Alice: He cares about it more than the sex really. I’d say health and safety has been given more of an airing than erotica.

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Ruling expected in women’s pension age case

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Media caption“t makes me angry. It makes me very emotional”

Campaigners will learn later whether the government’s handling of the rise in women’s state pension age discriminated against them.

The retirement age for women rose from 60 to 65, in line with men, and will go up to 66 by 2020, and to 67 by 2028.

Women born in the 1950s claim the rise is unfair because they were not given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a state pension.

They won the right to a judicial review, with judges ruling later.

Up until 2010, women received their state pensions at the age of 60 but that has been rising since then. While most campaigners support pension age equality, they say the government was discriminatory in the way it has introduced it.

In June, the judicial review in the High Court heard a claim from two members of the Backto60 group who said that not receiving their state pension at the age of 60 had affected them disproportionately.

They argue that many women took time out of work to care for children and were paid less than men, could not save as much in occupational pensions, so the change had hit them harder.

It is estimated that 3.8 million women were in this position, with some potentially losing out on more than £40,000.

The Backto60 group is seeking repayment of all the pensions people born in the 1950s would have received if they had been able to retire earlier. It argues that the speed of the change and what it calls the lack of warnings has disadvantaged millions of women.

However, the government has estimated that a reversal of the pension changes in the Acts of Parliament of 1995 and 2011 would cost £215bn over the period 2010-11 to 2025-26.

About £181bn of that would be money potentially owed to women and the rest to men.

It has said the move to make the state pension age the same for men and women was a “long-overdue” move towards gender equality, and had been clearly communicated to those affected.

The losing side of Thursday’s judgement is likely to appeal, meaning more court cases in a long-running dispute over the effect of the pension changes on 1950s women.

Campaigners have lobbied MPs, and call regular public protests to raise awareness of their situation.

The Backto60 group has taken this legal action to demand “the return of their earned dues”. The separate Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) group is calling for a “bridging” pension to cover the gap from the age of 60 until their state pension is paid.

‘I could have paid my bills’

Image caption Krissy Abbott, with her dog Jazz, says she is angry about the situation

Krissy Abbott was born in April 1954 so had expected to be receiving her state pension well before now. Instead, it will come in November.

Mrs Abbott, from Essex, said the loss of her husband, Alan, as well as difficulties with benefits applications meant she was depending on the charity of others last year.

“The only thing I had was the food bank and some very good neighbours of mine. They knew how much I thought of [my dog] Jazz. They brought round tins of dog food for him,” she said.

“I had a gas cooker in the kitchen and Jazz and I used to spend our time in the kitchen keeping warm. You just survive.”

She said life would have been different had she been in receipt of her state pension.

“You could have had the heating, you could have had hot food, a shower, a bath, a simple thing like having a kettle and making a hot drink. It would have made such a difference. I could have paid my bills,” she said.

“It makes me angry. It makes me very emotional.”

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Brexit vote ‘probably a mistake’, says Sir Paul

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Media captionSir Paul McCartney tells BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis he has to “get inspired’ to vote

Sir Paul McCartney has said the Brexit referendum was “probably a mistake” and he will “be glad when it’s over”.

He had not voted in the referendum, he said, as he “didn’t see anybody saying anything sensible enough”.

Sir Paul said the current situation was “a mess” but added: “I think we’ll come through it, we always do.”

The former Beatle was speaking to BBC News as he – with daughters, Stella and Mary – released a book of personal photos, taken by his late wife, Linda.

Reflecting on the 2016 Brexit vote, Sir Paul said the arguments made during the campaign had been “all crazy promises”.

“What put me off was that I was meeting a lot of older people, kind of pretty much my generation.

“And they were going, ‘All right Paul – it’s going to be like it was in the old days, we’re going to go back.’ And it was like, ‘Yeah? Oh, I’m not sure about that.’ And that attitude was very prevalent.

“I vote for someone I believe in and so often there’s nobody I believe in. I have to get a bit inspired. At the moment I’m not really inspired.”

‘Little pieces of art’

Linda McCartney, who died aged 56 in 1998, began her photographic career in New York, shooting rock stars.

The book – Linda McCartney The Polaroid Diaries – compiles more than 200 photographs from her private collection and offers a glimpse into the family’s life in Scotland and southern England.

“For us, they’re just family photos but because it’s Linda, a great photographer, they’re little pieces of art,” Sir Paul said.

Image copyright The Polaroid Diaries, Taschen

“I’d been through a very difficult period at the end of the Beatles. It was like hell.

“But I’d just met this beautiful woman and we were raising a family, so we decided to escape, so we escaped to Scotland and lived a very funky life.”

The Polaroids show pet hamsters, a lamb in the kitchen, bath-times, birthday cakes and the McCartney children playing dress-up.

Mary McCartney said the photos showed a “simple” life, where as a baby she had slept in a bed made by her father from old potato boxes.

Image copyright The Polaroid Diaries, Taschen

“There’s a lot of Mum in these pictures,” said Mary, who, like her mother, is also a photographer.

Stella, a fashion designer, said her mother had captured “quite surreal moments” and talked of the difficulty in releasing such an intimate book.

“I find it quite hard because we’re a very protective family, we lived in the middle of nowhere all together and we didn’t really come out and talk about it,” she said.

“I grew up very much protecting the family unit.”

Image copyright The Polaroid Diaries, Taschen

Stella, who has previously advocated not washing clothes in the interest of the environment, was also asked about her role in the polluting fashion industry.

“I believe that the product I’m making is a far better solution to what is already existing in my industry,” she said.

“I want to try and promote that you can still have a healthy, fashionable luxurious business and you don’t have to kill animals and you don’t have to harm the planet.”

Sir Paul went on to defend the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have been criticised for their use of a private jet.

“I think it’s unfair. People fly,” he said. “Give the girl a break. They do more good than harm.”

You can watch the full interview on Newsnight on BBC Two at 22:30 on Thursday. Catch up on iPlayer, subscribe to the programme on YouTube and follow it on Twitter.

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Fashion steps up its catering for vegans

Image copyright Doctor Martens
Image caption Dr Martens’ vegan boots represent 4% of all pairs sold

Remember when synthetic leather was the fall-back option, if you couldn’t afford the real thing?

Not any more.

It has just become a selling point: clothes and accessories marketed as free from cow skin and any other animal products, are being launched by retailers up and down the High Street, including Marks & Spencer, Zara and New Look.

There are fur coats, that are “vegan”, jute and plastic “vegan” belts, and shoes made from tree bark, natural rubber and coconut fibre, labelled “vegan”.

While an increasing number of Brits are trying to eat less meat, market researchers Mintel found in their latest fashion and sustainability report that the trend is now spreading from kitchen to closet. It found animal welfare came top of a list of issues that people said they considered before buying clothes, with 42% saying it was important to them.

Mintel predicted 2019 would see a boom in animal-free shoe collections with shoppers of all ages saying they would buy footwear labelled “vegan”.

“It seems to be a bit of a buzz word,” says Patsy Perry, senior lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Designer Stella McCartney is seen as a pioneer of animal-friendly fashion

As well as being on trend – and with a much better ring to it than “synthetic leather” – the “vegan” label does convey an important extra distinction, Ms Perry points out.

“If you are labelling it as vegan, the whole product needs to be vegan,” she says. That means checking things like the glue that holds the shoe together for example and the chemicals used for finishing them.

At the top end, designers like Stella McCartney – described by Ms Perry as the original pioneer in this area – have shunned leather and fur for some time. Her fashion house is now exploring a leather substitute made from fungi, and looking at replacing silk with yeast proteins.

But it is at the more accessible end of the market where the trend is really taking off, with some big brands already converting demand for vegan fashion into sales.

Dr Martens – purveyors of high-top leather boots – has experienced a 300% rise in sales of the vegan version of its stompers over the past year.

Launched right back in 2011, the vegan DMs are made from a combination of polyester fabric and polyurethane. After last year’s rapid growth, vegan boots represented 4% of all pairs sold.

The Vegan Society says they’ve seen a boom in products registered with the vegan trademark: in 2018 there were 119. So far this year it says 1,956 have been registered.

“New products are being added daily, and many new brands are currently in the process of submitting products for review – including some very well-known High Street brands,” says the Vegan society’s Dominika Piasecka.

These new products aren’t for the most part, though, coming at an extra to cost to consumers.

Vegan Doc Martens cost the same as the leather originals. New Look, one of the first High Street chains to use the vegan trademark prices ballet “flats” at £7.99 and a vegan laptop handbag at £29.99, comparable with its other products.

This marks a change, points out retail analyst Kate Hardcastle. In the past ethical products, whether that was fair trade or organic came at a premium.

On the other hand, once upon a time that “leather-look” handbag would have cost half the price of the real thing. So should these products cost less?

Charging similar prices to general ranges is justifiable, argues Ms Hardcastle, since the cost of materials is a small part of the overall cost and the cost of production isn’t likely to be significantly lower for vegan products.

She does strike a note of caution though, over just how ethical these new ranges are overall.

The debate over durability, production techniques, crop-growing impacts, pollution, biodegradability and recyclability is a complicated one, not to mention the ethics around the working conditions for people making the products, whatever the component materials.

Environmental campaigners are adamant that the best approach to is to buy less, never mind what the item is made of.

Some companies are “dressing up” items using the vegan tag, warns Ms Hardcastle, to make products appear “far more environmentally [and] ethically friendly than the product actually is”.

Consumers should not be “lulled into a false sense of security” that just because something isn’t an animal hide it is suddenly therefore environmentally friendly, she warns. “That isn’t the case.”

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Man shakes friend’s baby, leaving her blind

Image copyright Dyfed Powys Police
Image caption Stephen Carl Smith shook his friend’s five-month-old daughter as he was babysitting, the court heard

A man who shook his friend’s five-month-old daughter so hard she suffered permanent brain damage and is virtually blind, has been jailed for 10 years.

Stephen Carl Smith had agreed to babysit while Luke Taylor and his partner Sophie Reed went night fishing, Swansea Crown Court heard.

Smith, 28, of Haverfordwest, had denied causing grievous bodily harm with intent but a jury found him guilty.

Judge Peter Heywood said Smith had lost his temper with the baby, Bayleigh-Lee.

The couple had returned home from Milford Haven pier, Pembrokeshire, after Smith sent Mr Taylor a text message saying his daughter was having difficulties breathing, the court heard.

When they arrived, Bayleigh-Lee was sitting in a chair and appeared to be asleep.

‘Piercing scream’

But the court heard that while Miss Reed was in the kitchen, the baby let out “a piercing scream” and when she picked her up found her limp and lifeless.

Doctors found there had been bleeding to the brain.

Bayleigh-Lee suffered “catastrophic and life-changing” injuries in the incident on 18 August 2016, the jury was told.

Smith, of Hywel Road, claimed Bayleigh-Lee had suddenly fallen ill. He had maintained he was innocent and refused to apologise.

The jury heard the two men had been friends and Smith would sometimes help Mr Taylor, a self-employed delivery driver.

“She will need medical care for the rest of her life. Something went disastrously wrong that evening,” said Judge Heywood, sentencing Smith.

John Hipkin, counsel for Smith, said all he could offer on his client’s behalf was that he had not offended in a similar way before.

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High Street shops sold knives to children

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High Street retailers have illegally sold knives to children during test purchases conducted by National Trading Standards, the organisation says.

Tesco, Asda, Poundland and Home Bargains sold blades to under-18s at least 15 times each during tests between April 2018 and March 2019.

Tesco and Asda have since updated their checks and further restricted sales.

Poundland said it stopped selling kitchen knives last year, while Home Bargains has not yet commented.

Trading Standards sent in “mystery shoppers” under the age of 18 to carry out the test purchases.

Shop staff failed to prevent the sale of a knife to a child 344 times, equal to 15% of the 2,231 tests carried out by Trading Standards at national chain and independent shops.

It is illegal to sell knives to those under 18, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less.

There were 285 killings by a knife or sharp instrument in the 12 months ending March 2018, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis.

One in four (71) of all victims (285) were men aged 18-24, ONS said.

Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, said: “Restricting the sale of knives to children is clearly a difficult issue for retailers, especially those with large numbers of outlets, staff and delivery partners.

“I am aware that many retailers are working incredibly hard to train staff and introduce robust procedures to stem the flow of knives to children.

“But let’s be clear – it’s illegal to sell a knife to a child. Our tests show that it’s still too easy for a child to buy a knife.”

Separately, 100 online test purchases were carried out; children were sold a knife on 41 occasions.

Under the new Offensive Weapons Act, retailers will be stopped from delivering knives to residential addresses, in a bid to curb under-18s circumventing age restrictions.

The act, which received Royal Assent in May, is currently under public consultation before the new laws come into force.

Some online retailers already refuse to deliver knives without the courier checking the person’s ID.

An Asda spokesman said: “In April 2019, we became the first retailer to remove all single knives from sale across our stores to help ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands.

“Whilst we are clearly disappointed with the results from a small number of cases between April 2018 and March 2019, we would like to reassure customers that we have since provided updated training for colleagues.”

The spokesman added the supermarket has “clear Challenge 25 policies”, which require staff to check a customer’s proof of age to ensure they are over 18, when buying a restricted item.

Tesco UK and Ireland chief executive Jason Tarry said: “Tesco takes the safety of our colleagues, customers, and the communities we serve very seriously.

“We have made significant changes to our approach to displaying and selling knives, without taking choice away from customers, including a new two-stage age verification process and removing knives from display on the shop floor.”

A spokesman for Poundland said: “As this body [Trading Standards] is aware, we’re baffled by their numbers.

“They know we stopped selling kitchen knives completely in all our 850 stores last year.”

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‘Gimp suit’ man terrorises woman in village

Image copyright Handout
Image caption The victim took this picture as the “gimp man” came towards her

A woman says she is scared to go out after enduring a “terrifying” encounter with a man wearing a gimp suit in a dark village lane.

She was walking in Claverham, Somerset, when she saw “someone charging at me in a full black rubbery suit”.

The man advanced towards her “grunting and breathing heavily” before fleeing the scene, she said.

Police said there had been a small number of reports of a man jumping out at people in the area.

Officers were called to the scene at about 23:30 BST on Thursday and used a helicopter and sniffer dog in an unsuccessful search for the man.

The victim, in her 20s, said the experience had “hugely affected” her, and she had chosen to speak to the BBC as she was concerned it may happen again.

“I would never forgive myself if this happened to someone else and I hadn’t said anything,” she said.

‘Going to get attacked’

Describing the events that happened on her evening walk, she said: “I was walking along with my torch and looked up to see someone charging at me in a full black rubbery suit and managed to take a picture.

“He kept coming towards me and was touching his groin, grunting and breathing heavy.

“As I tried to take a step back he was right in front of my face and he put his leg forward. I was just trying to assess the situation in my head quickly.”

“Everything was running through my head. I thought: ‘This is it, I’m going to get attacked’.

“I was looking round thinking, oh my god.”

The woman, who did not wish to be named, remembers pushing and screaming at the man, before he started running backwards to the main road.

Image copyright Handout
Image caption “I was screaming and shouting and no-one came to help”

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesperson said: “We’re aware of concerns relating to a man acting suspiciously in the Claverham/Yatton area.

“While we’re keeping an open mind about the motive for these incidents, it’s clear the individual responsible is deliberately attempting to cause alarm to the men and women he’s approaching.

“While no-one has been hurt during the incidents, we fully appreciate the distress these actions have caused victims.”

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Patrols in the area were being increased to reassure the public and identify the man responsible, the spokesperson added.

The victim has been left feeling “panicked… that there’s someone watching… and I don’t want to go out.

“It’s not just a man jumping out at me going boo,” she said.

“Every time I close my eyes I just see that face.”

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If a woman forces a man to have sex, is that rape?

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When a man has penetrative sex with a woman without her consent, that’s rape. But what if a woman makes a man have penetrative sex with her, without his consent? That’s not rape under the law of England and Wales, but the author of a new study of the phenomenon says perhaps it should be.

Some readers will find this story disturbing

Dr Siobhan Weare of Lancaster University Law School carried out the first research into forced penetration in the UK in 2016-7, gathering information from more than 200 men via an online survey.

Her latest study, published this week – based on one-to-one interviews with 30 men between May 2018 and July 2019 – explores in greater detail the context in which forced penetration occurs, its consequences, and the response of the criminal justice system.

All the participants were anonymised, but I will call one of them John.

John says the first sign that something was wrong was when his partner started to self-harm. After a particularly frightening incident he rushed her to A&E for treatment. The couple spent hours discussing possible psychological causes.

About six months later instead of harming herself, she trained her sights on John.

“I was sitting in the living room and she just came in from the kitchen, punched me very hard on the nose and ran off giggling,” John says. “The violence then started happening quite regularly.”

She tried to get help from her GP, John says. She had some counselling, and she was referred to a psychologist – though didn’t attend the appointment.

She’d come home from her job “and basically demand sex”, he says.

“She would be violent, and it got to the stage that I dreaded her coming back from work.”

On one occasion John woke up to find that his partner had handcuffed his right arm to the metal bed frame. Then she started hitting him on the head with a loudspeaker from the stereo system beside the bed, tied up his other arm with some nylon rope and tried to force him to have sex.

Scared and in pain, John was unable to comply with her demands – so she beat him again and left him chained up for half an hour, before returning and freeing him. Afterwards she refused to talk about what had happened.

Not long after that she became pregnant, and the violence abated. But a few months after the baby was born, John again woke one night to discover that he was being handcuffed to the bed.

Then, he says, his partner force-fed him Viagra and gagged him.

“There was nothing I could do about it,” he says.

“Later I went and sat in the shower for I dunno how long… I eventually went downstairs. The first thing she said to me when I went into the room was, ‘What’s for dinner?'”

When John has tried to tell people about it, he says he has often met with disbelief.

“I’ve been asked why I didn’t leave the house. Well, it was my house that I’d bought for my kids. And the financial side as well, I was so locked into the relationship financially,” he says.

“I still get disbelief because it’s like, ‘Well why didn’t you hit her back?’ I get that quite a lot. Well that’s a lot easier said than done.

“I wish I’d run away a lot sooner.”

Find out more

Listen to Katie Silver and Alex Skeel discuss Siobhan Weare’s research into forced penetration on the BBC Sounds podcast, The Next Episode

Aspects of John’s story are repeated in the experiences of some of the other men Dr Weare has interviewed. One of her findings is that the perpetrator in “forced-to-penetrate” (FTP) cases is often a female partner or ex-partner (her research focuses only on forced penetration involving men and women), and that the experience is frequently one element in a wider pattern of domestic abuse.

The experience of disbelief is also mentioned by other interviewees.

“You must have enjoyed it or you’d have reported it sooner,” one man says he was told by a police officer.

Another participant said: “We’re scared to talk about it and embarrassed, and when we do talk about it, we’re not believed, because we’re men. How can a man possibly be abused? Look at him, he’s a man.”

Weare’s other findings include:

  • Men are often ashamed to report FTP experiences – they may report domestic abuse without mentioning the sexual abuse
  • The mental health impact can be severe, including PTSD, thoughts of suicide and sexual dysfunction
  • Some men report being repeatedly victimised – some experienced childhood sexual abuse, some had endured varying types of sexual violence from different perpetrators, including men
  • Many had overwhelmingly negative perceptions of the police, criminal justice system, and the law

One myth Weare’s research dispels is that forced penetration is impossible because men are physically stronger than women. Another is that men view all sexual opportunities with women as positive.

A third myth is that if men have an erection they must want sex. In fact, Weare says, “an erection is purely a physiological response to stimulus”.

“Men can obtain and sustain an erection even if they’re scared, angry, terrified etc,” she says.

“There’s also research that shows women can respond sexually when they are raped (e.g. have an orgasm) because their body is responding physiologically. This is an issue for both male and female victims that is not discussed enough, but there is clear evidence in this area.”

A number of the participants in Weare’s 2017 study reported FTP experiences after getting extremely drunk or high, and being unable to stop what was happening.

One of those interviewed for the new study describes going home with a woman after a night out clubbing, and blacking out after being given what he suspects was a date rape drug. He says he was then forced to engage in non-consensual sex.

Where to get help

Safeline – male survivors’ telephone helpline

Male Survivors Partnership directory of services

Another describes being coerced into sex while working at a holiday camp one summer, while he was a student. A female co-worker had discovered a letter he had written to a boyfriend, and threatened to out him as gay unless he slept with her.

She thought that if he had sex with a woman “this would transform my life and I would be straight”, he says. As he had not come out to his friends, family or co-workers he felt that he had no choice but to comply.

Weare says that most of the participants in the latest study regarded their forced-to-penetrate experiences as “rape”, and some were frustrated that it would not count as rape under the law of England and Wales. There was frustration also that British society would most likely not recognise it as rape.

“Talking about the fact that your ex-partner used to get drunk and force herself on you, rape you essentially, it’s like most blokes’ fantasy isn’t it?” said one of the participants.

“Down the pub, you know, she gets a bit drunk, she gets a bit frisky ‘Yay! Oh that would be fantastic! I would love a bit of that!’ No you really wouldn’t, you bloody wouldn’t. It’s not the way that you think it is.”

In one of Weare’s papers – titled “Oh, you’re a guy, how could you be raped by a woman, that makes no sense” – she points out that in several US states rape is broadly defined as non-consensual sexual intercourse, and that in the Australian state of Victoria a specific offence exists of “rape by compelling penetration”.

One of eight recommendations made in the latest study is that reform of the law of rape to include FTP cases requires “serious consideration”.

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When Hannah Price was sexually assaulted as a student, she felt unable to report it. She has since discovered she is far from alone – and that sexual assault may be far more common on campus than official figures suggest.

‘I was raped as a student – and I’m not the only one’

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