Category Archives: Sunday Times

The Sunday Times: How it feels to … come face to face with Alesha MacPhail’s murderer

The evidence was harrowing. Details emerged in court that were so horrendous, I wished I had never heard them. I worried I was failing at my job because when it came to writing the news story, I couldn’t bring myself to repeat them. At times, people in the public gallery watching the trial held their heads in their hands and wept. Only one person seemed unaffected by the horror, and that was the boy in the dock.

It was last July when I first started covering the murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail. Her brutalised body had been discovered in woodland on the Scottish island of Bute, a day after she had gone missing from her bed. It seemed impossible that something so savage had taken place somewhere so gentle; on a tiny island where locals leave their doors unlocked and seals flop on mossy rocks by silver waves.

The island was on edge when I arrived. Police were warning locals to “be vigilant and look after each other”, as rumours spread. There was some nasty, unfounded speculation that Syrian refugees who had been relocated to the island might somehow be responsible for the little girl’s death, while others whispered that police had been checking ferry passengers and wondered about strange men from out of town.

police

Police forensic teams scour the Isle of Bute

It was shocking when we heard that a local 16-year-old boy had been arrested. I went to Greenock Sheriff Court to hear the charges read. When we heard these charges were rape and murder, I felt sick.

I returned seven months later to cover Aaron Campbell’s trial at the High Court in Glasgow. I don’t know what kind of person I expected to see, but it wasn’t the child standing in the dock. A teenage boy dressed in a smart, fashionable, grey check suit — an outfit I would later learn he had worn to his school prom. He had smooth, milky skin and neat black hair, which he occasionally swept back from his face.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-it-feels-to-come-face-to-face-with-alesha-macphails-murderer-q63ws90ft

The Sunday Times: My behaviour was abominable but not abusive, says ‘sex addict’ Moby accused by Natalie Portman

It is not only Natalie Portman who was horrified by Moby’s behaviour when he claimed to have dated the Black Swan actress two decades ago when she was 18.

The millionaire electronic music producer told The Sunday Times — before Portman’s intervention — that his past behaviour had been “terrible” and admitted that he used to be “a sex and love addict”.

Moby, 53, real name Richard Melville Hall, is the great-great-great-nephew of the novelist Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick. Moby’s breakthrough album Play, released in 1999, sold 12m copies. At one stage during his wild life Moby discovered graffiti in a New York public lavatory that read “Moby gets more ass than the toilet seat”.

He said: “The sexual encounters [mentioned in his new book, Then It Fell Apart] . . . I tried very hard to change the biographical details so the other person wouldn’t feel compromised . . . I didn’t want to be disrespectful. I just wanted to try to describe what had happened in a way where they wouldn’t feel compromised.”

However, last night he apologised on Instagram for his “inconsiderate” inclusion of Portman, 37, who described her youthful encounters with Moby as “creepy”. He added: “I accept that given the dynamic of our . . . age difference I absolutely should’ve acted more responsibly and respectfully when Natalie and I first met almost 20 years ago.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/my-behaviour-was-abominable-but-not-abusive-says-sex-addict-moby-accused-by-natalie-portman-gsdrj59rv

The Sunday Times: Candice Carty-Williams: my Queenie speaks for a whole other Britain

Queenie opens with a woman sarcastically texting “Wish you were here” to her ex-boyfriend while she lies with her legs in the stirrups for a gynaecological examination. From that moment, the book is a whirlwind of WhatsApp chats, terrible OkCupid dates, maddening millennials, horrendous flat-shares, humiliating trips to the sexual health clinic, friendship, therapy and lots of casual sex. “I put more sex in it but it was cut out,” Queenie’s author, Candice Carty-Williams, laughs.

Queenie — the book’s heroine — is a funny, sensitive, 25-year-old black woman contending with modern life. At turns hilarious and reflective, the book is also an exploration of race, sex and shame among young women. Queenie’s is a rare and urgently needed voice. “I believe that this voice needs to be part of literature,” Carty-Williams says. She’s right.

I meet her at the Penguin Random House office in London, where she works as a publishing executive. The success of her debut novel has turned her overnight into a bright young thing whose name appears on influencers’ Twitter feeds, in Radio 4 debates, and who is No 6 in The Sunday Times hardback bestseller list. Queenie has already been optioned for television. Carty-Williams is writing the pilot.
“I’ve never thought I could be here. When I was growing up I didn’t have any aspirations for myself. I didn’t think I’d amount to anything,” she says.Carty-Williams, who grew up in south London, always loved books. “They were my saviours.” She wanted to study English but her school encouraged her to read media studies instead.

The Sunday Times: Moby interview: “I don’t go on tour. I’m not promiscuous. I’m sober”

Born Richard Melville Hall, Moby was two when his father drove into a wall and killed himself. “My father, who was already a heavy drinker, [would] disappear for days on end, leaving my mother broke and alone in a cold apartment with a wailing newborn. One night she threatened to divorce him and take me away. That night he drove into the base of a bridge and died,” he writes in his new book, Then It Fell Apart.

Moby — said to be distantly related to Herman Melville, hence the nickname — was raised by his troubled, pot-smoking mother, who subsequently moved them to San Francisco. Once there, high times with her new hippie friends often took precedence over looking after her son. When Moby was three, he remembers his mother dropping him at a “low-rent day-care centre” while she went to the beach to take acid. He was woken from his afternoon nap by a male care-worker who sexually abused him. He didn’t tell anyone what happened, but grew up “afraid of men with long hair and a beard”. Unfortunately, there were many men of that description paying visits to his mother during his childhood — some violent, most druggies.

Music was his escape. His first book, 2016’s Porcelain, covered the period between 1989 and 1999, when he was a DJ, riding a modest wave of success. This one picks up where it left off. Aged 34, his career had hit the skids. He’d been dropped by his US record label and assumed his new album, Play, would be his last. Instead it became one of the world’s bestselling records.

Mega-fame, however, sent him into a spiral of alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, which resulted in his 2008 suicide attempt. Today his friends call him “monastic”. “Everything’s changed,” he tells me from his home in southern California. “The things that were important to me 10 years ago are just not important to me now. I don’t care about fame. I don’t go on tour. I’m not promiscuous. I’m sober. I look at some of the things that were important to me then and think, ‘How do I still share DNA with that person?’” Now 53, he’s working on an album of orchestral arrangements because “that’s what musicians do when they get old” and donates 100% of his profits to animal rights charities.

Of the book, he says: “The only thing that makes me worry is the character of my mother. She was a creative, complicated, possibly mentally ill human being and I hope she doesn’t come across as one-dimensional and cruel… that was a small part of who she was.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/moby-interview-i-dont-go-on-tour-im-not-promiscuous-im-sober-hdx79fp3h

The Sunday Times: Moby: Then It Fell Apart — tales of sex, drugs and celebrity hell from his new memoir

MOBY

NEW YORK CITY, 2008
I wanted to die. But how? It was 5am and I’d had 15 drinks, $200 worth of cocaine and a handful of Vicodin.

Over the past few years my depression had been building and nights like this were becoming the norm.

I was a lonely alcoholic and I desperately wanted to love someone and be loved in return. But every time I tried to get close to another human being, I had crippling panic attacks that kept me isolated and alone. I’d had a few successful years of making music and sold tens of millions of records, but now my career was sputtering. I couldn’t find love or success, so I tried to buy happiness.

moby in 2008

Moby in 2008

Three years earlier I had spent $6m in cash on a luxury penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It had been my dream home: five storeys on the top of an iconic limestone building overlooking Central Park. Having grown up on food stamps and welfare, I’d assumed that moving to a castle in the sky would bring me happiness. But as soon as I moved in I was as sad and anxious as I’d been in my small loft. I sold the sky castle, moved back downtown and recommitted myself to debauchery. I put tinfoil over the windows and had weekend-long orgies fuelled by alcohol and drugs. But the more I threw myself into degeneracy, the more I ended up filled with self-loathing and loneliness.

The world of fame and success that gave me meaning and legitimacy was being taken away from me. And now the only respite I found from anxiety and depression was an hour or two each night when I was full of vodka and cocaine, looking for someone lonely and desperate enough to go home with me.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/moby-then-it-fell-apart-tales-of-sex-drugs-and-celebrity-hell-from-his-new-memoir-pp6spnpw0

The Sunday Times: Style investigates the illegal teeth-whitening industry

I sit back nervously in the dentist’s chair. “My teeth are pretty sensitive,” I mutter. The cold gel hits my enamel and I gasp. Suddenly, I regret letting my narcissism get the better of me. Again.

The cliché about Brits is that we have terrible teeth. But the Hollywood smile once reserved for celebrities, now sparkles from every screen. The desire for a blinding smile has spawned a dazzling industry in teeth whitening, from at-home kits, trays, pens, serums and stick-on strips to celebrity Harley Street dentists charging thousands. The market research company Mintel values the UK cosmetic dentistry industry at £2bn, and another recent report found that, on average, British men and women spend 11% more a month on their teeth than their skincare. But in this white rush, many consumers are unaware that some of the treatments being offered are not merely dangerous, they are illegal.

Dentist Dr Richard Marques has seen the demand for whitening grow exponentially over the past few years. “It’s the selfies,” he says, flashing his own brilliant grin. “People have never looked at themselves or each other so much.” Now they come in asking for celebrity smiles just as we ask hairdressers for cuts. “I had a patient who said, ‘I want Ross from Friends,’ ” he says.

Not all those trying teeth whiteners are bleachorexics, of course. Most want nothing more than a subtly brighter-looking version of the colour they have. “White teeth are associated with youth, vitality. People trust people with white teeth more,” Marques says. However, he worries that the growing demand for teeth whitening is fuelling a market in unregulated treatments.

In the UK, teeth whitening can be carried out legally only by a dental professional registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). There are two methods available. The first and most expensive is carried out in the clinic and involves a solution of hydrogen peroxide and either a laser or LED. Results are near-instantaneous and prices in London range from £600 to £1,000. The second requires specially moulded trays and a similar, albeit weaker, formula that can be dispensed and administered at home. The best results come after approximately two weeks, and prices start at about £300.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/style-investigates-the-illegal-teeth-whitening-industry-tvhsnpfqp

The Sunday Times: The Ghost Factory: bloodshed and banter on the streets of Belfast

Twenty-one years after the Troubles officially ended with the Good Friday agreement, echoes of violence still linger. Wounds are unhealed, and questions remain unanswered. The decision last week by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service to charge one former British paratrooper — Soldier F — with the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday underlines the fact that this conflict stubbornly refuses to move into the past.

The Ghost Factory, the debut novel by the journalist Jenny McCartney, a frequent contributor to The Sunday Times, is set in Belfast at the end of the Troubles. Growing up in the city in the 1970s and 1980s, McCartney was “attuned to the political weather”: her father, the barrister Robert McCartney QC, set up the small, short-lived UK Unionist Party and was a member of the Northern Ireland assembly. The attitude in their house was “not easily stereotyped” because her father was pro-Union but anti-sectarian.

The families of the 13 people killed during a civil rights march on January 30, 1972, have described the decision to charge only one British veteran as a “terrible disappointment”, but for McCartney it suits the complexity of the situation.

“I support the desire of the families to find out exactly what happened and hold individuals accountable,” she says. “But there are many, many people with information on paramilitary killings, for example, who are now in positions of political power and are not divulging that information. So I think if we are going to have a truthful investigation of the past, then, in all conscience, those people should also speak out and bring closure to other relatives.”

McCartney’s book focuses on the vigilante justice meted out by paramilitaries during the Troubles, a subject she covered as a journalist in the 1990s. Youths were beaten and shot by republican and loyalist groups that “policed” working-class areas. She was horrified: “The victim is left with all these injuries and feelings — and what do they do with it?”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-ghost-factory-bloodshed-and-banter-on-the-streets-of-belfast-s0wx07wv9