The Sunday Times: Killer Teens: The 14-year-old couple who committed murder — twice

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The defendants were so young that the court took the unusual decision to refer to them only by their first names: Lucas and Kim. The barristers and judge dispensed with their usual wigs and gowns. The baby-faced killers sat in the secure dock behind Perspex screens, separated by two security guards.

Kim, smooth-faced with fine blonde hair and a slight frame, wore a cardigan and leggings. She showed little emotion during the trial except when the verdict was read and she sobbed. Lucas never looked her way. Soft-mouthed, with sandy hair and a round, stubble-free face, he looked even more childlike than she did. The youngest couple ever convicted of double murder in Britain, they were 14 when they plotted and killed Kim’s mother and little sister.

The evidence was harrowing. Over five days last October, Nottingham Crown Court heard how, that April, Kim had watched as her boyfriend, Lucas, stabbed to death her mother, Elizabeth Edwards, 49, and her 13-year-old sister, Katie, as they slept. How blood splattered the walls and covered the floor and the beds. How they had planned for him to target their voice boxes, so they could not scream out. How Lucas had entered his girlfriend’s mother’s room and, kneeling astride her, pinning her down, held a pillow over her face and stabbed her through the neck. Cut marks that the pathologist found on Elizabeth’s hands showed how she had struggled to defend herself.

Next, Lucas crept into Katie’s room. Kim later told police how she had listened as her sister screamed “Get off me!” in a strange, frightening voice, sounding croaky. And “I can’t …” — but she couldn’t say the word “breathe”. Lucas had cut her vocal cords. Afterwards, Kim and Lucas shared a bath and watched the Twilight films. They were found two days later, when police broke into the house.

In October, Lucas and Kim were ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison each, later reduced to 17½ years. Handing out the sentences, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said the case had “few parallels in modern criminal history”. “They should lock them up and throw away the key,” said one neighbour from their home town of Spalding.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/killer-teens-why-did-this-girl-and-her-boyfriend-murder-her-mum-and-sister-n680wvb0g

The Sun: How come chattering classes get praise for airing their problems… but the working classes get only snobbery and derision?

THE decision to end The Jeremy Kyle Show, after the suspected suicide of one of its guests, raises important questions about aftercare on reality TV.

But equally telling is how much criticism of Kyle’s show has revealed a snobbishness about the people who watched and appeared on it.

Tory MP Charles Walker called it “unattractive television”. A columnist at the left-leaning New Statesman magazine described it as curating “a morbidly chaotic picture of a British underclass — for those watching at home to scoff and sneer”.

Over at the self-appointed moral compass of Britain, The Guardian, an editorial complained it preyed on “vulnerable, unhappy people”, turning “a blind eye to mental health problems”.

Guardian writer Zoe Williams had previously claimed: “Jeremy Kyle has created the cultural spectre of this feral underclass, none of whom has the smallest amount of emotional restraint.”

Such bile aimed at a show loved by so many — the final episode, on Friday last week, drew over a million viewers — reveals as much about Kyle as who our commentariat feel has the right to speak, and how they are meant to do it.

I didn’t watch Kyle to sneer. I watched with relief that some people were truly open about the madness of life. What happens to them now?

When I watched Kyle’s show I didn’t see a “feral under-class”. I saw people I know. I saw real life, which is messy, dysfunctional and chaotic, which does not always come out in well-formed sentences, memoirs or documentaries made by people with posh accents for Radio 4.

I didn’t watch Kyle to sneer. I watched with relief that some people were truly open about the madness of life. What happens to them now?

MUGGY MIKE

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUN: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/opinion/9093548/chattering-classes-praise-jeremy-kyle-working-classes-derision/

The Sunday Times Magazine: Is veganism the future of food or a cynical marketing fad?

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Plumes of pink smoke engulf men holding megaphones and women with purple hair. “Fur trade, torture trade,” they chant, marching down London’s Piccadilly in a blockade, sending pedestrians fleeing. “What do we want? Animal liberation! When do we want it? Now!” Whistles screech, drums bang, placards punch the air. “Fur is worn by repulsive heartless hags”, “Compassion not fashion”, “Your pompom had a face”, read the slogans.

Opposite Fortnum & Mason (where they sell 17 types of foie gras) the protesters stop. Some jeer a passing man, others heckle passengers on a bus. One group surrounds a heavily pregnant woman, Sarah, who is with her five-year-old son. She appears to be wearing a fur bobble hat. Berating her, they wave posters of a skinned rabbit at the child. When I catch up with her, she is shaking and red. “I just want to get back to our car,” she blusters. “I respect the right to protest, to have an opinion. I don’t respect … as ever, there are factions within any movement who are stronger than others and I think we just came up against a rather unattractive side of it.” It is certainly a very different scene to the one I encountered six months ago, when my adventures in veganism began.

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At the launch party for the new vegan menu at the Real Greek restaurant chain, women in knee-high boots and boys in biker jackets are dancing to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long. Paparazzi gather outside. Inside, celebrities drink while waiters ferry meat-free canapés: béchamel-less moussaka, beetroot-and-lentil salad, honey-free baklava. Why vegan, I ask the manager, brandishing a tray of filo pastries. “It’s healthier,” he declares. Why vegan, I ask a girl by the crudités. “It’s fashionable to follow a plant-based diet,” she concludes, almost straight-faced.

“It’s amazing, it’s a great change,” says Jo Wood, ex-wife of the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie. Her Jo Wood Organics range includes vegan beauty products. “When I first went organic in 1991, everyone thought I was potty. With veganism it was the same. Now things have totally changed,” she says, stopping to pose for photographers in a jumper that says “Rock & roll” — and a pair of leather trousers.

There was a time when nothing was less hip than a meat-free diet. In the 1980s it was sad Neil from The Young Ones espousing “vegetable rights”. By the 1990s, when my mother was dabbling, it still meant lentil lasagne and plastic Jesus sandals. The 2010s saw increasing interest in veganism, a stricter kind of vegetarianism that excludes all forms of animal-derived products, including milk and eggs. Now, miraculously, veganism is cool. There are vegan cocktail bars, “plant-based” food festivals, vegan-friendly holidays, restaurants, pubs and club nights. On social media there are plant-based influencers such as Sean O’Callaghan, writing the Fat Gay Vegan blog, and BOSH!, the trendy vegan cookery channel on YouTube that has more than 1.8m Facebook followers.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/is-veganism-the-future-of-food-or-a-cynical-marketing-fad-p0ttmbc2m

The Sunday Times Magazine: Falsely accused of rape: is the justice system biased against men?

 

I noticed his hands shook as he spoke. He looked different to how I had expected. More boyish, less confident. But then what should somebody accused of rape look like? He’d suggested we meet for tea in the Delaunay, just off the Strand. He used to come here often, but now he feels self-conscious in the city, nervous about being recognised. The other day in Starbucks the woman making his coffee suddenly realised she knew his face from paparazzi pictures of him walking, head bowed, into court: the man accused of raping a woman at the Houses of Parliament.

For 14 months, during which time he turned 24, Samuel Armstrong stood accused of two counts of rape and two of sexual assault. Then, last December, at Southwark Crown Court, after last-minute evidence was presented that undermined his accuser’s story — evidence that had been withheld from his defence team — all charges were dropped.

His legal case is over, but it is not clear what he has won. “Victims of sexual assault talk about being violated,” he says, “the fact that their autonomy is taken away. One of the things that false allegations do is take autonomy away from accused individuals. Now there is an image of me scarred into the public psyche. I have been robbed of the chance to live a quiet behind-the-scenes life.”

Armstrong’s is one of several recent high-profile rape trials that have collapsed due to the emergence of last-minute evidence — often electronic, from phone and computer records — or evidence not being disclosed correctly by police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to defence teams. The Oxford University student Oliver Mears lived branded as a rapist for two years after a woman accused him of attacking her at a party in July 2015. Days before his case came to trial, evidence from a diary — which had gone unexamined — revealed his innocence. Isaac Itiary, a 25-year-old father, spent four months in prison on remand after being charged with raping a child under 16 last July. He insisted the girl had claimed to be 19. Crucial texts confirming his story emerged only two days before his trial, causing all charges to be dropped. And the criminology student Liam Allen, 22, spent almost two years on bail and was charged with 12 counts of rape and sexual assault. In the opening days of his trial last December, text messages supporting his case came to light.

In January, after these and other trials collapsed, the CPS announced that every rape and serious sexual assault case in the country was under urgent review. Earlier this month, Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, announced she would step down in October, at the end of her five-year contract with the CPS.

In rape cases, police and prosecutors are expected to disclose evidence that could assist the defence or undermine the prosecution, but this evidence is not being shared enough or only at the 11th hour. Such failures of disclosure may be the result of insufficient investigations by police and prosecutors, but there are fears they signal a more worrying trend — an unconscious bias by the CPS in cases of sexual assault. Where once the police and criminal justice system were criticised for their treatment of alleged victims — often not believing their stories or subjecting women to heavy-handed cross-examinations about what they had been drinking, how they dressed and previous relationships — now the pendulum has swung the other way.

When Saunders became head of the CPS in 2013, she promoted a focus on female victims. In rape cases where the complainant is known to have been drunk, Saunders put the onus on men to prove explicit consent. She advised prosecutors to examine alleged rapists’ previous sexual behaviour and encouraged women to seek advice from a rape counsellor if they woke up in a man’s bed with no memory of the previous night.

Meanwhile, those accused of such crimes continue to be named, but their accusers remain anonymous.

On Saturday, October 15, 2016, an unnamed woman told police that Samuel Armstrong had raped her the previous night. Three officers handcuffed him on the pavement outside his shared Clapham flat that day, as people watched.

“I just felt a real sense of shame,” he tells me. At Brixton police station a “big group of police officers” watched him strip, took swabs and gave him a grey prison uniform. It was a “wholly dehumanising” experience that left him feeling profoundly alone. By the time he was allowed to call his parents he was “very, very upset. My dad’s in the construction business and we’re not really the sort of family to get emotional. That was probably the first time since I was a teenager we had an emotional conversation.”

We meet again at his family home, in Danbury, Essex, where roads weave through woodland, past fields of sheep and red-brick cottages. Armstrong answers the door in beige jeans, white shirt and pink socks. He has pale-blue eyes, neat hair and awkward, fumblingly English mannerisms. As he says himself, he is geeky and shy. “I’m relatively boring, quiet, reserved.” He is so slight that when he sits on the sofa and crosses his legs, his body folds over itself.

It sounds romantic, the way he recalls that Friday night in 2016. He was working as chief of staff for the South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and had gone out in Westminster with friends. Eventually, he says, only he and the woman who would later accuse him of rape were left. They had been out drinking together before. It was “quite a flirtatious relationship”. She would send him late-night messages, “uninitiated, about her bikini wax or Brazilian — I don’t know the difference. It did seem that she was flirting.”

YOU CAN READ THE FULL FEATURE HERE: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/falsely-accused-rape-men-reveal-deepest-shame-gvxh88f9w

The Sunday Times Magazine Interview: Annie Lennox

The face is instantly recognisable. The cruel cheekbones and soft blue eyes. The masculine jaw and finely arched brows topped by a peroxide pixie crop. It is a face whose melancholy beauty has launched six solo albums and countless tours, won an Oscar, Grammys, Brits and Ivor Novellos. Now, at 63, it is framed by horn-rimmed glasses and is, according to its owner, wrinkled. But that is not what looks so different about it. It is that Annie Lennox is laughing. She hasn’t written a pop song in years. Instead, she is happy.

I do wonder, fleetingly, if she’ll be the Diva her debut solo album proclaimed. But right from the start, she is warm, sincere and so modest that at one point she starts talking about what she’d do “if I was, like, some real A-lister person”. She has always “tried to avoid red carpets, tried to keep my head down. This whole world of celebrity they talk about now, it’s completely vacuous. I can’t stand the star bullshit. I’ve realised over the years just how uncomfortable it makes me feel.”

These days, she spends much of her time in a cottage by the sea in South Africa, “a very good place to just tuck in”. But tonight she will perform at Sadler’s Wells in London. It will be her first gig in the UK for more than a decade and, of course, it sold out in seconds.

Lennox has stated she may never compose more music. “Oh, years ago the muse left me,” she says. And with that, she has shed a profound sadness. “I don’t know that I had to be unhappy to write, but I often was unhappy and the feelings were predominantly painful, sad and melancholic. There is a beauty in that, without question.”

In the 1980s, Eurythmics specialised in bittersweet, effervescently tormented pop — a juxtaposition that makes Sweet Dreams the perfect pop song. Or Here Comes the Rain Again. Or a whole back catalogue of masterpieces. After Lennox’s relationship with Dave Stewart disintegrated, her lyrics as a solo artist in songs such as Why and No More I Love Yous addressed her pain even more explicitly. Music has never been about entertainment for her, but “expunging, really coming from a sad place … I was expressing an angst that women especially have lived with.”

She grew up an only child in a working-class family in Aberdeen. “That time and that place, people were very formal with each other. There wasn’t hugging and kissing. Life was tough so they had to be stoic. There was stress and tension in our house, but I think the whole of Scotland was stressed and tense.”

She felt isolated in childhood. She felt pain in adulthood. When I ask what finally helped overcome her depression, she smiles. “I’m married to a wonderful man.” She wed her third husband, Dr Mitch Besser, who runs a leading South African HIV charity, in 2012. This despite vowing — after her first year-long marriage to a German Hare Krishna devotee, Radha Raman, then a 12-year union with the film producer Uri Fruchtmann — never to wed again. “He [Besser] loves me and tells me that he loves me every day. I feel seen, heard and understood. Throughout the majority of my life I don’t think I found that kind of unconditional love from anybody.”

Was it hard to meet a man not threatened by her success? “It was. Men find it difficult, yes. I think it is intimidating.” She also changed when she became a mother — she had her first daughter, Lola, in 1990, then Tali in 1993. “It was so profound. I had never experienced that feeling like that. I think that’s what it’s been all about — seeking connection.”

YOU CAN READ THE FULL FEATURE HERE: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-magazine-interview-annie-lennox-on-depression-feminism-and-why-shes-standing-by-oxfam-rzs89k297

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: 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