Raoul Moat dies after shooting himself during armed police stand-off

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Raoul Moat dies after shooting himself during armed police stand-off

Gunman Raoul Moat, who evaded capture for a week after shooting his ex-girlfriend and murdering her lover, has killed himself following a dramatic six-hour stand off with armed police.

By Patrick Sawer

Published: 7:37AM BST 10 Jul 2010
Raoul Moat, 37, shot himself in the head despite attempts by police negotiators to persuade him to give himself up.

The stand off began when Moat was spotted on the riverbank in Rothbury, Northumbria, on Friday night.

There was speculation he may have been hiding in a drainage channel just a few hundred yards from where his abandoned car was found.

An eyewitness said the tense siege came to a climax when police surrounded the former nightclub doorman and jumped on him.

A single gunshot was heard before the fugitive, who has evaded one of Britain’s biggest manhunts for a week, was taken by ambulance to Newcastle General Hospital.

On arrival he was taken from the ambulance on a stretcher with a blanket covering his head, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Northumbria Police said: “Police can now confirm that Raoul Thomas Moat, 37, of Newcastle, died in hospital early this morning.

“It followed several hours of negotiations between Moat and police but at around 1.15am it appears, from information available, Moat shot himself. He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead at around 2.20am.

“No officers or members of the public were injured.”

Susan Ballantyne, whose house overlooks the scene of the stand-off, said police had crowded around Moat and pounced.

Another witness, who lives near the river bank where Moat was holed-up, said he heard him telling negotiators: “Nobody cares about me.”

Moat’s death brings to an end a huge manhunt involving police officers from 15 forces, Scotland Yard sharpshooters and armoured 4x4 cars.

An RAF Tornado was also deployed to use wartime technology in a bid to find the gunman.

The drama began at around 7.20pm on Friday when police responded to reports Moat was on the riverside at Rothbury - 30 miles north of Newcastle.

Officers warned people to stay indoors for their own safety as they surrounded the fugitive who residents said was lying on the ground with a sawn-off shotgun pointed at his head.

As the siege wore on Moat apparently allowed police to bring him food and water.

But at about 1.15am, with heavy rain pouring down, officers apparently attempted to wrestle Moat to the ground.

It was at this point the 17-stone steroid addict shot himself.

Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett of Northumbria Police said: “Police discovered a man fitting the description of Raoul Thomas Moat at around 7pm near the riverbank in the vicinity of Rothbury.

“When he was discovered he was armed. Expert negotiators were brought in to speak to him and spoke to him extensively for several hours.”

The father of three went on the run a week ago after shooting his ex-girlfriend and killing her new lover.

Karate instructor Chris Brown, 29, was gunned down in the Scafell area of Birtley, Gateshead.

The fatal shooting, in which 22-year-old Miss Stobbart received critical injuries, sparked a huge manhunt as Moat declared “war” on police.

Pc David Rathband, 42, was shot early on Sunday in an “unprovoked attack” while sitting in a patrol car in East Denton, Newcastle.

In letters left for officers he claimed to be a “killer and a maniac” and pledged to keep shooting police until he died.

Initially it was believed Moat posed a serious risk only to his former girlfriend and police officers. He holds a series of grudges against the police and was only released from a short spell in prison on July 1.

But on Thursday police warned that Moat had made threats against the wider public.

Police asked the media to stop reporting aspects of Moat’s private life that he may find offensive after he made contact to say that every time there was an inaccurate report he would kill a member of the public.

The focus of the hunt turned to the small town of Rothbury on Tuesday after a car linked to Moat was found abandoned.

Police have been stationed outside schools and people who live in the area warned to keep windows and doors locked.

Also on Tuesday Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan - originally thought to be hostages - were found wandering along a country lane. Both have since appeared in court charged with conspiracy to murder.

As dawn began to break on Saturday police officers continued to keep a wide cordon around the scene.

Although a steady stream of police vehicles had left Rothbury since the shooting, at least a dozen were still parked around the Recreation Club, close to where Moat’s final stand took place.

Earlier, the 37 year-old was seen lying on the ground “shouting and sounding agitated” as a police negotiator, flanked by

armed police and an officer holding a stun gun, spoke to him from a distance of as little as 20ft. The fugitive had been found in an area between a row of houses and a storm drain next to the River Coquet.

There was speculation that Moat had spent the week hiding in the storm drain, within a stone’s throw of the spot where his car was found on Tuesday.

Trisha Best, 40, who watched the drama unfold, described Moat as looking “very tired and very scruffy”.

“At first he was lying down with a shotgun held against his neck, then later he was sitting up then later he was sitting up talking to the police negotiator,” she said.

“There were 12 armed officers about 15 yards from where he was sitting in the grass and then further back there were 12 more armed police carrying larger guns. There appeared to be about half a dozen negotiators.”

Shortly before 10pm, Moat’s best friend Tony Laidler was taken inside the police cordon to plead directly with the gunman to give himself up.

Mr Laidler, 35, a fellow doorman who has known the gunman since he was three, claimed that Moat had managed to get a message to his friends saying he had no ammunition left.

Moat surfaced in Rothbury, Northumberland, at about 7.30pm Friday night following a series of reported sightings of him in the immediate area.

The stand-off took place in an area between a school tennis court and the River Coquet.

Paula Mason, whose mother was trapped in her home nearby, said: "She told me he is sitting with a gun to his head. The police are surrounding him.

"I just spoke to her on the phone. She’s absolutely terrified, she’s on her own.

"She said a marksman with a gun told her to get inside."

Chris Robertson, who was visiting his mother when armed officers told them to lock themselves in the house, said: "I saw the guy standing by the river with a sawn-off shotgun pointed as his neck. He was about 150 yards away.

"There are police snipers everywhere – the whole place is under siege. The police came down and encircled him, pointing their rifles at him. He must have been threatening to shoot someone. They’re trying to negotiate with him."

Shouting could be heard coming from the area, just yards from allotments where a man matching Moat’s description had been spotted on Thursday night.

Dave Murray, 67, a retired taxi driver, said Moat appeared to have been chased through the village before being cornered at the primary school tennis courts and bowling green.

"There is nowhere for him to go, the river is on one side and this road and all the police on the other," said Mr Murray.

Bob Herdman, 75, who lives opposite the riverbank, said on Friday night: "There is a man lying on the ground with a gun pointed to his head.

"There are about 12 or 15 police with their guns trained on him and they are trying to negotiate with him. He has been lying there a long time, maybe two hours.

"We have been told to stay in the house, to keep away from the windows. He is on the grass on the riverside.

"I was in my greenhouse when I first knew about it. I heard a lot of shouting going on at about 5.30 or 6 o’clock out on the riverside.

"It was him shouting at the police to start with. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but I think they just told him to lie on the ground and he has been lying there ever since with all those guns trained on him."

Police were understood to have received a tip-off from a member of the public that Moat was by the river.

Mr Herdman said: "The police came in quietly. They had their sirens off but were very fast."

The spot is a stone’s throw from the police’s temporary headquarters in Rothbury, suggesting he could have been intending to carry out his threat to kill police officers.

The first indication that Moat might have been found came at 7.37pm when Ch Supt Mark Dennett, the area commander, issued an urgent warning for residents to stay indoors for their own safety.

It now appears that Moat could have been living under the noses of police in Rothbury for several days.

Two people reported seeing a man they were convinced was Moat striding down the high street of the village, where almost 200 armed police were searching for him, at about 11pm on Thursday.

There was also evidence that Moat had been stealing food from local allotments during his week on the run, and could have been sleeping in an empty house while a family were away.

A woman in her 30s saw a man she was convinced was Moat striding past her as she stood outside the village chip shop on Thursday night.

"Moments later a man further down the street also saw the distinctive stranger and alerted two police officers, one of whom was understood to have seen the man in the distance before he walked over a bridge and disappeared from view.

About two hours later, Mr Herdman looked out of his window and saw a man running to hide in a friend’s greenhouse in the allotments opposite.

"I saw him running along that wall and open the greenhouse door. I was looking out of the landing window and saw him distinctly," he said.

"He was wearing dark clothing, he was crouching down behind the wall trying to hide himself."

When Mr Herdman’s friend returned to inspect the greenhouse he noticed that the only ripe tomato in his crop had disappeared.

It also emerged that a family just outside Rothbury returned from a day out on Tuesday to find that their house had been raided for food, and signs that someone had been sleeping in one of the beds. The young mother, who did not wish to be identified, heard rustling behind a closed door as she arrived, and fled. She believed she may have come within inches of a face-to-face confrontation with Moat. Police disclosed on Friday that they had been examining three mobile phones used by Moat during his week on the run. One was found on Thursday by a walker, discarded on open ground near Rothbury. It had been used by Moat as recently as Tuesday and was expected to provide vital evidence about his movements and contacts. A man and a woman were arrested on Friday in Blyth, where Moat robbed a fish and chip shop on Monday night, and were being held on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Their arrest brought the total number of suspected accomplices to six.

Iraq war increased terrorist threat to the UK, former MI5 chief tells Chilcot Inquiry

The war in Iraq led to a huge increase in the terrorist threat to the UK, the former head of MI5 has told the Iraq Inquiry.


















Source of attitude










By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter

20 July 2010
Baroness Manningham-Buller added that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein had caused a "long-term major and strategic problem" for Britain by allowing al-Qaeda time to build a stronghold in Afghanistan unnopposed.

She told the inquiry: "Our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people - not a whole generation, a few among a generation - who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam…

“Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before.”

The inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, released a memo written by Baroness Manningham-Buller in March 2002, in which she warned the Government that declaring war on Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.

The note made clear that MI5 did not regard Iraq as a significant terrorist threat to British interests before the war, and had discounted any link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Baroness Manningham-Buller, then deputy director-general of the Security Service, also revealed that MI5 refused to provide evidence for the Government's now-infamous dossier on Saddam's military capability because it doubted the credibility of the information.

"We were asked to put in some low-grade, small intelligence to it and we refused because we didn't think it was reliable," she said.

She said the intelligence on Iraqi WMD - most of which came from the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6 - used to justify the invasion had been "fragmentary" and did not justify the weight placed upon it.

"If you are going to go to war, you need a pretty high threshold, it seems to me, to decide on that and I think there is very few who would argue that the intelligence was not substantial enough on which to make that decision," she said.

She said the decision to go to war in Iraq meant that insufficient attention was paid to Afghanistan.

"By focusing on Iraq we reduced the focus on the al Qaida threat in Afghanistan. I think that was a long-term major and strategic problem," she said.

G20 riots: policeman escapes charges over Ian Tomlinson's death

The policeman filmed pushing Ian Tomlinson to the ground during the G20 riots will not face any charges over the newspaper vendor's death.
By Gordon Rayner and Caroline Gammell

22 July 2010

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there was an "irreconcilable conflict" between the differing medical opinions on how the 47-year-old died.

Family of Mr Tomlinson described the news as "disgraceful".

Mr Tomlinson was walking home when he became caught up in the G20 riots in the City of London on April 1 last year.

Mobile phone footage taken by bystanders showed Mr Tomlinson walking away from officers when he was hit by a baton and shoved to the ground by a policeman in protective clothing.

He was seen moving away after the incident but was found collapsed 100 metres away in Cornhill.

An initial post mortem supported police claims that he had died of a heart attack, but a second and third post mortem concluded that he had died from an abdominal haemorrhage.

Tomlinson family solicitor Jules Carey said it is "disgraceful" that no one has been prosecuted over the death.

Speaking outside the Crown Prosecution Service headquarters, he said the family will consider whether they can appeal against the decision.

He said: "Clearly it is a disgraceful decision. The CPS have accepted the conduct of the officer was unlawful."

Mr Tomlinson's son Paul King said the family were stunned by the decision and criticised the time it has taken.

He said: "It's taken 16 months to get a no-charge against this officer. The CPS have clearly admitted that the police officer assaulted our dad.

"Why hasn't there been a charge? We have to go home to no dad. It has aged us, the wait."

Mr Carey added: "We now need to find out if there has been a lack of will or incompetence, and frankly there needs to be an inquiry into that.

"We will be looking at whether the decision can be reviewed, but that is a matter for another day."

Mr Starmer said: "After a thorough and careful review of the evidence, the CPS has decided that there is no realistic prospects of a conviction against the police officer in question for any offence arising from the matter investigated and that no charges should be brought against him."

In an unusual step, he released a 10-page document going into detail about why the officer - who has never been formally identified - would not be charged.

Dr Freddy Patel, the first pathologist, found he died of natural causes, linked to coronary artery disease.

He failed to retain three litres of fluid which would have helped explain how he died.

Dr Nat Carey, a Home Office pathologist, was not able to analyse this fluid which could have provided crucial information.

However, he concluded that Mr Tomlinson fell on his elbow which "impacted in the area of his liver causing an internal bleed which led to his death a few minutes later".

A third post mortem agreed with Mr Carey's findings, but the "fundamental differences" of opinion meant it was not possible to prosecute, according to Mr Starmer. He said there was enough evidence to charge the officer who hit Mr Tomlinson with assault but that a six month time limit to do so had expired. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force offered its "sincere regret" over the death of Mr Tomlinson.

He said the officer could still face misconduct proceedings once the force receives the IPCC report.

A spokesman added: "Our thoughts remain with the family of Ian Tomlinson and those affected by his death."

Nick Griffin denied entry to Buckingham Palace garden party

Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, has been denied entry to a Buckingham Palace garden party after officials said he was using his invitation for party political purposes.
By Martin Evans

22 July 2010

The far right leader, who is a Member of the European Parliament, had been invited along with 8,000 other guests to the event which is being hosted by the Queen and attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.

But officials withdrew the invitation after warning his attendance could increase the security threat and cause discomfort for others attending.

A Palace spokesman said: “Nick Griffin MEP will be denied entry to today's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace due to the fact he has overtly used his personal invitation for Party political purposes through the media

“This in turn has increased the security threat and the potential discomfort to the many other guests also attending.

“Mr Griffin's personal invitation was issued to him as an elected Member of the European Parliament. The decision to deny him entry is not intended to show any disrespect to the democratic process by which the invitation was issued.

“However, we would apply the same rules to anyone who tried to blatantly politicise their attendance in this way.”

Other members of the Royal Family who were due to attend the event included the Duke of York, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. Mr Griffin described the decision as "an outrage" and "thoroughly anti-British".

The BNP leader said: "This is quite amazing news. At no time was I informed that I wasn't allowed to talk to the media about this. Other people have talked about attending. Why a double standard here?

"To say that one person in the country cannot speak to the media is an outrage."

Asked if he still intended to go to the palace, Mr Griffin initially said: "I don't know."

But he then added: "I'm not about to try and gatecrash the party, that is for sure."

Mr Griffin said he did not "blame the Queen" and claimed Buckingham Palace was under "enormous pressure from the Lib Con coalition" to withdraw his invite. He maintained he had a mandate from a million British people and had a right to attend.

The BNP leader added: "I am held to a different standard to everyone else in the country - that is thoroughly anti-British."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said later that BNP MEP Andrew Brons's invitation to today's garden party had not been revoked as he had not "exploited" it for political ends.

But Mr Griffin's guests - thought to be his wife and children - could not attend as he had been barred.

Pakistan president to challenge David Cameron's 'uncalled for' terrorism remarks

Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan, will address David Cameron's "uncalled for" remarks relating to Pakistan's stance on terrorism and "put him straight" when the pair meet, according to his officials.
By Duncan Gardham, John Bingham and Gordon Rayner

Published: 7:30AM BST 03 Aug 2010

Mr Zardari, who was in Paris meeting Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday night, told the French President that it was "unfortunate if some people continued to express doubts and misgivings about our will and determination to fight the militants to the finish."

According to his office, the Pakistan president told Mr Sarkozy that "No other country in the international coalition has paid such a heavy price in this fight."

The spokesman added: "He said that Cameron's uncalled for remarks and the fact that these were made in India had disappointed the people of Pakistan and it was all the more important that the president's visit to the UK went ahead as planned to raise this and other issues with the British prime minister."

"David Cameron has been doing some plain talking. Now Zardari will be doing the plain talking," an official told The Guardian.

Mr Zardari arrives in Britain facing accusations that he is using a meeting with David Cameron as a smokescreen for an attempt to shore up his political dynasty, at a time his country is struggling to cope with its worst floods for 80 years.

His decision not to fly home has led to suggestions that his real motive is not the meeting with Mr Cameron, but a rally in Birmingham at which he will help launch his son’s campaign to succeed him.

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, suggested that Mr Zardari was visiting Britain for “political reasons” involving his son’s career, and called on him to cancel the trip.

Imran Khan, the former cricketer and chairman of the opposition PTI party, joined the growing chorus of voices demanding that Mr Zardari return to Pakistan to take charge of the response to floods that have killed 1,500 and left millions homeless.

Mr Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, had suggested he might cancel his meeting with Mr Cameron following the Prime Minister’s controversial comments about Pakistan exporting terrorism.

However, critics claim that the visit was never in doubt because Mr Zardari, who has faced repeated allegations of corruption and investigations into the source of his estimated £1.1 billion fortune, is desperate to win over British Pakistanis who could make or break his son’s career.

Mr Zardari will address 3,000 members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from behind a bulletproof screen at the Birmingham International Convention Centre on Saturday to launch his son’s active political career.

Bilawal Zardari, 21, an Oxford University graduate, is already the chairman of the PPP, but cannot stand for office until the age of 25. The visit is crucial to his prospects because his father needs the support of influential British Pakistanis, many of whom opposed his anointment as PPP co-chairman, together with his son, following the assassination of his wife.

The trip has caused further controversy in Pakistan after it emerged that the cost of the rally, estimated at £60,000, will be paid out of Pakistani state funds, as it is being described as a “presidential” function.

Mr Mahmood said he was “thoroughly against” the visit. “When there are literally thousands of people dying and a huge amount of disease it is inappropriate for him to be staying in Britain in five-star hotels,” he said. “His disregard for what the people of his own nation are going through is clear as he swans around Paris and the UK.”

Imran Khan said Mr Zardari should have cancelled the visit, with his country in the grip of floods that have “unleashed widespread devastation”.

Mr Mahmood and a Labour peer, Lord Ahmed, have turned down an invitation to meet Mr Zardari on Thursday as part of a group of British politicians of Pakistani origin.

Northern Rock's 'bad bank' makes a profit, 'good bank' a loss

Northern Rock's so-called 'bad bank' made profit from its toxic mortgages in first half of the year while its 'good bank' posted a loss.
Published: 8:40AM BST 03 Aug 2010
The "bad bank" - Northen Rock (Asset Management) - made a £349.7m profit in the six months to June 30, compared with a £724.2m loss in the same period last year.

This was because borrowers, helped by low interest rates, have been able to meet payments on 90pc of its mortgages. Northern Rock plc, the "good bank", made a £142.6m first-half loss, which could hamper Government plans for a quick sale of the business to the private sector.

The 'good bank' has been hit because the income it receives from its £10bn of mortgages is not enough to cover interest it has to pay on £20bn of deposits.

It made £191.7m from mortgages payments but had to pay £240.1m to savers.

The nationalised lender was broken in two last year, with £70bn of assets, including around £51bn of potentially risky loans and mortgages, transferred to the "bad bank" to be run down over 20 years.

Around £10bn of performing mortgages were placed in the 'good' one.

Gary Hoffman, chief executive of Northern Rock plc, said in a statement that conditions remained challenging with the mortgage market relatively subdued.

At the 'bad bank' charges for loans that have turned sour fell to £277.6m. This is lower than in first and second halves of 2009, Northern Rock (Asset Management) said in a statement. It also said the number of properties in possession fell to 1,846 compared with 2,061 at the end of last year.

However, the company said increases in interest rates, unemployment and a fall in house prices remained a risk.

The Government loan to the 'bad bank' has been reduced to £22.5bn from £22.8bn at the start of the year.

Full separation of the 'good' and 'bad' banks is expected to be completed in the second half.

Meat from second cloned cow offspring entered food chain

Meat from a second offspring of a cloned cow has entered the food chain, the Food Standards Agency said tonight.

The FSA said it had traced all of the calves born in the UK from eight embryos from a cloned cow in the US.

It confirmed meat from a second bull, Parable, had entered the food chain.

Parable, which was born in May 2007 and slaughtered on May 5 2010, follows confirmation yesterday that meat from another of the bulls, Dundee Paratrooper, entered the food chain in 2009.

The FSA said meat from both animals will have been eaten, but stressed there was no evidence of a safety risk.

Yesterday the FSA said a third bull, Dundee Perfect, was slaughtered on July 27 this year and its meat prevented from entering the food chain.

The FSA also confirmed tonight that one of the four cows, Dundee Paradise, remained part of a dairy herd on a UK farm, but there was no evidence milk from the animal had entered the food chain.

The agency believed two other cows were being kept as part of dairy herds but it had been unable to confirm if their milk had entered the food chain.

Of the eight calves, four of each sex, one male and one female died at around one month old. No meat or products from the animal had entered the food chain.

The FSA said it was trying to trace offspring from the eight animals, but added that they would be too young to be milked or used for breeding.

An investigation was launched in the wake of claims that a British farmer had admitted using milk in his daily production without labelling it as from the offspring of a cloned cow.

Under European law, foodstuffs including milk produced from cloned animals must pass a safety evaluation and gain authorisation before they are marketed.

The FSA said it had neither made any authorisations nor been asked to do so.

Earlier today the owner of one of the bulls which entered the food chain insisted he had done nothing wrong.

Farmer Callum Innes bought two bulls produced by the cloned cow from a farm in Shropshire.

Mr Innes's son Steven, who helps run the farm at Auldearn, near Inverness, confirmed the bulls were bought in February 2008.

He said in a statement read outside the farm: "We investigated whether this was legal at the time and understood that there was no issue.

"We have acted in good faith throughout and we've been fully compliant with the relevant authorities' wishes and shall continue to be fully cooperative in order to resolve the situation as soon as possible."

NFU Scotland insisted Mr Innes attempted to clarify the situation beforehand.

A spokeswoman said: "He investigated the issues regarding food chain rules and understood that there was no issue.

"He has acted in good faith throughout, has been fully compliant with the relevant authorities' wishes and shall continue to be fully cooperative in order to resolve this situation as soon as possible."

Mr Innes is said to be one of the biggest dairy farmers in the area and has a herd of Holstein cows.

The FSA admitted today it did not know how many embryos from cloned animals have been imported into Britain.

But FSA chief executive Tim Smith insisted there were no health risks associated with eating meat or drinking milk from the descendants of cloned cows.

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of microbiology at the University of Aberdeen, said meat and milk from cloned cows posed no health risks.

He said: "It is perfectly safe. They are just the same as their parents from the genetic point of view so there's no problem there."

Conservative Euro MP for Scotland Struan Stevenson added: "Unfortunately, EU rules around the import of meat and dairy products from clones and their offspring are at present confused and inadequate.

"It's this worrying lack of safeguards that has allowed this situation to arise."

BP oil spill: majority of oil in the Gulf of Mexico 'eliminated'

4 August 2010
The US government has announced that three quarters of the oil that has leaked out of BP's Deepwater Horizon well into the Gulf of Mexico has been cleaned up or broken down by natural forces.

The White House energy adviser Carol Browner said that a new assessment found that about 75 per cent of the oil has either been captured, burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mrs Browner welcomed news from BP that it has plugged the broken well with heavy mud.

The oil giant called it a milestone in ending the spill that started on April 20 with a drill rig explosion off the US coast of Louisiana that killed 11 workers.

A US government report into environmental damage caused by the biggest oil spill in the country's history has found that the remaining oil is so diluted that it poses little risk of harm.

While 26 per pent of the leaked crude was still in the water or on the coast, where it threatens birds and wildlife, it is rapidly breaking down, the report found.

The news, which will be welcomed by conservationists fighting the slick, comes as BP began an attempt to permanently seal off the leaking well with a mixture of mud and cement.

"There's absolutely no evidence that there's any significant concentration of oil that's out there that we haven't accounted for," Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead agency in producing the new report told the New York Times.

However, she said that the US government remained concerned about the ecological damage that has already occurred and the potential for more.

"I think we don't know yet the full impact of this spill on the ecosystem or the people of the gulf," Dr Lubchenco said.

Questions remained over the damage that the oil had done to the eggs and larvae of organisms like fish, crabs and prawns, she said.

The report was compiled by US federal scientists to work out where the huge volumes of leaked oil has gone.

It calculated that about 25 per cent of the chemicals in the oil evaporated at the surface or dissolved into seawater.

At least 5 per cent was burned on the surface, 3 per cent was skimmed and 8 per cent was broken down by dispersants.

Another 16 per cent dispersed naturally.

Naomi Campbell: I handed 'blood diamonds' to Mandela charity

Naomi Campbell, the model, told a war crimes tribunal that she gave alleged "blood diamonds" to the head of Nelson Mandela's children's charity.
Bruno Waterfield, in The Hague, Aislinn Laing and Caroline Gammell

Published: 9:00PM BST 05 Aug 2010

Giving evidence at The Hague, Campbell admitted that she was given a few "dirty-looking pebbles", which are alleged to be blood diamonds from the Liberian warlord following a charity gala hosted by Mr Mandela in 1997.

Campbell, who is so close to Mr Mandela she refers to him as her "honorary grandfather", then claimed that she had given the uncut gems to Mr Mandela's children's charity "to do something good".

The admission draws Mr Mandela, one of the world's most revered statesmen, into the centre of allegations surrounding the funding of the 1991 – 2002 Sierra Leone war, which was characterised by the use of boy soldiers and the mutilation of 20,000 people who lost arms, legs, lips and ears under machete attack.

Mr Taylor, 62, is being tried on 11 counts of war crimes in Liberia's neighbouring Sierra Leone, including charges of murder, rape and sexual slavery. He is accused of trading in "blood diamonds" to fund the brutal and bloody war in which more than 120,000 died.

Central to the prosecution case is the allegation that Mr Taylor had given Campbell some of these "blood diamonds" as a gift after they met at the banquet hosted by Mr Mandela on September 25, 1997.

Yesterday Campbell told a tribunal that after the function in Pretoria two men had knocked on her bedroom door late at night.

"They said 'a gift for you' and then gave me a pouch. I took it, said thank you and closed the door. There was no explanation, no note."

Explaining that she was unconcerned because she frequently receives gifts from admirers, Miss Campbell said she put the gift "close to my bed and went back to sleep".

"I opened the pouch the next morning when I woke up. I saw a few stones. They were very, small, dirty looking stones," she said.

Asked what she thought the stones were by a judge, Miss Campbell replied, "they were kind of dirty looking pebbles".

"When I'm used to seeing diamonds, I am used to seeing diamonds shiny and in a box."

The model insisted that the idea that the mysterious present had come from Mr Taylor was only suggested at breakfast the following day by Mia Farrow, the actress, and Carole White, her former agent, who had both attended the dinner.

"One of them said 'that is obviously Charles Taylor' and I said 'I guess that is right', she said.

Campbell said that she had given the uncut diamonds to Jeremy Ractliffe, the director of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, the following day intending that he use them to help fund the charity's projects.

The 40-year-old, who now lives in New York, said that after that she had forgotten about the incident until she was contacted last year by the tribunal. Initially she refused to attend and gave evidence against her will, after being threatened with a seven year prison sentence if she did not.

She said that last year she had phoned Mr Ractliffe, a friend of the model she said she trusted and worked closely with, and was surprised to hear that he still had the stones.

A spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, set up by the former South African president in 1995, said yesterday that Campbell's evidence was "of great concern".

Opua Ngwenya said: "We don't have any record of the diamonds. Mr Ractliffe is among our trustees so he would have indicated if such a thing existed. We have it on record, we have made a statement to say there's no such record (of diamonds)."

Mr Ractliffe refused to comment on Campbell's claims, telling The Daily Telegraph "The matter is sub judice so I am not saying anything."

Asked about the fund's statement that it never received the diamonds or money from their sale, he replied: "The fund is correct."

Asked whether he himself had received diamonds from Miss Campbell or if he still had them, he hung up.

Questions were also asked last night about why Mr Taylor was invited to the star studded event which included Imran and Jemima Khan, as well as Farrow, who has also been called to give evidence.

Farrow has already claimed, in written evidence submitted to the tribunal, that Mr Mandela's partner Graca Michel told the actress not to pose for photograph with Mr Taylor, inferring that he was not an appropriate person to be pictured with.

Andile Mngxitama, a South African newspaper columnist, said Mr Mandela should not have shared a table with Taylor.

"I do think he should have been more principled about who he would meet," he said. "Mandela would meet any head of state in Africa. When you shake hands with these people you're likely to end up with a bit of blood on your hands."

A source close to Mr Mandela said the former freedom fighter had never shied away from meeting controversial characters in the hope he might positively influence them. "The reality is that Mandela met heads of state of all political backgrounds so it wasn't unusual (to entertain Mr Taylor)."

The tribunal in The Hague started two years ago. Both Farrow and Miss White are due to appear before the court next week.

Britain and Pakistan have 'unbreakable' relationship, insist Cameron and Zardari

6 August 2010
David Cameron and President Asif Ali Zardari have insisted that Britain and Pakistan have an "unbreakable" relationship after talks at Chequers.

The two leaders attempted to smooth over the row sparked by the Prime Minister's recent controversial comments, when he suggested elements within Pakistan were aiding terrorism.

Mr Cameron said: "The president and I have been talking about what we see as an unbreakable relationship between Britain and Pakistan based on our mutual interests...

"Above all what we've been talking about is our strategic partnership and how we can deepen and enhance that partnership to make sure we deal with all the issues where we want to see progress - whether that is in trade, whether it is in education and also in the absolutely vital area of combating terrorism, where we want to work together to combat terrorism.

"Whether it is keeping troops safe in Afghanistan or keeping people safe on the streets of Britain, that is a real priority for my Government, and somewhere where, with Pakistan, we are going to work together in this enhanced strategic partnership."

Standing alongside Mr Cameron at his country retreat, Mr Zardari said: ''This is a friendship that will never break, no matter what happens.

''Storms will come and storms will go, and Pakistan and Britain will stand together and face all the difficulties with dignity and we will make sure that the world is a better place for our coming generations.''

A joint statement from the two men revealed that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is to travel to Pakistan in the autumn, and the Prime Minister has accepted an invitation to make an "early visit".

The text also included a recognition from Mr Cameron of the "sacrifices" that Pakistan had made in the fight against terrorism.

The PM's remarks during a visit to regional rival India last month were criticised for ignoring the death toll the country had suffered as it tried to tackle extremism. Mr Zardari had pledged to challenge Mr Cameron over his comments when they met.

"Both leaders discussed the role being played by the (Pakistan) democratic government in fighting against terrorism," the statement said.

"The Prime Minister recognised the sacrifices made by Pakistan's military, civil law enforcement agencies and people in fighting violent extremism and militancy and appreciated the efforts of the democratic government.

"Both leaders appreciated the close co-operation that already exists between respective police forces and other security agencies.

"The two leaders agreed that such co-operation needs to and will intensify."

Downing Street said the hour-long meeting this morning was "very warm and constructive", with "excellent dynamics" between the two men.

Asked to confirm that the leaders had addressed Mr Cameron's remarks in India, the official merely replied that there had been a "detailed and very constructive, fruitful discussion on counter- terrorism issues".

It was agreed that annual summits would be held between the UK Prime Minister and Pakistan President, and ministers would meet to enhance links within their briefs. There will also be direct contacts between top civilian and military officials, with the PM's National Security Adviser and the Chief of the Defence Staff among those expected to work closely with their opposite numbers.

Naomi Campbell diamonds handed in to South African police by charity head

The South African charity boss who was given 'blood diamonds' by Naomi Campbell has confirmed the British model's account.

By Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg

Published: 11:59AM BST 06 Aug 2010

Jeremy Ractliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, said he handed three small stones to the police.

He said Miss Campbell gave him "three small uncut diamonds" on the Blue Train as they travelled from Pretoria to Cape Town the morning after a dinner hosted by Mr Mandela.

The existence of the diamonds has been a closely guarded secret for 13 years. Mr Ractliffe said he was attempting to protect the reputations of Mr Mandela, the fund and Miss Campbell.

The stones were only handed to police yesterday when she revealed his role in court.

She was giving evidence at the war crimes tribunal at the Hague of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who also attended the dinner and is alleged to have given Miss Campbell the diamonds.

Miss Campbell told the court she was given a few "dirty-looking pebbles" following the dinner in September 1997 by two men who knocked on her bedroom door late at night.

Prosecutors claim that the stones were so-called blood diamonds - illegally mined gems used to raise money for arms. Miss Campbell has been accused of accepting them as a gift from Taylor, who is accused of backing a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone in which thousands were mutilated and 120,000 people died.

Mr Ractliffe, who sits on the board of several charities and remains a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, broke his silence to confirm Miss Campbell's account in a statement sent to this morning.

He said he had taken the diamonds from Miss Campbell - who said she was a close friend of Mr Ractliffe - to protect her from any possible comeback.

"I thought it might well be illegal for her to take uncut diamonds out of the country," he said.

"Naomi suggested they could be of some benefit to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund – but I told her I would not involve the NMCF in anything that could possibly be illegal."

He said he had kept the diamonds hidden away until Miss Campbell uncovered him in her evidence as the man she gave them to following the dinner.

His comments back up the claim by the fund that it knew nothing about the diamonds and had received no proceeds from their sale.

"In the end I decided I should just keep them. A factor that influenced me not to report the matter to anyone was to protect the reputation of the NMCF, Mr Mandela himself and Naomi Campbell, none of whom were benefitting in any way," he said.

"I did not inform the NMCF or anyone else. I have now handed the alleged diamonds to the South African Authorities."

He said he would be happy to attend the court in the Hague to give evidence about his involvement, but until then, would not comment further on the matter since it was "sub-judice."

The South African Police Service has confirmed that it has the diamonds in its possession.

Taylor, 62, is being tried on 11 counts of committing war crimes in Sierra Leone, which borders Liberia, including charges of murder, rape and sexual slavery.

Nick Clegg: Coalition has brought reform, not 'insipid mush'

Nick Clegg has insisted that doubters who suggested his party's Coalition with the Conservatives would lead to a Government of "insipid mush" had been proved wrong by the pace at which reforms had been introduced.
Published: 12:19PM BST 16 Aug 2010
The Deputy Prime Minister, who has taken temporary charge of Downing Street with David Cameron on holiday, said the Government had made its case as ''radical and reforming''.

Speaking at a Town Hall-style event hosted by MSN.com in London, Mr Clegg was asked how he thought the coalition had performed in its first 100 days in power.

''I think many people felt that a coalition government by definition would be some sort of insipid mush, where different parties sort of haggle constantly with each other until they produce some lowest common denominator policies that do not really make a difference,'' he said.

''Actually, what we are finding out after after 100 days we are being accused of doing exactly the reverse, which is doing things too quickly, too fast, too radical, too reforming.

''I think that is a sign of a government - whether you agree with it or not - that has got a strong sense of purpose.''

Asked if he imagined a few months ago that he would be taking the helm of government, the Liberal Democrat leader replied bluntly: ''No.''

He stressed that Prime Minister David Cameron was still officially running the country despite being on holiday.

''I'm holding the fort for a couple of weeks and I'm doing so in the spirit of partnership,'' Mr Clegg added.

Bank of England Governor warns that Britons face higher inflation for longer

British consumers should prepare for lingering higher inflation, the Bank of England Governor has warned, as latest figures show a sharp jump in food prices.
Published: 11:53AM BST 17 Aug 2010
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a 3.4pc increase in the cost of food over the last year, with fruit being 10pc more expensive. The last year also saw a sharp rise in the cost of travel, which climbed an average 7.8pc.

Mervyn King, the Bank's Governor, voiced surprise that prices are higher than he had expected in a letter of explanation to the Chancellor George Osborne. While the overall consumer prices edged down to 3.1pc from 3.2pc in June, it remains above the Bank's own 2pc target, and the small decline will do little to ease the fear of some economists that a high cost of living will undermine Britain's fragile recovery.

Mr King must write to the Treasury each month that inflation exceeds 3pc, and he said he is likely to have to send several more letters. Inflation will probably not return to target until the end of 2011, he said.

"Food price inflation has moved up strongly ... and that's perhaps a trend that's going to continue over the next 12 months," said Philip Shaw, an economist at Investec.

Today's figures from the Office for National Statistics also showed that the Retail Price Index, a measure of inflation generally seen as the best gauge of the cost of living, was at 4.8pc last month. Again, though lower than June's 5pc, it's far outstripping any pay rises companies may be awarding. Mr King has insisted that the price pressures are driven by temporary influences such as the price of oil.

Inflation's persistently high level has already prompted Andrew Sentance, one of the nine people who decide the cost of borrowing at the Bank, to start voting for higher interest rates. The minutes of the Bank's latest meeting are due tomorrow and traders will be keen to see if anyone has joined Mr Sentance. However, today's figures do provide some ammunition for Mr King's claim that the loftier level of inflation will pass. Core inflation, which excludes more volatile elements such as energy, fell from 3.1pc to 2.6pc, its lowest level since the end of last year.

He wrote in his letter today that policy-makers “stand ready to expand or to reduce the extent of monetary stimulus” as needed, prompting Mr Osborne to reply that he welcomes the bank’s “flexibility.”

The Governor will "be relieved that those forces that they have long argued will bring inflation back down appear finally to be asserting themselves," said Jonathan Loynes from Capital Economics.

Food prices have been hit by adverse weather during harvests around the world. The cost of grains in particular could rise further after Russia banned export of wheat because of a severe drought.

Today's inflation figures are particularly important for rail passengers because national fare rises are based on the July measure of the Retail Price Index (RPI), which dropped to 4.8 per cent. Under the current formula companies are allowed to raise ticket prices next year by one percentage point above that. However, the budget constraints being imposed by the Government may see even larger increases.

Universities minister apologises to A-level students missing out on places

Universities Minister David Willetts today told students who may find themselves turned away from university: ''I am sorry,'' as the publication of this year's A-level results sparked a scramble for places.
Published: 11:19AM BST 19 Aug 2010
One in 12 A-levels was awarded the new A* grade boosting the proportion of A grade to a record 27 per cent, the figures showed.

Nevertheless, Mr WIlletts this morning acknowledged that even a clean sweep of top grades is not enough for some students. He has even suggested that some need to set their sights lower in order to secure a degree place.

Those who failed to meet the grades required for their first choice of university, and their insurance offer, as well as those who declined all their offers or did not receive any, will be entered into clearing. This is the annual process that matches students without a place to courses with spaces.

But with universities facing multi million-pound cuts and applications rising year-on-year, competition for places is fiercer than ever and the clearing process is expected to be short

Speaking at the headquarters of Ucas in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Mr Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: ''There are more places at university than ever before, and in fact, at this moment, more prospective students have now got a definite firm place at university than at this point last year.

''But sadly there will be people who have applied to university and don't get a place.

''It has always been a competitive process but for them we've got the widest possible range of alternative options, including, of course, studying at Open University, studying at an FE college, going into work with an apprenticeship. All those options are available as well.

''I think it is great that young people aim high, but it is competitive and sadly not every person who applies will get a place.''

Asked what he would say to students left without a place at university at the end of the clearing process, he said: ''I would say to them, we have done our best, there are more university places than ever before. I am sorry that they haven't got a place.

''And now, they have got a big decision to take. They can think about how they can strengthen their CV and reapply next year with something that might improve their chances.

''Alternatively they can look at options for FE colleges, going into work, going into apprenticeships. We are not writing them off, far from it, we are committed to offering them the best possible range of alternative opportunities.''

He added: ''There is more to education and careers and training than going away from home for three years to university at the age of 18.''

Many of the UK's top universities do not enter clearing, while others say the number of places they usually have available has been dramatically cut.

University admissions service Ucas said 181,182 students were eligible for clearing this year, but the number of courses showing vacancies is dramatically lower than 2009 figures.

Last year 32,000 courses were offering vacancies in the clearing process, compared to 18,484 this year.

It has been predicted that between 170,000 and 200,000 applicants, including sixth-formers and older learners, could miss out this autumn.

Speaking to on BBC radio earlier today, Mr Willetts said that 380,000 people now have a definite place at university, which is "slightly ahead of this time last year", and that clearing places are also available.

But he predicted that some candidates with three A grades might not get into the university of their choice.

After describing last year's figures as "shocking", when 3,500 people with three A grades did not go on to university, Mr Willetts was asked whether the same thing could happen again.

He replied: "It could be, because the most competitive universities really are very competitive indeed, so it does mean that there are people who can really do very well indeed and get three As at A-level and not find that they have got a place at those intensely competitive universities - which is why they are often advised to have one insurance offer for a slightly less competitive university, or they can think about doing the things that would make their CV even more distinctive and stand out for universities next year."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Thousands of students with good A-levels have learnt that they do not have a college place and no easy alternative of work amid entrenched youth unemployment.

"Whatever its intentions, the introduction of the A* grade will do even more to favour the conveyor belt from private education to top universities.

"Britain remains one of the most unequal and class-bound societies in the developed world. We cannot lift the barriers to social mobility without radical action to make the UK less unequal, yet the policies of deep cuts to public spending are doing the opposite."

'Last' brigade of US combat troops leaves Iraq

The last brigade of US combat troops has left Iraq, according to a US media report.

Published: 3:00AM BST 19 Aug 2010

The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division crossed into Kuwait in a convoy of armoured vehicles on Thursday morning, NBC News said.

Some of the brigade remained behind to complete logistical tasks and will leave the country by air later in the day.

The US combat mission in Iraq is scheduled to end on Aug 31. The number of US troops in the country is now 56,000.

"The mission changes on the 31st, when brigades that are left are re-missioned to advise-and-assist brigades," a senior administration official said.

NBC reported that the last US combat troops had left Iraq and crossed the border into Kuwait, more than seven years after a US-led invasion toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"As soon as all these soldiers leave Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the combat mission in Iraq, will be over," NBC reported.

NBC said the rest of the soldiers staying behind would be on a training mission.

There were about 140,000 US troops in Iraq when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

As a presidential candidate, Mr Obama campaigned to end the war responsibly, and as president he has been explicit in his assurances to Americans that not a single US service member will remain in Iraq come Jan 1, 2012.

While violence has dipped sharply since the height of sectarian warfare from 2006-2007, Iraq is still extremely fragile and its leaders have not resolved a number of politically explosive issues that could easily trigger renewed fighting.

The war in Iraq has gone on longer than the US Civil War, the US involvement in World War One, and longer than World War Two. Opinion polls show Americans are tired of nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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