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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Heavy night, Mike? Tindall is still in his morning suit the morning after as he emerges with his new wife Zara

By Pamela Owen

Get much sleep? Mike Tindall is seen arriving at The Palace of Holyroodhouse, wearing the same clothes he wore yesterday. Zara Phillips looked radiant in a pair of white jeans and a beige top

He's known for his love of enjoying a good party and it looks as though Mike Tindall had the time of his life after marrying Zara Phillips.

The England rugby star wore the same grey trousers and blue collared shirt he did the day before and looked as though he hadn't slept a wink.

Zara, who arrived separately from her husband, looked radiant in white jeans, flip flops and a beige sleeveless top.

Heavy night? Tindall picks his teeth as he stands next to a policeman outside Holyroodhouse

The couple have been determined to keep their wedding a private family occasion, but the crowds have been equally determined to share in their happiness during the first Royal wedding to be held in Scotland in 20 years.

Many frantically waved Union Jacks and the Scottish Saltire as the couple emerged from the ceremony shortly before 4pm yesterday, filling the air with cheers. Some, clearly touched by the splendour of the occasion, dabbed their eyes.

Zara dazzled the crowds in her full-length ivory silk gown with silk tulle detail, designed by the Queen’s favourite couturier Stewart Parvin.

The one-time Royal rebel, who proudly sported a tongue ring, looked every inch the traditional bride and this was her chance to be a princess for a day.

Her blonde hair was pulled back into an elegant chgnon and she wore a sparkling diamond tiara lent by her mother, she looked effortlessly beautiful.

Happy couple: Tindall in his suit when he married the Queen's granddaughter, Zara, in Edinburgh yesterday

Zara,30, was accompanied to the church by her proud father Captain Mark Phillips after earlier leaving in a Bentley from the Palace of Holyroodhouse several hundred yards down the Royal Mile.

The 45-minute ceremony was conducted by Canongate's resident Minister Reverend neil Gardner. A choir of 15 boys and girls from Zara's old Scottish boarding school sang during the ceremony.

The happy couple then left the Kirk in a Bentley for the 400-yard journey to Holyroodhouse for the reception.

A grand marquee was erected in a piazza of the palace and loud whoops and cheers could be heard from behind the palace walls.

Prince Harry also looked slightly worse for wear in a scruffy blue top and jeans and Princess Eugenie takes home a flower arrangement

Dinner had a Scottish theme and included lobster and crayfish cocktail, Scottish venison with dauphinois potatoes and chocolate fondant with strawberries.

The party was organised by Peregrine Armstrong Jones of party planners Bentley.

The Queen and Prince Philip left by helicopter and were taken to Balmoral Castle to begin their summer holiday.

Prince Charles and the Duchess or Cornwall are thought to have left before them and headed for the Caslte of Mey.

The newlyweds will not immediately head off on honeymoon as Zara will go to the Gatcombe International Horse Trials while her husband will return to training.

The bride's brother Peter Phillips with his wife Autumn and their daughter Savannah after the celebrations

Mother of the bride: The Princess Royal leaves Holyroodhouse the day after her daughter married Mike Tindall and, right, Princess Beatrice with her father Prince Andrew


Zara's something borrowed... great-grandmother's tiara

By Daily Mail Reporter

Zara kept up the wedding tradition of having something borrowed by earing a spectacular diamond tiara that has been passed down through four generations of the Royal Family - and was last worn by her mother two months ago.

The bride's short silk veil was set off by the Meander tiara, once owned by Prince Philip's mother and loaned to Zara by Princess Anne, who wore it in May for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace to welcome President Obama and his wife Michele.

The tiara is based around a classical Greek 'key pattern' design and boasts a magnificent cut diamond at its centre, which is set off by a laurel wreath pattern picked out in diamonds with honeysuckle motifs on either side.

Royal gift: Princess Alice's tiara, worn by Princess Anne and her daughter Zara on her wedding day

The silver headpiece made its way into the Windsor family in 1947 when it was given as a wedding gift to the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, from her mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Batternberg.

Its Greek style was inspired by her marriage to Prince Andrew of Greece, the father of the present Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen never wore the tiara in public and it was next seen on Princess Anne, who was given the tiara by her mother in 1972.

The Princess Royal, now 61 and famous for recycling her outfits for high-profile occasions, wore the tiara during her engagement to her first husband, Zara's father Captain Mark Phillips, and has been pictured sporting it at least four times, notably in 2000 for an official portrait to mark her 50th birthday.

Romantic: Veil and tiara complement Zara's sleek blonde hair


The disabled woman abandoned to be murdered for fun by a gang of savages who she thought were her friends

By Ross Slater

Gemma Hayter loved animals. She shared her chaotic flat in a tower block with a hamster and a noisy cockatiel called Jasmine and she would talk to every dog or cat that came her way.

But Gemma would talk to anybody who showed her the slightest attention – and it was her trusting friendliness that was ultimately to cost her her life.

Last week, three young people were convicted of Gemma’s brutal murder on a disused railway line, an act that followed hours of abuse in a flat.

Two others were found guilty of her manslaughter and all five were unanimously convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Everyone who came across Gemma, 27, in her home town of Rugby knew that she was different. She had a rare congenital disorder that caused her serious learning difficulties, and a distinctive physical appearance with a large head and crossed eyes.

In the pre ‘care in the community’ era, it is unlikely that she would have been allowed to live independently. Dawn Jennings at the post office a stone’s throw from the ten-storey block where she lived, cashed her benefits cheque on Tuesdays.

‘She was a lovely girl, totally innocent and child-like,’ she said.

‘She would not have hurt a fly and was a friend to all, but I did worry about how she coped. She wasn’t aware of time and there was no one to tell her when to go to bed and when to have a bath.’

Gemma’s neighbours in Biart Place, a triangle of tower blocks less than half a mile from central Rugby and the grand halls of the town’s famous public school, were certainly aware of her problems. Her flat smelt so bad that it engulfed the entire floor.

Those she confided in revealed that she had been moved to Biart Place in 2008 from an almost identical tower block on the other side of town after suffering bullying and sexual abuse.

Martin Bowes, 56, said: ‘I got to know her when I saw her walking past picking up cigarette butts off the street and asked her what she was doing. She said that she made them into roll-ups to smoke.

‘We got talking and I felt sorry for her. I ended up feeding her twice a week.

Watching her eat was pathetic. She would finish everything off and then ask for more. She’d mop it all up with bread and then use her thumb to completely clean the plate.’

Cruel: Jessica Lynas and Duncan Edwards were both found guilty of manslaughter following the death of Gemma Hayter

More disturbing to Martin than her table manners were her liaisons with men, drawn in by her internet profile where she described herself as ‘big, bold and beautiful’.

‘These fellas would drive here from all sorts of places and she would be driven off by them,’ he said.

‘It worried me sick. She was a big woman but she was also like a four-year-old child.’

And nowhere was her childishness more evident than in her attitude to money. ‘I had no change once so I gave her a £10 note and told her to go round to the shop and buy a pint of milk so I could sort her out,’ recalled Martin.

‘She came back 15 minutes later with the milk, a bag full of sweets and chocolate and no change at all. She said, “Oh, these are all nice.” ’

Her problems with budgeting meant that despite receiving benefits she often needed to borrow money to top up her electricity. Those she asked for help strongly suspected that she was being exploited by some of the ‘friends’ she made in Rugby.

Guilty: Chantelle Booth and Daniel Newstead, who were dating at the time of the murder, were both found guilty

Neighbour Adele Butterworth, 23, said: ‘I know there are other people besides those in the dock who should be feeling guilty for the way they treated Gemma.

‘She just wanted to be accepted so badly that she would put up with anything and often she didn’t realise people were just taking the mick.

‘Gemma told me about this boyfriend she had who was in prison. I don’t think he even existed but she would tell me that she’d had to give money to him so they could set up a home together.

These so-called friends tattooed the words, “Simon STD X” on her wrist. She said it was her boyfriend’s name. She had no idea that STD [sexually transmitted disease] was an insult.’

With such parasites leeching off her it is easy to see how money became a problem for Gemma and it formed the backdrop to the terrible events that led to her murder.

In the early evening of Sunday, August 8, last year, Gemma had been invited to the flat of her friend Chantelle Booth, then 21, and her partner Daniel Newstead, 20.

They were entertaining their neighbours Jessica Lynas, 18, and her boyfriend Joe Boyer, 17, as well as another teenager, Duncan Edwards, 18.

All of them had gone into Rugby town centre the night before and Gemma had annoyed them by telling bar staff that Chantelle was only 15. It was Gemma’s idea of a joke but she’d ‘ruined their night’ and Jessica had slapped her.

Shortly after Gemma arrived at the flat, a £5 note went missing and Jessica found it tucked behind the fridge.

Chantelle then brought up an incident from two years earlier when she believed Gemma had stolen £800 in backdated child benefit that was meant for Chantelle’s six-year-old son who was in care following her conviction for unlawful wounding.

The mood darkened. Bubbly blonde Chantelle became upset. This angered her chubby boyfriend Daniel, the father of her second child, and her other suitor, Duncan – with whom she had been swapping flirty texts.

Duncan began hitting Gemma with pillows.

Then Joe and Duncan both urinated into a beer can and forced Gemma to drink it.

Jessica, also a teenage mother with a child in care, jabbed Gemma in the face with a broom handle. Duncan waved a mop at her and Chantelle is said to have broken her nose with a head-butt.

Daniel, who claimed to the court that he had left the flat to get help for Gemma, returned and was so cross to see her blood in his bedroom that he punched her twice in the face.

Gemma is then said to have asked for Joe and Duncan to walk her home but in the event all five of them went.

The group was filmed leaving the centre of Rugby on CCTV. Gemma was wearing a cap pulled down low over her head. Instead of taking her home, the five led her down on to a disused railway line where a bin bag was put over her head before she was stripped naked, strangled, kicked mercilessly in the face and then stabbed in the neck.

Her clothes were then burnt by Duncan – who singed his hair.

The next day the group went with Duncan to get his hair cut before going to Coventry to visit pubs.

They were all arrested on the Tuesday after Daniel told a receptionist at the local social services that he had been present at the killing.

During the seven-week trial that ended on Thursday, the young defendants’ behaviour caused utter dismay to their expensively assembled legal teams.

They changed their stories several times but finally the two couples – Jessica and Joe, and Chantelle and Daniel – decided Duncan was solely responsible, while he blamed Daniel.

Their inconsistencies were easily exposed under cross-examination. At one point, when cornered, Chantelle swore at a barrister while Joe who, in a police interview had casually referred to Gemma as ‘that thing’, claimed to have been too intoxicated to remember anything.

In the dock, they simply larked about – laughing, passing one another notes and betraying not the slightest hint of concern.

At one point, the judge, the Right Honourable Lady Justice Rafferty, was forced to separate them like schoolchildren and warn them that they would be sent to the cells if they continued to misbehave.

It was only when the verdicts were read out that their demeanours changed.

The boys sat emotionless while Chantelle and Jessica screamed, cried, swore and hugged one another, their faces contorted and covered in black mascara.

All five were found guilty of the assault in the flat. Chantelle, Daniel and Joe were convicted of murder while Duncan and Jessica were found guilty of manslaughter.

In the public gallery sat a row of Gemma’s family including her mother Susan, who endured every day of the trial, and her two half-siblings.

It looked like a big support network but it seemingly failed to function once Gemma had reached adulthood and begun to live on her own and become the easiest target for the lowest of the low.

At different times of her life Gemma had contact with social services but she did not have a social worker. It is understood support had been offered but refused.

Warwickshire County Council described Gemma as a ‘vulnerable adult’ and after her death a Serious Case Review was commissioned by the Warwickshire Safeguarding Adults Board.

Wendy Fabbro, chair of that board and strategic director for Adult, Health and Community Services at the Council, said: ‘The review, which is being independently chaired and authored, is expected to conclude in September to take account of any additional information to emerge from the trial. A public summary of the findings and recommendations will be published.’

Lady Justice Rafferty called the case, ‘a tragedy for six young people’ – Gemma, and, ‘the five hapless, undirected, unsupported individuals in the dock’.

It was an acknowledgment that of the defendants, only one, Duncan Edwards, had a parent present at the end of the trial. The others, it seemed, had been abandoned.

But what of the many other Gemma Hayters living out there? How can they cope in a society that would appear, in part, to have lost its sense of right and wrong?

The charity Mencap estimates that nine out of every ten people with a learning disability are verbally harassed or exposed to violence because of their disability.

In Gemma’s case exposure to violence meant murder, committed by vacuous souls who saw her as a figure of fun to be laughed at, abused and killed for their entertainment.


By Katharine Quarmby

I became aware of a disturbing pattern four years ago when I was news editor of the magazine Disability Now.

During the previous year – 2006 – eight disabled people were robbed, beaten and brutally killed in a period of just six months, yet each death was seen by police, prosecutors and the media as an isolated incident, a motiveless crime against a vulnerable ¬victim who couldn’t fight back.

I began to investigate such crimes and discovered that the incidents weren’t isolated and the crimes weren’t motiveless – they were committed out of hatred, rather than because the victims were vulnerable.

Fiona Pilkington (left) killed herself and her daughter Francecca Hardwick (right) after years of abuse from bullies

There are so many cases: Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca after suffering years of verbal and physical abuse from youths; Christine Lakinski, who collapsed near her own front door but was covered in shaving foam and urinated upon as she lay dying; Brent Martin, who was punched and kicked to death by a gang of youths ‘for sport’, in the words of a prosecutor.

My research, which eventually led to a book, Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People, suggests that, although this is a problem with ancient roots, failures in the implementation of modern ‘community care’ policy are also to blame.

The lack of money to fund disabled people’s resettlement was one problem; another was the failure to anticipate the bitter backlash that would ensue. For disabled people had been maliciously stereotyped for at least 2,000 years as either scapegoats, sinners or freaks.

By Victorian times, disabled people were so shunned that many, particularly those with mental health conditions and learning difficulties, were imprisoned in asylums or long-stay hospitals. By the mid-Fifties, the number of disabled people who had been institutionalised had reached a peak of 150,000.

These institutions were, almost without exception, awful places where people with learning difficulties were treated with profound inhumanity.

Then a number of well-publicised scandals in the Sixties brought pressure to bear on the Government to start closing the institutions down.

In 1971, the White Paper, Better Services For The Mentally Handicapped, kick-started the community care initiative, pushing for at least half of those in hospitals to be living in the community by 1990. A similar White Paper, Better Services For The Mentally Ill, was published in 1975 by the Labour Government.

Community care was the right thing to do. But the way in which it was carried out failed the very people it was supposed to help.

Between 1955 and 1975, about 80,000 people left the asylums. But their need for medication, accommodation and support was not met. Community care was done on the cheap.

As early as 1985, a Social Services Select Committee report warned that hospital closures had outrun provision in the community. Even worse, a small number of killings by people with mental health problems sparked a fearful and angry reaction by the general public.

Jean Collins, a campaigner from the charity Values into Action, observed that the closures were characterised by ‘chaos and confusion’.

No one had prepared people with learning difficulties for life outside institutions. They were pauperised too, she said, adding: ‘Many were abandoned in a hostile, fearful society.’

Most were resettled in houses that nobody else wanted, on estates where nobody wanted to live. Many became socially isolated. And it wasn’t long before they were targeted.

Many, particularly people with learning difficulties, were desperate for friendship and were befriended by people who groomed them, robbed them, attacked them and killed them – so-called ‘mate crimes’, a recognised subset of hate crime.

Prejudice against disabled people had only grown stronger because so many had been shut away for centuries. Disability hate crime should have been a tragedy foretold.

But it wasn’t. Such crimes will carry on until we face our own prejudices about disability – and, as a society, start to change.

source: dailymail

Is this the world's most dangerous race? Triathlon contestants forced to swim through waters infested with killer SHARKS

By Daily Mail Reporter

Athletes taking part in a triathlon have been warned they could be sharing the water with more than just other competitors - man-eating sharks.

Despite Great White sharks flocking to the New England waters of Martha's Vineyard to feed on seals, organisers of the event have promised to do all they can to keep competitors safe when they take part in the swimming segment of the race.

Understandably, some of the 300 athletes who have already signed up for September's race have been left unnerved by the revelation - particularly as sightings of the deadly sharks have been regularly reported in recent weeks.

Deadly predators: The event organisers have promised to do everything they can to keep competitors safe

First-time competitor Tom Kennedy, told the CBS Boston website: 'I’m just going to kind of go and shut my eyes, and hopefully I’ll finish. That’s my goal.'

His wife Melissa added: 'My e-mail was going crazy with everybody sending me the links about sharks and Martha’s Vineyard and all that going on.

'So I’m just trying not to worry about it as the day gets closer.'

Making their annual reappearance earlier than usual, Great White sharks were spotted at least half a dozen times off the shore of Chatham last weekend alone, state officials confirmed.

The sharks usually stay in the area until September, feeding on the local grey seal population. However, there are concerns that the Warrior triathlon - held on September 11 - is being held too soon after the sharks' estimated departure.

Picturesque: Martha's Vineyard is popular with tourists, but great white sharks come to its shores between May and September to feed on seals

However, some athletes have not been put off by the potential risk and say it will add a little excitement to the

Lori Baronian said she was confident the sharks would not mistake her for a seal, adding: 'I think I will be swimming so slowly they will mistake me for a buoy, so I’ll be totally fine.'

Some athletes, taking comfort from the fact that a shark attack has not taken place in Bay State waters for 75 years, say they will have 'fun' with the shark sightings, while others say it will add excitement to the event.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

All aboard! Kate joins the party on the Royal Yacht Britannia on the eve of another big wedding... as Zara and Mike enjoy one last kiss

By Deborah Arthurs, Emily Allen, Rebecca English and Rebecca Evans

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stole the show last night as they boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia for a pre-wedding cocktail party ahead of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall's wedding.

They were among scores of guests invited on board the vessel for drinks ahead of the couple's big day today.

The newlyweds looked a picture of happiness as they mingled with guests and family members - including Prince Harry and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

Zara and England Rugby star Mike did not hold back expressing their clear affection for each other, posing for one last kiss in front of well-wishers following their wedding rehearsal at Edinburgh's Canonbury Kirk yesterday.

Happy: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laugh as they leave the Royal Yacht Britannia following a pre-wedding cocktail party hosted by Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall

Zara Phillips laughs as she enjoys a cocktail party on board the Royal Yacht Britannia with fiancé Mike Tindall

Zara flashes some leg as she negotiates the steps on board the yacht before being guided down by fiancé Mike Tindall who looked smart in a blue suit and cream tie

Zara, who arrived at the rehearsal wearing flip-flops, jeans and a hoodie, swiftly transformed herself in a £500 tie-dye silk dress from the U.S. label Alice and Olivia for the evening celebration - although it did reveal a white mark where he bikini top had been.

Once on board the yacht, she was spotted laughing and joking with friends - many of whom were rugby player friends of her fiancé.

The couple were also joined by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Zara's brother Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn - and of course the bride's mother Princess Anne and her father Captain Mark Phillips.

Guests were photographed in dinner suits and evening suits sipping pink champagne as the sun set over Edinburgh.

Princess Beatrice looked stunning in a purple dress and belt, while Princess Eugenie opted for a red number.

All aboard: Prince William and Kate, with Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice in red and purple with the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and Bea's boyfriend Dave Clark (centre)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge make their way off the yacht with Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Prince Harry and the Countess of Wessex

All smiles: The Royals leave the yacht with the girls gripping the bannister as they made their way down the steps

The Duchess of Cambridge looked striking in a bright green dress which she teamed with black heels.

The yacht, permanently moored in the historic port of Leith, served the Queen for 44 years - although she did not attend the festivities.

During that time Britannia carried the monarch and the Royal Family on 968 official voyages, from the remotest of the South Seas to the deepest divides of Antarctica.

Zara's parents honeymooned on the ship, cruising the West Indies in 1973.

During the pre-wedding rehearsal Zara - the Queen's eldest granddaughter - was joined by Zara's father, Captain Mark Phillips, and his second wife, Sandy Pflueger, and Zara's brother Peter Phillips.

Earlier, the bride had spent the day putting her own final touches in place.

She spent the afternoon with sister-in-law Autumn Phillips at The Balmoral hotel where she is staying in Edinburgh's city centre ahead of the wedding ceremony.

The event was the second night of drinking for many guests who had arrived in the Scottish city on Thursday, partying at the city's Tigerlily Hotel.

When the bar closed, the group headed downstairs to the hotel club, Lulu, where they declined VIP treatment and mingled with other revellers.

Spokesman David Johnston said: ‘They said they’d be perfectly happy just to have a couple of tables and were happy mixing with the rest of the crowd.’

The group drank Veuve Clicquot champagne and caipirinha cocktails as well as Grey Goose vodka with coke, lemonade, soda and Red Bull, and happily posed for pictures with other revellers.

They left at 2.45am. By 11am, 30-year-old Zara was back on the bubbly in the Bollinger Bar of the city’s £500-a-night Balmoral Hotel.

Party time: Zara looked elegant in a stunning £500 tie-dye one-shouldered dress from U.S. label Alice + Olivia as she supped on a glass of pink champagne

Mingling: Zara is hugged by a friend as friends and family enjoy drinks in the sunshine

Princess Anne laughs with motor racing legend Jackie Stewart whilst Prince Harry catches up with his brother Prince William and his new sister-in-law

Affectionate: Zara Phillips rests her arm on her fiancé's shoulder and then around his waist whilst the couple mingle with guests ahead of their big day today

Unlike the other royal bride, Kate Middleton, who spent her last day as a single woman enjoying a formal lunch at Clarence House with her family, Zara was knocking back £95-a-bottle Laurent Perrier Brut Rose champagne with her mates and ordering rounds of sarnies.

Accompanied by, among others, her sister-in-law Autumn Phillips, Sky sports presenter Di Dougherty and television presenter Natalie Pinkham, an old flame of Prince Harry, she spent three hours in the bar and left not long before her wedding rehearsal.

Asked by her friends if she was going to take it easy on the day before her wedding, she laughed and exclaimed ‘no!’ Zara described herself as being ‘nervous but excited and happy’ and revealed that she and Tindall had been texting each other throughout the day.

Looking noticeably thinner courtesy of an intensive pre-wedding health kick, she chatted openly about her final plans for the big day.

Asked about her hair, she said ‘nobody would be bothered’ about it but asked some of her friends to help her get ready on the day.

She revealed how the reception, which will be held courtesy of the Queen at Holyroodhouse Palace, would last until 2am and each table setting had a mini-cake placed next to it for each of her 300 guests to take home as a ‘favour’.

Rehearsing all the important bits: Zara and husband to be Mike Tindall share a kiss in front of the crowds at their wedding rehearsal

All smiles: Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall looked happy as they arrived at Canongate Kirk for their wedding rehearsal ahead of their wedding ceremony

Support: Crowds of well-wishers gathered to cheer the couple as they emerged from their chauffeur-driven Jaguar

When Autumn married Zara's brother Peter in a lavish ceremony three years ago, Zara played the role of bridesmaid, wearing a strapless, green Vera Wang gown for the occasion.

While little is known as yet of the details of the nuptials, it is likely that Zara will have asked Autumn to return the favour.

The couple will exchange their vows in Edinburgh's Canongate Kirk in front of their families and friends in a private ceremony.

The reception will be held a stone's throw from the church, in the palace of Holyroodhouse, the official Scottish home of the Queen, who has offered the use of Holyrood house to her granddaughter as a wedding gift.

Lothian and Borders Police have been working with the palace and the city council to ensure the smooth running of the wedding.

Superintendent Ivor Marshall, the commander responsible for security arrangements, said the event is expected to attract significant public interest, despite being a private affair.

Dressed down: Zara and Mike Tindall leave the church after their wedding rehearsal - Zara opting for jeans a hoodie

He said the church's location, near the Scottish Parliament on the busy tourist hub of the Royal Mile presented unique challenges. While some roads will be closed, businesses will remain open.

He added: 'The police planning unit is well versed in assisting in the organisation of high-profile and large-scale events in Edinburgh, including the recent Royal Week, the Papal visit last year and the festival.

Therefore we will be drawing on that experience to keep policing costs to a minimum and ensure it's an enjoyable day for the couple, their guests and the public.'

Officers have surrounded the kirk since yesterday and barriers line the Royal Mile in anticipation of the crowds.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will join Zara's parents, the Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips, at the wedding.

Standing on ceremony: Police guard the gates of Canongate Kirk as preparations are made for Mike and Zara's wedding

Anne's second marriage to Timothy Laurence was the last Scottish royal wedding, taking place in 1992 at Crathie Kirk near Balmoral.

Also believed to be attending are the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, or the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay as they are known in Scotland; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; Prince Harry; and the Duke of York and his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

Tindall is likely to have invited some of England's best-known rugby players who are colleagues and friends.

The event, in contrast to the recent wedding of William and Kate, will be private, and the doors will be closed to the media and public.

The wedding may be small in comparison to the scale of the last royal wedding, which was watched by an audience of 2billion internationally, but it has nonetheless been welcomed by Scotland's tourism bosses.

Mike Cantlay, who chairs tourism agency VisitScotland, said: 'The wedding represents an absolutely wonderful showcase, not only for Edinburgh but for the whole of Scotland.

'The Royal Family and Scotland have enjoyed a relationship for hundreds of years, and tourism has become a natural partner.

Latest visitor figures from VisitScotland for the Holyrood House, Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia, Glamis Castle and Balmoral Castle suggest a surge of interest in the Royal Family.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Into the depths of the earth: Cave network in the heart of Vietnamese jungle is so large its end is yet to be found


Intrepid journey: A caver stands in front of a huge rock formation as the light shines beneath a skylight in Hang Son Doong

These are the breathtaking images which capture the hidden depths of the world's biggest cave passage, which still has left cavers still searching for its end.

Hidden in the depths of the Vietnamese jungle lies The Hang Son Doong, part of a network of over 150 caves.

Discovered by British cavers in 2009, the cave passage in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was originally thought to be a modest 150 metres long and 200 feet high.

Wonderful waterfalls: A waterfall explodes into Hang Son Doong in the hidden depths of the Vietnamese jungle, which is part of a network of over 150 caves

But these remarkable images - taken during two further expeditions of the caves - show the previously undiscovered depths of the magnificent cave passage, now the largest in the world.

At a mammoth 2.5 miles long, 330ft wide and almost 800ft high, Hang Son Doong also known as Mountain River Cave, is as high as 25 double decker buses.

And as shown in these amazing images taken by photographer Carsten Peter, there is even a jungle concealed deep inside the cave.

Carsten from Munich, Germany, took the images in 2010 when he joined British and German cavers during further expeditions of the site.

Going underground: Expedition members enter the cave, tunnelled out by the Rao Thuong River in Vietnam - the cave was discovered in 2009

The purpose of the expedition was to make a complete exploration of Hang Son Doong and create a photographic record of the cave.

Cartsen, 52 said he spent up to two weeks at a time deep inside the caves, where he slept with just a sleeping bag and spent his time exploring and photographing the secret underground world.

He said: ‘We discovered new parts of the cave, it's a huge area so to find them and access them is very difficult.

‘Photographing caves of this size is a challenge, it needs a lot of preparation.

Gigantic proportions: At a mammoth 2.5 miles long, 330ft wide and almost 800ft high, Hang Son Doong also known as Mountain River Cave, is as high as 25 double decker buses

‘But it's a great feeling to photograph a newly discovered cave, for me I see the cave for the first time when I see the photographs.

‘I love to explore, I have been in some great caves in my lifetime and this is one of the most magnificent.

‘I've been a photographer and explorer for the last 35 years and I've visited so many caves, I've lost count.

‘But this is by far one of the most unique and unusual caves I have ever seen.
‘To see a cave so large it has a forest inside is superb - it was overwhelming.’

source: dailymail

Revealed: Shocking cruelty at massive abattoir... but those responsible WON'T be prosecuted

By Sean Poulter

Appalling cruelty, including cigarettes being stubbed out on the faces of pigs, has been revealed in secret filming inside a slaughterhouse.

The footage of pigs being burned, punched and smacked across the head with sharp paddles was captured by animal welfare campaigners.

They reveal the shocking truth of the casual brutality inside one of the country’s biggest abattoirs.

Scroll down for video

Beating: Abattoir staff are filmed striking pigs with sharp paddles - even when the animals were severely injured

Despite the clear evidence, the Government, through the Food Standards Agency, has refused to prosecute those involved.

The decision has been condemned by Animal Aid, which carried out the secret filming. It says it is evidence that ministers are putting the commercial interests of the meat industry above welfare.

The secret filming took place at an Essex slaughterhouse run by Cheale Meats, where up to 6,000 pigs are slaughtered every week.

In 2001 the outbreak of a disastrous foot and mouth epidemic which swept through the country was first identified among 27 pigs sent to the plant from the north-east of England.

Brutal: The video opens with several incidents of staff stubbing out cigarettes on pigs' faces

Today, the firm’s website proclaims: ‘Be proud of higher welfare, buy British pork.’

The filming, which took place on secretly installed cameras over four days in March and April, suggests that animal welfare was the last thing on workers’ minds.

Staff were seen stubbing their cigarettes out on the faces of pigs on three occasions, while one of the men landed a punch on the face of a pig which was walking by.

Three seriously injured pigs were forced to crawl through the building to meet their death. Staff were seen pulling the animals by the ears, pushing and kicking them.

Before slaughter, pigs should be stunned using electrified tongs. The tongs should span their brains and render them immediately unconscious.

The filming showed that workers often failed to stun the animals correctly, leaving them screaming in pain. Others were pushed and prodded with electric rods.

Torment: Incorrect stunning, as shown here, leaves pigs in terrible pain

All of these are clear breaches of animal welfare laws. However, the food and farming ministry Defra believes it cannot prosecute based on undercover film footage.

Last year Defra had to drop a similar case against an abattoir in Torquay which had been caught out by Animal Aid footage, after its lawyers determined that there was 'not a realistic prospect of conviction' in a case reliant on hidden-camera video.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for investigating breaches of welfare and hygiene laws at slaughterhouses - however, Defra is responsible for prosecutions. In this case, the FSA has not even passed on the footage to Defra for a potential prosecution.

The FSA has written to Animal Aid stating: ‘Defra is not prepared to commence prosecution proceedings where the initial allegation is based on CCTV footage gained without the consent of the relevant Food Business Operator.'

A Defra spokesman added: 'It would be totally irresponsible to prosecute when we know we'd lose,' saying that there were 'very strong legal grounds' not to prosecute hidden-camera cases.

This is rejected by Animal Aid, which points out that the legal principle that allows prosecutions based on secret filming has already been established.

Despite images like this, showing a pig bleeding to death as a worker looks on, the Government will not prosecute the abattoir

For example, prosecutions are being brought against workers at a care home who were secretly filmed by the BBC’s Panorama programme mistreating vulnerable residents.

Head of campaigns for Animal Aid, Kate Fowler, said: ‘Since we first began investigating English slaughterhouses, we have been pressing everyone involved – regulators, industry bodies and the Government – to act decisively to end the cruelty.

‘At first, they appeared contrite and promised action but now their words ring hollow.

‘If Defra won’t prosecute these flagrant breaches of the law; if the vets can’t or won’t act to stop the cruelties; and if the slaughterhouse owners look the other way, who is there to stop animals from being abused at the most vulnerable time of their lives?

‘It seems that all involved are content to keep quiet and to allow these cruelties to continue. So much for the UK having the best welfare standards in the world.’

Violent: Staff were filmed using force to move the pigs around the slaughterhouse

A spokesman said the footage at the slaughterhouse was obtained through trespass, while the Panorama filming was not.

He said: ‘Animal cruelty is unacceptable, and we vigorously pursue action against accusations of cruelty wherever we can.

‘It is wholly disingenuous to draw comparisons between this case and that of filming in a care home, because this video evidence was obtained unlawfully through trespass.

‘As the RSPCA has found in previous cases, this would get it thrown out of court and do absolutely nothing to help reduce the suffering of animals.’

The FSA said it has taken action to end the cruelty at the plant.

It revoked the licence of one slaughterman identified in the footage, while another slaughterman’s provisional licence had already expired and has not been renewed.

The organisation has also increased monitoring at the plant to avoid any repeat.

Footage shot at Elmkirk Ltd (Cheale Meats) slaughterhouse (5 min version) from Animal Aid on Vimeo.


The incredible puppy who fakes death for his canine pal

By Daily Mail Reporter

Scroll down for video

Playfighting: the little female dog Rosie takes a nip to the neck from her male companion

It turns out pretening to be dead isn't just an fun trick for human children - but little pooches as well.

A cute pup Rosie scares her doggy friend when, after a little nip to the neck, she plays dead.

Still, it has already attracted hundreds of Youtube hits after only being uploaded in the past 24 hours.

Oh dear me: reacting the pup feigns severe injury, falling to the ground

Such play - so reminiscent of that of young children - makes one think of about just how much DNA we share with our canine friends.

Experts say young dogs play to build up their own survival skills and is an important part of their development.

Dogs in the wild have to hunt and to protect themselves and these skills can be seen as early as puppyhood through play.

Although domesticated dogs will never have to hunt for their own food, such play is rooted in their inborn animal instincts.

The person who uploaded the video commented that apparently this kind of attention seeking isn't unusual for the dog.

I'm dead: Here she lies for a few seconds, arousing worry from her companion. The style of play is very reminiscent of the way young children play

Tricked ya: After she makes her point heard, up she trots, playing again


Zara? He'd be happy if she worked as a Tesco checkout girl, says Mike Tindall's mum ahead of wedding

-Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall set to wed this Saturday in Edinburgh

By Rebecca English and Rebecca Evans

The mother of England rugby star Mike Tindall has said her son is so in love that he wouldn't mind if his royal fiancée 'worked at a Tesco checkout'.

Proud Linda Tindall described Princess Anne's daughter Zara Phillips, who is 13th in line to the throne, as 'a lovely girl' and 'perfect' for her boy.

With just two days to go before the couple's long-awaited wedding, the down-to-earth Yorkshirewoman said of the Queen's grand-daughter: 'He has a lovely girl, Zara is perfect for Mike.

Happily in love: Zara Phillips and her fiance Mike Tindall at their Gloucestershire home, after they announced their engagement

'When we met Zara we noticed she is just so nice and ordinary.

'Many-a-time Mike has said if she worked at Tesco at the checkout it would not matter, it's about her and the sort of person she is.'

Social worker Linda and her husband, Phil, live in a modest but immaculate detached house in the village of Crigglestone near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Mike's father was forced to quit his job as a bank official four years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He hated retirement, however, and now works as the finance officer at Wakefield's New Hall prison.

Unlike the family of Kate Middleton, who refused to publicly speak about their daughter's wedding to Prince William in April, outside of a brief statement, Mrs Tindall was happy to chat yesterday ahead of her son's wedding on Saturday in Edinburgh.

The England captain has been dating world champion equestrian Zara, 30, for seven years and the couple currently share an £800,000 townhouse together in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

'We're looking forward to it, of course. We're very pleased they've finally decided to get married,' Mrs Tindall, 63, said.

'We have not met the Queen before but we've obviously met her parents. [Princess] Anne and Mark [Phillips, her ex-husband] were most welcoming and kind.

'We have met Princes William and Harry because they are fans of rugby. They sometimes come to parties that Mike's had, like his 30th birthday. They're very down to earth. But we haven't met any of the other Royal Family.

'We have always followed Mike's career and when he started to see Zara we started supporting her career too.

'In the closed season if he was going to support her in a three-day event, we would often go down to support her as well.

'We were at Aachen when she won the World Championships and have seen her lose and win the World Title.'

Mrs Tindall said that although the pair come from very different backgrounds, they share a stable upbringing which will bode well for their future.

The mother-of-two said: 'I think the stability and security has given Mike very strong family values, something I think we share with Zara's family.

'Mike's has now grown up into a well-balanced, thoughtful and caring young man. He has a lovely girl, Zara is perfect for Mike.'

High security: Police stand at the gates of Canongate Kirk as preparations are made for Mike and Zara's wedding. The Queen's granddaughter will marry the England rugby star this Saturday

Lots to do: A police officer stands outside Canongate Kirk, while a workman carries in the base for a floral feature. Zara has chosen a white and cream colour scheme for the wedding

As mother of the groom, Mrs Tindall said she had not been terribly involved in the wedding arrangements, although she and her husband have contributed to the cost of the big day, and were looking forward to it tremendously.

'On his side it's mostly rugby players. And on her side, apart from the family, it's mostly showjumpers and equestrian eventers,' she revealed.

'We've got to know a lot of them by now - he's been playing rugby for a long time, and they've been seeing each other for eight years, so we've had lots of time to get to know them all.

'Apart from that I can't tell you anything about the arrangements, because we haven't really been involved. I really don't know an awful lot about it.

'We haven't seen as much of them recently as we normally would - Phil's slipped a disc in his back doing the gardening so we haven't been down to see them.

'And they haven't been up because Mike's training with England and Zara has been trying to get her horse through trials.

'So we haven't seen them for quite a while - but we'll see them on Saturday, God willing.'

Hard work: Workers bring more plants and display bases into the chapel. The 17th century church will be transformed into a woodland fairytale setting fit for a Royal Wedding

For both families, Saturday's ceremony will represent their second big wedding of the year.

Mike's brother Ian married his fiancée in May, only weeks after Zara's cousin Prince William was wed at Westminster Abbey.

Linda said: 'Ian only got married 10 weeks ago, so we'll have had two quite different experiences this summer.

'With Ian's we were a bit more involved with the organising than we have been this time.

'We're looking forward to the wedding, I think it's going to be really special.
'I don't want it too hot. But it would be nice if it wasn't a wash-out.'

Luxury: Workers decorate the inside of Canongate Kirk with bases for floral displays. The chapel has been decked out with white roses and beech tree branches to create a scented display of foliage and flora

As she spoke it was pouring in Scotland but fortunately the weather forecast is for sunny spells on Saturday.

And staff were busy preparing for the big day despite the inclement conditions, transforming the 17th century church where Zara and Mike will marry into a woodland fairytale fit for a royal wedding yesterday.

Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh has been decked out with more than 400 white roses and hundreds of beech tree branches to create a scented display of foliage and flora.

Under heavy police guard, florists transported dozens of white stocks, white carnations and white stargazer lilies into the chapel, along with small box trees and ivy.

The flowers and branches will be displayed in four large tiered wire stands and four plastic grey-coloured Grecian urns.

The use of trees is similar to the 'living avenue' of English maple and hornbeam trees created inside Westminster Abbey for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Zara has also opted for a similar colour scheme to the Abbey, which was bedecked with swathes of cream and white flowers.

Vigilant: A police officer patrols the aisle of the chapel as workmen make sure that everything is in place for the happy day this Saturday. Police were also checking around Holyroodhouse, the Queen's Scottish residence

Meanwhile, police continued to carry out vigilant security checks around the church and Holyroodhouse Palace, the Queen's official residence in Scotland and the venue for her grand-daughter's reception.

Officers are conducting regular security sweeps of drain and manhole covers around the Royal Mile, along with the fleet of seven Jaguars – six black and one white - which will be used to transport the Royal party the short distance from the palace to the church.

The Mail can also reveal that Mike will spend just a matter of hours with his new bride before returning to Surrey to train with the England ruby team on Sunday night.

Sources close to the team have revealed that he is due back at the team hotel, Pennyhill Park near Bagshot, ready to start training first thing on Monday morning.

The team have a World Cup warm-up match against Wales at Twickenham on August 6.

Said a source: 'Mike has suffered from injuries this year and is fighting tooth and nail for his place in the team. He can't afford to miss a minute of his training if he is to prove himself fit and will be back with us on Sunday night.

'It sounds a little harsh making him leave his new wife so soon, but fortunately Zara is a professional sportswoman and understands the score.'


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