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Monday, 28 March 2011

60-year-old conman returned to the spot where he faked his own death in a canoe to reflect on a £680,000 sting that ­secured his place in criminal ­notoriety alongside wife Anne.

60-year-old conman returned to the spot where he faked his own death in a canoe to reflect on a £680,000 sting that ­secured his place in criminal ­notoriety alongside wife Anne.

And he spoke of the moment nine years ago when he paddled out to his “death” from the shoreline overlooked by the huge house his family lived in.

Darwin told how he gave no thought to the ramifications of his selfish act – the grief of his two sons Mark, 35, and 32-year-old Anthony, a £100,000 search and, finally, a six-year jail sentence.

Speaking for the first time since being freed from prison after serving half his time, he claimed crippling debt had left him so desperate, the thought of suicide had crossed his mind.

Darwin said: “As I was paddling out, I thought shall I do it for blooming real.”

But he stuck to his plan and so began a shocking tale of deception and greed that gripped the nation.

Saddled with a £240,000 mortgage and debt collectors poised to swoop over a year-old credit card bill, Darwin told how his mounting problems clouded his ­judgment over the hurt he would cause his sons.

He added: “My boys had grown and moved away from home, they had lives of their own.

“I was trying to sort out a future for me and Anne. I thought it would be hard for a month or two for them, then I genuinely believed they would move on.

“I honestly thought my sons would get over it in a month or two.

“I always felt I’d tell them at some stage. But I had not considered when. Then, when it came to it, it was ­impossible. It stayed that way for years.”

STRESSED

To his neighbours in Seaton Carew, Co Durham, Darwin seemed to have it all. His 27ft lounge had a commanding view of the bay, he owned a string of 14 rented properties in the area, worked full-time as a prison officer and had a Range Rover on the drive.

But he was staring at a county court hearing over his credit card debt and his “rosy” lifestyle was about to crumble around his ears.

Darwin added: “I was asset rich, cash poor. I didn’t have that money in my pocket, it was a huge problem.

“Anne was just so stressed out. I had options, I could have smuggled drugs, telephones into prison, I could have burgled houses.

“But I realised looking at our policies that I was worth more dead than alive, and that stuck in my head.

“The way I looked at it that was the logical option.”

Desperate Anne suggested she would walk into the sea and take her own life.

Darwin said: “She said it would end all my problems. But I told her people know you can’t swim and will know it’s suicide so the insurance won’t pay out.”

So, the canoe plot was hatched. He would be “drowned” at sea, Anne would get the £680,000 from pensions and insurance companies and they could start a new life. Darwin disappeared on Sunday, March 21, 2002.

It had been stormy the night before and the North Sea swell was large enough to cause an accident in a tiny craft.

After paddling into the sea, he returned to shore where Anne was waiting to drive him to Durham railway station.

Speaking about the cost of the search mission, Darwin said: “I honestly didn’t think about that.

“I just thought the canoe I’d pushed back out to sea would be washed up and the assumption would be I was dead.” With £100 in his pocket, he headed for Cumbria and stayed in a B&B. For the next few weeks he lived in a tent on a remote beach along the Solway Firth, growing a beard, beach combing and buying essentials from a supermarket as temperatures plummeted.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Tory researcher has been arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling after police found the party drug GBL in parcels sent to the head office of one of Yorkshire’s largest councils.

A Tory researcher has been arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling after police found the party drug GBL in parcels sent to the head office of one of Yorkshire’s largest councils.

Martin Thomas, 38, was detained by detectives investigating suspicious packages delivered to North Yorkshire Council’s County Hall headquarters in Northallerton.

He is employed by the council as a research and communications officer for the Conservative group, which controls the authority with a 22-seat majority.

The council last night confirmed it had suspended Mr Thomas, who worked from an office in County Hall.

Officers from the UK Border Agency arrested the researcher at his home in Northallerton after receiving a tip-off that drugs were being smuggled into Yorkshire from abroad.

The Yorkshire Post understands they are investigating a number of parcels which were delivered to his home, as well as those sent to County Hall.

Said to have euphoric and sedative effects, GBL, or gamma-butyrolactone, became an increasingly popular drug on the party scene in the late 2000s.

But supplying the drug, which is usually sold as an odourless liquid in small bottles or capsules, was made illegal in 2009 after the Government came under growing pressure to ban so-called “legal highs”. A common solvent used in paint strippers and stain removers, it is controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act as a Class C substance like tranquillisers, ketamine and some painkillers

Chris Halliwell: profile of murder suspect in Sian O'Callaghan investigation

Declared bankrupt last January, the 47-year-old had only been working for Five Star private hire in Swindon for a couple of weeks before he was arrested.
Not new to the taxi scene, he was known by the other local drivers for the fact that he always used to wear a suit to work.
Previously employed by United Radio Cars, he had also tried his hand at construction and window cleaning.
He married wife Lisa in July 1991 and the couple went on to have three children – two daughter and a son.
They met when he was 23 and she was just 16 and lived in the Broad Green area of Swindon with their children.

Yesterday, neighbours in Broad Green recalled a strained marriage.
"They were living together but they weren’t getting on well," said one former neighbour.
“There were problems between husband and wife, then they moved away from here and then after they moved away from here they got divorced.”
Originally a window cleaner, Mr Halliwell lived in a rented flat on the County Road in Swindon before moving into a two-up two down terrace in nearby Broad Street with his girlfriend Lisa Byrne, a shop assistant, in the late 1980s.
Her father, Tony, a builder, and Sylvia, a former bus conductor, lived opposite and the family was staunchly Catholic.
By the time they married at Holy Rood Roman Catholic Church in 1991, Mr Halliwell was working with his father-in-law as a builder.
Neighbours still remember his large transit van parked outside their house.
Dennis Sutton, who married the young couple in 1999, said he knew Lisa's family.
"I do remember the event but didn't really stay in touch with them," he said. "I knew Lisa's family better as they were Catholic.
"I am shocked about all this. You never imagine such things happen so close to home."
The couple later moved a few miles away to Ashbury Avenue, but about five years ago Mr Halliwell moved in with Heather Widdowson, who lived a few doors down.
“He moved away with his missus but then moved in with another woman up the street, she was a bit older than him,” recalled the former owner of the corner shop at Broad Street.
He proudly introduced her to his former neighbours as his "new missus".
Speaking about Mr Halliwell’s arrest, the shop owner said: “He is the last person I would have thought would have done anything like this.
“He was all right, a family man, I used to have a laugh with him, when he moved away he used to pop in.”
Yesterday, the house he shares with Mrs Widdowson, a mother of three daughters, remained cordoned off by the police as forensic teams continued to trawl through the property.
His sister Sarah, from whom he is estranged, said she hadn't spoken to him for nearly 20 years and both their parents are dead.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

South Side shootout involving police this week was started by suspects who were trying to fire on rival gang

South Side shootout involving police this week was started by suspects who were trying to fire on rival gang members when they were actually shooting at officers in an unmarked police car, prosecutors said Saturday.

The alleged gunman, Julian Davis, 22, of the 2200 block of West 51st Street, is charged with two counts of attempted murder and a count of aggravated discharge of a weapon. Cook County Judge Jackie Marie Portman ordered him held in lieu of $400,000 bond Saturday.

The man accused of driving the car Davis was in, Anthony Rollins, 25, of the 2200 block of West 50th Place, is charged with aggravated flight from police and a host of traffic offenses. He was ordered held in lieu of $300,000 bond.

The men were caught following a short foot chase when the car they were in crashed after one of them fired at the unmarked car near 47th Street on Western Avenue about 4 a.m. Thursday and police returned fire.

No one was injured in the shootout, although the alleged shooter was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after the crash.

A woman who was in the car with the two men was released without being charged, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Anne Dwyer.

The officers were headed north on Western Avenue just after 4 a.m. Thursday when a tan Mercury pulled up next to them near 47th Street, said Police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli. The 22-year-old man then began firing shots at them, and the officers returned fire, Mirabelli said.

Both cars were hit in the exchange, prosecutors said.

The officers began chasing the Mercury north, and during the pursuit the shooter threw the gun he had been using out of the car, Mirabelli said.

handgun, a large amount of marijuana and a bulk of cash were seized during a search of a Fillmore home.

handgun, a large amount of marijuana and a bulk of cash were seized during a search of a Fillmore home.

The search was conducted on Friday by Fillmore police and Ventura County sheriffs as part of an ongoing gang-related weapons investigation. Authorities searched a home on the 700 block of Akers Street.

Two suspects were arrested during the search. Steven Chaveste, 30, of Fillmore was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, and Matthew Chaveste, 36, also of Fillmore was charged with possession of narcotics with the intent to sell.

Moshe Katsav, Israel's former president, who was on Tuesday sentenced to seven years in jail for rape

Moshe Katsav, Israel's former president, who was on Tuesday sentenced to seven years in jail for rape, rose from impoverished beginnings to the top job in the country only to fall from grace and become a political leper.
Katsav was formally indicted in March 2009, more than two years after the case went public, for offences committed against his employees when he served as tourism minister and president, including rape and sexual assault.
The Iranian-born bureaucrat, who rose from impoverished origins as a child immigrant to Israel's top job, resigned in June 2007 and became ostricised within the political establishment, his humiliated and loyal wife Gila in tow.
Despite strenuously professing innocence to a litany of sex and rape charges, and refusing enormous public pressure to resign for months, Katsav stepped down as part of a plea bargain that incensed women's rights groups.
However, he later decided that instead of facing trial for lesser charges he would "fight until the truth comes out" and called the deal off.
He was convicted in December of rape, sexual harassment, indecent acts and obstruction of justice following an 18-month trial which included harrowing details which portrayed him as a sexual predator who routinely harassed his female staff.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Two Los Angeles police officers Friday pleaded guilty to charges of insurance fraud

Two Los Angeles police officers Friday pleaded guilty to charges of insurance fraud stemming from a case in which one of them had his car torched and the other helped cover up the crime.

As part of a deal he struck with prosecutors, Anthony Robert Villanueva, 24, admitted that last April he arranged to have his 2001 Lexus sedan taken to the desert and set on fire. Villanueva then reported the car stolen and submitted a claim with his insurance company to be reimbursed, prosecutors said.

Under the settlement terms, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Horwitz dismissed two other counts against the officer -– one for arson and another for filing a false report of a criminal offense. Horowitz spared Villanueva a prison sentence, giving him three years probation and 400 hours of community service.

The second officer, Ricardo Rebolledo, 27, vouched for Villanueva and his alibi on the day of the fabricated theft in a letter to the insurance company, the district attorney’s office said in a statement. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of insurance fraud and was sentenced to three years of formal probation and 200 hours of community service.

Both officers, who were rookies at the time of the attempted fraud, could have been sentenced to more than five years in state prison had they been convicted of the original charges. Villanueva's guilty plea likely brings an end to his short career as a Los Angeles Police Department officer.

Sgt. Mitzi Grasso, an LAPD spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail that when an officer pleads guilty or is convicted of a felony, the department will "terminate their employment."

Rebolledo, who pleaded to a lesser misdemeanor charge, could get a wide range of punishment from an admonishment to firing, depending "upon the circumstances surrounding the officer's misconduct," Grasso said.

The officers did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Police forces across the UK have paid out a total of £770,000 in compensation to people bitten by police dogs

Police forces across the UK have paid out a total of £770,000 in compensation to people bitten by police dogs in the past three years, the BBC has found.

One bite during a chase led to a payout of almost £49,000, Radio 4's You and Yours discovered.

That is more than the cost of employing two junior constables for a year and comes as police budgets face a 20% cut.

Police chiefs said dogs were an essential resource and training of them was being constantly improved.

According to information obtained through Freedom of Information requests, Greater Manchester Police paid the most compensation of any force, a total of more than £180,000.

The Metropolitan Police had the second highest total, paying out £95,000.

Forty-three forces provided a breakdown of their figures by the type of person bitten. Between them, 2,725 suspects were bitten, along with 196 police staff and 155 other members of the public.

Eight police forces reported more than 100 dog bites over the last three years.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Spider venom can cause four-hour erections 'the new Viagra'

Silk and Venom: Searching for a Dangerous SpiderSpider venom can cause four-hour erections 'the new Viagra' | Mail Online: "In her study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Nunes’ experiment managed to give erection-challenged rats with high blood pressure a bit of a boost.

A peptide called PnTx2-6 was given to the flaccid rats, who achieved side-effect free erections.

Dr. Nunes said: ‘We found the toxin responsible [for the erections] and performed experiments using hypertensive rats which have severe erectile dysfunction. The toxin was able to normalise the erectile dysfunction in these animals.’

The spider’s toxin worked in a different way to drugs such as Viagra though and Nunes told MSNBC: ‘This is good because we know that some patients don’t respond to the conventional therapy.

‘This could be an optional treatment for them.’

She is also hopeful that the toxin could help female sexual dysfunction, but has not yet studied this.

The Brazilian wandering spider, which has a leg span of over four inches, has already been found in some American and Canadian supermarkets but is normally found in tropical banana plantations.

According to the curator of arachnids at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum, Rod Crawford, only 10 humans out of 7,000 have died from its bite."

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GANG of men from Bolton have admitted being involved in the running of a multimillion pound booze smuggling operation.

GANG of men from Bolton have admitted being involved in the running of a multimillion pound booze smuggling operation.

Businessman Saleem Khan, aged 45, of Kilworth Drive, Lostock, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court on Friday to import duty evasion fraud. He is the eighth member of the gang to plead guilty to playing a part in the huge fraud, after a longrunning investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials.

It is believed Khan was a key player in the gang, which had a network of storage facilities across Bolton, as well as a distribution network with drivers and packers. The smuggling ring supplied large quantities of alcohol, mainly cans of beer and lager, to shops in Bolton.

Some of the alcohol was smuggled into the country and some was bought duty-free in the UK for sale abroad, then diverted back to the UK.

It is thought the gang’s duty evasion scam was worth up to £2 million.

This does not include the value of the drinks and the profits, which would have run into many more millions.

Legitimate businesses pay duty on alcoholic drinks sold in the UK depending on their alcohol content.

The men, who have already pleaded guilty to their involvement at earlier hearings, are: Mark Norris, aged 44, of Radbourne Grove, Lostock; Zulfkhar Hussain, aged 54, and Sharif Hussain, aged 23, both of Cross Street, Bolton; William Booth, aged 53, of Dunoon Drive, Astley Bridge; Richard Booth, aged 20, of Hill Cot Road, Astley Bridge; Kevan Ashcroft, aged 61, of Halliwell Road, Halliwell; and Walter Patton, aged 60, of Lorne Street, Farnworth.

Khan was arrested in April 2008, and the others in 2007 and 2008 after HMRC officials raided warehouses across Bolton.

They seized thousands of cans of lager, which were stacked to the rafters — in one case officials found 150 pallets of beer.

The warehouses raided were at Pilot Industrial Estate, Lostock Industrial Estate and Bolton and Sunnyside Business Centre.

Some of the men were arrested handling the goods, some after a surveillance operation and some were forensically linked to the smuggling ring by documents or fingerprints.

The men will return to court on Friday when a date will be set for their sentencing.:Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

Bulgaria's Mafia War: Resolve versus Results: Bulgaria's Mafia War: Resolve versus Results - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Bulgaria's Mafia War: Resolve versus Results: Bulgaria's Mafia War: Resolve versus Results - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency: "'The Bulgarian government has demonstrated political will to combat major organized crime rings and has begun prosecuting numerous cases where the defendants are high-level organized crime figures,' the report reads.

Here is culprit – the four letter word 'will' – for the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and for Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, this is certain and unprecedented praise; the opposition sees it as criticism."

Thursday, 3 March 2011

125,000 people have purchased illegal ‘top-ups’ for their meters from gangs offering electricity at half the price.

An estimated 125,000 people have purchased illegal ‘top-ups’ for their meters from gangs offering electricity at half the price.
Prepay electricity meters work like pay-as-you-go phones. You purchase energy at newsagents and garages by topping-up a plastic 'key'.
The key is then plugged into your meter and the amount is added to your account.
But last year hackers cracked the technology used to create engineer’s keys that come with £50 credit.
Cloned keys have been sold-on to gangs who are using them to top-up meters for £25 cash.:Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

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