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Man charged over fatal stabbing near Harrods, London

Police outside Harrods

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Marius Zarnescu

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Mohammed Abdullah Al Araimi was stabbed in Knightsbridge near Harrods

A man has been charged with murder after a fatal stabbing near the luxury department store Harrods.

Mohammed Abdullah Al Araimi, 20, died at the scene near the Knightsbridge store on 5 December 2019.

Badir Rahim Alnazi, of no fixed address, was charged with murder, attempted robbery and possession of a bladed article.

The 23-year-old is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court later on Thursday.

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Rail fares rise by 2.7%, hitting millions of commuters

King's Cross station in London in 2014

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Millions of commuters will have to pay an average of 2.7% more for train tickets from today.

The rise, announced by industry body the Rail Delivery Group in November, is lower than the 3.1% increase at the start of last year.

Train companies say it is the third year in a row that average fares have been held below RPI – the inflation measure on which rises are based.

But many commuters face an increase of more than £100 for annual passes.

In Wales, fares have bucked the trend of rising prices in England and Scotland, with an average fall of 1% this year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was committed to “putting passengers first”, by funding trials for flexible fares, for example.

He said he planned to tackle the “fragmented” system and had begun the process to end the franchise for Northern Rail, whose performance was “completely unacceptable”.

“You can judge me on this at the end of the year,” he told BBC Breakfast. “These changes are going to take time but I think people will see things moving in the right direction.”

But Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said the rise showed passengers were “once again paying more for less under the Tories”.

Independent watchdog Transport Focus says fewer than half of train journeys (47%) are rated as satisfactory value for money by passengers.

The watchdog’s director, David Sidebottom, said: “After a year of pretty poor performance in some areas, passengers just want a consistent day-to-day service they can rely on and a better chance of getting a seat.”

He encouraged passengers to claim compensation for eligible delays in order to “offset” the cost of fare rises.

Passengers at a mainline railway station

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Season ticket rises

Some annual passes go up by more than £100

  • £132Reading to London. Total £4,736

  • £118Gloucester to Birmingham. Total £4,356

  • £116Glasgow to Edinburgh. Total £4,200

However, Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for Rail Delivery Group, said rail companies were investing in improving journeys while holding fare increases below inflation.

He said 2020 will see 1,000 extra weekly services and 1,000 more carriages added to Britain’s rail fleet.

“There is a record level of investment going into the railway at the moment,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“For people who do suffer from poor punctuality in areas of the country, that could be for a variety of different reasons, we apologise. We are looking at trying to make punctuality much better across the board,” he said.

Official statistics show that just over one in three trains failed to arrive on time in July, August and September 2019, although that figure was an improvement on the previous year.

Passenger complaints

About 40% of annual rail price rises are regulated by governments in England, Scotland and Wales. They are pegged to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation measure for the previous July. Other fare rises are decided by train companies.

RPI inflation was 2.8% last year.

But RPI inflation is generally higher than the most widely watched measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Passenger groups have repeatedly called for the system to be changed since RPI inflation was abandoned by the UK Statistics Authority as a national statistic in 2013.

Emily Yates, a freelance writer from Brighton who co-founded the Association of British Commuters, said the annual rises feel like “Groundhog Day” and a “complete charade”.

“Every year, we ask for a fares freeze, the government says no, and the rail industry defends the decision,” she said.

Protests will be held against the fare increase on Thursday, including a demonstration outside London King’s Cross station.

The rallies come as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) releases research suggesting fares have risen by twice as much as wages in the last 10 years.

The TUC said someone earning an average salary in the UK would have to spend 16% of their wages for a season ticket from Chelmsford to London (£511 a month), but similar commutes would cost 2% of the average salary in France, and 4% in Germany and Belgium.

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Second man charged over fatal stabbings in Barnet and Elstree

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@999London

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The two victims were found on 19 and 20 December

A second man has been charged in connection with the fatal stabbing of two men within hours of each other.

The first victim was found in the boot of a car near Scratchwood Park, Barnet, on 19 December, while a second man was discovered by officers in Hogg Lane, Elstree on 20 December.

On Christmas Day, Besnik Berisha, 42, of Martock Gardens, Friern Barnet, was charged with two counts of murder.

Kaziku Tuwisana, 31, of no fixed address, faces the same charges.

Mr Berisha is due before Willesden Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

The Met Police has asked drivers who “may have caught something that could prove massively important” on dash-cam footage to contact them.

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@999London

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The victims were found within five miles of each other

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Laura Robson: Former British number one undergoes second hip operation

Laura Robson has not played since she retired during a match in April

Former British number one Laura Robson has undergone hip surgery for a second time “after months of struggling”.

The 25-year-old, who first had hip surgery in June 2018, returned to action in February but has not played since retiring during a match in April.

“A decision was made this week to have another hip surgery & try fix the pain for good,” Robson posted on Instagram.

“Very much hope to be back on court soon but in the meantime I can’t wait to walk my dog without limping.”

Her injury issues echo those of former world number one Andy Murray, who in October won his first singles title since having career-saving hip surgery in January.

Robson reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2013 and was ranked world number 27 in the same year, but her career has subsequently been plagued by injury.

She had surgery on her wrist in 2014, which kept her out for 17 months, and has suffered with a hip problem in recent years.

Robson has not revealed whether she has undergone the same procedure again, or how long she is expected to be out of action.



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General Election 2019: Polls open across London

Ballot box

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PA

Voting is under way to decide who will represent London’s 73 parliamentary seats.

Londoners will decide the fate of hundreds of parliamentary candidates including the prime minister and leader of the Labour Party.

Registered voters will be able to cast their ballots from 07:00 to 22:00 GMT.

Labour represented 46 seats in the city going into the 2019 General Election. The Conservative had 20 London MPs while Liberal Democrats had four.

The BBC, like other broadcasters, is not allowed to report details of campaigning while the polls are open. More details around electoral law and our BBC code of practice is explained here.

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Trafalgar Square Christmas tree: ‘Sparse’ spruce ridiculed

The Christmas Tree

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The tree is being decorated and lit at 18:00 GMT on Thursday

“Britain’s most famous Christmas tree” has been branded a turkey over its “sparse” foliage and “anaemic” appearance.

Since 1947, a Norwegian spruce has been installed every year in the centre of Trafalgar Square.

But some have been unimpressed by the 2019 offering, commenting on the festive favourite’s “droopy” look.

Westminster Council said the 69ft (21m) tree was “a generous gift from the people of Oslo to London”.

A spokesman said its height meant it wouldn’t look like smaller ones in people’s homes.

The British Ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood said: “This is what 90-year-old, 25m trees in the wild look like.

“It is important to consider the symbolism of the tree rather than simply how many branches it has.”

‘Thought that counts’

But those arguments haven’t stopped critics from needling the tree on Twitter.

Commenters dubbed it the “most anaemic tree possible”, saying it looked “very poorly and drab”.

One said it looked “sad” while another consoled with: “It’s the thought that counts”.

But some leapt to the tree’s defence, and said it was a gift for which the nation should be grateful.

One said: “It’s a present. You don’t deride a present. You just say thank you and enjoy it in the spirit it was given. Thank you Norway.”

Another pointed out that the decorations had yet to be added, and said the council could “bush it out” with tinsel, lights and Christmas cheer.

When some users said critics of the tree were “trolls”, the tree’s official Twitter account replied: “I thought I’d left them in Norway.”

After one woman called it “sparse”, the tree’s account said she might have meant “spruce”.

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Getty Images

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The tree (pictured in 2017) has been an annual gift from Norway since 1947

The tree is being decorated with the light switch on at 18:00 on Thursday.

It was planted in about 1929 in a forest near a small lake called Trollvann, which is Norwegian for “the water of the trolls”.

The spruce weighs about two tonnes and has been encouraged to grow by foresters talking to it and hugging it, Westminster Council said.

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Haakon Mosvold Larsen / Scanpix via Reuters

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The Mayor of Oslo Marianne Borgen and Lord Mayor of Westminster Ruth Bush sawed the Trafalgar Square tree in Norway

It was felled on 19 November at a special ceremony attended by the mayors of Oslo and Westminster before being shipped from Brevik to Immingham.

The first Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree was 48ft (14.6m) tall and was a thank you from King Haakon VII who was forced to flee Norway and seek sanctuary in Britain with his government as the Nazis invaded his homeland.



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Premiership: Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje & Billy Vunipola back for Saracens at Bath

Gallagher Premiership
Venue: Recreation Ground Date: Friday, 29 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMT Coverage: Updates on BBC local radio and live scores on the BBC Sport website

England trio Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola will play for the first time since the World Cup final on Friday after being named in Saracens’ squad to face Bath in the Premiership.

All three are set to start for Sarries, who are bottom after their 35-point deduction for breaching the salary cap.

England team-mate Jamie George is also named in the Saracens XV for the first time since the World Cup in Japan.

Bath name Tom Homer at full-back in the absence of the injured Anthony Watson.

More to follow.

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South Western Railway December rail strikes to go ahead

South Western Railway

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PA

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The RMT has announced drivers and guards will take 27 days of industrial action

A 27-day rail strike during December and New Year will go ahead after two days of talks ended without agreement.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said its members at South Western Railway (SWR) will walk out in a long-running dispute over guards on trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said it was “increasingly clear” SWR was “not interested in reaching a settlement”.

SWR said it had promised to keep guards on trains and would do everything possible to keep customers moving.

It previously said the union was “purely focussed on keeping control of train doors in a misguided attempt to hold power over the industry”.

Mr Cash said: “Throughout these ‎talks SWR have not shown any intention of moving the issues at the heart of the dispute forwards despite verbal assurances in earlier discussions.”

SWR managing director Andy Mellors said: “We promise that there will always be a guard on our trains. We also promise our guards will maintain a safety critical role on our trains.

“We believe that these promises deliver what the RMT has been asking for, so these strikes are unnecessary.”

Strike days are as follows:

  • From 00:01 GMT on Monday 2 December until 23:59 on Wednesday 11 December
  • From 00:01 on Friday 13 December until 23:59 on Tuesday 24 December
  • From 00:01 on Friday 27 December 2019 until 23:59 on the 1 January

SWR is due to release a revised timetable next week.

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Seventeen arrested in human trafficking raids in London

Police raid

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Met Police

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Scotland Yard raided 16 addresses across east London on Thursday morning

Seventeen people have been arrested in early morning raids across east London in an international human trafficking investigation.

Officers went to 16 addresses after working with Romanian police, who simultaneously raided four addresses in Romania and arrested one man.

In London, police took 29 potential victims – women aged between 20 and 40 – to a “place of safety”.

The suspects – 14 men and three women – remain in custody in central London.

The 17 arrested people, who are aged between 17 and 50, are being held on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, Class A drug offences and firearm offences.

‘One fell swoop’

Det Ch Insp Richard McDonagh, from the Metropolitan Police, said: “The Met recognises the seriousness of modern slavery and the devastation it brings to people’s lives.

“Today’s synchronised operational activity [had] the aim of, in one fell swoop, dismantling an organised crime network and providing support to the victims.”

The London raids were carried out in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brentwood and Tower Hamlets.

A spokesman for Romanian police in the UK said: “Romanian police officers working shoulder to shoulder with our British partners is a great achievement, a proof of our mutual permanent support and a great professional reward.

“The Romanian police is committed to continue its efforts in combating all forms of criminality together with the Metropolitan Police.”

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Mbwana Samatta: Newcastle and West Ham target Genk striker

Mbwana Samatta joined Genk from Congolese side TP Mazembe in 2016

Newcastle and West Ham are both interested in signing Genk striker Mbwana Samatta.

The 26-year-old, who scored against Liverpool in his side’s 2-1 Champions League defeat on Tuesday, has a release clause in his contract reported to be about £10m.

Samatta was the top scorer in the Belgian league last season with 25 goals as Genk were crowned champions.

The Tanzanian has six goals from 13 league games this campaign.

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