/Friday briefing: Grace Millane killer to serve at least 17 years

Friday briefing: Grace Millane killer to serve at least 17 years

Top story: ‘Never just a daughter – my very best friend’

Hello, Warren Murray bringing you the news that matters most this morning.

The New Zealand man found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane in November 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison, with no parole for at least 17 years. Millane, 22, from Essex, was on a round-the-world trip when she died by strangulation in the Auckland hotel room of a man she met on the dating app Tinder. The man took photographs, then packed her body into a suitcase and buried her in bushland. Her remains were found eight days later. “Manual strangulation is a particularly intimate form of violence … cold-blooded,” said Justice Simon Moore in Auckland’s high court on Friday morning. “Your actions reveal a complete disregard for your victim … You didn’t ring an ambulance, or call the police, instead you embarked on a well-planned and sustained and coordinated course of action to conceal any evidence of what had occurred in your room.”

Grace’s parents, David and Gillian, appeared via videolink in the courtroom. “The tears I shed are never-ending, at the thought of never having the chance to be being able to kiss my darling Grace goodbye,” said Gillian. “Grace was never just a daughter, she was my friend, my very best friend.” The crown prosecutor, Brian Dickey, said the man’s crime against Millane had been “personalised, depraved and callous”. By court order the man’s name cannot be published and the reason for this is also suppressed.

Worker rules ‘will fuel modern slavery’ – Closing UK borders to low-skilled workers risks driving vulnerable EU citizens into modern slavery, charities have warned. The East European Resource Centre predicts some businesses might be happy to hire undocumented workers if the supply of low-skilled workers is choked off by the Tories’ immigration policy. “Let’s not kid ourselves: someone will have to do the dirty, low-paid jobs, from construction to food processing to social care. Where are these workers going to come from?” said Barbara Drozdowicz, the centre’s chief executive. Critics of the government’s proposed immigration laws say they do not make sense in an economy where there is near full employment. Emily Kenway, from Focus on Labour Exploitation, said: “If you take away the legal routes, people are just going to fall into the hands of traffickers. If we think of the tragedy in October when 39 Vietnamese people were killed, you see the terrible consequences of that.”

Dáil number incomplete – Leo Varadkar has resigned as Ireland’s taoiseach as the wrangling to form a government continues following the election. Varadkar will remain as caretaker in the post, equivalent to prime minister, until his Fine Gael party, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin or a combination of those and others can assemble a working majority. Last night, at a testy sitting of the Dáil Éireann, Varadkar, the Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, and the Green party leader, Eamon Ryan, were all nominated for taoiseach but fell far short of receiving the votes required. Several left wing parties supported McDonald for taoiseach, underlining their preference for a left wing rainbow coalition. But, writes Rory Carroll, there is widespread acceptance that a stable government will require two of the three big parties – and Fine Gael appears determined to go into opposition, saying it needs to regroup after nine years in office and a hammering from voters.

Regions miss share of jobs – Almost half of new jobs in England in the past decade were in London and the south-east, which hold only a third of the population, the thinktank IPPR North has found. The north-east and north-west of England and Yorkshire and the Humber had 17% of the country’s new jobs despite containing 28% of the population. Boris Johnson, has promised to put “levelling up” regional divides at the top of his government’s agenda but Luke Raikes from IPPR North said: “This parliament must be the devolution parliament. It is time to overturn the centralisation that’s let towns, cities and regions fall into decline … Levelling up should mean opening the door for all of England to benefit from devolution, while also letting areas that have devolution take on more.”

Fleetwood, once a major fishing port, situated on the northern tip of the Fylde coast in Lancashire.

Fleetwood, once a major fishing port, situated on the northern tip of the Fylde coast in Lancashire. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

In today’s long read, Luke Brown tells the story of how his Lancashire hometown of Fleetwood – the once-proud fishing port, home of Fleetwood Town FC and its Cod Army, as well as Fisherman’s Friend lozenges – is hanging on, and the people who won’t give up on it. And there is hope in Redcar, North Yorkshire, where a land deal means steelmaking could be back up and running within three years.

‘Tap forgotten shares for charity’ – A government scheme that gives proceeds of dormant bank accounts to good causes could raise a further £2bn by expanding to unclaimed insurance payouts and share sales. Since 2011 the UK’s 30 biggest banks and building societies have been voluntarily transferring money left in dormant bank accounts to the scheme, called Big Society Capital, with £600m redistributed to charities helping young people get into work and housing, and others tackling financial exclusion. Under the existing scheme, if at a later date a consumer discovers they had a dormant account, they are always able reclaim the money.

Today in Focus podcast: The fight for Idlib

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in northern Syria after the government’s attempt to take back opposition-held Idlib. Bethan McKernan describes how the fighting and freezing conditions have caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee for their lives. Also today: Justin McCurry on the evacuation of the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Today in Focus

Syria and the fight for Idlib

Lunchtime read: ‘In France they think it’s not erotic

Céline Sciamma’s new production Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the year’s most erotic film: a meditation on passion, art and feminism. But the film-maker tells Gwilym Mumford that her native country just doesn’t get it.

Celine Sciamma, filmmaker

Celine Sciamma, filmmaker. Photograph: Bertrand NOEL/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock


Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette sealed a 1-0 away victory over Olympiakos in the Europa League, while a goal from Anthony Martial gave Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Brugge. Celtic were thankful for Fraser Forster saving a late penalty from Jens Stage to secure a 1-1 draw with Copenhagen, and Ianis Hagi lived up to the family name, scoring twice as Rangers came back from behind to beat SC Braga 3-2. Rory McIlroy continued his excellent start to 2020 by shooting a 65 to lead after the opening round of the WGC Mexico Championship.

Eddie Jones has apologised for a bizarre remark in which he appeared to accuse a reporter of thinking that all half-Asian people looked the same. The entente between France and Wales has turned distinctly uncordiale before Saturday’s Six Nations meeting between the sides in Cardiff. The British Olympic gold medallist Alex Danson has retired because of long-term concussion. The Formula One season has yet to begin but Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes may have already stolen a race-winning march on their rivals after testing in Barcelona. And NFL player Greg Robinson is in a Texas jail without bond after federal agents said they found 157lb (71kg) of marijuana in a rented vehicle in which he and two other people were riding.


Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street lower after the spike in new coronavirus cases in South Korea refuelled investor anxiety. Benchmarks in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney retreated. Traders shifted money into bonds and gold. The pound is worth $1.289 and €1.194 while the FTSE is a third of a percent off at time of writing.

The papers

The Guardian leads with our exclusive investigation: “Revealed: the areas in Britain with one Airbnb for ever four homes”. The highest incidence of Airbnbs was in Edinburgh Old Town, where there were 29 active listings for every 100 properties. “The unchecked growth of online holiday lettings is depriving communities of much-needed homes,” said Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent. It has been a mixed blessing for the surfing village of Woolacombe in north Devon: tourists come all year round now, but “property prices are extraordinary” for those wanting to live there.

Guardian front page, Friday 21 February 2020

Guardian front page, Friday 21 February 2020. Photograph: Guardian

There is pictorial coverage on a number of front pages of vigils following the racially motivated shootings at two shisha bars in Hanau, Germany. The Metro reports on the “Mosque knifing terror” in London where a muazzin was stabbed during prayers and a man arrested. The Telegraph has “Coal fires banned in fight to cut emissions” and says it means the “end of the roaring hearth” (well fetch my pipe and slippers before it’s too late!). The i’s headline is of a similar timbre: “Crackdown on wood burners to cut UK air pollution”. Here’s the story on the Guardian.

“Dame Julie: my cancer ordeal” – the Mirror on the “TV legend’s courage” after she revealed her diagnosis, chemotherapy and remission. The Times has “Home Office is racist, said report into Windrush” – the paper says it has it on authority that the long-delayed findings of the inquiry into wrongful deportations have been toned down to drop this “incendiary” claim. The Express goes after the judiciary – amplifying something of a Tory chorus lately – with “Burglary gang let off despite 75 break-ins”. The Mail, making it look like a slow-news day, exposes the “Dangers lurking in your toxic takeaway”, saying the norovirus or “winter vomiting bug” is being spread by food contamination. The FT’s picture slot goes to the jailing of Roger Stone but its splash is the “$13bn ETrade swoop” by Morgan Stanley as the Wall Street bank targets individual investors by buying the online platform – branching out, as our own article puts it, from servicing “a relatively limited pool of high net worth individuals and corporate clients”.

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