Johnson: Rising European cases means holidays ‘look difficult’

Prime Minister says 'too early to say' if foreign holidays allowed this summer ahead of travel task force report publication.

Foreign travel might not be permitted this summer. STV News
Foreign travel might not be permitted this summer.

Boris Johnson said it was “too early to say” whether foreign holidays will be allowed but rising cases in Europe meant “things certainly look difficult for the time being”.

The Prime Minister said he hoped to give more information about foreign travel on April 5, a week before the UK Government’s global travel task force is due to report.

“A lot of people do want to know about what’s going to happen on the holiday front and I know there’s a great deal of curiosity and interest,” Johnson said at a No 10 press conference.

“All I can say is it’s just too early to say and my advice is to everybody to wait for the global travel task force to report.

“We’ve heard already that there are other European countries where the disease is now rising so things certainly look difficult for the time being but we will be able to say more we hope in a few days’ time, I certainly hope to say more by April 5.”

Under the current road map for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could go on holiday abroad would be May 17.

A senior scientific adviser has suggested people should plan to holiday in the UK this summer.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the first UK lockdown last March, said relaxing border measures too early risked the success of the UK’s vaccination programme.

He said the risk from Europe is the arrival of new variants, or importing cases of the troubling South African variant from countries where cases were rising.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “I should say we also have some of the South African variant here already and other variants which may be similar, which we’re watching very carefully, so that is overall the major concern going forward and why we need to be vigilant, not just looking at Europe, and what’s happening within our borders as well.”

Professor Ferguson said the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines “might drop substantially, 60% or 50%” in the face of variants.

“And what that means is if we then allow transmission to resume which it is likely to do as we relax social distancing measures, we have that faint risk of being back in a situation where we have rising infections, rising hospitalisations with people who have been vaccinated,” he said.

“And back to, in the worst case, where we were in January.

“So, the effectiveness, exactly how effective vaccines is, is very critical to how quickly we’re able.. to relax measures.”

Asked if he was therefore in favour of keeping borders closed, Prof Ferguson said: “I certainly am in favour of relaxing border measures at a slower rate than we relax controls within the country, and doing all we can to reduce the risk of importation of variants which might undermine our vaccination programme.”

Asked what he wanted to see, he said that meant having finished “vaccinating everybody under 50, which will be late summer, and having vaccines in our stockpile which we know work very effectively against those variants”.

“Conservatively and being risk averse at the moment, I think we should be planning on summer holidays in the UK, not overseas.”

He said most people travelling to and from France at the moment on essential business or for commerce were exempt from quarantine and testing measures.

“I think we need to reconsider that, not the quarantine bit, but for instance introducing testing of everybody coming back, including those essential workers.”

Charles: Philip would be ‘deeply touched’ by public support

Prince of Wales says reaction to his father's death will sustain royal family 'at this particularly sad time'.

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The royal family are being helped through this “particularly sad time” by the public outpouring of support following the death of the “much-loved” Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales has said.

Charles spoke movingly of his “dear Papa”, who he said had devoted himself to the Queen, his family and the country for some 70 years.

The UK is officially in a period of national mourning for the next week, up to and including Philip’s funeral on Saturday afternoon.

A remembrance service will be held at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday, with the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance.

Next Saturday’s royal service in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, will be like no other, with the Queen and her family wearing face masks and socially distancing as they gather to say their final farewell amid coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking from his Gloucestershire home of Highgrove, Charles said his father had “given the most remarkable, devoted service to the Queen, to my family and to the country, but also to the whole of the Commonwealth”.

He added: “As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously,” and said Philip would be “deeply touched” by the people around the world sharing “our loss and our sorrow”.

Charles said: “My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him, and from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that.

“It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time.”

While Charles spoke for the family on Saturday, his siblings visited the Queen – with the Duke of York and Princess Royal spotted at Windsor.

The Earl and the Countess of Wessex spent around an hour with the Queen at the castle, with a tearful Sophie telling reporters as she left: “The Queen has been amazing.”

Philip’s wishes are the driving force behind the funeral plans, and on the day his coffin will be transported from the castle to the chapel in a specially modified Land Rover he helped to design, and followed by Charles and senior royals on foot.

The coffin will be covered by the duke’s personal standard together with his naval cap and sword and a wreath of flowers.

Only 30 people – expected to be the Duke’s children, grandchildren and other close family – will attend as guests, but the Duchess of Sussex has been advised by her doctor not to travel to the UK for the funeral, a Palace spokesman said.

Mourners coming from outside England are required to self-isolate for the first full 10 days after they arrive, but are allowed to leave on compassionate grounds to attend a funeral of a close family member.

The Duke of Sussex, who will have travelled from the US, could also be released from quarantine if he gets a negative private test on day five under the Test to Release scheme.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given up his seat at the funeral to allow a family member to attend, No. 10 said.

While all public elements of the funeral – to take place entirely in the grounds of the castle – have been cancelled, it will be televised.

As the funeral procession makes its way through the grounds of the castle, Charles will be joined by senior royals – but not the Queen – walking behind the coffin and followed by Philip’s household, the most senior figure his private secretary Brigadier Archie Miller-Bakewell.

The route of the procession will be lined by representatives from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF and the Service chiefs will walk ahead of the coffin, with the cortege led by the Band of the Grenadier Guards.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, are expected to officiate at the service.

Mr Welby, giving a reflection from the chapel at Lambeth Palace on Saturday evening, said Philip had been someone with a “deep and genuine sense of service and humility”.

He said: “It wasn’t ‘me, me, me’. It was about the world, about those he served, and in doing that his own role was more and more significant.

“He had a righteous impatience. He would not accept the status quo. If things were not right, he would say so and say so quickly, and clearly, and often bluntly.

“Prince Philip, also though, had a deep and genuine sense of service and humility.”

He described him as someone who “knew the talents he had and what he could bring, and he brought them 100%, at full throttle, right through his life”.

The duke died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday.

On Saturday, gun salutes were fired across the UK, in Gibraltar and at sea in tribute.

A Palace spokesman said the royal family hoped the coming days would be seen as a chance to celebrate the duke’s “remarkable life”.

He added that despite the “significant adaptations” due to the pandemic restrictions, the occasion “will be no less fitting a farewell to His Royal Highness”.

The royal family has appealed to people who wish to pay their respects in person to stay at home instead.

Coronavirus: 250 new cases as vaccination numbers fall

No new deaths linked to Covid-19 have been recorded in Scotland in the last 24 hours.

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Covid: 250 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 250 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours but no new deaths have been reported.

There were also 14,054 first doses of coronavirus vaccines administered on Saturday and 17,176 second doses, according to the latest Scottish Government figures.

Combined, there were 13,604 fewer than the previous day’s total, with 44,834 vaccinations carried out on Friday.

It takes the total number of Scots who have received their first dose to 2,657,578, while 568,875 have received both.

The 250 new cases was down from the 281 announced on Friday and took the total number of people infected since the start of the pandemic to 221,962.

Scotland’s test positivity rate was 1.8%, up from the 1.6% announced on Saturday.

The death toll of patients with recently confirmed Covid-19 remained at 7,630, although registration offices are usually closed at weekends.

According to the latest Public Health Scotland figures, one patient was admitted to an intensive care unit on Saturday.

Roads closed amid emergency response at beauty spot

Police say a person fell at Finnich Glen, home to the Devil's Pulpit, on Sunday afternoon.

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The gorge at Finnich Glen.

Emergency services are attending an ongoing incident at Finnich Glen in Stirlingshire.

Police say a person fell at the popular beauty spot, home to the Devil’s Pulpit, on Sunday afternoon.

A mountain rescue team, firefighters and the Scottish Ambulance Service are currently at the scene.

A number of road closures – the B834 and A809 – have been put in place to assist emergency responders.

Motorists are being advised to avoide the area

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report of concern for a person who had fallen at Finnich Glen, Stirling, around 1.10pm on Sunday, 11 April, 2021.

“Officers are in attendance alongside a mountain rescue team, the fire service and ambulance service.

“The public are asked avoid the area while the incident is ongoing.”

Scottish Grand National moved to respect Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The British Horseracing Authority has moved the race from Saturday to Sunday.

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The race meeting's main event will still go ahead next weekend.

The Scottish Grand National is to be pushed back by a day “as mark of respect to the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh”.

The British Horseracing Authority has announced the change as it adjusts its planned meetings to avoid any racing at the same time as the funeral at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The showpiece race will now take place on April 18, though the exact time is yet to be finalised.

The BHA said that Friday’s meeting at Ayr Racecourse will still go ahead as planned.

Sporting events up and down the UK are being reassessed after the funeral plans were made public. The Scottish FA is in discussions about the Scottish Cup ties scheduled for next Saturday, including the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon.

The English Football League has already announced that all of their football matches will be moved, and Premiership Rugby has also said they will reschedule games.

Government guidance states that: “The decision as to whether sporting fixtures continue to go ahead is at the discretion of organisers. Organisers may wish to consider using black armbands and observing a silence before matches are played.”

Two arrested after man ‘stabbed’ during street brawl

A 41-year-old was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a reported street fight

PA Media via PA Ready
Police: Two arrested after officers attend disturbance.

Two people have been arrested after a man was allegedly stabbed during a disturbance in Inverclyde.

The 41-year-old was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a reported street fight on Holmscroft Avenue, Greenock on Saturday afternoon.

A 46-year-old man and 41-year-old woman have both been arrested in connection with the incident.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were called to a report of a disturbance on Holmscroft Avenue, Greenock, around 4.35pm on Saturday, 10 April.

“A 41-year-old man sustained serious injuries and was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“A 46-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman have been arrested and charged in connection with the incident and are due to appear in Greenock Sheriff Court on Monday.”

Hancock ‘had drink’ with Cameron and financier over NHS

Former PM David Cameron reportedly took scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill to meet health secretary about payment scheme.

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Cameron was prime minister between 2010 and 2016 before being hired as an adviser by Greensill in August 2018.

David Cameron took scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill for a “private drink” with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS.

The Sunday Times also reported that the Treasury reconsidered Greensill’s application for an emergency coronavirus loan after the former prime minister messaged a senior adviser to Boris Johnson.

Cameron was said to have described the decision to exclude his employer’s firm, Greensill Capital, from the multibillion-pound scheme as “nuts” and pressed for the Chancellor to reconsider.

“What we need is for Rishi (Sunak) to have a good look at this and ask officials to find a way of making it work,” Cameron wrote last year.

The developments are the latest in a lobbying controversy that has dogged the Conservative former prime minister in recent weeks.

Questions were mounting over his efforts to secure access for the finance company, which later collapsed putting thousands of UK steelmaking jobs at risk.

Greensill was understood to have written to Mr Hancock’s office about the payment scheme in August 2019, copying in NHS England chairman Lord Prior, before the Health Secretary commissioned advice from officials.

An ally of Hancock confirmed a drink took place between Cameron, the health secretary and the Australian financier in October 2019.

Greensill’s firm at the time wanted to introduce a flexible scheme to pay doctors and nurses either daily or weekly.

NHS SBS, a joint venture between the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and a French IT firm, went on to announce in October last year that Earnd, a mobile app that was then a division of Greensill, would be available free-of-charge to NHS employees to access their pay.

Hancock had referred Greensill to work directly with the NHS rather than his department, according to the ally, who insisted the final decision to use the scheme was for local NHS employers.

“Matt acted in entirely the correct way – he updated officials on the business that was discussed, as is appropriate,” the friend said.

Cameron is yet to comment publicly about the “growing scandal”, as Labour has called it.

But a source close to the former prime minister said: “David Cameron was an enthusiastic champion of Greensill’s pay product, Earnd, and met with various people to discuss its rollout across the NHS.”

A DHSC spokesman said: “The wellbeing of NHS staff is the top priority of the department and Health Secretary.

“Our approach was and is that local NHS employers are best placed to decide how different pay flexibilities fit with their overall pay and reward offer for their staff.”

Meanwhile, it was understood that Cameron’s message to the Prime Minister’s adviser was forwarded on to the Treasury.

But it could not be immediately confirmed whether the lobbying did lead to the Treasury reconsidering its move to reject the loan scheme application.

A No 10 spokesman: “Throughout the pandemic, an immense number of businesses contacted Downing Street with representations; these were passed on to relevant departments.”

Cameron was prime minister between 2010 and 2016 before being hired as an adviser by Greensill in August 2018. Greensill was a Government adviser on finance during Cameron’s time in No 10.

This week, it emerged the Chancellor responded to private texts from Cameron saying he had “pushed” officials to consider plans that could have helped Greensill in 2020.

Labour called for Sunak to “come out of hiding” and make a statement to Parliament about the “growing scandal”, and reiterated demands for an investigation.

Shadow chief secretary to the treasury Bridget Phillipson said: “Every day brings fresh revelations about the culture of cronyism at the heart of this Conservative Government.

“Through David Cameron, Greensill looks to have had the run of Government from Number 10 down, including access to millions of pounds of public money.”

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, a former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: “We need an independent inquiry immediately. The whole scandal stinks.”

A royal marriage: The love story of Philip and Elizabeth

Married for more than 70 years, the Queen and Philip enjoyed a happy life together.

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Love story: The Queen and Prince Philip were married for more than 70 years.

Theirs was a marriage of partnership, respect and devotion to one another.

For more than 70 years, the Queen and Prince Philip lived a life which encompassed love and duty, serving the country and for Philip himself, his own wife. 

For Prince Philip it could be no other way; his bride to be was destined to be Queen and in marrying her, would support her as a husband and as her consort.

They met when the young princess was just a teenager and he still held his title as the Prince of Greece and Denmark.

At just 13 years of age, it is said she vowed never to settle for another man. 

Yet with no financial standing, no kingdom and sisters who had married Nazis, he was a controversial choice for a young princess.

But she loved him. For her that was simply enough.

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Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten following their engagement in 1947.

Philip proposed to Elizabeth at Balmoral in 1946, a place which would mean a great deal to them as they grew their family in later years.

The young princess accepted without first consulting the King and Queen.

King George VI agreed to their marriage but insisted that a formal engagement was delayed until his eldest daughter turned 21 the following spring. 

In letters written soon after their wedding in 1947, Elizabeth’s devotion to Philip shone through the pages.

“Philip is an angel,” she told her parents. “We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years.”

In return he enthused: “She is the only thing in the world which is absolutely real to me.”

Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day in 1947.

A formal proposal in July 1947 followed, with Philip proposing to Elizabeth with a diamond ring consisting of a centre stone flanked by ten smaller pave diamonds.

It was a nod to Philip’s past as they prepared for their future – his mother had gifted the prince a tiara she was given on her own wedding day so that her son could have it dismantled and created into a new piece for his future wife. 

Designing the ring himself, he would also have a bracelet made with other stones from the tiara, given to the princess as a wedding gift. 

While elegant diamonds marked their engagement, their wedding was by comparison a little more austere, as far as one could imagine for a future queen. 

She collected ration tokens to purchase the material for her wedding gown, a duchess satin dress covered with motifs of star lilies and orange blossoms. 

Before their wedding, Philip relinquished his titles and converted to Anglicanism, taking the name Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the surname of his mother’s British family. 

He was made a royal highness by King George and on the morning of the wedding, became the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was a sacrifice for Philip but one he duly made for for his wife, who would one day become his queen. 

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Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip enjoying a walk during their honeymoon.

The couple honeymooned at Balmoral before beginning married life in a country house near Windsor Castle, later taking up residence at Clarence House in London. 

Soon their family began to grow, with Prince Charles arriving in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950.

They had precious few years together as ‘simply’ Princess and Duke, pet corgis became part of the family and they travelled to Balmoral as much as they could, enjoying picnics on the grounds.

“Balmoral is a place one looks forward to very much as the summer goes on,” reflected the Queen in the 1990s.

“I think it has an atmosphere of its own. You just hibernate; but it’s rather nice to hibernate for a bit when one lives such a very movable life.”

Their lives changed forever upon King George VI’s death in 1952. They had been carrying out a royal tour in Kenya and when news reached of his death, Philip was the one to tell his wife. 

It is often said that she ascended the steps of the treetop hotel in which they were staying a Princess, and descended as Queen. 

So began the biggest step in Prince Philip and the now-Queen Elizabeth’s marriage. He would be her consort, her supporter while she became head of state and defender of the faith. 

The change did not come without its challenges. It was decided the House of Windsor would remain and Philip privately complained “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children”.

In later years, Philip and Elizabeth’s male-line descendants who did not carry royal titles would become Mountbatten-Windsor’s.

At Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, Prince Philip knelt before her and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb”.

The now-Queen made sure of it, announcing the Duke to have “place, pre-eminence and precedence” next to her “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament“. 

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave at the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

In 1957, she restored a title onto him which he held when they first met – making him a Prince, although a British one at that. 

Soon Princes Andrew and Edward arrived into the family and so began decades of royal tours, balls, and state visits, with the couple side by side. 

As their children grew, married and had children of their own, the Queen and Prince Philip relished their roles as grandparents – with Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, children of Prince Andrew often fondly referring to the Queen as “granny”.

Yet there would be troubled times ahead – Prince Philip was said to have ‘pressured’ his son Charles into proposing to Lady Diana Spencer in a letter as he continued to live life as a bachelor. 

Then as fast as the fairytale weddings happened, they began to crumble. 

In 1992, dubbed by the Queen as her ‘annus horribilis’, three of her children’s marriages broke down and a huge fire engulfed Windsor Castle. 

It was a turning point for the royal family.

Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, the royal family was criticised for their seclusion, with the Queen and Prince Philip opting to shield their young grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry from the press at Balmoral. 

Failing to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace caused controversy and pressured by the hostile reaction of the press, the Queen made a live television broadcast the day before the funeral, expressing admiration for Diana and her feelings as a grandmother for the two princes.

The couple would round a difficult year with their golden wedding anniversary, holding a reception at Banqueting House to mark the occasion. 

It was then she famously referred to her husband as “my strength and stay”.

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Queen Elizabeth II famously referred to Prince Philip as “my strength and stay”.

As the years passed, occasions such as Prince William’s marriage to Catherine Middleton and the subsequent birth of their three children George, Charlotte and Louis brought great joy to the couple. 

Prince Harry wed former actress Meghan Markle in 2018, later announcing they were expecting their first child the following spring. Their union was widely seen as steps towards a more modern monarchy. 

However the couple soon decided to step away from their roles as senior members of the royal family and moved to the US, with Prince Harry stating in interviews that he remained close with his grandmother and grandfather despite tensions with other family members. 

Now great-grandparents to ten children and the Duchess of Sussex pregnant with her second child, Philip and Elizabeth began to wind down their duties, with Philip formerly stepping away from public duties in 2017. 

Their children and grandchildren would take more of an active role as senior royals as the couple enjoyed their nineties.

On February 6, 2017, Elizabeth became the first British monarch to commemorate a Sapphire Jubilee, and months later on November 20, she was the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.

The church bells of Westminster Abbey rang for three hours in celebration and the couple enjoyed a private dinner at Windsor Castle.

After 73 years of marriage, they remained as committed as the day they met. Quaintly, they were said to still take afternoon tea together every day.

In that famous golden wedding speech in 1997, Elizabeth said: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. But he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.

“I and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”

He remained at her side for more than 70 years until his death in 2021. It was the longest marriage of any UK monarch.

Queen left with ‘huge void’ in her life after Philip’s death

The Duke of York revealed the personal feelings of his mother.

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Royal couple following their engagement in 1947.

The Queen has described the death of her husband the Duke of Edinburgh as “having left a huge void in her life”.

The Duke of York revealed the personal feelings of his mother the Queen after attending a church service where members of the royal family said prayers for Philip as the nation remembered him.

He movingly described the passing of his father as resonating with many people, saying: “We’ve lost the grandfather of the nation.”

Andrew was joined at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor, by the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their daughter Lady Louise Windsor for a Sunday service.

The duke said about his father’s death: “She described it as having left a huge void in her life, but we the family – the ones that are closer – are rallying round to make sure we’re there…”

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid tribute to Philip during a remembrance service at Canterbury Cathedral and described the duke as someone who had a “remarkable willingness” to “take the hand he was dealt in life”.

Two men seriously injured after being attacked on street

Victims taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary after being assaulted by three men in the east end of the city on Friday.

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Police are investigating assaults in the east end of Glasgow.

Two men have been seriously injured after being assaulted in the east end of Glasgow.

The male victims, aged 38 and 44, were attacked by three men in the Carntyne area of the city at around 8pm on Friday night.

Police say three men exited a dark-coloured Audi on Carntyne Road and then carried out the attack.

The disturbance continued into a lane before emerging onto Edinburgh Road.

The victims sustained serious injuries and were taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary Hospital for treatment.

Enquiries into the incident are ongoing and detectives are appealing to members of the public who may have seen the three suspects or the vehicle in the area.

The first suspect is described as a white male, heavy build, 20-30 years old, short blond hair with a white jumper, black jeans and black trainers

The second suspect is a white male, with a heavy build, 20-30 years old, wearing a black tracksuit, black baseball cap and black and red coloured trainers

And the third suspect is described as a white male, medium build, 20-30 years old, black bubble jacket with hood up, black tracksuit bottoms and black trainers. He was also wearing a black face mask

Detective Constable Mark Soutter said: “I am appealing to nearby residents and members of the public who heard or saw any suspicious activity in the area to contact us. I am also appealing to anyone who was driving in the area at the time and may have dash-cam footage of people or a car matching the description to get in touch.

“If you have any information which could assist our investigation, please contact police on 101, quoting reference number 3355 of 9 April. Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously to the independent charity Crimestopppers on 0800 555 111.”

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