Toys R Us UK goes into administration

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Toys R Us has gone into administration, putting 3,000 UK jobs at risk.

Moorfields has been appointed to begin “an orderly wind-down” of the UK’s biggest toy retailer.

The corporate recovery specialist said that all stores would remain open until further notice.

Joint administrator Simon Thomas said: “Whilst this process is likely to affect many Toys R Us staff, whether some or all of the stores will close remains to be decided.”

The UK arm of Toys R Us – its US owner filed for bankruptcy protection last September – has 105 shops.

Mr Thomas said: “We will make every effort to secure a buyer for all or part of the business.

“The newer, smaller, more interactive stores in the portfolio have been outperforming the older warehouse-style stores that were opened in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Toys R Us managed to stave off administration in December, when it struck an agreement with the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) to inject £9.8m into its retirement scheme over three years.

The tally of job losses may worsen if Maplin, the electronics retailer, also files for administration.

Maplin employs 2,500 workers and has been attempting to find a buyer for the struggling business, but it is understood that talks with a potential suitor have now broken down.



Boris Johnson: Irish border row being exploited to stop Brexit

Border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Image copyright PA
Image caption The draft withdrawal treaty will set out the options for supporting cross-border trade and traffic

Boris Johnson has said the row over the border in Northern Ireland is being used to frustrate Brexit.

The foreign secretary insisted there were “very good solutions” to avoid the need for a hard border.

There is a stand-off on the issue with the EU set to publish a legal draft of its Brexit withdrawal agreement.

This is expected to include an option for Northern Ireland to follow EU rules to avoid a “hard border” – if an alternative arrangement is not agreed.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which offers vital support in key votes to the Tory government, says details of the draft treaty have “fundamentally breached” an agreement reached in Brussels late last year.

Conservative Brexiteers say it is “completely unacceptable” and would effectively annex Northern Ireland.

But the Irish government says the proposal is needed as a “backstop” if no other proposals are found. And a former EU commissioner said it was down to the UK to come up with a solution, warning that “at a high pace we are heading to the cliff edge”.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said it was shaping up to become “the big Brexit bust-up” with both sides of the argument refusing to budge.

Mr Johnson faced criticised on Tuesday for suggesting in a BBC interview the issue of the border could be managed as easily as London’s congestion charging zone.

Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, he said: “What is going on at the moment is that the issue of the Northern Irish border is being used quite a lot politically to try and keep the UK in the customs union – effectively the single market – so we cannot really leave the EU. That is what is going on.”

The EU commissioners’ 120-page draft Brexit withdrawal document will refer to three possible options for avoiding physical infrastructure on the Irish border.

However, the only one to be fleshed out will be the government’s least-favourite: the option of Northern Ireland staying within the EU customs union and aligned with European rules and regulations, says BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming.

“If the EU or Dublin believes the UK government will be signing up to a border in the Irish Sea, they are deluded,” said senior DUP member Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson argued the draft divorce treaty would also undermine the constitutional status of Northern Ireland in the Belfast Agreement.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson spoke to reporters after braving the snow for a jog

That 1998 treaty – also known as the Good Friday Agreement – between the British and Irish governments and most political parties in Northern Ireland decided how the region would be governed and brought an end to 30 years of sectarian conflict.

Former Brexit minister David Jones told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the EU was proposing that Northern Ireland stay in the customs union, and subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

“That effectively amounts to an annexure of Northern Ireland by the European Union,” he said, adding: “I think that it would be pretty catastrophic and I think that the European Union in actually proposing this is behaving wholly irresponsibly.”

The document will encapsulate – in legally binding language – agreements already reached on Ireland, citizens’ rights and the UK’s so-called “divorce bill”.

It mandates that during the Brexit transition, which it says should last only until the end of 2020, the UK must continue to comply with all existing EU legislation. It would however lose all voting rights and decision-making power, including on any rules adopted by the 27 remaining member states.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said the document will not contain any surprises because it translates the political pledges made by both sides in the talks so far.

“The clock is ticking; time is short,” Mr Barnier said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I am concerned.”


By Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent

Theresa May wants trade to be frictionless across the Irish border after Brexit.

But there is plenty of political friction as every potential solution seems to bring a new problem.

In a leaked letter designed to demonstrate that there would be no need for new infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Republic, Boris Johnson used a potentially toxic phrase: “even IF there is a hard border”.

This allowed critics to suggest that a regime of border checks which would be anathema to republicans, nationalists and the Irish government was being contemplated.

Downing Street swiftly reiterated its commitment to no hard border.

But one of the solutions – indeed, the most detailed option – being put forward by the EU would keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU regulations.

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson has said the government cannot sign up to what would in effect be a border in the Irish Sea.

And with rebellions threatened by some of her own backbenchers, Mrs May is likely to need the DUP’s MPs to deliver the Brexit she’s promising.

Hard border dismissed

The prime minister’s office has categorically dismissed any prospect of a return to a “hard border” in Ireland as a consequence of Brexit.

The statement on Tuesday evening followed the leak of a letter to the prime minister from Mr Johnson, in which he appeared to contemplate the possibility of future customs border checks, after the UK, including Northern Ireland leaves the EU customs union.

The leaked letter, obtained by Sky News, quoted Mr Johnson telling the prime minister the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland would continue to leave 95% of traffic to pass unchecked.

Following the letter’s emergence, Labour called for Mr Johnson – one of the leading Brexiteers in the cabinet – to be dismissed “before he can do any more damage”.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the letter was “designed to outline how a highly facilitated border would work and help to make a successful Brexit”.

“It shows how we could manage a border without infrastructure or related checks and controls while protecting UK, Northern Ireland, Irish and EU interests.”



UK weather: Travel warnings as further heavy snow hits UK

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Media captionBBC’s Carol Kirkwood’s latest forecast

Cold weather has intensified across the UK, with heavy snow causing further disruption after overnight temperatures of almost -12C (11F) in some areas.

Amber warnings for snow are in place, covering parts of Scotland, northern England, the East Midlands, the east and south-east of England and London.

Drivers have been warned to take extra care as emergency services deal with stranded motorists and crashes.

Hundreds of schools are closed and public transport is widely affected.

Flights have been cancelled and rail operators have warned disruption will continue throughout Wednesday.

As many as 400 schools in Scotland have shut their doors, with hundreds more closing in England – including in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Essex and Yorkshire.

Airports including London City, Glasgow and Newcastle have suspended flights as they work to clear snow from their runways. More than 100 flights at Heathrow have been cancelled.

National Rail is also warning that its services could face major disruption, with the Stansted Express already cancelled between Liverpool Street and Bishop’s Stortford.

Hospitals in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Goole have cancelled all outpatient appointments because of the weather.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Vehicles have got into trouble on the A1 near Peterborough

In other developments:

  • British Airways says flights are likely to be affected throughout the week and warns that for “several hours during the worst of the weather” on Wednesday, flights will be reduced “proactively” at Heathrow
  • Gatwick Airport says it is running without delays, but has asked passengers to check with airlines before travelling
  • Some flights out of Edinburgh have been cancelled
  • Roads in Norfolk have been blocked due to vehicles stuck in snow, including the A11 southbound at Wymondham and the A143 at Haddiscoe
  • Part of the A1 in Cambridgeshire is shut in both directions, between the A1M junction 17 and the A6121 at Tinwell
  • A lorry has jack-knifed on the A1 in the north east, with the road closed southbound near junction 52, between Scotch Corner and Catterick
  • The A66 in Durham is closed between the A1M and the A685. The A59 in North Yorkshire is closed westbound after the A61 between Harrogate and Skipton
  • A lorry has come off the road on the A90 at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire and the A93 is shut at Braemar
  • Chatham Ski and Snowboard Centre in Gillingham, Kent, has been forced to close because of the heavy snow
  • The University of Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art are also shut due to the weather
Image copyright Richard Alderman
Image caption Train lines in Colchester are covered in snow
Image copyright PA
Image caption The Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, in Edinburgh, has been covered with snow

The Met Office has issued an amber warning – meaning widespread damage, travel and power disruption is likely – for Scotland and northeast England.

It has predicted up to 10cm (4in) of snow between 06:00 GMT on Wednesday and 18:00 on Thursday – although it could be as much as 40cm (15in) over hills.

Another amber warning is in place across the East Midlands, the east and south east of England and London, with up to 15cm (6 inches) of snow predicted to fall between 00:30 GMT and 10:00 GMT on Wednesday.

A less severe yellow warning for snow is in place for parts of Scotland, northern England, Northern Ireland, the south-west and south-east England, the West Midlands, East Midlands and London until 23:55 GMT.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Snow has hit the commute in the capital
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption But the weather has not stopped Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson going for his morning jog

An early amber warning has also been issued for between 14:00 GMT on Thursday and 08:00 GMT on Friday for snow and ice across south west England, Wales, the West Midlands, London and south east England.

Freezing temperatures

The UK is experiencing what is predicted to be the coldest week of the winter in five years.

The lowest temperature recorded overnight was -11.7C in South Farnborough, Hampshire.

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Media captionFashion in the freeze: London College of Fashion students and staff tell us how

Other particularly cold spots were Cairnwell, in Scotland, Ravensworth, in North Yorkshire, and Frittenden in Kent.

Treacherous conditions

On Tuesday three people died following a crash in Lincolnshire while one man died in a crash in Cambridgeshire, amid warnings of treacherous conditions on roads.

On the A120, in Essex, 17 vehicles were involved in a crash.

Scotland’s transport minister has warned of potentially “extreme” weather conditions later this week.

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Media captionFive handy winter driving tips

Humza Yousaf has said the amber warnings in force for many areas for Wednesday and Thursday could be upgraded to red – meaning people should take immediate action to keep themselves safe from the impact of the weather.

In Northumbria, a major incident was declared by police on Tuesday afternoon after more than 500 homes were left without power in Cowgate, Newcastle, until the early hours.

How has the cold weather affected you? Share your pictures, video and experiences by emailing [email protected].

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

  • WhatsApp: +447555 173285
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World Indoor Championships: Greg Rutherford withdraws from Birmingham event

British long jumper Greg Rutherford has withdrawn from the World Indoor Championships which start in Birmingham on Friday.

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist won the British indoor title in Birmingham last week and also competed at the Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow on Sunday.

However, the 31-year-old now wants to regain full fitness before the European Championships in Berlin in August.

“It has not been an easy decision,” said Rutherford.

More to follow.



N Korea ‘providing materials to Syria chemical weapons factories’

A Syrian man wears an oxygen mask at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on January 22, 2018. Image copyright AFP
Image caption There have been recent reports of chlorine gas attacks in the eastern Ghouta region

North Korea has been sending equipment to Syria that could be used to make chemical weapons, a UN report says.

Some 40 previously unreported shipments were made between 2012 and 2017, the report found. Materials included acid-resistant tiles, valves and pipes.

The report – yet to be released – said N Korean missile specialists had been seen at Syrian weapon-making centres.

The allegations follow new reports of chlorine being used by Syrian forces, which the government denies.

Meanwhile, air strikes were heard in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus as a second daily pause in fighting was due to get under way to allow in relief aid.

Aid was unable to enter the rebel-held region on Tuesday – the first of the five-hour “pauses” in fighting – after clashes continued.

Activists blamed government air and artillery strikes, while Russia said rebels had shelled a “humanitarian corridor” meant to let civilians leave.

What are the allegations against North Korea?

North Korea is under international sanctions over its nuclear programme.

  • Is North Korea just playing the US?

But a confidential report, compiled by a US Panel of Experts which assesses North Korea’s compliance with UN resolutions, found evidence of illicit supplies sent to Syria.

Seen by the BBC, the report says the items included high-heat, acid-resistant tiles, corrosion-resistant valves and thermometers.

The Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – a Syrian government agency – is alleged to have paid North Korea via a number of front companies.

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Media caption‘Chance of N Korea war highest in decades’ says ex-US general

Among the alleged shipments were at least five sent via a Chinese trading firm, Cheng Tong Trading Co Ltd, the report says.

The shipments allegedly contained acid-resistant tiles – which can be used for activities conducted at high temperatures – at a quantity that would cover the area of a large scale industrial project.

While the seized items “do not appear on any control lists”, they included “materials that can be used to build bricks for the interior walls of [a] chemical factory”, the report noted.

  • North Korea flouting sanctions, UN told

China responded to the Panel’s findings, saying it had no “evidence demonstrating the Cheng Tong Trading Co has business with” any North Korean entities in violation of Security Council violations.

The Syrian government told the UN panel that the only North Koreans present in Syria are sports coaches and athletes.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric did not say whether the leaked report would be published, but told the New York Times: “I think the overarching message is that all member states have a duty and responsibility to abide by the sanctions that are in place.”

In a September 2017 report, which is publicly available, the group said it was “investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation” between Syria and North Korea.

It said that two UN member states had intercepted shipments bound for Syria, and that the goods were suspected to be supplied by North Korea’s main arms exporter as part of a contract with front companies representing the SSRC.

What is Syria’s position on chemical weapons?

Syria signed up to the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreed to have its declared chemical weapons stock destroyed in 2013 after a Sarin nerve agent attack killed hundreds of people in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus..

It has been accused of repeatedly using banned chemical weapons in the civil war since then.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that Sarin was used in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in Idlib province, last April in an incident that killed more than 80 people. OPCW and UN investigators are confident the Syrian air force was to blame.

The US carried out missile strikes on a Syrian air base in response but President Bashar al-Assad maintained the incident was faked.

Suspected chlorine attacks have been recently reported in Syria, including on Sunday in the Eastern Ghouta.

The OPCW is investigating those attacks, Reuters news agency reports, citing diplomatic sources. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is among Western leaders who have suggested the Syrian government could be attacked if there is fresh “incontrovertible” evidence that chemical weapons have been used against civilians.

Why is North Korea’s involvement controversial?

Experts say that North Korea has long offered military supplies and weapons know-how around the world in exchange for cash.

The UN report is said to highlight its efforts to illicitly trade with dozens of countries and groups in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America.

  • US to impose ‘largest’ N Korea sanctions
  • Reality Check: How North Korea does business

Syria and North Korea have decades-old military ties.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said Washington was imposing a fresh set of sanctions on North Korea, targeting more than 50 ships and maritime transport companies in several countries.

North Korea is already under a range of international and US sanctions over its nuclear programme and missile tests.

  • Viewpoint: Chemical weapons ‘threat to West’
  • North Korea crisis in 300 words

But it continued tests last year, including tests of a nuclear weapon and a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the US.

The US says the new sanctions are designed to put a further squeeze on North Korea, cutting off sources of revenue and fuel for its nuclear programme and clamping down on evasion of already existing restrictions.



New Zealand v England: Ben Stokes hits half-century in England win

Ben Stokes made his return for England in the first match of the series against New Zealand
Second one-day international, Tauranga
New Zealand: 223 (49.4 overs): Santner 63, Guptill 50
England: 225-4 (37.5 overs): Morgan 62, Stokes 63*
England won by six wickets

Ben Stokes’ 63 not out backed up an excellent fielding performance as England beat New Zealand by six wickets to level the one-day series at 1-1.

England took three fine catches and claimed four run-outs to dismiss the hosts for 223 in Tauranga.

In reply, the tourists lost two early wickets but Stokes put on 88 with captain Eoin Morgan, who scored 62.

Jos Buttler made an unbeaten 36 off 20 balls as he and Stokes sealed victory with 12.1 overs to spare.

All-rounder Stokes, playing his second match after five months out of the side following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub, was named man of the match after also taking two wickets and being involved in two run-outs.

New Zealand, who were without injured captain Kane Williamson, looked likely to be bowled out for an even smaller total but Mitchell Santner’s maiden one-day fifty helped them recover from 147-8.

The third game of the five-match series is on Saturday at 01:00 GMT in Wellington.

Improved fielding sets up impressive win

England were criticised for their fielding performance in the opening match in Hamilton but a significantly improved showing went a long way to securing victory.

First, David Willey took a fine catch running back from square leg with the ball dropping over his shoulder to dismiss Mark Chapman, as opening bowler Chris Woakes took a wicket in each of his first two overs.

Willey pulled off a second moment of brilliance to run out Ross Taylor, who scored a century in the Black Caps’ win on Sunday, for 10. Fielding at backward point, Willey dived low to his right to stop Taylor’s cut before spinning and throwing at the stumps while still on the turf.

Opener Martin Guptill offered resistance with a half-century but fell when Jason Roy clung on to a low diving catch at deep mid-wicket.

In the following over Roy took an even better catch at backward point, taking the ball one-handed high to his right as Henry Nicholls became Stokes’ first victim.

Jonny Bairstow ran out Colin de Grandhomme with an accurate throw from the deep before Stokes claimed two run-outs of his own.

The first saw the back of Tim Southee following a fumble at mid-wicket, while the second brought an end to the New Zealand innings with two balls remaining as Trent Boult pushed for a second run.

Stokes and Morgan spearhead England pursuit

Stokes hit seven fours and one four in his innings

New Zealand’s top order struggled, hitting only seven fours in the opening 19 overs. In comparison England found the boundary with ease – 16 times in the same period – but they too lost early wickets.

Jason Roy fell for eight, pulling to Santner at mid-wicket, and Joe Root went for nine as De Grandhomme took another stunning catch low to his right at mid-wicket to leave England 47-2.

Opener Bairstow looked in fine touch before guiding a catch to third man to depart for 37 and leave England 86-3, but any doubts the tourists would win were taken away by Morgan and Stokes.

Morgan hit three sixes and six fours – three in succession in one Boult over – in a fluent innings, although Tom Latham and Nicholls dropped difficult chances to dismiss the captain.

Stokes looked a little shaky early on and was almost run out before taking a nasty blow to the hip after mistiming a pull shot, but improved dramatically as his innings developed.

He showed his typically powerful batting with a number of pulls and a brutal six down the ground off Boult, walking down the wicket to the pace bowler.

It was a surprise when Morgan tamely chipped a return catch to Colin Munro with 49 runs needed, but Stokes continued to bat fluently and Buttler hit Santner for six to secure a comprehensive victory.

Colin de Grandhomme took a fine catch as Trent Boult dismissed Joe Root for nine

‘I was emotional’ – what they said

Man of the match Ben Stokes on Sky Sports: “I was a bit emotional tonight walking off that field being not out.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be back in among the team. It was the one place I wanted to be – back and representing my country.

“It has been frustrating but it’s all about building for the future. Hopefully this is a stepping stone, with all the games we’ve got coming up.”

England captain Eoin Morgan: “We certainly raised our level of intensity and particularly set the tone early on with the ball, and that was backed up by our efforts in the field. It’s as good a fielding performance as we could have ever hoped for.

“Ben Stokes is a big character, he lifts everybody in the side when he plays like that so it’s great to see him back in fine form.”

Former England bowler Graeme Swann on BBC Test Match Special: “In motor racing terms, they got ahead at the first corner and lapped New Zealand about 15 times.

“They were smashing the ball out of the park left, right and centre. Ben Stokes was magnificent, Eoin Morgan was exceptional. I would give them 10 and a half out of 10.”

Stand-in New Zealand captain Tim Southee: “We scrapped through to something that we could bowl at. It’s never easy when you hand the opposition four run-outs. We were a little light.”



Phil Neville: ‘New England women’s boss has to shift mentality’

2018 SheBelieves Cup

England fixtures:
v France (Thursday, 1 March, 21:00 GMT), v Germany (Sunday, 4 March, 20:00), v USA (Thursday, 8 March, 00:00)
How to follow:
Watch on BBC Red Button, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Finally, we can focus on the football again.

I am sure the new England women’s head coach Phil Neville is thinking the same thing as he prepares for his first games in charge of the Lionesses.

It is time to put the controversy that surrounded Mark Sampson’s departure and Neville’s appointment behind us.

This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the national team, and the SheBelieves Cup in the USA is a brilliant tournament for Neville to get started with.

It will be a very tough test for England, who will play hosts United States, Germany and France over the next week.

Our opponents are the best teams in the world, and all three are at the kind of level you could expect in the semi-finals of a World Cup.

It is a daunting prospect for a new manager but I think Neville would prefer games like this now rather than low-key World Cup qualifiers against the likes of Kazakhstan or Bosnia-Herzegovina, which England would be expected to win convincingly.

Given his personality, the career he has had and the goals he has already set his new team, he will be relishing this challenge.

Right now Neville will be looking forward to taking ownership of the team and taking responsibility for their performances out in the US, but his targets for this tournament will not come down to results alone.

England must show they belong among the best in the world

Phil Neville has previously coached Manchester United and Valencia and co-owns Salford City

This is a friendly tournament but there will be nothing friendly about the way the US, Germany and France approach it.

Every single one of them is there to win it – they think they are the best and they want to win everything they can. They will go into these games expecting success.

But Neville wants us to have that expectation too, and he will want his players to show that they can deal with the pressure that comes with it.

I have loved hearing him speak about trying to instil the same winning mentality in the England team as, say, the US have got – and demanding we show the same arrogance as them as well.

Neville is right when he says we should not be embarrassed about being the third-best team in the world and one of the favourites for next year’s World Cup.

We have that ranking because of our ability – technically and tactically – in every department.

The girls have already shown their professionalism with the way they have dealt with the off-field issues that have affected the England team over the past few months.

Now they need to show their mental strength in a different way.

Shift in mentality is Neville’s task

England lost 3-0 to eventual winners the Netherlands at Euro 2017

Going from being the third-best team in the world to the best is a tiny step in some ways because there are only two teams above us.

The difference in quality between our best players and theirs is minimal, if it exists at all.

But the US know they are winners, and so do Germany. We have not won anything, ever.

We want to change that, which is why I think it is a huge positive to have Neville in charge.

His task, in a nutshell, is to do that with a shift in mentality – to transform the England side from a team of world-class players to a team of world-class players who win trophies.

That is the biggest change this team needs and Neville can implement it, because he has lived and breathed the approach we will need throughout his whole career.

He could do a lot worse than telling his players to watch how the United States carry themselves on and off the pitch, with their body language and what they do and say.

Those are the type of things they might not have thought about before and, if they are, they have not tried to emulate or imitate them.

Whether they are experienced players or at their first tournament with England, now is the time to start – the World Cup is only 17 months away.

More flair is the way forward for England

Jill Scott is one of a host of Manchester City and Chelsea players in the England squad

It is going to take Neville a bit of time to work out what formation and style of play will work best for him, especially with the players who are absent.

I am expecting to see him try a few variations, but I was pleased to hear him talk about adding some flair to England’s approach.

We reached the semi-finals of the European Championship last year but, tactically, Sampson was quite cautious and I don’t think he played to our strengths.

We are a much better team when we are in possession than when we play long balls, and trying to be more creative with the way we play is definitely the way forward with the players we have at our disposal.

Manchester City and Chelsea, who between them provided 15 of the 23 players in Neville’s initial squad, both play out from the back in the same way he wants England to.

That way of playing is not something we have put our trust in before but this team are ready to evolve because of the technical ability of the players we have, which is much improved since my playing days.

It is no coincidence that has happened since the women’s game went professional over here, and those quality of players are going to keep coming through.

We already know England are well-drilled and disciplined defensively, but now it is the right time to add to that by being more ambitious at the other end of the pitch.

Inexperience is an advantage for Neville this time

Casey Stoney retired from playing last week so she could become England coach

Any changes we see from England this week do not have to be dramatic, and Neville will know that.

His strategy will be to move the team forward in the right direction in the ways I have mentioned but that will not happen in one week and, whatever happens in the US, his overall plan is not going to change.

This is Neville’s first opportunity to work with the girls on the training pitch, and it is his first chance to actually imprint some of the ideas he would like to apply.

England are missing some key players, like captain Steph Houghton through injury, but that is part and parcel of international football. It means someone else gets a chance to impress.

Neville also does not have a permanent assistant coach yet, but he will have Mo Marley and Casey Stoney helping him in the US.

He will get a lot of information and advice about the squad from them, because they know the players better than anyone.

But the majority of ideas that he will be trying to get across to the team will be his own.

The fact he does not know much about the women’s game at the moment is something he can use to his advantage, because he will have no preconceptions about what to expect in this tournament.

He will be able to gauge for himself, with a fresh pair of eyes, where his team are at as a unit and individually, and work out who, what and where he can improve.

Seeing the American way is a great experience

The United States get an average of 14,129 fans to their home games

The next few days are going to be wonderful experience for Neville, and from what he has said already about wanting to learn, he will soak it all up.

There are a number of reasons that the United States is the perfect place to find out what top of the women’s game is all about, and my advice to Neville is take in as much as he can.

I remember when I went to university there as an 18-year-old and seeing for myself their passion for women’s football, not only from the fans but also commercially.

It is wonderful to see your counterparts treated like superstars. It inspired me, and it will be the same for Neville and his players.

The profile of women’s footballers has been raised massively in this country recently but they do not have the status the US players are afforded, and it is something for them to aim for.

This tournament will be special for our girls because they will be playing in front of packed-out stadiums and getting used to that feeling of big games and big occasions.

Neville already knows what that is like from his days with Manchester United and England but many of his squad won’t. Another target for them is to have more matches like these at major tournaments in the future.



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‘Bucket list’ killer Jemma Lilley gets 28 years for murder

A split image of Jemma Lilley and tarpaulins at the house where police say Aaron Pajich was killed Image copyright Wa supreme court
Image caption Police said Jemma Lilley, pictured, had tarpaulins at her house where Aaron Pajich was killed

A woman who had an “obsession” with serial killers and had murder on her “bucket list” has been jailed for killing a teenager.

Jemma Lilley, previously of Stamford, Lincolnshire, garrotted, stabbed and buried Aaron Pajich at her home in Perth, Australia.

The 26-year-old was convicted alongside housemate Trudi Lenon at the Supreme Court of Western Australia in November.

The pair have been sentenced to life with a minimum jail term of 28 years.

During a four-week trial, prosecutor James McTaggart told the court Lilley was so “full of herself and euphoric” after the killing she could not help boasting to a work colleague.

  • How “euphoric” killers’ murder plot was hatched

Jurors were told Lilley, who had a troubled childhood, had emigrated to Australia in 2010.

She developed what prosecutors described as a long-term fascination with horror films, murder and serial killers.

Lilley idolised horror film character Freddy Krueger, and had previously told a friend she wanted to kill before she turned 25.

The supermarket shelf-stacker had also penned a book about a serial killer named SOS – a nickname she used during online exchanges with accomplice Lenon.

Image copyright Wa Police
Image caption Aaron Pajich’s mother Sharon Pajich said he was ‘my precious little boy, full of life’

The pair met through a friend and became close, eventually moving in together about two months before the killing.

Both women exchanged homicidal fantasies which gradually intensified until they lured Mr Pajich to his death.

In the weeks before, they bought various supplies, including a circular saw and 100 litres of hydrochloric acid.

Lilley’s stepmother Nina said she had “always had an obsession with serial killers” but this had been “a way of venting her frustration of what happened when she was a child”.

Speaking to The Times after the conviction, Ms Lilley, 48, said: “The book was a big problem with me. At the beginning I was ‘fair enough you want to write a horror story’, but I didn’t like the contents of it.”

Mr Pajich was lured to his death on 13 June 2016 and buried in a shallow grave covered with concrete and tiles, with both defendants blaming each other for the killing.

Lenon, 43, told the court Lilley approached the teenager from behind as he installed games on her computer, garroted him until the wire broke then stabbed him three times.

Aaron’s mother Sharon Pajich said Lilley and Lenon were “disgusting animals” who should never be released.

The pair were sentenced on Wednesday.



BBC charity sacked six over sexual misconduct

BBC Media Action logo

A BBC charity says it has sacked six people for sexual harassment or for watching pornography on work computers.

BBC Media Action said the incidents happened overseas in the past 10 years and those sacked were all foreign nationals.

The international development charity has received £70m over the past five years from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).

The government agency said it had no record of the sexual misconduct.

It comes as international charities face closer scrutiny following claims of sexual misconduct by Oxfam staff in Haiti.

DfID has asked all UK charities working overseas to provide assurances about their safeguarding and disciplinary policies and procedures.

BBC Media Action said it had responded, giving those assurances.

“We have reviewed all cases in the last 10 years involving or potentially involving sexual misconduct. Six such cases have been identified over this period, all of which were investigated,” a statement said.

“In two of these, no grounds were found to take any disciplinary action.

“In the remaining four, formal disciplinary action was taken. None involved beneficiaries and we are not aware of any child protection issues. A total of six people were dismissed for sexual harassment or for watching pornography on work computers.”

The charity said it would continue to examine policies and processes around safeguarding and whistleblowing “and take action to strengthen them further wherever necessary”.

It added: “We want to foster a culture where everyone working at BBC Media Action can recognise abuse, knows what they can do to help prevent it, and where anyone with an allegation is heard.”

BBC Media Action is an independent charity that is not funded by the BBC licence fee. It trains journalists and produces programmes in countries across the world.

A DfID spokesman said: “DfID does not have a record of any sexual misconduct allegations relating to BBC Media Action on our Counter Fraud and Whistleblowing system.”

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Media captionAid organisations have vowed to do more to protect those they were set up to help