Appeal Court sentences three to death by hanging for armed robbery

The Yola Division of the Court of Appeal has sentenced three men to death by hanging for armed robbery and culpable homicide.

The Court of Appeal, presided over by Hon. Justice Chidi Nwaoma Uwa, gave its verdict by affirming the judgment of the state High Court which passed the judgement earlier in 2018.

The Court of Appeal held that the state High court had acted in the interest of justice by sentencing the convicts to death by hanging.

The convicts, Rabiu Alhaji Wada, 25, Luka Umaru,35, and Hamisu Sani, 22, all from Adamawa State, were handed down the death sentence after they pleaded guilty to three counts, namely conspiracy, armed robbery and culpable homicide.

The trio, the court ruled, were thus convicted because they carried out their acts while armed with offensive weapons, contrary to Section 6(b) and punishable under Section 1(2) (a) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act Cap R11 Laws of the Federation.

According to the prosecution, the culpable homicide with death was committed in furtherance of a common intention contrary to section 79 and 221 (a) of the Penal Code.

The convicts were earlier arraigned before the state High Court, presided over by Hon. Justice Abdul-Aziz Waziri, on the 23th February, 2017 and jointly charged for the offences.

Delivering its judgment in the suit number/ADYS/17c/2017/ on the 10th April, 2018, the High Court had sentenced them to death by hanging, directing that the convicts be hanged by the neck until they were certified dead by a medical doctor.

But the affected persons had appealed the court’s decision on 6th July, 2018 on the grounds that the lower court erred when it convicted them solely on a confessional statement which they retracted.

Delivering its judgment on the matter, the Court of Appeal dismissed the application and affirmed the judgment of the state High Court on the death sentence.

The post Appeal Court sentences three to death by hanging for armed robbery appeared first on TheNigerialawyer.

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Ripples over mechanic allegedly fortured to death by Rivers policemen

By Rosemary Nwisi, Port Harcourt and Nicholas Kalu, Abuja

Nigerians are demanding justice in the case of a Port Harcourt mechanic , Chima Ikwunado, said to have been falsely accused of robbery and tortured to death by the  police.

Four other young men described as Chima’s friends who were similarly arrested and slammed with the same allegations are languishing in prison.

The police denied killing Chima.

They said autopsy showed that he died of ‘high sugar level.’

The five men were arrested on December 19, 2019 ostensibly for driving against traffic in the city by officers  from Mile One police station.

The police ,according to a man who claimed to be the owner of one of the cars being test driven by Chima,demanded bribe from the boys who said they had no money on them.

He said that the police proceeded to search the boys only to find various sums of money.

His story which was shared on Twitter had generated over 11000 angry reactions as at 4pm yesterday.

His account: “I gave my car to my usual mechanic to fix AC Gas on the 19th of Dec 2019. Called him several times on the 20th and did not get an answer. I decided to visit his shop physically at Ikoku to find out that my car and the mechanic are nowhere to be found. I asked fellow mechanics around and one said he saw when the mechanic was driving one way and he suspects that he might have been apprehended by the Police. My mind came down a bit after hearing this.

“I started visiting Police Stations in Port-Harcourt one after the other making enquiries until I got to Mile 1 Police Station and I saw my car parked in front of the Eagle Crack Police Division(a.k.a E-Crack). I felt relief thinking that the Police is my friend, I was totally wrong. I presented myself quickly at the front desk to say that the car belongs to me and I want to know the reason it got to this place. I was shocked to be pointed a gun by one of the officers and I was asked to leave before I get shot. Wow…. I wondered what crime I could have committed to present myself as the owner of my car. But I had to leave before I get shot.

“I got to my house and was drafting a strategy to attack this issue. It was exactly 2hours later when I noticed a knock on my gate. I opened my gate to see a young man who introduced himself as ‘Obinna the brother to Chima’. Chima is the name of my mechanic. He asked me my name which I told him and that he was directed by his brother to meet me. So I asked him quickly if he knew the reason for the arrest. He said Chima told him that he and his boys were testing two cars, 3 boys in a Camry and 2 boys in my car, after doing some work on them. The traffic in Port-Harcourt around that time was terrible and they decided to drive one way.

“The police apprehend them and asked them for money. They offered an amount which was not comfortable for the Police officers. The eyes of the Police officers were completely red looking for money to solve their Christmas matters as this usually happens during the Christmas festive period in Nigeria. The police officers immediately changed the case to robbery, accusing the boys of robbing the two cars.

“The officers asked the boys to raise their hands and searched their pockets. They found money in each of the pockets of the boys. According to Obinna, N97,000.00(ninety seven thousand naira) was found on Chima, N50,000.00 (Fifty thousand naira) on one of them, N16,000.00(Sixteen thousand) on another etc, totally over N150,000.00(one hundred and fifty thousand naira) in their pockets. In the minds of the Police officers; (we cannot afford to loose this money we have seen physically in their pockets. Our Christmas is guaranteed a success if we can obtain all the money). Which indeed they achieved.

“Hand cuffed all of them, took their money and their telephones and arraigned them to the Police Station. Getting to the station, hung this boys upside down in fan hooks and started brutality on them with various weapons. The youngest of them which is only 19yrs was almost at the point of death and accepted to confess whatever they ask him to say. He started making false confession about my car, he agreed that my car was rubbed and that, the car belongs to a lady and that, they jumped into the ladies compound, broke the glass of the car, opened the door and used a master key to start the car. Broke the gate and drove off.

“This was the information I got from Mr. Obinna. At least I know the reason why my car is there. So I made contact with the Nigerian Air force Base who sent 2 soldiers to accompany me in my next visit. The two soldiers arrived my residence and accompanied me.

On arrival at the Mile 1 E-Crack Division, the IPO in charge of the case was very rude to the air force soldiers, insulting them saying that this is purely a civilian case and a case of robbery. The soldiers got angry and asked me if they can start beating up the police officers, I calmly told them not to do so as it will make matters worse for the innocent boys in police custody. So I left with the officers. I then called the Air force Commander and updated him on current status, he asked me if I had copies of my car papers, I told him I would get them and revert to him accordingly.

“I searched in my house for the car papers and did not find. But I remembered that my driver was the one who renewed the papers not up to 2months back. So I asked my driver for the papers and he informed me that he forgot the original and photocopies inside my car. I asked him to call the man at Inland Revenue to print copies. I got the copies and contacted the Air force Commander again to let him know that I have the papers.

“The Commander joined me to the Police Station on 23rd of Dec 2019. We met the Commander of E-Crack, I noticed the name on his uniform as Benson. The Air force Commander introduced himself and introduced me as his brother. Mr. Benson called the IPO of the case to come and narrate the story. The IPO explained how the boys jumped into a lady’s compound, broke the glass of the car, used master key to start the car, broke the gate and drove off. That they, the police officers apprehended the boys at the point of sale. That the boys were communicating with the buyer from Aba and that one of the boys has already confessed to the crime.

“After hearing this, at first I was wondering if it was some Nigerian movie the man was narrating or was he talking about my car? The E-Crack Commander now asked the IPO to bring the boy who made the confession. The boy was brought in after 2mins limping seriously with smelling wounds. The E-Crack Commander now asked the boy to tell the truth that no one would torture him. The boy now started talking by saying that he is only an apprenticed under his boss ‘Chima’, that the car belongs to Chima’s customer, that he made the false confession because he was tortured almost to the point of death, at this point, he stretched his arms with handcuffs towards the commander showing him the smelling wounds.

“The E-Crack Commander now asked the IPO to return the boy. I now told the E-Crack Commander that I have copies of my car papers here which I got from the Inland Revenue today as my driver forgot the original papers as well as the photocopies in my car, is it possible for the IPO to check my car, get all the papers in it and we compare with what is in my hands. The E-Crack commander agreed and sent the IPO to get the papers.

“After 3mins, the IPO came back and said there were no papers in the car. Well, I have copies right in front of us, I asked the commander if the copies I am presenting can be verified, and he concurred. I left the station with the Air force Commander.

“On the 30th of December 2019. I returned to the police station and met the commander to verify if my presented documents have been verified. He called the IPO and the IPO confirmed that the documents are authentic. The commander now asked me my full name and I told him. He says that the name on the papers bears the same surname but different first name, why is this so? I explained that, the first name and second name on the car papers belong to my younger sister. He insisted that I must bring her to the station. So I called my sister and picked her up at her office and brought her to the station. I presented her to the commander.

“The commander asked how long she has been using the car and she confirmed that it is over 2yrs. He asked the IPO to release my car as well as the second car which was an old model Camry. Before leaving his office, I asked about the boys because I still have an unfinished business with my mechanic. He asked me how long I have known the mechanic, I told him that I have known the mechanic for more than 4years and that the mechanic fixes all my cars. The Commander now told me that he is investigating a case of cultism against all the boys. I wondered in my mind how a case of charged “Robbery” could change to cultism. I had no choice other than to leave the station with my car. On the 2nd of January 2020, I got a call from a barrister saying that he was engaged by the families of the boys in custody. That he has spoken with the Commander with regards to the case. That he was shocked to know that the commander was now working as a commander in that division as he has long known him. That in fact the man is his friend. He continued by saying that the commander told him that the case is a bad one, his boys have over worked. Speaking in pigeon saying “de case don spoil, my boys don over work” The Barrister did not understand. The barrister kept on insisting until the man opened up to say that my mechanic ‘Chima’ is dead. He was tortured to death.

‘The barrister now asked him where the corpse is. The Commander says that he does not trust him enough to reveal that kind of classified information. That the best thing he can do for the remaining four boys, is to look for a small charge to charge them, so that as soon as they get to the court, bail will be granted easily. He asked the barrister to come the next day. According to the barrister, as soon as he left the police station, the Commander immediately charged the boys to court that same day on the charge of my car robbery and cultism. After hearing this from the barrister I again thought, the police had released my car to me after verifying that it is my car and I never told them that my car was ever robbed, why did they still charge the boys for my car robbery? I later found out the answer which I will say shortly after. As I write this story, the remaining four boys are in prison custody with wounds getting rotten and smelling. Chima that the police killed is tagged as ‘At Large’. The answer to my question came out when the families of the deceased visited the court to see a copy of the charge sheet confirming that the police wrote on it that the owner of the car, which is supposed to me, confirmed to them that his car was stolen as described. I have never made such a statement anywhere. My car was never robbed.

Read Also: Family petitions police over attack on disputed land in Ogun community

“The families of the boys visited the prison in Port-Harcourt to see their loved ones and insisted to take photographs after seeing the wounds of some of them excreting water and decayed substances. The prison warders said each photograph will cost them N15,000.00 (Fifteen Thousand Naira) each. The families not being able to afford the money, left the prison sobering.

“At this moment of my life, I and my family members are very scared of the police. I wanted to send my brother out with my car, immediately I realized that his drivers license is in process. I got scared and did not engage him anymore, because if police can take a life because of “one way driving”, then it means they can take a life for not having Drivers License and many more.

“As I write this message, my wife is beside me shivering and saying that I should make the message anonymous, for fear that I could get killed by the police for making it public.

“Please if I get any mosquito bite, you know who is responsible.

“I came to know that the deceased mechanic got married just six months ago and that his wife is a few months pregnant.

“Again, the families of the 5 boys are in abject poverty and could not even afford lawyer fees to follow up the case. What a shame.”

The complainant gave the names of the other boys as:Victor Ogbonna,Osaze Friday,Ifeanyi Osuji and Ifeanyi Onyekwere.

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Deepika Padukone at JNU: With far more to lose, Bollywood’s women have shown far more spine than its ‘heroes’ | Entertainment News,The Indian Express

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Written by Yashee
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Updated: January 8, 2020 6:01:47 pm

In Bollywood as in the world, it’s the women who are smashing the status quo, at great personal risk. The actors, with far greater appeal and access, remember political causes before their movies, but then retreat to asking questions about mangoes.

The pictures of Deepika Padukone at JNU have by now launched more than a thousand tweets, many in support of her, many condemning her for aligning herself with the ‘tukde tukde gang’ , yet others claiming she was only trying to promote her movie while in the same breath adding they will boycott that movie.

Taking an obvious risk days before the release of Chhapaak, which she is also producing, Padukone has made an unmissable statement, and raised yet again a getting-harder-to-ignore question — where are Bollywood’s men?

The A-listers who have for decades ruled the roost and millions of hearts, whose hairstyles, dialogues, gestures and clothes the country has been united in copying, why do we not know what they think about the issues polarising the country today?

The recent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens, and the police crackdown against agitating students have seen unprecedented Bollywood involvement. Actors and directors like Swara Bhasker, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Richa Chadha, Anurag Kashyap, Anubhav Sinha, Dia Mirza and many others have not just spoken up on social media, but actively turned up for rallies and protests.

Yet, till very recently, the A-listers were missing. The merchants of fairytales, who have built their careers and their millions on “feel-good” cinema, stayed away from the grimy hurly-burly of politics.

However, in the past few days, actresses, one by one, have broken this unwritten rule. Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have condemned the recent incidents in no uncertain words. And now, Deepika Padukone has physically turned up at a protest venue.

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Padukone wasn’t at JNU as a star. She did not take centrestage, she did not make a speech. She was there, as a member of her team said, because she wanted to “express her anguish” at the violence in the campus, just like many other concerned citizens have been doing in city after city, at protest after protest.

Deepika Padukone knows better than most stars what this could unleash — as recently as in 2017, a BJP leader had announced a Rs 10 crore bounty on her head for starring in Padmaavat, while the Karni Sena wanted to chop off her nose.

Even without personal experience, Bollywood heroines know what’s at risk in triggering the troll brigade. Just reading Bhasker’s timeline for an hour can turn your stomach, make you want to go off social media forever.

Yet, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone chose to take the risk. What prevents the men? The Kapoors, the Khans, the Bachchans, who wield enormously more power, and run far fewer risks?

It is no one’s case that the “heroes” don’t stand to lose by taking a political stand. Just a few years ago, both Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan had people — including BJP leaders — sending them to Pakistan when they spoke up about the growing intolerance in the country. Then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to personally broker a peace deal between Karan Johar and MNS goons during the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

It can also be argued that in a democracy, a public figure does have the right to remain totally apolitical, however questionable that choice.

Yet, in an industry where the scales are anyway tilted against them, it’s the women of Bollywood who have stood up to be counted.

Women are paid less, have a shorter shelf life in Bollywood, are more dispensible. As we have heard for ages, few heroines can “carry a movie on their shoulders”, which is also because they rarely get parts written for them — a beautiful face and charismatic screen presence are all that is required of the leading lady in most “mainstream” movies.

In a notoriously risk-averse industry dominated by risk-averse men, women can easily be dropped from projects and endorsements for showing “political adventurism”. Bhasker, indeed, has spoken about losing work because of her political stands.

For the audience too, a woman with an opinion can be more difficult to stomach than a man. Men can obviously be interested in “serious matters”, but how inconvenient to enjoy a beautiful woman dancing to a beautiful song when you know her sympathies lie with the tukde tukde gang!

Also, the attacks against the women are far more vicious, and far crasser, than against men. People see a woman with an opinion as a greater transgression, and the more her mind infuriates them, the more they target her body — sexually explicit threats and “jokes” are generally the weapons of choice against women.

Anurag Kashyap has been faced with relentless trolling for long now, so has Javed Akhtar. But they haven’t had people from within their own fraternity calling them “sasti” (cheap), as happened with Bhasker and film-writer Raaj Shaandilyaa recently.

Even during the Padmavat fracas, it was Deepika Padukone’s head and nose on the line, not her male co-stars Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh’s.

And it is not like the men of Bollywood eschew politics altogether. Akshay Kumar’s recent movies have — co-incidentally? — been themed around the projects the government wants to promote: building toilets, vanquishing foreign Muslim invaders. In this Kumar is not alone, though he is the only one to have interviewed the PM about his mango-eating preferences (again, an opportunity given only to a man).

Many A-listers had happily posed for a grinning selfie with the PM at a time when it was impossible to not know its significance.

Amitabh Bachchan, who has had perhaps the longest successful run at Bollywood, stars in the government’s advertisements, but is resolutely silent when that government seems to be turning against its own people.

The appeal these stars wield is unparalleled — any cause that Salman Bhai raises his hands for, maybe with that blue bracelet, that Bachchan lends his baritone and gravitas or Shah Rukh his dimples and his charm to, will instantly get the kind of resonance a hundred erudite editorials and speeches by JNU alumni can’t garner.

These stars are well-aware of their great power. They choose not to see the great responsibility it comes with.

Even outside Bollywood, the CAA-NRC protests have been dominated by women — the brave ladies of Shaheen Bagh are a shining, heartening example. Perhaps it is time we rewrite our definition of “heroes”, change whom we look at for inspiration and solidarity. For now, the women of Bollywood have proven to be far more heroic than the stars who rule it.

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Mum stabbed toddler son to death after being tormented by Ryanair pilot fiancé – Mirror Online

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A mum stabbed her 23-month-old son to death after she suffered a mental breakdown triggered by her bullying and cheating Ryanair pilot fiancé.

Former flight attendant Magda Lesicka, 33, was subjected to relentless psychological torment by Peter Chilvers, a flight captain with the budget airline, as she felt trapped in the toxic relationship, a court heard.

Lesicka, who met Chilvers while also working for the Dublin-based carrier, inflicted a sustained attack on their son, James Chilvers, at her home in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, on August 26, 2017.

She tried to kill herself after knifing the boy multiple times.

Chilvers had inflicted a campaign of cruelty against Lesicka, forcing her into degrading sexual acts and into eating hairs he plucked from his head, while he had an affair with another flight attendant, Lisa Spencer, who is now his partner and mother to his two young daughters.

#nature

Lesicka, a Polish national, was jailed for 15 years last year after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, the Manchester Evening News reports.

She was sentenced on the basis that her mental illness emerged suddenly and without any warning, and she had no memory of committing the offence.

Chilvers, 33, from Northwich, Cheshire, denied any wrongdoing and subsequently went on trial at Manchester Crown Court where a jury convicted him last month of controlling or coercive behaviour.

Reporting restrictions were lifted on the case on Thursday as Chilvers was jailed for 18 months, allowing the facts to be reported for the first time.

Abortion

The former couple were dealt with in separate hearings.

Chilvers, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, returned home from a flight to Tenerife in the early hours when Lesicka fell injured into his arms, the court heard.

As he rushed her to hospital he had no idea she had killed James.

Police found the toddler dead in an upstairs bedroom at the family home after concern was raised for him.

At Lesicka’s sentencing hearing in Preston in July last year, the court heard she suffered “deliberate, relentless and ultimately overwhelming psychological torment”.

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Chilvers was violent towards her, repeatedly threatened to kill her if she removed their son from his care, carried out bizarre acts of cruelty, isolated her from her friends and restricted her finances.

On one occasion, he squeezed her nose tightly so she couldn’t breathe.

He also nicknamed her “sheep” and referred to himself as a “sheep owner”, the court heard, while Lesicka told the jury the pilot would pick errant hairs from his forehead and force her to swallow them.

He demanded they continue to live together at a new home he bought in the Cheshire village of Wincham, jurors heard.

Abuse

The pilot warned her in a “visceral” 33-minute phone call – played in court – on August 26 that she did not have the financial resources to win a custody battle and shouted: “I want James to have brothers and sisters… not a half-brother and sister with a f***ing moron that you find.”

The pilot had downloaded an app on to his mobile phone which enabled him to record his calls.

The court heard Lesicka had been planning to leave Chilvers in the days before she killed their son.

The couple had been in relationship since 2010 but Chilvers cheated on Lesicka from 2014 with another Ryanair cabin crew member.

Her fear of him was revealed in court, which heard Lesicka made internet searches about “taser UK law”, “self defence weapons UK” and “killing in self defence” in the days before James’ death. She later contacted domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid.

Aid

Lesicka phoned Greater Manchester Police and two police officers were sent to her address on August 25 where she showed them bruises to her arms and thigh.

She was informed the next day – the day of the killing – that Chilvers would be arrested after he flew back to the UK and a scared Lesicka said she did not want that to happen.

However she was told it was police policy to take positive action over such allegations.

The Crown accepted Lesicka’s defence that she killed James following a breakdown induced by the “deliberate, relentless and ultimately overwhelming psychological torment” inflicted by Chilvers who had portrayed a “landscape of unending misery if she did not comply with his demands”.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Dove told Lesicka: “As a tragic, innocent victim he (James) was caught, caught between two warring parents.

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“Whatever the rights and wrongs of that dispute, the last thing that should have happened was that he should have lost his life – killed by a parent.”

At Manchester Crown Court last month, Chilvers was found guilty of controlling or coercive behaviour between December 2015 and August 2017, as well as counts of common assault and damaging property.

The trial heard that Chilvers had been violent towards his partner after finding out she had had an abortion without telling him.

Rob Hall, prosecuting, told Chilvers’ trial: “(Lesicka) could not cope with being trapped in an abusive, humiliating and dishonest relationship with the father of her son.”

He said Chilvers’s intention may have been to aid any forthcoming legal proceedings over his son’s future but instead he had inadvertently confirmed his “bullying, controlling, self-centred nature”.

Lesicka had described their relationship as a “living hell”.

All

Chilvers told her he wanted to stay with her for their son’s sake.

Police had told Lesicka that they would arrest Chilvers on the night of August 26, 2017, once he returned home following a flight from Tenerife.

But she begged the force not to arrest him and to just log her complaint.

Lesicka killed James the night that police said they would arrest Chilvers.

Her solicitor, Timothy Roberts QC, told the court that pressure “had caused her crack”.

When she was sentenced, Mr Justice Dove told her: “James Chilvers was not quite two years old when he was brutally stabbed to death by you.

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“It was a sustained attack with a knife in which multiple blows were struck whilst he was on his bed at home.

“There was no conceivable outcome other than he would be killed.

“His unique presence in the world was taken from us.

“Who knows what he might have grown up to achieve?”

Speaking of her mental illness, Lesicka’s barrister Mr Roberts said: “It was not a condition that had been previously diagnosed.

“It was not a condition that was wilfully exacerbated by the defendant.

“The significant feature of this case is this accused has never had any mental health difficulties at all in her life.

“The onset of this particular abnormality was very rapid and sudden.

“It was induced by the deliberate, relentless and ultimately overwhelming psychological torment inflicted on her by Peter Chilvers.

“It was imposed upon her repeatedly.”

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Shooting at Florida Naval Base: 3 other Saudi students film it all | P.M. News

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Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani the Saudi shooter at Florida naval base

Shocking revelations have emerged in the aftermath of the shooting at a Florida Naval base by a Saudi military student Mohammed al-Shamrani. One of the surprises was that three other Saudi students filmed the entire attack.

A total of six Saudis have been detained over the shooting, in which four persons were killed, including al-Shamrani. Eight others were wounded in the shooting which took place in a classroom building at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Among the wounded were two sheriff’s deputies who responded to the attack.

According to the New York Times, the Saudi gunman was armed with a Glock 9mm handgun that had been purchased locally. The gun had an extended magazine and the shooter had four to six other magazines in his possession before he was himself gunned down by Florida policemen.

Al-Shamrani reportedly condemned America as a “nation of evil” in an online manifesto prior to opening fire Friday at a US naval base, killing three people before being shot dead by police.

The Florida Naval Air Station

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist media, said he had posted a short manifesto on Twitter that read: “I’m against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.”

“I’m not against you for just being American, I don’t hate you because your freedoms, I hate you because every day you supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity,” he wrote.

ABC News reported that investigators were working to determine if it was in fact written by the shooter.

The Twitter account that posted the manifesto — which also condemned US support for Israel and included a quote from Al-Qaeda’s deceased leader, the Saudi Osama bin Laden — has been suspended.

DeSantis told a news conference that “the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. And I think they are going to owe a debt here given that this is one of their individuals.”

Commanding officer Captain Timothy Kinsella said the shooter was an aviation trainee, one of “a couple hundred” foreign students at the base.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned US President Donald Trump to denounce the shooting, affirming that “the perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi people,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia has long been a major US ally in the Middle East, thanks primarily to security considerations and oil.

Trump said King Salman “called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida.”

There was a deja vu about the Florida attack. Shamrani shares the nationality of 15 of the 19 men involved in the 9/11 attacks, some of whom attended civilian flight school in Florida.

Police were first called about the shooting shortly before 7:00 am (1200 GMT), Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said.

“Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie,” Morgan said. “You don’t expect this to happen.”

Only members of the security forces can bring weapons on base, Kinsella said, and it was not clear how the shooter got the gun onto the premises.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he is “considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and their families,” but did not provide details.

Just two days earlier, a US sailor fatally shot two people and wounded a third at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii before taking his own life.

“This has been a devastating week for our Navy family,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday said. “When tragedy hits, as it did today, and Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, it is felt by all.”

The Pensacola naval air station hosts 16,000 military personnel and more than 7,000 civilians, and is home to a flight demonstration squadron.

It is an early training centre for naval pilots, and is known as the “cradle of naval aviation.”

The base is the centre for the US Navy foreign military training programs, established in 1985 specifically for Saudi students before being expanded to other nationalities.

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Trump leaving NATO: dangerous for U.S., nightmare for Israel – Haaretz.com

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This article was first published on January 17, 2019

When Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, settled into his office at the Kirya after being sworn in Tuesday, he had a long list of military challenges to plan for: Rockets and tunnels by Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s persistent threatening stance against Israel in Syria, Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

One thing he probably never thought he would have to add to that list was planning for the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. 

The day is almost over, and no one from the Administration has denied the NYT story about Trump wanting to pull out of NATO. Worse, no one from the Administration would dare say he would never do it. Because they know he might.

— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)

But as he learned from the New York Times, the possibility is very much on President Donald Trump’s mind.

It is no small matter for Israel.

In the first instance, Israel benefits from NATO because of the way it broadens U.S. influence. NATO is an alliance, but it also entails its European members willingly accepting the United States’ leadership position on the continent.

U.S. allies outside the alliance benefit from the association. It has helped earn Israel a seat at the table as a NATO partner, has opened doors to cooperation with non-U.S. militaries, and helps prevent escalatory scenarios in moments of tension between Israel and NATO members, notably Turkey. In a post-NATO world, Israel’s alignment would be with an isolated United States that lacks the multiplying effect of broader Western support.

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But the operational effects could be far more challenging. Israel maintains impressive self-defense capabilities, which will be sustained in any scenario, but its security partnership with the United States, another critical pillar of its defense policy, will be forced to adapt in complicated ways.

The day-to-day relationships between the IDF and the U.S. military are conducted via U.S. European Command. U.S. forces based in Germany are the ones who travel to Israel by the thousands to conduct joint exercises, including those that drill bringing Patriot missile batteries to augment Israel’s domestic capabilities and help defend Israel in the case of a major conflict.  

U.S. Navy destroyers, home-ported in Spain and equipped with Aegis missile defense capabilities, are among the Sixth Fleet’s ships that sail regularly in the Eastern Mediterranean (and make port calls in Haifa) to ensure adequate support for Israel’s defense. U.S. Air Force squadrons based in Italy come to Israel to conduct joint air exercises with the Israeli Air Force. Other U.S. troops sit even closer, at Incirlik Air Force Base in Eastern Turkey.

Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished.

Could U.S. support for Israel be shifted and coordinated instead through U.S. Central Command, based in the Persian Gulf? It has been proposed before as an efficiency measure. But Israeli generals have always resisted the proposal. Their worry is that they would find it challenging to enjoy the same level of intimacy they currently have with Europe-based U.S. commanders, with commanders who maintain a similar closeness with Arab militaries. 

True, Israel is closer strategically today with the Arab Gulf states than at any time in its history, because of a focus on the common threat of Iran and the lower priority of the Palestinian issue. But those relationships are a long way from being normalized – and could still backslide.

Israeli security planners are, therefore, still most likely to want to maintain separation between their relationships with the U.S. military and with their Arab neighbors. Having observed the intense friendships formed between Israeli military commanders and their U.S. counterparts based in Europe, I can say that these ties will not be easily replaced.

The broader Middle East would also experience the effects of NATO’s demise in the form of further empowerment of Russia. That is happening already, but losing NATO would turbocharge those trends.

Already, Russia’s brutally decisive intervention in Syria, combined with successive U.S. administrations’ preference to reduce active U.S. military engagements in the region, have led many regional states to explore expanded security ties with Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets more frequently with Putin than he does with Trump, and the IDF and Russian Air Force deconflict their operations in Syria. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all close partners of the United States, have visited Moscow and explored acquiring advanced Russian weapons systems in addition to their American-supplied arsenals.

Should Russia decide to exert leverage, such as by constraining Israeli freedom of action against Iranian military targets in Syria, the United States would be ill-equipped to push back.

A U.S. withdrawal from NATO would unmistakably be understood as a major pullback from the United States’s leadership in global affairs. The effect of expanding Russian influence would be felt far beyond Europe and the Middle East.

Military planners are renowned for imagining, and developing options for, every possible scenario. So General Kochavi and his colleagues will find a way to prepare, and put themselves in a position to adapt. But there are certain anchors that any country hopes to maintain, particularly one facing as many threats, and so tied to its American ally, as Israel.

To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro

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Female Victims Of Sex Trafficking Relieve Heart-rending Experiences Of Their Near-death Journey To Get Greener Pastures Overseas – Motherhood In-Style Magazine

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Every year, thousands of women and children become victims of sex trafficking in their own countries and abroad.

Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution.

Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within the country’s borders – women and girls for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.

The quest to make it big in life coupled with the harsh living condition in the country forced these women to jump into the prospects of travelling abroad at any single opportunity not minding the consequences.

Many of these distraught and sometimes desperate Nigerians believe that the streets overseas are paved with gold, pounds and dollars that once you step into those countries it will be bye-bye to poverty and hardship.

Unfortunately, as it is said, not all that glitters is gold. To escape the hardship at home, many take great risks to travel abroad only to enter into a more harrowing experience.

Some die in the process while others escape with scars that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. While some were victims of circumstances, having been tricked and deceived into such journey, others take the risk of opting to travel abroad by land and sea routes knowing that they cannot afford the normal process of getting visas and honouring several embassy appointments. Some of the girls deceived into this route end up as sex slaves with so much regret and consequences.

reporter encountered two young women in Anambra, Amarachi Ojene, 23, and Tobechukwu Igboeri, who shared the chilling experiences of their near-death journey to get greener pastures overseas. Years after such ‘journey to hell’, their lives have never been the same again.

Amarachi, from Nibo, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State was an SS2 student in 2012 when she encountered a devil in human skin who not only took advantage of her naivety and innocence, but also exploited her poor parental background to trick her into a sex slavery trip abroad.

Having lost her dad when she was seven years, Amarachi relied on her mother who eked out a living by hawking cooked Okpa (a local delicacy) around the Awka metropolis. They also augmented the proceeds by engaging in manual labour in local farms for people at a fee.

So, she was so excited when she met her friends who told her that their aunt was looking for a house help that would live with her overseas. She reasoned that going abroad with the woman would ease a lot of load for her suffering mother as she would be paid in dollars, which she would send home to alleviate the family sufferings.

Hear Amarachi’s gory story:

“I vividly remember the day that two girls in my town, Chioma and Miracle, met me at the Eke Awka market, where I had gone to buy palm fruits for my mum’s Okpa business. They asked if I would like to travel abroad; they said their relation living in a foreign land was looking for a house-help to take along.

I was excited as I thought that a bright prospect for higher education and escape from poverty had come not knowing that I was walking into a death trap. They told me that the same relation was also taking them with her, so that they could be fixed into money-yielding ventures over there.

When I went home, I didn’t tell my mum immediately because I was afraid of her reaction, but when I eventually told her, she was also excited more so when she heard that the woman taking me abroad is from Awka. One week later, they came back and told me that we would leave in a few days.

They never told me the main thing we were going to do there and it was later that I realized that those girls were her agents who recruit unsuspecting ladies for her in the organized sex pimp business she does.

They took me to the woman called Aunty Ebube and I was surprised when I got there and saw many young girls there too. She asked me probing questions, wanting to know if I was aware of the business I had come to do and said no. We slept that night and the next morning she took us to a shrine at Umubelu Awka to take oath of allegiance and commitment.

The native doctor welcomed us saying that the expected guests had arrived. We were 19 girls in all and I was the youngest and the most immature among them, barely 16 years old then. Everything started happening in a jiffy as the man gave us white cloth to tie on our body.

The native doctor warned Ebube when we got there that I was going to spoil things for her, but I didn’t understand what was going on. I fainted there and they sprinkled water on me, but that didn’t deter them from administering the oath of secrecy.

Ebube said that we were going to pay her N450,000 each when we get to our destination and the native doctor warned us of the dire consequences of reneging in the deal as he told us that the deity of the shrine would strike any defaulter dead.

With a shaking body yet lacking the requisite courage to extricate myself from their grip, we got initiated there. We drank and chewed some substances there and were given a small calabash each. We danced round the shrine to complete the ritual.

The next day, we moved to Onitsha and boarded a luxury bus travelling to the North. She told us to tell any policeman we see on the road that we were going on holidays in the North to see our parents based there.  She told us never to accept that we were together in the journey and that if we implicate ourselves, she would not hesitate to disown us.”

Hijab for all of us

“When we reached the northern part of the country, she told us to change into hijab and pretend that we are northern Muslim girls. A vehicle, which she had pre-arranged, was already waiting for us by the time we arrived. We were squeezed into the vehicle.

She kept picking more people on the road, which showed that a syndicate was involved. We slept in Zendel and by 3:00a.m we left for another route until we got to a place they called Agadez. She told us to stay there for the meantime and find our destiny pending when those who will take us overseas arrive.”

‘Business’ begins

“When she told us that we should stay and test our destiny briefly, I never knew that it was a kick off for the prostitution business until I was handed over to some clients in a hotel. She forced us to wear skimpy dresses and singled me out having seen my demeanour.

She told me that I’m now in a no-man’s land and I should cooperate if I still wanted to remain alive. I was crying knowing that I had walked into a trap that would take divine intervention for me to wriggle out of it. I was deep in thought when she landed me a deafening slap.  She told me to be ready to die if I won’t allow men to sleep with me.

My first time was a man old enough to be my father. The man was given option to make a choice among the bevy of girls quartered there and he picked me knowing that I was a fresh virgin. I told him that it was over my dead body that he would sleep with me. I stubbornly refused to succumb to their threats.

Short time sex there goes for 5,000 CFAs while full time is 10,000 CFA. We kept on arguing and she told me that I should not join issues with her. I was made to know that our batch of girls was the fourth trip for her while the final destination is Libya.  Usually she would just sell the girls at Agadez and return to the Southeast to recruit more for the same purpose.”

How my Igbo dialect saved me

“On that fateful night, two men came to look for female companions. She spoke with them in the local language, which I did not understand. As I was about to be handed over to them, I exclaimed in Igbo language, ‘Ewooh, o kam si jee (Is this how I have ended up)?’  When the supposed sex customers heard my exclamation, they became more interested in taking me to their home at all costs that night. They offered Madam Ebube 15,000CFA and took me.

On our way, they started asking me probing questions and I opened up and told them my predicament and identity. They were shocked and also told me they were from Enugu State. Instead of taking advantage of me that night, they treated me like a sister.

One of the boys, Anayo, told me that perhaps God made them come to the brothel that night for my sake because they had already retired after the day’s business, but on a second thought decided to stroll to a happening joint.

The two boys kept me safe, took pity on me, refused to sleep with me and offered me a mattress where I slept in the sitting room and they retired to the bedroom. They took me back to the hotel the next morning and Madam asked me whether I enjoyed my night with those boys and I said yes.

I told her that I want to go home and she started another round of threats. She told me that I could go if I repay her N450, 000. She sold one girl there and told me that I would be the next; she also reminded us that the oath we took spelt out death or madness on anyone who attempted to leave the place secretly.”

At the crossroads

“At this point, my heart was pounding and I excused her and ran back in the direction to Anayo’s house, but he was not in. I wrote a notice on their gate telling him that if he doesn’t come to rescue me immediately, I would be either dead or sold off into slavery the next day.

As God would have it, I was apprehensive that night knowing that time was ticking away for me when suddenly Anayo showed up and told our madam that he needs me for another night again. Madam thought I treated him well and handed me to him, but he took me to the house of one of the villagers and hid me there.

I was hidden for three days and madam had to suspend her trip and kept searching for me. Anayo gave me a phone and was relating all that was happening to me until the fourth day that he took me to the park. If not that he hid me, I would have died in the desert en route Libya.

Of all the 19 girls, I was the only one who returned home. I have not set eyes again on Ifunanya, who she sold first. (Begins to sob). I don’t know their fate till today. Whether they eventually reached Libya, died of hunger or were devoured by wild beasts.

“Anayo and his brother bought a ticket for me, took me by 3:00 a.m from Zendel and landed in Kano.  I boarded a vehicle to Abuja, but I didn’t know anybody there.”

Ran into kidnapper’s vehicle

“In Abuja, I entered a cab that promised to take me to Kuje where some of our brothers resided, but I never knew I had boarded the wrong vehicle. The man took me on a wrong route and headed towards a thick bush. I raised the alarm, but nobody could answer me.

The man showed me his undies and I saw all manner of weapons, guns, knife and other things he had on him. He told me to say my last prayer because he would kill me and take my body parts. He used the short knife to slash my clothes to pieces and I was stark naked.

He raped me and wanted to take my body parts fresh and I ran and he gave me a hot chase. I saw a vehicle laden with tomatoes and lay flat for the vehicle to crush me. The driver stopped abruptly, picked me naked like that and I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I saw myself in the military barracks, Abuja.”

She never knew I was still alive

Under the custody of the military, Amarachi was taken to the scene where she boarded the evil man’s cab, but the man could not be traced. The army later handed her to NAPTIP who documented her case and made efforts to rehabilitate her and also seek ways of punishing her trafficker.  She was later sent home in Anambra where she reunited with her family. She later saw her trafficker and got her arrested.

“The day I saw her at Eke Awka, she was shocked because she thought I was dead. Because we reported to DSS and NAPTIP when I came home, they gave me a number to call them any day I sight her and that was what I did. When I called the phone line, she was picked up. They raided her home, detained her and the native doctor (he is dead now) and were also charged to court.”

Picking up the pieces of her life

Settling down to a normal life after the harrowing experience for Amarachi has not been easy. Though she managed to go back to school and finally wrote her senior school certificate exams, Amarachi’s problems are far from being over. Her mother suddenly collapsed and died from high blood pressure leaving her and the siblings as orphans.

She also fell in love with a man who is not financially buoyant. The uncle who now acts as her father insisted that all the traditional rites of marriage would be completed before she is pronounced married. Along the line, she got pregnant for the fiancé and had to give birth in her home. Now nursing a 10-month-old baby boy, life has remained tough and harsh for her.

“My uncle refused to allow the man take me home because he couldn’t fulfill the long list of requirements presented to him. My mother died heartbroken for all these shocks and now without both parents, we find it even difficult to feed,” she lamented.

Appeal and words of advice

“I still thank God I’m alive today.  My advice is that people should not allow anybody deceiving them with fairy tale promises about travelling abroad.  I need urgent help presently. Helpless without mum or dad and also nursing a baby, I desire to go back to school and upgrade my life, but now even to feed is a serious problem. Government and public-spirited individuals should help me,” she pleaded.

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See is a funny TV show, but not on purpose – The Verge

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There’s a scene in See I would bet everything in my wallet (seven dollars, three old MetroCards, and five half-used coffee rewards cards) that it’ll go viral. It’s the one where Jason Momoa’s character picks up a book for the first time. Since the show is set centuries after a virus deprived humanity of sight, he has no idea what’s in his hands. He complains it smells like “dead bark” and holds it the way a toddler might hold a vegetable when they were in fact expecting a cookie. Then Alfre Woodard’s character demands he hand over what he’s found, and speaks its long-forgotten name: book.

It’s extremely funny in context, and probably debilitating out of it. It also makes See, Apple’s post-apocalyptic drama, one of my favorite kinds of shows: you could just plainly state something that happens in an episode, and everyone would swear you’re making it up. That doesn’t mean you should watch it.

Set in the ruins of our world, the people of See have adjusted to a sightless life after centuries of practice. Makeshift curtains of beads make for boundaries both audible and physical, fights involve a lot of probing contact and grappling (as does sex), and there’s a lot of finger snapping. See is extremely invested in showing you how all this stuff works, so much so that it barely delves into its characters.

Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) is a man who must take his family on the run after his adopted twins, Kofune and Haniwa, are born with sight. The trouble is, the very idea of sight is heretical — much like witchcraft in colonial America, troublesome people are accused of having the ability to see as justification for burning them alive. And there’s also an evil queen who learns of the twins, and as a religious zealot who worships the “darkness” (by, and I will testify to this in court if I have to, masturbating as she prays) she wants them brought to her for evil queen reasons.

A generous and forgiving read of See could interpret it as an attempted meditation on knowledge, ignorance, and responsibility, but See actively resists attempts to latch on to anything of substance it might have to offer. In the first three episodes made available in advance to critics, See is more interested in the logistics of its world than it is in implications.

Sometimes that leads to fun television. The third episode, the best of that initial bunch, is largely unconcerned with the season’s main arc, instead telling a story where Kofune is kidnapped by slavers and must be rescued. It’s visually striking, introducing a tribe of people that, unbeknownst to them, are living in the ruins of an amusement park. It’s got a killer fight scene, with unique choreography that clearly conveys the limitations and skills of everyone involved and depicts brutal violence with grace and skill. And it’s got personal stakes, which I won’t spoil here because it’s one of the only bits of character backstory you get in the first couple of episodes.

None of these things make See a more interesting show beyond the hour you spend watching them. It’s cotton candy, a fun confection for one moment, and just plain sugar the next.

See is clearly interested in drawing people into its elaborate and well-crafted post-apocalypse, but it’s telling that the only questions I have after watching are purely pedantic ones. Like how did a blind society make such perfect and deadly weapons, or build homes that never leak, or clothes and makeup that look so nice?

These are questions asked by jerks and spoilsports, and I wish I had better ones to ask of See. The show is strange, but fails to justify that strangeness with a compelling story, characters, or literally anything other than the list of ideas you and your stoned cousin would come up with if you wondered what it would be like if we all woke up one day totally blind, man. Maybe you’ll come up with something fun enough for posting on Twitter, but it’s not going to cut it for eight hours of television.

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Cross River House of Assembly seeks death penalty for cultism ⋆

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The bill, christened ‘Cross River State Public Order Prohibition of Secret Cult And Offensive Weapons Bill 2019′ was sponsored by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr Joseph Bassey, on Thursday in Calabar.

Bassey told the House that the bill which seeks to, not just define who is a member of a secret cult, but to actually explain who is a cultist.

He added that the bill is expected to stop the countless killings of young people of Cross River on campuses by cultists.

“Cultism has become a top killer factor in the state, even more, deadly than some diseases. The killing of young Crossriverians on campuses is alarming and we must take steps to address it.

“This bill seeks to outline stiffer punishment for any individual who is arrested for involvement in cultism to set as a deterrent to others,” he said.

Contributing to the bill, Mr Elvert Ayambem, who represents Ikom II State Constituency, argued that it was not enough for the bill to sentence cult culprits to few years imprisonment.

Ayambem added that a death penalty on one or two persons would deter the rest from the crime.

According to him, the crimes of kidnapping, robbery and cultism have the same endpoint of taking human life, hence the house should resolve on death penalty for offenders.

“When kidnappers seize a victim and a ransom is not paid, they often result in killing the victim. Likewise armed robbers; when they break into a home and there is nothing to rob, they kill the victims.

“Accordingly, the same is applicable to cultists who by the end of the day, also kill. So, I maintain that the death penalty is spelt out for any offender,” he said.

On his part, Mr Nelson Ofem, who represents Yakurr 1 State Constituency, advised that the new bill should also create an anti-cultism orientation unit where young people would, on regular basis be spoken to, on why not to subscribe to join the secret cult.

In his reaction, Speaker of the Assembly, Mr Eteng Jonah-Williams, said the bill, if successfully amended would be another milestone for the 9th Assembly.

He assured that all necessary efforts would be put into ensuring that the law is successfully amended.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill, after its second reading, was sent to the House Committee on Security, to be reported back to the House in three weeks. (NAN)

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How my son went from gamer to compulsive gambler

The NHS has opened its first clinic for young people addicted to gaming and gambling, a year after a Gambling Commission report found that 55,000 11-to-16-year-olds in the UK were problem gamblers. For some the path to gambling begins with playing online games, as the BBC’s Becky Milligan heard from the father of one young man now getting help for his addiction.

“Not in a million years, not in a million years did I think that gaming could lead to compulsive gambling.”

Steve is sitting on a bench in a churchyard. He’s agreed to talk to me about his son’s gambling addiction. He’s nervous, he hasn’t done an interview before and I can feel his anxiety.

His son, now in his early 20s, is in recovery and doing well, “but we take one day at a time” he says.

“We’ve had a terrible three years. We wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through. When we first discovered our son had the compulsive gambling disorder we didn’t know what to do.”

I tell Steve that I’ve spoken to other parents whose children have developed gambling disorders, and they also paid off the debts at first, not realising the extent of their children’s addiction.

“We thought this was just a little glitch, this is what kids do,” one father told me. And that’s what Steve thought at first.

He and his wife had known for some time that their son enjoyed having the odd bet. But lots of their friends enjoyed a flutter and it didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary.

A year later, though, Steve was shocked to find out his son was gambling with other people’s money and losing large amounts.

“It was online roulette. That was his downfall,” he tells me.

Now Steve realised it was a very serious problem. He and his wife didn’t know what to do. They began to isolate themselves, avoid going out or seeing friends. They were worried what people would say.

“We were pretty helpless. We didn’t know which way to turn. We spent months finding the answers and doing our own research,” Steve says.

Last year, he and his wife went to a GamAnon meeting for families. Earlier this year his son also began to get help.

Steve has had a few months to do a great deal of research and he now believes his son’s addiction was sparked when he was 12 or 13 and was obsessed with playing online games, particularly football games.

He would play for hours and hours in his bedroom, Steve tells me, and all his mates were into to it as well. Steve didn’t really understand what the games were about, let alone the new technology the games used. And anyway, at least his son was occupied, he says.

“We all want an easy life, a quiet life. Parents can be lazy. If he was playing upstairs I would think, ‘It’s not doing any harm is it?'”

Steve now thinks that the football games promoted habits, including spending hours online, that “developed into gambling”.

Crucially, Steve’s son was encouraged to pay for extra products, such as “ultimate team packs”.

The identities of the players in these packs would only be revealed once he had paid, which Steve says introduced his son to the “thrill of gambling”, the game of chance and risk – including the chance of acquiring a star player who would make him unbeatable.

Steve thinks the difference between online gaming and gambling is very subtle, and that those children who excessively game online, like his son, are at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers later in life. It doesn’t matter, he says, whether the game involves winning or losing real money.

Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a psychiatrist at the new NHS treatment centre, says no link between gaming-related activities “that may be toxic for young people” and gambling has yet been established. It’s currently a “big controversial conversation”, she says.

“I believe so little is known in this country about both these behavioural addictions in children, that we need to hear it on the ground, we need to understand what these people are doing then work with policy makers, politicians and public health professionals to change the environment they live in,” she told the BBC.


It has been a very hard few years for Steve and his family. He recently decided to leave his teaching job and set up a charity, GamFam, to help other parents who might be in a similar position.

However complicated it is, Steve says that parents need to know what their children are doing online, they need to become the experts in order to protect them.

“Do research, put the barriers in place, take control of the device, set up family time. Screen [the child’s activity] so that you are in control of what’s going on. And most importantly do not have any of your credit cards, debit cards linked to the account,” he says.

“There are horror stories where children are spending excessive amounts of money on in-game purchases. Many of these games promote themselves as free games but the loot boxes in the games [are not].”

Like the “ultimate team packs” that Steve’s son used to buy, loot boxes may contain virtual items such as weapons or shields that help a player win the game – and gamers don’t know what’s in them until they have bought them.

MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee recently recommended that the sale of loot boxes should be regulated as gambling, and that selling them to children should be banned entirely.

In a statement to the BBC, the association for UK interactive entertainment, Ukie, echoed Steve’s call for parents to monitor their children’s behaviour online.

“Alongside robust age-ratings for games, all major consoles and mobile devices offer smart and simple parental controls. Above all, we recommend that parents and carers engage directly with players, talk to them about the games they are playing and even join in,” the statement said.

Wes Himes, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, said it was very difficult for children to get through the verification process to gamble online. He added that the industry was not allowed to advertise near schools, or to target under-25s with its advertising.

Steve Ginnis of Ipsos Mori, however, told the BBC that focus groups conducted by his company showed that children and young people found aspects of existing gambling advertisements appealing – “in terms of promotional offers and use of celebrities and presenting it as fun or skilful”.


‘Part of the game’

Stewart Kenny, the Paddy Power founder who resigned in 2016 over what he saw as the failure to tackle problem gambling, says advertising is “normalising” gambling for children, and that it has become “nearly part of the game” when watching football.

“That is dangerous, because it is promoted by well-known people, it’s a constant barrage of advertising they see it before, during and after the match… It’s become normal for children to think gambling and soccer are the same thing.”


Steve says his family is now doing better. His son’s last bet was in February. They are not ashamed any more about what happened, but in order to protect his son, Steve doesn’t want to give his full name.

He hopes his new charity will be able to visit schools and talk to parents.

Steve says the problem of children’s gambling addiction has to be addressed. If nothing is done, he believes we will have an “epidemic on our hands of catastrophic proportions”.

At present, he says, the only help these youngsters have got is their parents.

“For me, if I don’t do this now, then I will never do it, I feel it is a calling, I need to do, I need to be putting the message out there and support the parents. I wouldn’t wish what we have been through on my worst enemy.”

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