Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Harewood maybe a home fit for a King, but which prince will actually get it?

THERE is little doubt that when it's finally completed, the mansion planned for a derelict strip of land in the heart of a secluded part of English countryside will be as fit for a king as it might be for a prince, writes Neil Michael.
Where the debate about the future occupant of the £5 million house really starts however is - which prince?
According to press reports, the best money is on Prince William and the woman tipped to be his future bride, Kate Middleton - who were reportedly seen viewing the property a weeks ago.
But talk to the locals around Harewood End village in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border, and you find more voices in favour of the new house being home to . . . Prince Harry, however odd that may sound.
Both princes have been to the estate - Harry to work carpenters and a stone mason when he was grounded last year and William periodically.
Other than the last few weeks, the latter was last on the estate about four months ago.
Such is the speed and quality of the work being done to turn what was once little more than a ghost village that locals see it as being more, much more than just an opportunity for the Duchy of Cornwall to up its rental income.
Many of them have also heard a few choice comments by people who either still work on the site, or have done so in the past.
Walking round the estate and village, the future arrival of the princes is pretty much taken as a given.
Parish Council chairman Frank Davis says: "One can hardly be 100 per cent because it'll not be until 2010 before the main house is finished.
"But every time I talk to Duchy of Cornwall staff about the prospect of a Royal prince coming to live at Harewood Park, they neither deny or confirm the rumours that are rife round here.
"Talk of princes began shortly after Prince Charles' Duchy of Cornwall purchased what is now called the Hereford Estate - more than 900 acres surrounding Harewood Park - in 2000.
It was part of a job lot of some 22,000 acres around the UK that the Duchy paid the Prudential finance group.
Sunk into a small valley surrounded on all sides by gently rolling hills, the estate's motley collection of barns, cottages, stables and a manor house are invisible from the busy A49 road that runs along one of the boundaries of the estate.
Although constantly busy with traffic to and from the neighbouring city of Hereford - where King Charles II's mistress Nell Gwynne is reputed to have been born in 1650 - vehicles glide past in the distance with little more than a feint grumble.
But Prince Charles' involvement isn't the only reason for the fevered speculation.
After all, his Duchy of Cornwall estate owns more than 141,000 acres around the country.
Instead, it is his estimated £3 million plans for the strip of barren land that was once home to a grand mansion that was gradually blown apart - by military regiments using it for target practice - in the 1950s and eventually raised to the ground up by the SAS in 1959.
Built on the same site for a succession of stately homes since 1324, Harewood Park house had a series of owners after it was sold in 1892 by the local landowning Hoskyns family.
Once a site for lavish hunt balls, during Second World War - by which time it was owned by London's famous Guy's Hospital - it was used as an auxiliary hospital.
The Duchy's plans are indeed pretty much in keeping with the tradition of properties on the site and is planning to build in its place a grand 10,000 sq ft neo-Georgian mansion.
Building work on the new house - which will feature it's own ball room, sweeping central staircase, servants quarters and grand reception rooms - is, although some way off from beginning, estimated to run into many millions.
And in a move that could well suit, say, a polo-playing prince with a passion for horses - there are plans to restore nearby stables back to their former glory, although stables further away on the estate have been converted into neat new homes or work studios.
There are also plans to restore the estate's cricket pitch - a strip of land surrounded by a ring of trees.
These were reportedly put there after the lady of the house at the time lost her wedding ring somwehere in the field and the trees were planted to mark the spot.
The trees still stand but all that remains of Harewood Park house - which is less than 20 minutes drive from where the Royal princes' former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke lives in the nearby county of Powys - is a few of the building's barely noticeable boundary walls, and a fenced off entrance to one of the property's vast cellars.
They are reportedly big enough for a horse and carriage to enter and drop off its occupants, swing round and depart again.
The lake that once graced the back of the big house is a large dried mud patch filled with weeds.And all that remains of a modern red-brick bungalow that was built on the site of the big house are the slates from its roof, laid out in neat piles by a telegraph pole - one of the many dotted around the estate.
Despite its idyllic location, it is criss-crossed by a network of pylons and telegraph poles - an irritant Prince Charles has commented on.
A worker, who asked not to be named, said: "He told me he hates, absolutely loathes them."
What's not recorded so far is his views on another irritant common to these parts - low-flying.
Helicopter gunships, jet fighters and massive military transport planes regularly swoop up suddenly over the brow of the hill over-looking the Harewood Park house site before dropping down the other side of the gentle valley.
A friend of a builder on part of the Hereford Estate development that overlooks the empty site said: "I've a friend who worked there and he said it can be quite scary at times.
"He was working on one of the barns one day when he suddenly looked up and saw two massive helicopter gunships heading straight for him, vertically with their noses pointing downwards.
"He could see the faces of the pilots very clearly.
"They get jets and all sorts over the area all the time. It's a brilliant spot for low-flying training."
It's not the only training that goes on in the area.
Locals talk of treading on SAS soldiers hidden in undergrowth during exercises while out walking their dogs at night.
Others talk of vans abandoned in woods near the estate, left empty by teams of soldiers dropped off for an exercise.
One said: "Security is tight enough whenever any of the royals are around.
"The police are like little ants, crawling all over the place, and checking hedgerows days in advance.
"It's as if the whole place is a bit of a high security zone, what with the SAS being based not far away and using the area for training."
Home Farm - which is Phase One of the Duchy's ten-year re-development plan for Hereford Estate - was completed more than a year ago and officially opened by Prince Charles, who planted a tree in memory of the occasion during a 20-minute visit.
The small collection of refurbished cottages, barns and stables nestles in a small community of its own over-looked by mechanical diggers working on the estate's sandstone quarry - clawing out materials for buildings on the estate.
Although, some locals - keen to grab a bit of Royal cache - have helped themselves to some of the stones, using them as doorstops.
The next settlement is a few minutes walk from Home Farm along a tarmacked bridle path to Grange Farm - phase two.
This site includes barns, stables, a large wattle and daub and oak-beamed manor house, as well as St Dennis' - an old chapel built on a site that has been used for chapels since the 13th century.
Tellingly, and given Prince Charles' interest in art - this is not only being restored to its former glory, but the 140-year-old building is also being temporarily turned into an artist's studio.
The plans include a floating floor, which can be removed at a future date when, presumably, church services resume.
To the side of the Harewood Park house site are ornate but dilapidated old stables, a few barns and what was once a huge dog kennels - sited by the remains of the estate's famed walled gardens.
The dogs in the kennels were used for animal testing and animal rights activists protested against its work on a regular basis.
Clashes with riot police were a common occurrence.Locals remember the running battles between police and protesters, as well as the police helicopters flying overhead with their bright search light beams combing the area.
Indeed, as soon as the Duchy moved in, one of the first things they had to do was remove a staggering 100 tonnes of razor wire from fields around the kennels.
When the kennels was eventually closed down, Linda McCartney was one of the people who stepped in to find home for a number of the dogs.
Anthony Snell, chairman of the local National Farmers Union and a local businessman whose land lies opposite the Harewood End entrance to Duchy's Hereford Estate, is one of many happy to see the development in full swing.
Of the rumours about Prince William and Harry, he has little doubt one will take up residence at some stage.
He said: "I don't think there is much doubt about the place being used for a prince."
Far too much money and attention is being lavished on the site for it just to be let out to other people."
He added: "I've heard the leases are not only very expensive but also generally short-term lets, so that it will be easy to clear people out when the time comes."
Renting a property on Home Farm costs anything from around £750 to £1,700-a-month. Little wonder that so few of the available properties are occupied.
Proof-reader Sally Sargent was one of the first tenants to move in.
Unlike her neighbour who was only happy to speak if this reporter got clearance from The Duchy of Cornwall first, she said: "Yes, the rents are high, but this is what you would expect to pay for a high quality property in this kind of location.
"I had been looking for ages for a suitable property and couldn't find one."
At the end of the day you get what you pay for and as far as I'm concerned the rents are appropriate for where we are.
"As far as the leases being short-term, I've heard people saying that but that doesn't mean anything.
"I'm on a very long-term lease and do not see myself being turfed out of here any time soon.
"And as far as any princes coming here, I haven't seen any and no absolutely nothing about their future plans.
"That said, it can only be a good thing not just for the estate but also the area.
"You can already see for yourself the benefit to this area from the involvement of Prince Charles."
Others also see the benefits.
A local businessman who lives across the road from the Harewood End Inn, said: "I've heard all the talk about one of the princes coming and can believe it.
"For a start we'll get more police and secondly, I'd imagine the price of our properties will shoot up."
Whatever about the rumours, the landlord of Harewood End Inn were keeping their take on the talk to themselves.
Inn Landlord Laurie Cork said: "We get a lot of people from the Duchy in here and this just isn't one of those issues we want to be drawn on."
A framed letter dated 12 March, 1996 and from St James' Palace and the Lady in Waiting to HRH The Princess of Wales sits by the bar, underneath signed photos of actresses who have visited the area.
It reads: "Dear Stephanie, the Princess of Wales has asked me to thank-you for your lovely card addressed to Prince Henry.
"His Royal Highness was grateful to you for taking the trouble to send this and hopes you will understand that Prince Henry cannot reply personally.
"I am sorry to send you this disappointing reply.
"Never-the-less, her Royal Highness has asked me to send you her very best wishes.
"Yours Sincerely, Mrs James Lonsdale."
The letter was addressed to Laurie's then eight-year-old daughter in return for a Valentine's card she had sent Prince Harry.
Mr Cork said: "She was so chuffed when she got that letter and was amazed that Princess Diana had gone to all that effort of asking one of her staff to write to my daughter.
"She certainly hadn't expected to get a reply."
He just smiles when it's suggested by a local drinking by the bar that the chances of his 18-year-old daughter bumping into Prince Harry are now markedly higher than they were ten years ago.
"Who would have thought they could end up as neighbours?" they said.
Although he is said to have been in the area recently, a number of people last saw Harry in the hamlet about a year ago.
According to a drinker in the pub, he is well liked and admired regardless of the fact that he regularly entertained fellow workers with a string of jokes that "left a lot to be desired".
One was: What do you call a sheep tied to a pole in a Welsh field? Answer: "A leisure centre."
Indeed, as well as his playful banter - Harry didn't shirk on his work duties.
During a rain and hail shower storm, his Royal Protection officers sheltered in their car while he carried on working with the other workers.
He jokingly goaded them for being scared of getting wet and urged them to get out of the car.
One reportedly told him: "We are not paid to get wet. We're paid to look after you and we're staying put."
Duchy of Cornwall tenant and a next door neighbour to Grange Farm, and the planned Harewood Park house, Frank Davis remembers it well.
He said: "I think he had been grounded by his father at the time because of all that fuss about the pictures taken of him wearing a Swastika.
"Prince Charles had put him to work on the estate and he was working with a stone mason for a few days.
"I think he was also doing some carpentry work.
"I met him when I was near my home and he had popped down to take a look around.
"He was just walking around and he had some detectives following along behind.
"Harry popped over and introduced himself and we had a brief chat."
Frank, whose family has lived and farmed in the area for centuries, added: "He was a really nice lad - relaxed, disarmingly down-to-earth and I really liked him."
The retired farmer added: "I don't know for certain if he will one day move in to Harewood Park house.
"But every time I talk to Duchy of Cornwall staff about it when they are around, they don't exactly deny it.
"That said, they certainly don't confirm it either.
"Whatever does happen, it is great for the area that his father has taken such a keen interest.
"Before he bought what is now the Hereford Estate, the buildings in this area had fallen into ruins and it was terrible to see the neglect.
"Now what Prince Charles is doing is leading to a complete revival of this area and it can only be good."
Another local, who did not want to be named, said that although the best money was on Prince William moving into the house - when it is eventually built - he is convinced it will be it will be more of a base for Prince Harry.
She said: "I was told by a person who was working on the new development that preparations are being made with Harry, not William in mind."
For whoever moves in, it will be an ideal Royal location and it's not too far from either other royal homes or - depending on your mode of transport - London.
With the type of twin-engined helicopter favoured by the Royals, Bristol Airport and Prince Charles and The Princess Royal's homes at Highgrove and Gatcombe Park near Tetbury in neighbouring Gloucestershire are only about 25 minutes away.
The trip to London could be done in around an hour.
Although secluded enough, trees are being replanted all over the estate to replace woodlands long since cut down.
Tellingly, a lot of the new samplings surround all the main properties on the estate.
And despite the fact that there is still a public right of way running through the estate - and right past the bare strip of land earmarked for the new Harewood Park house - few locals believe this will remain.
Many are convinced access to the estate will be gradually restricted - although this is hotly denied by Duchy of Cornwall staff.
Indeed, a bridle path that runs along the side of the Harewood End Inn has become virtually unusable and over-grown, with Hereford City Council admitting they do not have the resources to maintain it.
But like so many pathways in the area, they were established when local farm workers used to walk from their cottages to work on the local estate.
When the estate fell into ruin from the late 1940s, so did many of the paths.
Any lack of care regards rights-of-way across the estate are however resolutely denied by Prince Charles' office at Clarence House.
A spokeswoman said: "The Prince of Wales and the Duchy of Cornwall take very seriously the issue of public rights of way.
"Any suggestion that bridle paths on the estate would be closed to the public is misleading and inaccurate."
Parish council chairman Frank Davis, who lives on the estate with wife Sylvia, agrees.
Commenting on reports that various rights-of-way signs had been removed since the Duchy of Cornwall bought the land, he said: "Far from it.
"Only recently did the council arrange to have new ones put up."
But there are those who feel that if a Royal prince is to take up residence at Harewood, access across the estate will be at the very least - reviewed.
Rights of way gradually disappeared at Highgrove and some locals are convinced the same will happen on the Hereford Estate.
Although, Frank Davis is not one of them, pointing out that the parish council recently replaced old signs with new ones - although it has to be said, this reporter didn't see any such notices anywhere on the estate - regardless of what the Duchy press office had to say.
Regardless of what does eventually happen to the bridleways, there are very few people who don't welcome the fact that the estate is now run by the Duchy of Cornwall.
And it is obvious that Prince Charles is working hard at nurturing the loyalty of anyone who lives on the estate - old and new.
Indeed, a year after he took over - the prince made a point of paying Frank a visit to wish him well in his retirement.
He has also made similar personal gestures to other individuals.
Frank, 70, said: "It was all arranged in advance, with his security people calling and visiting to check the place out first.
"I think the original plan was for Prince Charles to just have a chat on the doorstep, but in the end, he came into the house and stayed for about half-an-hour.
"We were very surprised that he had even known I was retiring let alone wanted to pop by and wish me luck.
"But then that is the way he is.
"During the foot and mouth crisis a few years back, a local farmer on the estate had had to slaughter his entire herd and he was surprised to one day get a call from the Duchy office.
"A voice at the other end of the phone said the prince wanted to speak to him and although he thought it was some kind of joke, sure enough - Prince Charles came on the phone and said he was sorry to hear about what had happened to his herd."
Another local sees this as yet another reason to believe that a member of the Royal family is likely to start spending more time on the estate in years to come.
They said: "There is just too much care and attention being paid to this part of the county.
"As well as the millions being lavished on the buildings and the surrounding countryside, I get the impression Prince Charles is going out of his way to ingratiate himself with the locals.
"He's doing a good job of it, and I suspect that will serve him and his sons well if they decide to live in the area because the growing sense of loyalty to a landlord that finally gives a damn about the area is a very novel experience for most people round here."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lynch and ex-love go AWOL

THE family of the woman Shane Lynch is believed to have quit Love Island for told last night of their joy at the prospect of a reunion between the two singers, writes Neil Michael.
Sheena White's mother Genie was speaking for the first time since the ex-Boyzone star walked out on reality show Love Island to get back with an ex.
After spending a day reading the bible, the 30-year-old told fellow contestants - including a sobbing Sophie Anderton - before he walked on Monday: "I need to put the mistakes right. To cut a long story short, my time has come and I need to leave this place.
"The truth is there's somebody who really owns my heart and that's where it lies right now."
And although he refused to name the woman, he said: "It's not just some random woman - it's someone I've known quite some time. And I need to find out if she feels the same. A man can only live in hope."
That woman is believed to be his former long-term girlfriend, Sheena White - a stunning 25-year-old singer from England, who he started seeing in around 2003.
They had split some months before Lynch, a born-again Christian who had vowed in their relationship to stick to a strict self-imposed no-sex-before-marriage rule, decided to go on the ITV1 show at the beginning of last month.
UK-born Sheena, who was a singer in a band near her home in Bexley in Kent before she met Lynch, has not been seen in public since.
But her mother Genie told the Irish Daily Mail: "I don't normally watch TV but I had watched some of Love Island.
"However, because I had missed one night, the first I heard Shane had left the programme was when I heard it from reporters.
"I honestly do not even know where my daughter is at the moment and I am not currently speaking to her. That's not because we have fallen out or anything. It's just that she is doing her own thing and I do not know when I will either see or speak to her again.
"I don't believe in molly-coddling my children, and they are free to do whatever they want. She's a grown-up and can come and go as she please."
On the prospect of a reunion, she added: "Shane's a lovely boy and they were a lovely couple. I would love to see them back together again, it would be very nice but as to them marrying, I just can't say because I honestly don't know.
"Mind you, if my daughter needs any advice on that score, I'm sure she'll get in touch. Other than that, I'm afraid there is nothing else I can tell you"
Lynch, who joined Fiji-based Love Island at the beginning of last month, has made little secret of his feelings for Sheena.
Of their relationship and the prospect of marriage, Lynch said in 2004: "I want to get married again one day. It's something that Sheena and I are definitely working towards.
"I love her dearly and I would have married her when we first got together - I knew how I felt about her. But I guess I'm trying to be sensible. I'm in no rush."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Catholic Church to defend action by deaf sex abuse victims

THE Catholic church is being sued by victims of a former priest who they claim abused them when they were residents of a home for the deaf.

Eight men in their 40s who claim Neil Gallanagh abused them are taking part in a group action against him. If successful, they could be awarded up to £50,000 each - bringing the total payout to more than £500,000.

A writ has been delivered to the Catholic Diocese of Leeds in England, where the former priest is based, and the case is expected to come to court by next summer, 2007.

It's the latest of a number of writs lodged against the Catholic Church and follows Gallanagh's conviction in 2005 when he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two pupils of St John's Catholic School for the Deaf, in Boston Spa, between 1975 and 1980.

Instead of receiving the jail sentence his victims had hoped for, the 76-year-old - who was a resident chaplain at the home where he moved after serving at a parish in Ireland - walked free and was given a six-month suspended at Leeds Crown Court.

It was agreed that a further 12 charges against Gallanagh of indecent assault dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, involving five other under-16 boys – including an 11-year-old – would be "left on the file".

The case is being brought by the same legal firm that is representing 140 victims of abuse by Catholic priests at another UK care home.

David Greenwood, of Jordan's Solicitors, in West Yorkshire, England, said: "Our firm was approached after the court case against Neil Gallanagh.

"His victims were not happy with the outcome and still believe there is a need for further justice.
"It is our information that Gallanagh had committed sex offences before he worked at St John's and the Catholic Church were aware about his activities.

"We know he has other victims out there but many are just too frightened or intimidated by the Catholic Church to want to take the matter further.

"Their lives and those of the eight men who are taking this action have been ruined and the fact that Gallanagh was able to walk free despite being convicted of abuse just added insult to injury."

Spokesman for the Diocese of Leeds confirmed the writ had been received, but said last night: "The matter is in the hands of our solicitors and we have no comment to make."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dead pensioner's "Pretty Woman"

THE wife of murdered Irish pensioner William West has finally admitted she killed him.
And as more details of his murder - and life - emerge, it also appears Kate Atori may have actually been working as a prostitute in the African resort where they met six years ago.
The 26-year-old - who married Dublin-born West in Scotland four years ago - was "known" to Gambian police long before her arrest over his brutal death in The Gambia earlier this month.
Despite initially claiming he had gone missing, she broke down during questioning by police and admitted she beat her husband to death with a club at their Gambian holiday home before dragging his body into the garden, dousing it with petrol and setting it alight.
Contrary to earlier reports, he was not alive at the time.
Assistant Superintendent Aziz Bojang said last night: "She has had time to reflect on her actions and she realises the consequences of what she has done.
"She is full of remorse about what she did and is now saying she alone effectively clubbed Mr West to death."
He added: "She has given us a number of contradicting versions and we cannot rule out the involvement of others.
"I cannot comment on whether or not she may have been a prostitute when she first met Mr West but some of my colleagues in the police force knew her."
A friend of West - known as "Jar" to his friends - has said she believes Atori was just one of hundreds of young women who flock to the Senegambia tourist strip each year to target lonely rich westerners, or Toubabs as they are known locally.
As one recent tourist noted on www.worldsexarchives.com: "The Gambian girls are always looking out for a white man for a meal ticket as there is so much poverty in the country, and to find a Gambian girlfriend is the easiest thing in the world even if you are bald, ugly and fat!
"They are also not concerned about age.
"There are many, many, girls ready for a one night stand for a small fee, including many prostitutes from neighbouring countries such as Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Liberia etc.
"Most of these girls are stunning in looks, and are readily available."
And as to the area where West met Atori, he added: "One has to be ready for a barrage of Gambians ready to take you anywhere, offer you anything from a banana to their "sister".
"These people lay in wait for the tourist and to be honest they are a nuisance.
"Ali Baba's is basically at the centre of the area, and everybody - tourists and locals - pass here at some stage of the evening.
"It is good to sit and watch. Eventually the girls start to arrive. A lot will come and sit at the tables with a drink and a snack . . . before getting up to the nights activities."
The daughter of a poor Nigerian farmer called Efemon John Atori - who died when she was a child - she had moved to Senegambia from her native Ghana in a bid to earn enough money to set up her own hair salon.
West, who was still heart-broken over the death of his first wife, was holidaying in Senegambia alone in 2000.
A friend had suggested he take a break on "The Smiling Coast" to take his mind off the death of his first wife - which had left him devastated.
He was enjoying a solitary beer at the Ali Baba Restaurant in the centre of the popular sea-side district when he met Atori.
A favourite haunt of local prostitutes, it is packed every summer with foreign tourists.
West is believed to have been flattered by her initial interest in him - although there is no suggestion he actually knew very much about her background.
He was however so taken in by her that he vowed to help her start a new life in the UK.
At the time, he was becoming increasingly involved in a number of charitable ventures in the poor African country and was in the process of setting up his own charitable foundation.
But his friends and relatives - including his disabled 79-year-old Finglas-based brother Joseph - were still reeling in shock last night over how what started as a casual holiday friendship and eventually led to marriage would ultimately end with his cruel death.
As one said: "How scared must he have felt in the moments before his death?".
A retired civil engineer who had amassed a £1 million fortune through property deals, investments and a computer business, he was initially reported missing by Atori at the start of a three-week July break at the couple's holiday home in the remote Gambian village of Sanyang.
The couple had flown there from his palatial £750,000 UK home which she had moved into not long after meeting him in 2000.
Atori initially told police the last thing he said before he "vanished" was that he was going to buy cigars in a local shopping precinct.
She then flew back to the couple's home in Hastings, East Sussex at the beginning of July - claiming she had thought that that is where he must have gone back to.
However, suspicious friends immediately contacted UK and Gambian police and Atori was persuaded to return to The Gambia.
Sussex detective inspector Paul Phelps recalled: "She was visibly upset, crying and kept repeating over and over 'I just want my husband back, I just want my husband back'."
West's accountant David Jenkins flew to The Gambia with her and days later, she eventually led police to West's badly burned body - dumped in a bin bag near the fence bordering their remote holiday villa.
Among the African men arrested in connection with West's death was one of Atori's ex-boyfriends.
Describing his feelings later, Jenkins said: "I was very close to Kate during the time that the body was recovered.
"Obviously there was deep sadness but all I can remember feeling is empty. A couple of people have asked me if I felt angry but I didn't.
"It was a cold emptiness."
Sussex police have since seized a computer from the couple's home, along with records for both a mobile phone and a landline.
A team of forensic experts is expected to be flown over from the UK to The Gambia later this week to help formally identify West's body.
Omar Jagne, one of West's Gambian friends from London, said: "When Kate told me Jar had gone missing, I just didn't believe her.
"The last thing he said to me was that he would call me when he got to The Gambia, but he never did call.
"I rang his mobile repeatedly but there was no reply and I had been suspicious of that ever since, so when she later claimed he was missing, I just had to call in the police."
Why she wanted dead the very man who had done just about everything in his power to help her start a new life is still not clear.
But the fact that a copy of his will was found in her handbag when she was arrested may well be the best clue.
In 2005, he had agreed that she would get the bulk of his estate when he died.
He also requested that his body be cremated and his ahses mixed with those of his first wife and scattered into a particular river that had meant something to the couple.
At the time of his death, he has put his Hastings home up for sale and was planning to put his Gambian home on the market - having gone there in June to begin working on the property.
According to police sources, he was effectively planning to "downsize".
Jagne also believes he intended to devote more of his time to his charitable ventures in Gambia.
As well as buying the couple's holiday in home Sanyang, West had also bought Atori's mother Yayo a home in Nigeria and he was also planning to buy another property.
He said: "Jar realised that with very little you can make a big difference in a country like Gambia.
"He had already given away more than £10,000 and had become committed to really trying to make a difference to people's lives there."
He added: "Jar saw The Gambia as being very similar to Ireland decades ago and thought there was a great chance to invest in property."
Neighbours of West's palatial home in the picturesque seaside town of Hastings describe him as a painfully polite but private man who "kept himself to himself".
So little was known about West's African wife that some neighbours thought she was little more than his home help.
They married in May 2002 at Edinburgh registry office in a brief ceremony attended by two random builders - Bill Davidson and David Hay - who West and his fiancee had asked to become witnesses.
Covered in dirt and still in their work clothes, West paid them £50 each to do the honours.
Davidson later recalled: "It was very suspicious. He seemed in a hurry. There was nothing normal about it."
Back in Hastings, the neighbours didn't quite know what to make of the couple.
One said: "I rarely saw them together and only really ever saw her taking his dogs for walks.
"Because she was so much younger than him, I just assumed she worked for him. I had no idea they were married."
The couple rarely socialised and she is not known to have made any friends in the area.
The few times they were seen in public were when they took their dogs for a walk in the local park and when they used to attend 6pm mass on Saturday evenings at the nearby Catholic church of St Mary Star of the Sea.
A priest there remembers West as a jovial character who indulged in "polite chit chat from time to time about rugby and the weather".
When West bought the house from a widow named Doris Taylor-Smith - whose husband Francis Thomas had died in 1986 - for around £20,000 in 1992 with a Mary Ann West (possibly his mother) it needed a lot of renovation done to it.
Doris had apparently told one neighbour she was going to leave the house to a cancer charity - but that neighbour checked for her will in London's probate office three years after her death and failed to find any mention of a will.
The fact that there were squatters in the house when he bought it was apparently of little concern to him.
He later admitted to a neighbour that he just phoned "the heavy mob" and had them forcibly removed.
Another neighbour, retired Rhodesian Police officer Colin Osbourne, saw the eviction and had dubbed the pensioner the area's "Fred West".
Suspicious of West the moment he arrived on the street, it was him who travelled all the way to London to check out Doris Taylor-Smith's wedding.
He said: "About four or five big burly blokes just turned up one morning and pretty much smashed their way into the house.
"The occupants boarded themselves into the upstairs rooms and tried to hang onto to the top floor but as West's men moved in, all you could hear from across the road was screaming and the sound of furniture being smashed up.
"It was pretty full on and I remember a couple of local police officers turning up.
"I'm not too sure of they were there to protect the squatters or to act as some kind of support for West's men.
"But whatever happened, the squatters left within a few hours."
He added: "I kind of got the impression that despite his age, West was not a man who took being messed around lightly."
Mr West's first wife - who has been named as Doris in reports - is said to have died shortly after he moved into the house, and - according to Jagne - he never got over her death.
He is believed to have kept an urn of her ashes at his house in Hastings.
He said: "He used to tell me how loving she was, how much she had understood him and how much her death had left a void in his life.
"I don't think he ever came to terms with her death.
"Whenever there were any disagreements between himself and Kate, he used to get really down about things and then he'd start talking about his first wife.
"He absolutely adored her and I know it was his intention that after his death, he wanted his ashes distributed over his wife's grave."
On Friday, West's loyal handyman "Jim" arrived in the afternoon to check the couple's postbox and turn on lights in the house, leaving ten minutes later.
He broke down in tears when asked about his former boss.
He said: "He was a lovely, decent man who had a very big heart and an absolute passion for Africa.
"He just did not deserve what has happened to him.
"I am so very upset about it. It's still so hard to take it all in."
Equally stunned by his death is 76-year-old Joyce Avard, who runs a school for the blind in The Gambia.
She first met West two years ago when he called out of the blue to ask her about her work in the country.
A near neighbour in Hastings, she said: "He was one of the kindest and most generous men I have ever met.
"He recently transported about 80 boxes of supplies I needed to deliver to Gambia.
"He was bringing a container load of stuff over to the country and just offered to help."


Monday, July 10, 2006

Samuel Beckett collection waiting for buyer

A MYSTERY millionaire is set to buy the world's largest private collection of work by Samuel Beckett.
The Dublin-based collector is negotiating to snap up the collection of 800 items – much of them personally signed by the notoriously reclusive Irish playwright behind plays such as Waiting for Godot.
The Irish National Library were initially offered first-refusal to buy the collection three weeks ago but have so far failed to come up with £250,000 asking price.
It is one of the last of a series of collections sold on behalf of relatives of an eccentric and obsessive Dublin-born book dealer and collector who left more than 20,000 books and manuscripts – worth a staggering £2 million - in his will when he died nearly four years ago.
The 83-year-old's dying wish was that his Irish collections of books and manuscripts – which also included works by WB Yeats, James Joyce and Seamus Heaney - be housed in Ireland after his death.
But without an offer from The Irish National Library or other state body, this extraordinary Beckett collection will remain in private hands either here or abroad. The London firm handling the sale has already received interest from collectors around the world.
Joe McCann, of Maggs Rare Books, said: "It would be a terrible shame if somebody didn't buy this collection for the benefit of the Irish nation, especially with this being Beckett's centennial year."
The Alan Clodd Beckett collection includes a virtually brand new first edition of the playwright's first novel, Murphy – in its original dust jacket. Published in 1938, it sold just 138 copies in its first two years and most of the initial 2-3,000 print run were destroyed in a World War II warehouse bomb.
Obsessed with privacy, Beckett - who was born in April 1906 - rarely appeared in public and was always very reluctant to sign his name on anything. Yet Dubliner Alan Clodd, who became a London book dealer in the 1960s, became friends with him and managed to persuade him to sign about 200 items in the collection that is now for sale. One of the manuscripts – for the play Words and Music - also contains some of Beckett's famous doodles.
As well as numerous signed limited editions, it contains virtually all of Beckett's works in their first edition form, alongside original manuscripts, proof copies and galley proofs. It also includes books and periodicals with contributions by Beckett and a range of other original Beckett-related material such as theatrical programmes, posters, photographs, postcards and production scripts.
Highlights in the collection include multiple versions of Waiting for Godot, including one of only 30 signed copies of the French first edition and copies of all three issues of Beckett's North – which was published by Clodd's own private press, The Enitharmon Press – as well as galley proofs, Beckett's original manuscript and his corrected typescript.
McCann said: "Agents representing an individual in Ireland have been in touch. We don't know who it is but they are very keen to get their hands on the collection, as are a number of other wealthy private individuals.
"We have an obligation to Mr Clodd's family to get the best possible price. It was felt that he would want an organisation like the Irish National Library to get the books but we have to appreciate any financial constraints on their own budget.
"We have been in talks with them but have not yet received a firm offer."
Collette O'Flaherty, a spokeswoman for the library which bought Clodd's James Joyce collection about two years ago, said: "We have no comment to make whatsoever about this collection."
She added: "You can read into that whatever you like."
Like Beckett, Clodd was born in Dublin, where his mother's family ran a shop in Blackrock, not far from the Beckett family home at Foxrock. The son of a rubber broker, the family settled in the UK in the 1920s. After school, he worked for insurance firm Scottish Widows and although a conscientious objector during World War II, he served in an ambulance unit in Egypt and Italy.
On his return to London, he began collecting books and worked for five years as a librarian at the London Library before taking a variety of clerical jobs – including one with a luxury car export firm. He became a book dealer and private publisher in the 1960s, gradually amassing collections of books by the likes of Evelyn Waugh, Joyce, Yeats, TS Elliott and Harold Pinter.
Famed for having an almost encyclopedic knowledge of literature as well as an uncanny ability to not only spot a good bargain but also literary talent, he became a respected and familiar figure around bookshops, auction houses and book fairs. Up till his death aged 83, he could be seen regularly walking along Charing Cross road's bookshop district in his chequered overcoat and a clutch of books under his arm.

Friday, July 07, 2006

IT community split on hacker's extradition

HACKER Gary McKinnon SHOULD stand trial in the US for hacking into the country's military networks, according to just under half the IT professionals polled for an online survey.
This follows the Home Secretary John Reid's decision to sign off self-confessed hacker McKinnon's extradition earlier this week and comes as a leading UK hacker who faced similar charges in 1997 slammed the US military's "sleepy" computer security.
If McKinnon - who is one of 27 people due to extradited - loses his appeal, his lawyers say he could end up in Guantanamo Bay.
But that hasn't earned McKinnon - who hacked into US military computers over a two-year period before his 2002 arrest - as many sympathy points as one might expect from the IT community.
Leading anti-virus software firm Sophos polled more than 500 members.
Only 52% of those who responded were in favour of the 40-year-old's prosecution taking place in the UK, while the remaining 48% backed Reid's decision.
Sophos consultant Graham Chiley said: "Hackers should take heed of the McKinnon case, and think carefully about their actions if they don't want a one-way ticket to an American court."
He added: "It's fascinating to see how the IT community is split down the middle regarding Gary McKinnon."
The US say Glasgow-born McKinnon - who was arrested by the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit in November 2002 - caused more than £370,000 damage while hacking into US army, navy, air force, and Department of Defense computer networks.
It claims one of his "visits" to the Earle Naval Weapons Station around September 11, 2001 rendered critical systems unusable and took about a month to repair.
this attack.
McKinnon - AKA "Solo" - admits spending two years exploring the US military networks but he says he was motivated by his research into "suppressed technology" - namely anti-gravity propulsion and other extraterrestrial technology he was convinced the US government had secretly salvaged from UFOs that have crash-landed on earth.
He was finally rumbled while viewing a picture of what he thought was a UFO on a NASA computer.
Fellow hacker Mathew Bevan, AKA Kuji, thinks McKinnon should be tried in the UK.
He told The Register: "McKinnon was just snooping and what he did was not motivated by personal gain.
"There is no reason for his extradition.
"He ought to be tried in the UK.
"The US has labeled him as a cyberterrorist and the 'biggest military hacker ever', but this just looks like an attempt to drum up publicity for the case."
Bevan - who turned "ethical" hacker more than ten years ago - was himself accused of hacking into US military networks.
But the case against him was finally dropped at Woolwich Crown Court after years of legal wrangling in 1997.
He became a security consultant for Tiger Computer Security and set up his own firm, Kuji Media Corporation.
He said: "The internet was just starting out and in its infancy at the time of my alleged crimes.
"The prosecution against McKinnon, and what he says he was able to do, show that US military security has not changed.
"The authorities have not woken up."
On what he found during his cyber snooping sessions through the networks McKinnon told The Guardian last year: "I found a list of officers' names under the heading 'Non-Terrestrial Officers'.
"It doesn't mean little green men. What I think it means is not earth-based.
"I found a list of 'fleet-to-fleet transfers' and a list of ship names.
"I looked them up. They weren't US navy ships.
"What I saw made me believe they have some kind of spaceship, off-planet . . . that's what this trickle of evidence has led me to believe."
Asked what the ship names were, he added: "I can't remember. I was smoking a lot of dope at the time."
A Home Office spokesman said: "On 4 July the secretary of state signed an order for Mr McKinnon's extradition to the United States for charges connected with computer hacking. "Mr McKinnon exercised his right to submit representations against return but the secretary of state did not consider the issues raised availed Mr McKinnon."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Paradise island getaway for troubled Chris Brosnan

THE troubled stepson who Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan told to "get busy living, or get busy dying" is to star in Celebrity Love Island.
Christopher Brosnan's famous stepfather - who adopted him in 1986 when his own father died and Brosnan married his mother, Cassandra Harris - very publicly disowned him.
He told Playboy Magazine last November: "Chris is still very lost. Shockingly so.
"I know where he is, but he's having a hard life. I can only have strong faith and believe he will recover.
"He has tested everybody in this family but none more so than himself. He knows how to get out. He doesn't want to."
He added: "It's painful because you shut down.
"You never completely cut them off, but I have cut Christopher off.
"I had to say, 'Go, get busy living, or get busy dying...'
"He has my prayers."
His comments came months after Christopher was arrested on suspicion of possessing heroin.
At the time, he said he had given him one last chance to sort his life out but only decided to finally give up on him when he found out Christopher just wouldn't kick his drug habit.
Since Harris died of cancer in 1991, Christopher has fought a string of problems.
As well as his June 2005 arrest, he was arrested the previous year on suspicion of possessing stolen goods after being accused of rifling through revellers bags in top London nightclub, Chinawhite.
It was where he had spent the evening two years previously before collapsing and slipping into a come at his north London flat during an overdose on the illegal dance drug GBH.
In 1996, part-time producer Chris was fined £1,000 for drink-driving in the US and he spent seven weeks in jail for the same offence in the UK the following year.
Brosnan is not the only "bad boy" on the show.
Shane Lynch - who has successfully fought his own problems with alcohol - is also appearing in what is the latest raft of TV moves for him.
A born-again Christian since around 2002, the 29-year-old ex-Boyzone singer has been steadily building up a new career on TV for himself since the band split.
Appearances include the celebrity sports show The Games, and playing arrogant businessman Eli Knox in Sky One's football drama Dream Team.
It's anybody's guess what Lynch's 25-year-old girlfriend Sheena White, a devout Christian, makes of him appearing on a show where viewers are encouraged play cupid and match contestants with each other.
Last year, George Best's son Calum Best grew very close to footballer David Beckham's former mistress, Rebecca Loos.
But Lynch, who admitted in 2004 to vowing not have sex with White until they get married, has made no secret of his feelings for the session singer.
Of their relationship and the prospect of marriage, Lynch said: "I want to get married again one day.
"It's something that Sheena and I are definitely working towards.
"I love her dearly and I would have married her when we first got together - I knew how I felt about her.
"But I guess I'm trying to be sensible. I'm in no rush."
Singer Kelle Bryan, for the same group Eternal his ex-wife Easther Bennett sang in, is also going on the show.
As are stunner Sophie Anderton, glamour girl Alicia Douvall, legendary ex-soccer star Paul Gascoigne's daughter Bianca and playboy model Colleen Shannon.
Socialite Lady Victoria Hervey, whose sister Isabella was on last year's show, is also a contestant.
The other male celebrities on the ITV1 show - which will be hosted from next Monday, July 10, by Ireland's Patrick Kielty and TV beauty Fearne Cotton - are dancer Brendan Cole, Leo Ihenancho for the band The Streets and Hollyoaks' Lee Otway.

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