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A total of 16 candidates will stand in the Batley and Spen by-election next month, it has been confirmed.

The full list of those nominated to contest the constituency has been published, in what is expected to be a straight two-way battle between Labour and the Conservatives.

Tracy Brabin, who first won the seat for Labour in 2016 after the murder of Jo Cox, quit as an MP after being elected to the new post of West Yorkshire metro mayor.

File photo dated 27/03/19 of Kim Leadbeater, ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation, who has been awarded an MBE for services to Social Cohesion, to the community in Batley, West Yorkshire and to Combatting Loneliness during Covid-19, in the New Year's Honours List.
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Kim Leadbeater is standing for Labour in the contest

Ms Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater is Labour’s candidate in the by-election, a contest that is being seen as a test of Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the party in the wake of Labour’s defeat in Hartlepool last month.

Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson is standing for the Conservatives, while the Liberal Democrats have picked Tom Gordon.

George Galloway, the former MP and long-time campaigner, is standing for the Workers Party.

Local engineer Corey Robinson will represent the Yorkshire Party, which came third in the West Yorkshire mayoral election.

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The others candidates are: Paul Bickerdike (Christian People’s Alliance); Mike Davies (Alliance For Green Socialism); Jayda Fransen (Independent); Therese Hirst (English Democrats); Howling Laud Hope (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party); Susan Laird (Heritage Party); Oliver Purser (Social Democratic Party); Andrew Smith (Rejoin EU); Jack Thomson (UKIP); Jonathan Tilt (Freedom Alliance); Anne Marie Waters (The For Britain Movement).

Independent candidate Paul Halloran, who came third in the constituency at the 2019 general election, is not standing.

Another of those not standing is rugby league international Ross Peltier, who had his candidacy revoked by the Green Party.

It came after it was revealed he had made a number of “highly offensive” homophobic tweets when he was a teenager.

The 29-year-old, who is a a prop forward with Doncaster Dons and a Jamaica international, apologised for his “terrible” language and said “in no way” is he homophobic.

A Green Party spokesman said the party would not be putting another candidate forward.

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Olivia Pratt-Korbel: Reformed Liverpool gangster says ‘morals have gone out of the window’ among city’s criminals

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Olivia Pratt-Korbel: Reformed Liverpool gangster says 'morals have gone out of the window' among city's criminals

Sicarius McGrath is a big guy. Muscled, shaven-headed and more than a little intimidating – everything you might expect of a Liverpool gangster.

But his days of roaming the streets of Anfield are over and now he helps steer vulnerable and deprived kids away from a life of gangland crime.

With convictions for violence and intimidation, he knows his subject and was an enlightening companion as together we toured the city’s estates, waiting for the jury verdicts in the Olivia Pratt-Korbel murder trial.

I drove, he talked. When he was setting up a gun factory and protection rackets he was known as Anthony Harrington.

At 7pm Sky News will broadcast a special programme: The murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Sicarius McGrath says he used to 'put guns on the streets in massive volumes'
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Sicarius McGrath says he used to ‘put guns on the streets in massive volumes’

His adopted name Sicarius means “assassin”, but he didn’t go to a school that taught Latin. I did, but that isn’t the only difference between us.

“I used to put guns on the streets in massive volumes,” he told me, rather matter-of-factly.

“They are bought and paid for through drugs money. I felt responsibility 100% for the things that happened, whether someone was harmed as a result, but when you’re in that game you don’t give a s***. It’s profits over anything else.

“Decades ago there was a moral code, that you didn’t harm women, you didn’t harm kids. I’m not saying that little girl was shot intentionally, but those morals have gone out of the window.

“I was mixing in those circles and surroundings, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite to say now they are absolute scum, but I was once that scumbag.”

Read more: Thomas Cashman found guilty of murdering Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Olivia Pratt-Korbel
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Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot dead in her home

Although Merseyside Police had a key witness within a day or two of Olivia’s shooting, they struggled to find the direct evidence detectives always strive for.

There were no forensics, no eyewitnesses who could identify the killer and the two guns used have not been found.

I asked Mr McGrath how a close community deals with the conflict of outrage and the need for justice, set against loyalty and the fear of being labelled a grass.

“People are going to be reluctant, of course they are, depending on who commits the murder. If it’s established gang members people are going to be more reluctant. Everyone says there’s a code, no grassing, but criminals will grass each other up,” he said.

“It’s a question of what benefits them, if they can get a rival out of the way, bring police attention on them, but they’re not just gonna do it for charity.”

Gasps as Thomas Cashman found guilty on all charges – follow updates

What about the ordinary public – wouldn’t they be more scared of retribution for giving police information?

“It’s gonna be scary, they’re not really going to want to get involved, but when it’s a little girl the rule book goes out the window and you have to dig deep,” he said.

“People are more likely to engage with the police when it’s a young girl murdered and it’s up to the police to reassure them they are going to protect them.”

A month on from the shooting, after initial arrests but no charges, and with police still appealing for help, an anonymous businessman offered a remarkable £100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Olivia’s killer.

Lord Ashcroft, the founder of Crimestoppers, had also initially offered a £50,000 reward – but the anonymous donation prompted him to double his offer and, at £200,000 combined, it became the biggest ever reward.

At 7pm Sky News will broadcast a special programme: The murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Olivia's coffin carried by horse-drawn carriage on the day of her funeral. Pic: AP
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Olivia’s coffin carried by horse-drawn carriage on the day of her funeral. Pic: AP

The other businessman, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said: “When I heard that there was a seeming reluctance for people to come forward and testify, that’s what really got my back up.

“I thought, well, I’m going to try and do something about this. It was an amount that would make people sit up and make it as easy as possible for them to help catch the killer.”

The businessman’s family are from Merseyside and memories of his childhood in the area fuelled his desire for justice for Olivia.

“I understand people’s reluctance to speak out and I’ve thought about my own safety in putting up the reward. Like others, I had doubts and worries, but Crimestoppers assured me my identity would be protected. The bottom line is that this was horrific, the murder of a young girl. It doesn’t come much worse than that.”

Read more from Sky News:
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The battle between Liverpool’s gangs

Mick Duthie, director of operations at Crimestoppers, said the reward had prompted “a phenomenal amount” of information from the public.

“I understand that in communities people don’t want to be seen as a grass or make themselves vulnerable, they don’t want to talk to the police, so the charity allows people to speak up anonymously,” he said.

“The community of Liverpool provided so much information. It wasn’t for us to decide how important it was. We took it and passed it on to Merseyside Police.”

As we drove through Dovecot, where Olivia was murdered, I asked Mr McGrath whether £200,000 was a life-changing amount for people in this community.

“For someone anywhere in the country it’s a life-changing amount of money,” he said.

“People are struggling to put their lights on and run their cookers. A reward of £200,000 is gonna benefit the vast majority of people, criminals and non-criminals.”

Sixteen years ago, schoolboy Rhys Jones, who was 11, was shot dead – caught in cross-fire – only a few miles from here.

I reported on it at the time and Mr McGrath was in prison, but we both remember the loud and widespread calls for change.

Rhys Jones
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Rhys Jones was shot dead after being caught in cross-fire close to his home

Mr McGrath said: “They always say that when a young person is stabbed or shot, they always say enough is enough, they’re going to take a stand but communities never do. It’s all just words.

“A couple of days or weeks later they go back to doing what they were doing. It’s only the families that are left suffering. Whoever shot Olivia, whoever’s convicted, his friends won’t stop talking to him because he shot a young girl.”

A blitz on organised crime and guns by Merseyside Police has driven down the number of firearms discharges to record low levels in the past couple of years.

There hadn’t been one reported in more than a year before last August. But then Olivia became the third gun murder victim in just a week. And there have been two more in the city since.

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Cambridgeshire shooting: Father and son shot dead – ‘custody battle’ active line of inquiry for police

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Cambridgeshire shooting: Father and son shot dead - 'custody battle' active line of inquiry for police

Two men shot dead in Cambridgeshire on Wednesday evening were father and son, police have said.

Detective chief superintendent Jon Hutchinson, of Cambridgeshire Police, said the “primary line of investigation” was that the incident related to a “familial issue”.

“It’s been widely reported in the media that this may relate to a custody battle,” he said. “I can confirm that is an active line of inquiry for us.”

Police described the attacks as “targeted”.

The bodies of the 32-year-old man and a 57-year-old man were found on Wednesday evening at two different locations six miles apart in Cambridgeshire.

Police have recovered a firearm in Worcester.

A 66-year-old man was arrested in Worcester. A 27-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman have also been arrested in Cambridge.

All three were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.

Police at the scene in The Row in Sutton, near Ely, Cambridgeshire
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Police at the scene in The Row in Sutton, near Ely, Cambridgeshire

Mr Hutchinson said that officers made a “very quick two arrests in a hotel just outside Cambridge”.

He added: “In the early hours of this morning we did a joint operation alongside West Mercia Police at which stage a 66-year-old man was arrested on the motorway by armed officers.

“Following his arrest his vehicle was searched and I can confirm we have recovered a firearm.”

He said the man was in police custody in Worcester and is being transported to Cambridgeshire for interview.

Police were called to a property in Meridian Close, Bluntisham, just after 9pm on 29 March, where the body of a 32-year-old was found.

Seven minutes later, at 9.37pm, officers received a call from a person in Sutton, near Ely, who reported hearing gunshots. They found the body of a 57-year-old at a property in The Row.

The two locations are around a 15-minute drive apart, according to Google Maps.

Mr Hutchinson said that an “active line of inquiry” is “understanding whether that firearm was legally owned” and forensic work is taking place to establish whether the same weapon was used at both locations.

“A line of inquiry that we’re focusing on is that those people who are in custody are known to the deceased and have had recent contact with them.”

He added that the “initial arrests have been made for conspiracy to murder – that is likely to change as information develops in the hours ahead”.

At this stage, police are not looking for any further people in relation to the incident.

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At the time of the arrests, Detective Inspector Mark Butler said: “Tonight we have launched two linked murder investigations following the shootings of two men at separate properties in the county.

“These events will be shocking to local people and there will be understandable concerns within local communities, however, we are treating the attacks as targeted and there is no wider risk to the general public.

“There will be an increased police presence in the areas concerned today and officers and scenes of crime officers will be at the scenes throughout the day.

“Our thoughts also go out to the family and friends of the victims. Specially trained officers are in touch with them and they are helping our investigation.”

Meridian Close

A car believed to have been used by the offender, a white Peugeot 208, and a shotgun have been recovered.

“Detectives are now beginning inquiries into how these events unfolded and we are appealing to anyone who was in either area and saw anyone acting suspiciously or a white Peugeot 208,” Mr Butler added.

Sarah Lown, who lives near the sealed-off houses in Sutton, said she heard three loud bangs on Wednesday evening, but thought it was objects in her garden that had blown over.

“I didn’t think anything crazy had happened,” she said. “I heard two more – it was bang, space, bang. Whether or not they were each gunshots I don’t know; then police were outside the house.”

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Getaway driver Paul Russell to be sentenced for assisting Thomas Cashman after murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

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Getaway driver Paul Russell to be sentenced for assisting Thomas Cashman after murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

A getaway driver will be sentenced for assisting Thomas Cashman after he shot dead nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel.

Paul Russell, 41, admitted driving Cashman away from an address where he fled to after the murder on 22 August last year.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel trial – latest: Gasps as Thomas Cashman found guilty

Russell pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court in October but the media was unable to report on it until the conclusion of Cashman’s murder trial.

Cashman was convicted of the murder of Olivia at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday afternoon.

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Cashman guilty Pratt-Korbel murder

Russell is also said to have disposed of a bag given to him by Cashman, which he believed to contain clothing, by passing it to another.

According to the charge, his actions were done with the “intent to impede the arrest and prosecution of Thomas Cashman”.

At 7pm Sky News will broadcast a special programme: The murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Russell’s sentencing is set to take soon now Cashman’s trial has taken place. Before the verdict had been delivered, Russell’s representative asked for the sentencing to be held separately from one for Cashman.

During Cashman’s trial on 30 March, the jury was told the gunman had spent the day of Olivia’s killing “scoping out” his intended target, a convicted burglar called Joseph Nee. The prosecution said he had “murder in mind”.

Read more:
Thomas Cashman found guilty of murdering Olivia Pratt-Korbel
‘Morals have gone out the window’, says ex-Liverpool gangster

Following the shooting, Russell drove him to the road where he had earlier parked his van. He then took a bag of clothing to a separate road where Cashman’s friends lived, the court heard.

Thomas Cashman  Social pictures
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Thomas Cashman

Olivia died after Cashman fired shots into the family’s home in Dovecot, Liverpool, on 22 August 2022.

The gunman continued firing into the family home, with one bullet striking Olivia’s mother, Cheryl Korbel, in the hand, before hitting Olivia in the chest. She was pronounced dead in hospital.

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