Prosecutors in Sweden have dropped an investigation into a rape allegation made against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange in 2010.
Assange, who denies the accusation, has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.
The 48-year-old Australian was evicted in April and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions.
He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement: “Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding Julian Assange.
“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
The prosecutors said the decision had been taken after seven witnesses in the case had been interviewed.
A man embarked on a series of “depraved” sex attacks on women and children, one as young as 11, a court has heard.
Joseph McCann is accused of 37 offences against 11 alleged victims, including rapes, kidnap and false imprisonment, over two weeks in April and May.
The Old Bailey heard the 34-year-old snatched two women off London streets and told one he would “never release her” as he raped her multiple times.
Mr McCann of Harrow denies the charges.
The jury was told one 25-year-old woman was abducted as she walked home in Walthamstow, east London, just after midnight on 25 April.
Prosecutor John Price QC said the defendant told her “to stop screaming or he would stab her” then dragged her into a car “and drove off”.
The court heard the woman was raped “many times” in various locations over the next 14 hours and subjected to acts of “shocking depravity and violence”.
“He made her call him ‘daddy’ and say that she was a child. At one point the man parked the car near to a school, saying that he wanted to make her rape a child,” Mr Price said.
Later the same day, and while still holding the woman prisoner, the defendant abducted a 21-year-old woman in Edgware, north London, as she walked along the street with her sister, the court heard.
CCTV of the woman being bundled into a silver people carrier just after midday was played to the jury.
Mr Price said she “suffered a similar fate” to the 25-year-old woman before the pair managed to escape while in Watford where Mr McCann had booked a hotel room for two nights.
He told the jury they would have come to “further harm” but one of the women hit their captor over the head with a vodka bottle and some builders “bravely” intervened to prevent them being recaptured.
Premiership and European champions Saracens have been deducted 35 points and fined £5.36m for breaching salary cap regulations in three seasons.
The punishment comes after an investigation into business partnerships between chairman Nigel Wray and some of the club’s players.
Saracens will appeal and have described the sanctions as “heavy-handed”.
A Premiership Rugby statement said both punishments would be suspended if Saracens chose to review the decision.
Official league tables have already been updated to show Sarries bottom of the Premiership with -26 points.
Saracens ‘absolutely devastated’ by punishment
The charges relate to a failure to disclose player payments in each of the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Saracens previously claimed they “readily comply” with salary cap rules and were able to spend above the £7m cap because of the high proportion – almost 60% – of home-grown players in their squad.
The club apologised for “administrative errors relating to the non-disclosure of some transactions” to Premiership Rugby Limited, but added it will “continue to vigorously defend this position especially as PRL precedent already exists whereby co-investments have not been deemed part of salary in the regulations”.
In a separate statement, Wray said: “This is absolutely devastating for everyone associated with this amazing group of players, staff, partners and fans.
“It’s been acknowledged by the panel that we never deliberately sought to mislead anyone or breach the cap.
“That’s why it feels like the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet. We will appeal all the findings.”
During an independent disciplinary panel hearing, Saracens saw their challenge of the validity of the regulations on competition law grounds rejected.
Premiership Rugby introduced their salary cap in 1999 to ensure the financial viability of all clubs and the competition.
The regulations are also designed to control inflationary pressures on clubs’ costs and provide a level playing field for clubs and a competitive Premiership.
“The decision upholds both the principle of the salary cap and the charges brought following an extensive investigation,” a Premiership spokesperson said.
“We’re pleased this process has reached a conclusion.”
‘The biggest story in English club rugby history’
Analysis: BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones
Saracens have been the dominant force in the domestic game for the best part of a decade – scooping seven major titles and providing the spine of the England World Cup team – but that success will now be considered tainted.
How long has it been going on? Will the club keep their titles? What will happen with their appeal, given they insist they were involved in legitimate business dealings with players? What happens now to the current squad, which may need to be dismantled, especially with a £5m fine and the threat of relegation?
And what do players, coaches and fans at other clubs think, given everyone is affected in some way by this? On that note, do any other clubs in the league have something to hide?
Like with the Bloodgate scandal involving Harlequins 10 years ago, the fallout to this will be significant and lengthy, and will damage the integrity of the Premiership just at the point the league is looking to launch a global expansion.
This is probably the biggest story in English club rugby history.
Sarries a sporting powerhouse
Saracens have developed into a true sporting powerhouse during the past decade, winning five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups since 2010-11.
Two of those domestic titles came in the timeframe that Premiership Rugby have been investigating, with Mark McCall’s side winning 53 of 72 league and play-off matches during that period.
They have been equally dominant in European competition, having lifted the trophy in three of the past four seasons.
In the five seasons Saracens have finished as Premiership champions, a 35-point deduction would have meant them not reaching the play-offs by finishing in the top four, but would also not have seen them relegated.
They would have finished 10th last season had the same punishment been imposed.
Saracens have won two of their three Premiership matches so far this season.
They started the current Premiership campaign with a significant number of their star players still on World Cup duty.
Of the 31-man squad representing England in Japan, seven players came from Saracens – including captain Owen Farrell and forwards Mako and Billy Vunipola.
Full-back Elliot Daly, another member of the side that went on to lose the final against South Africa on Saturday, will join Sarries following the conclusion of the tournament.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report after the first phase of an inquiry.
Fewer people would have died in the 2017 fire if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier, the report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said.
The head of the Fire Brigades Union said the inquiry was “back to front”.
The BBC has seen sections of the report ahead of Wednesday’s publication.
The document follows the first phase of the inquiry, which looked at what happened on the night that 72 people died in the tower block fire on 14 June 2017.
The second phase will focus on wider circumstances of the fire, including the design of the building.
General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, said: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding. The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap.
“Firefighters’ actions on the night, which were remarkable in the circumstances, are now being scrutinised. Nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny, but we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.”
The council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the fire service were all questioned during the inquiry’s first phase.
The inquiry has criticised the Daily Telegraph, which first published leaked details of the report, and other media which followed suit. A spokeswoman said publication had deprived “those most affected by the fire – the bereaved, survivors and residents – of the opportunity to read the report at their own pace”.
Sir Martin’s report praised the courage of firefighters on the night.
But it found many “institutional” failures that meant the LFB’s planning and preparation for the incident was “gravely inadequate”.
For example, Sir Martin said control room staff who fielded 999 calls “undoubtedly saved lives” but “a close examination” of operations revealed “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”.
He said staff that night were in an “invidious” position when they were outnumbered by 999 calls.
“Supervisors were under the most enormous pressure, but the LFB had not provided its senior control room staff with appropriate training on how to manage a large-scale incident with a large number of FSG [Fire Survival Guidance] calls,” he said.
“Mistakes made in responding to the Lakanal House fire were repeated,” he added – referring to a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009, which killed three women and three children.
By Lucy Manning, special correspondent
This report could not be more critical of the London Fire Brigade.
The Grenfell families wanted this level of criticism, especially those whose relatives died when they were told for nearly two hours to stay put in the building as it was covered in flames.
But there is also some frustration that this first part of the inquiry wasn’t about those who made the cladding and oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell.
That will only happen in the second phase of the inquiry next year and then they’ve got even longer to wait for the police investigation to finish.
So they are seeing some blame apportioned and they hope they will eventually see justice but the Grenfell survivors will always suffer the loss and grief and ask the question how did 72 people die in what was supposed to be the safety of their homes?
Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for following a “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.
The strategy was rescinded at 02:47 BST, the report said. Sir Martin wrote: “That decision could and should have been made between 01:30 and 01:50 and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”
Firefighters who attended the fire did not have training on how best to combat a cladding fire, the report added.
Four members of the first crews to have fought the blaze had 52 years of combined experience. However, they had not received any training on the risks posed by exterior cladding or the techniques to be deployed in fighting fires involving cladding, the report found.
Sir Martin said the “principal” reason the fire spread so quickly “up, down and around the building was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel”.
The report also said evidence given by the LFB’s commissioner, Dany Cotton, suggested lessons from the fire might be missed.
Sir Martin wrote: “Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner’s evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire.”
A spokesperson for the LFB said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the report’s findings before they were officially released on Wednesday.
Speaking on Monday, Sir Martin said the report was long and detailed.
He stressed that readers of the report “should understand as clearly as possible the terrifying conditions faced by those who were in the building, at the time”.
The cause of the fire was found by the report to be “an electrical fault in the large fridge freezer in the kitchen” in a fourth-floor flat.
“It occurred without any fault on the part of the tenant… and I am pleased to clear him of any blame, given that some people have unfairly accused him of having some responsibility for what happened,” Sir Martin said.
- Additional reporting by Vinnie O’Dowd.
About 15,000 homes near the River Thames could be protected from flooding by 2027 after a flood defence scheme was given a £270m funding boost.
The scheme will protect homes and businesses between Datchet, Berkshire, through Surrey to Teddington.
The Environment Agency said it could now afford to build the defences thanks to funding from Surrey County Council.
In 2014, about 2,000 people were flooded out of their homes in Chertsey, Egham, Sunbury, Staines and Weybridge.
Central government, local authorities and other partners including Thames Water will all contribute to the scheme.
Dave Bedlington, from the Environment Agency, said the new funding from Surrey County Council meant the scheme could now be shown to be affordable.
If the defences were not built, flooding such as that seen in 2014 would become more frequent, according to Mr Bedlington.
“If everything goes with a fair wind we’d being submitting our planning application in two years’ time. Because of the scale, that’s likely to take a two-year inquiry,” he said.
If given the go-ahead, construction could start in 2023 and it could be operational in 2027, he added.
The Environment Agency said three new channels alongside the River Thames would reduce the flood risk at Datchet, Wraysbury, Egham, Staines, Chertsey, Shepperton, Weybridge, Sunbury, Moseley, Thames Ditton, Kingston and Teddington, affecting 15,000 homes and 2,400 businesses.
The plans also include 260 acres (106 hectares) of new public open space and the creation of 615 acres (250 hectares) of new wildlife habitat, a spokesman said.
Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, said: “The floods in 2014 were devastating and ever since then it’s been clear we need to do all we can to make sure our residents and their properties are protected from such risks in the future.”
|Rugby World Cup quarter-final|
|Venue: Oita Stadium Date: Saturday, 19 October Kick-off: 08:15 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and online with text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
England’s preparations for their World Cup quarter-final against Australia have been given a significant boost with the news that Billy Vunipola is now “very likely” to be fit to start.
The number eight injured his ankle against Argentina 10 days ago but continues to improve in the build-up to the clash in Oita on Saturday.
England have not won a World Cup knockout game for 12 years.
But they have beaten the Wallabies in all of their last six meetings.
Defence coach John Mitchell told BBC 5 Live: “Billy’s doing really well.
“He got through restricted training activity again today, ran with the ball, did some wrestling and boxing and some sprinting on the WattBike.
“He wasn’t smiling after the WattBike, but he’s in good humour and progressing nicely. At this point it’s looking very likely.”
Vunipola was likely to be rested had England’s final group game against France in Yokohama last Saturday gone ahead as scheduled, rather than being cancelled because of the threat of Typhoon Hagibis.
But the loss of that game has bought him time, even as utility back Jack Nowell once again sat out training with a hamstring injury.
Mitchell said: “Billy is a very important player to us and a very likeable player as well.
“He loves the ball in his hand. He’s very good at regaining and retaining momentum. He likes carrying the ball, which is where he has his greatest influence.
“He fits well within the team, but whoever gets the nods within the 31, everyone has a role to play.”
England wary of adventurous Aussies
Australia were beaten by Wales in their key pool game and struggled in the first half against both Fiji and Georgia.
But they beat the All Blacks 47-26 in August, and in Michael Cheika have a coach who plotted England’s demise in the group stages four years ago before taking his team on to the final.
Cheika has yet to settle on a preferred combination at 10 and 12, but with the form of muscular centre Samu Kerevi, he has one of the stand-out performers at this World Cup at his disposal.
Mitchell said: “The Wallabies are a very clever football team, and they will be clever at the weekend.
“They’ve always got their ability in terms of surprise, and they love ball in their hands, which is what they thrive on.
“You’ve got to look at how they attack – they love the ball in hand and they love putting width on it.
“Any one of those possible 10s and nines and 12s fall into that style of football. It doesn’t matter who they put there, they can all play that style.
“Kerevi is such a strong character, and they tend to move him around in structured attacks. He looks like he’s really enjoying his tournament, so he’s a threat we’ll need to be aware of.
“But we have our own beliefs in how we want to play, and we want to embrace this opportunity and bring our strengths out.”
England’s training was watched on Tuesday by Australian rugby league great Ricky Stuart, now the coach of Canberra Raiders.
Stuart will be invited to share his ideas about both coaching and England’s shape in the run-up to a game that could do much to define whether the Eddie Jones regime has been a success or failure.
It is 12 years since England last reached the semi-finals of a World Cup, their defeat of a much-fancied Wallabies team in Marseille in 2007 one of their great displays in the tournament.
Residents in north London are facing a flood a meter deep after a large water mains burst causing some people to leave their homes.
A “river” of water has flooded properties on Queens Drive and Princess Crescent in Finsbury Park, closing a a local primary school.
Postcode areas N1, N4, N5, N7 and N19 have either no water or low water pressure, Thames Water said.
Traffic and pedestrians have been advised to avoid the area.
The water company said its engineers are, “doing everything they can to get things up and running as quickly as possible.”
It has apologised to customers but so far had not managed to turn off water from the burst pipe, a spokesman said, adding “it was a complicated process”.
Matthew who lives in a first-floor flat on Queens Drive woke up to the river outside his home and quickly alerted the occupants living in the basement property.
They have now been given temporary stay in another flat, said Matthew, who has a week-old baby.
He said he is worried about not having any water.
“I’m concerned about hygiene and although my wife is breast-feeding she needs to drink,” he said.
Cars can be seen stranded with water levels up to their wheel rims.
Parkwood Primary and Nursery schools have been shut as a result of the flood.
Thames Water is hoping to stop the water flowing from the burst pipe and reconnect customers by midday.
As well as fire officers checking basement flats, loss adjusters from Thames Water are on hand to provide help to residents who may now need somewhere to stay.
A man has been arrested after seemingly trying to set fire to himself outside the Houses of Parliament.
The Metropolitan Police said a man had been detained under the Mental Health Act after covering himself “in what appeared to be a flammable liquid”.
The police said the man, who had a lighter, had been sprayed with a fire extinguisher and there were no flames.
Tory MP Huw Merriman, who witnessed the episode, praised the “incredibly brave response” from the police.
The Met confirmed there had been an incident in which a man had “doused” himself with an unknown substance outside Carriage Gates – the main entrance to Parliament.
The police said there had been no reported injuries and the man had been taken to hospital after being examined at the scene by the emergency services.
The London Fire Brigade, it added, had made the scene safe by dispersing the suspected flammable liquid.
The Commons and Lords are sitting this week despite the Conservative conference continuing in Manchester – after MPs voted against a short recess for the event.
Chancellor Sajid Javid is currently answering Treasury questions while ministers will later answer Urgent Questions on the government’s latest Brexit proposals, as well as homelessness and Yemen.
Heavy rain is causing travel problems and flash flooding across England.
Three flood warnings and 29 flood alerts have been put in place by the Environment Agency.
The Met Office has a yellow rain warning covering most of the country in force until 23:00 BST.
Floods have been reported on roads in Southampton, Birmingham and Liverpool, while Transport for London (TfL) said a number of roads across the capital were also affected by flooding.
A flood warning is in place in Crawley for the Ifield Brook and River Mole at Ifield and the River Mole at Lowfield Heath.
Flooding is also expected on the upper Frome between Maiden Newton and Dorchester in Dorset.
National Rail has warned of major disruption between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge until about noon because of a tree blocking the line earlier.
Southampton City Centre has seen problems with several cars having broken down in water on Millbrook Road West.
Motorists have also been advised to avoid the road between Waterhouse Lane and Paynes Road.
Roads have flooded in the Longbridge area of Birmingham, while Mersey Fire and Rescue Service reported vehicles trapped in floodwater in the Queens Drive and West Derby area of Liverpool.
A service spokesman urged drivers to “please take extra care”, adding: “Slow down, increase your distances, switch your lights on and please don’t drive into floodwater.”
About 2in (49.6mm) of rain fell in the six hours before 09:00 at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, according to the Met Office.
Spokesman Grahame Madge said it was a “significant” amount of rain.
He said the band of rain was “transient” and, having started in the South West, has moved to the Midlands before hitting the North later in the day.
He said some other areas could expect to see the same amount of rain as Boscombe Down.
Downward dogs and yoga mats have replaced cars and buses on London’s Tower Bridge as part of Car Free Day.
The mass yoga session was one of a number of activities taking place in the capital as more than 16 miles (27 km) of streets were shut.
Bank junction has been turned into a festival space while children will race go-karts in the Square Mile.
The closures will be in place until 19:00 BST with roads elsewhere expected to be busy as a result.
Tower and London Bridge were shut at 07:00 along with streets in parts of the City, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.
Among the other activities taking place are a hedge maze in Cheapside and classic cycle rides on Tower Bridge.
Organisers hope more than 150,000 people will join the event which has been named Reimagine.
Away from the centre, 15 boroughs will be running their own Car Free Day celebrations and more than 340 “play streets” – safe spaces for local people to socialise and play – have been approved some 24 boroughs.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said the day was about “demonstrating our commitment to cleaning up our toxic air and experiencing a greener way of living”.
Transport for London has warned that those who do take to the roads should expect “significant delays”.