Monday, May 18, 2015
Multicultural kidnap gang who demanded £30,000 from mother after threatening to cut off her son’s fingers jailed for a total of 63 years
A kidnap gang who blackmailed £30,000 from a torture victim’s mother after threatening to cut off her son’s finger were jailed for a total of 63 years today.
Jack Edjourian was snatched from his flat on Green Lanes, Enfield, before being taken to 27-year-old Courtney Bishop’s ‘stronghold’.
He was burnt, beaten and even had a steel pole inserted into his rectum while kidnappers demanded thousands of pounds from his family, the Old Bailey heard.
Whilst lying on the floor with his head covered, the victim heard one of the gang say: ‘If it’s not here in 20 minutes he loses a finger.’
Edjourian was only released once his mother, Maria Cristofi, paid them £30,000 at a meeting in Norwood Country Park, in south London.
He was taken to Chalk Farm Hospital where he was kept for four days because of the seriousness of his injuries.
Courtney Bishop, Nigel Bishop, 27, Keith Walker, 35, and Christopher White, 29, were found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap on May 5 2013.
They were also each found guilty of conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, wounding with intent and conspiracy to blackmail.
Judge Christopher Moss QC said: ‘It can’t be said for certain how the victim was selected, but it had all the hallmarks of being gang and drug related. ‘You are all in my judgement members of the gang culture that blights the streets of London and other cities in this country.’
Just two days earlier another man, Ruben Miah, was subjected to a similar ordeal when he was dragged from a cab by two men on a motorbike and bundled into the back of a car. He was taken to a high-rise flat, stripped and his attackers took £800 from his wallet as well as his watch and his earring. Miah was then tied up with belts and wires, a pillow case was put on his head and a sock stuffed into his mouth until he retched.
The men, who on this occasion included Courtney Bishop, White and Alan Smith, 27, hit him and used a steam iron to burn the soles of his feet before pouring boiling water on his feet.
Courtney Bishop, Smith and White were found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to commit false imprisonment and wounding with intent over the incident. Courtney Bishop and White were also convicted of conspiracy to blackmail and conspiracy to burgle.
Both of the victims refused to come to court to give evidence against their attackers.
Sentencing Courtney Bishop to 24 years, Alan Smith to 11 years and Keith Walker and Nigel Bishop to 14 years each, Judge Moss said: ‘You inflicted the most hideous forms of torture on these victims.’
‘Neither of them appeared in court or assisted the investigation further, no doubt for fear of the consequences of doing so.’
‘Two kidnappings, one a few days after the other - the prosecution contend committed by the same core gang, using the same location to hold the victims,’ said prosecutor Timothy Hunter.
‘Police were able to identify the flat used to hold both victims after Mr Miah described a circular window with a view of Wembley Stadium,’ Hunter continued.
The gang did not react as their sentences were read out, but Nigel Bishop called out ‘Thanks for all your support, I love you all’ to his family in the public gallery. White did not appear in court today, and is due to be sentenced separately next Friday.
The incredible sulk: All week, the Left have been frothing with fury that their fellow Britons could be so wicked and stupid as to vote in the Tories
Nothing better shows their contempt for ordinary people
Just over a week has passed since perhaps the most extraordinary General Election result of modern times, and at last the dust is beginning to settle.
In Westminster, David Cameron’s new all-Conservative government has settled down to business, while a succession of ambitious contenders have set out their stall for the Labour leadership, most of them insisting, not entirely plausibly, that they never agreed with a word Ed Miliband said anyway.
In the real world, most people have simply got on with their lives.
Yet in one strange corner of Britain, the campaign is far from over. This is a world in which we are forever poised on the brink of Socialist conversion, the only obstacles are the Right-wing press and the brainwashed masses, and Ed Miliband was the greatest prime minister we never had.
This is the world of old-fashioned union leaders, liberal Twitterati and Left-wing academics, who have spent the past week in a laughably self-pitying sulk.
For while most commentators, whatever their political allegiances, saw the election as proof that Britain remains at heart a deeply pragmatic, even conservative country, the self-righteous moralists of the bien-pensant Left have drawn a very different conclusion.
Like Mr Miliband, they can’t accept they lost the argument and burn with pious indignation at the supposed stupidity of the ordinary voters who let them down.
Disappointment is, of course, part and parcel of political life. Even so, the reaction in some quarters to the General Election result strikes me as not merely disproportionate, but deluded — if not deranged.
Take, for example, the Anglican canon Giles Fraser, darling of the metropolitan chattering classes. Four years ago, he resigned as chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in protest at plans to remove forcibly the anti-capitalist protesters who had set up a ‘shanty town’ camp outside, saying he could not support the possibility of ‘violence in the name of the Church’.
‘Right now I feel ashamed to be English,’ began his column for The Guardian last weekend. ‘Ashamed to belong to a country that has clearly identified itself as insular, self-absorbed and apparently caring so little for the most vulnerable people among us.’
From this you might think that Mr Cameron and his colleagues were committed to abolishing the NHS, scrapping foreign aid and slashing welfare to the bone. In fact, the Tories are committed to spending £11 billion a year on foreign aid, £111 billion a year on welfare and an extra £8 billion on the NHS.
You might disagree with some of the Government’s choices. Fair enough. But given the facts, Rev Fraser’s analysis had all the rigour and proportion of a toddler’s tantrum.
Alas, there was worse to come. Even as Guardian readers were weeping into their soya-milk lattes, anarchist protesters were taking to the streets of London, daubing obscenities on — unforgivably — a monument to those brave women who served their country in World War II.
And in Cardiff, the ludicrous figure of the singer Charlotte Church joined a rabble of anti- austerity protesters, carrying a placard that read: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more’. (By ‘it’, she presumably meant democracy.)
Perhaps the most flagrant example of Left-wing blindness, self-righteousness and sheer intolerance came from the pen of Rebecca Roache, a philosophy lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. Writing on Oxford University’s Practical Ethics blog, Dr Roache announced that when she saw the election result, she immediately checked which of her Facebook contacts followed the pages of David Cameron or the Conservative Party on the social networking site, and promptly ‘unfriended’ them.
To support the Conservatives, she explained, ‘is as objectionable as expressing racist, sexist or homophobic views’. In her opinion, such views must be made ‘socially unacceptable’, with ordinary voters deterred from holding them by the chilling fear that Dr Roache might unfriend them on Facebook.
I should perhaps point out that Dr Roache really does exist. I have not made her up, though it is tempting to suggest she must have been invented by a satirist keen to puncture the intellectual bullying and posturing self-importance of the academic Left.
The depressing truth is that views like hers are far from uncommon in those leafy little corners of metropolitan Britain where two or three intellectuals gather to lament the false consciousness of the working classes, who do not know what is good for them and really ought to be guided by their moral superiors.
Among the bohemian Left, with their state-funded salaries and public-sector pensions, the idea that any sane person might vote Conservative, or even hold conservative opinions, is almost unthinkable.
And while you will rarely hear people saying they ‘hate’ the Labour Party, you certainly hear it about the Conservatives — or, as Left-wing activists like to call them, ‘Tory scum’.
The very fact that such terms are bandied around so freely says something very depressing about the state of public debate in this country.
Yet among certain fringe groups — union leaders, comedians, university lecturers — expressions of hatred for the Conservatives and their voters are all too common. ‘I’ve instinctively hated the Tories since birth,’ comedian Charlie Brooker once wrote in (you guessed it) The Guardian.
‘If there was an election tomorrow, and the only two choices were the Nazis or the Tories, I’d vote Tory with an extremely heavy heart.’
It would be easy to dismiss this as exaggerated posturing for melodramatic effect. But the fact is that in some areas of our national life — especially the universities and parts of the media — such views are regarded as mainstream.
One anecdote tells a wider story. A friend who teaches at Cambridge once told me he is afraid to admit to his colleagues that he reads The Times, lest they dismiss him as a brainwashed lackey of Rupert Murdoch. Instead, he pretends to read The Guardian, even though he can’t abide it.
This is not so much an issue of conscious bias as it is a case of what the American writer William H. Whyte once called ‘groupthink’: an intellectual conformity which is all the more insidious because it is so unconscious.
Its precepts are simple and unchanging. Patriotism is evil. Austerity is wicked. To question mass immigration, to praise the British Empire, even to fly the national flag, is tantamount to racism. The state is always benign; private interests are always suspect; individual aspiration is mere selfishness; profit is a dirty word; and there is, of course, no such thing as being too Left-wing.
This is the ideology that dominates Twitter, where actors, comedians and intellectuals have spent the past week frothing with fury that their fellow Britons could have been so wicked as to vote for Mr Cameron.
It hardly needs pointing out, I hope, that this world view is founded on an utter ignorance of British history, a complete disregard for basic economics, a basic lack of faith in democracy, an astonishing intolerance of dissenting opinions and a snobbish disregard for the common man.
Indeed, given the Twitterati’s loathing of Nick Clegg for having gone into coalition with the Tories in 2010, I often wonder how they would have treated Labour’s Clement Attlee, who went into coalition with Winston Churchill in 1940.
Presumably Attlee would have been treated to the same sickening abuse that is thrown at the Conservatives and their supporters today. Still, it is worth remembering one basic fact. For all the sound and fury of the keyboard Socialists, the election proved they are a tiny, unrepresentative and largely powerless minority.
For there is, of course, another Britain. This is the country that the vast majority of people inhabit — a country very far removed from the gloomy Orwellian dystopia portrayed by Mr Miliband and his admirers, or by those BBC journalists who love to paint our country in the worst possible light.
This is the Britain of the silent majority — a decent, tolerant but quietly conservative bunch, horrified by the antics of the anarchists, scornful of the entreaties of demagogues such as Russell Brand, and much more interested in bread-and-butter issues than in the smug sixth-form pretensions of the former Labour leader and his Oxbridge chums.
What Left-wing intellectuals can never get into their heads is that most people are simply not very interested in party politics. They have much better things to worry about.
Yet it was a mark of Mr Miliband’s utter detachment from social and political reality that he and his allies were sucked into the echo chamber of Twitter, which is inevitably dominated by students, Westminster journalists and jumped-up B-list celebrities who think they’re as clever as the lines that are written for them.
Instead, they should have learned from Tony Blair, whose triumphant campaigns between 1997 and 2005 were based on his appeal to ‘Mondeo man’ and ‘Worcester woman’ — normal, unshowy people with normal, unshowy anxieties and aspirations.
The poet Rudyard Kipling once called them the ‘sons of Martha’ after a Biblical story — the backbone of the nation, the people who in every age ‘take the buffet and cushion the shock’.
But Kipling’s admirer Margaret Thatcher, who learned his poem by heart and won her first election in 1979 with a massive swing among Labour voters and union members, put it slightly differently.
This, she said, was ‘a Britain of thoughtful people — oh, tantalisingly slow to act, yet marvellously determined when they do. It’s their voice which steadies each generation, not by oratory or argument, but by a word here or there, a sudden flash of truth which makes men pause and think and say: “That makes sense to me.” ’
Thoughtful, quiet, pragmatic, cautious — this is the real Britain, a long way from the hysterical stridency of the student union Left.
It is not necessarily a Tory Britain. Sometimes it turns to Labour, as in 1945, when Attlee won a landslide victory not by rhetorical shrillness or class war posturing, but by appealing to the generosity and public-spiritedness of the common man.
But would Attlee, a morally austere, deeply patriotic, cricket-loving man, make it in today’s Labour Party?
Somehow I can’t see him winning an endorsement from its chief paymaster, the hard-Left union chief Len McCluskey, let alone the approval of the preposterous Russell Brand.
Instead, they found their champion in Ed Miliband, whose defining characteristic was his utter inability to understand the silent majority.
And as the past week has shown with unmistakable clarity, this is a failing he shares with countless other liberal intellectuals, who appear to regard their fellow countrymen with horror and hatred.
Future historians will surely be intrigued by the fact that Mr Miliband, who went to a comprehensive school, proved so much less adept at reaching ordinary voters than Mr Cameron, who went to Eton.
Yet the truth is that understanding the common man is less a question of class than one of outlook. When the silent majority looked at Mr Cameron, they saw a dutiful, businesslike family man — a child of privilege, to be sure, but one whose values and ambitions were not so different from their own.
But when they looked at Mr Miliband, they saw a quintessential metropolitan intellectual, intoxicated by his own ideological pretensions, who had absolutely no concept of what life was like outside the Oxbridge and Westminster bubble.
Leftist delusions of grandeur
A vivid demonstration of Leftist egotism
The comic saga of the elusive ‘Edstone’ took another turn last night after it emerged Ed Miliband considered an even more bizarre plan during his doomed Election campaign – carving his party’s pledges on a cliff face.
Party sources have told The Mail on Sunday that only after the ‘Mount Rushmore’ plan had been abandoned it was decided six key promises would be chiselled into the widely mocked stone slab instead.
The revelation came amid claims yesterday that the stone had finally been found abandoned in a south London warehouse.
According to the source, Labour chiefs initially looked at carving the promises at a site such as Cheddar Gorge: ‘The idea was to find somewhere in the country where we could carve the pledges, like a big gorge or cliff where people could see it. But they couldn’t find anybody to do it.’
The idea has echoes of America’s Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.The scuplture, which was completed in 1941, features 60ft likenesses of US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on the mountainside.
The source said: ‘They asked someone to allow them to carve the letters on their land. People were very excited about it. The letters would have been huge – same wording as appears on the stone.
‘But the problem was, they couldn’t find a suitable location or anybody to allow it.’
Unlike South Dakota, the UK is short of suitable locations for giant carvings. Two of the most obvious – Cheddar Gorge and the White Cliffs of Dover – are in Conservative constituencies.
The source added: ‘After the discussion, none of us could stop thinking about Ed’s face glaring down, Lincoln-like, from a mountainside.’
When the plan failed, the ‘Edstone’ was arranged as a compromise and unveiled in Hastings the weekend before the General Election.
After it was clear that the stunt had backfired, a truck with a giant claw came to collect the 50-stone slab and it remained hidden for the rest of the campaign.
Yesterday it was claimed that the 8ft 6in stone is being stored at a warehouse on the Westminster industrial estate in Woolwich, south-east London. It was produced by masonry specialists Stone Circle at the company’s factory on the outskirts of Basingstoke, Hampshire.
The company took just one week to order the stone, cut it to size and have Mr Miliband’s Election promises engraved into it.
The typeface and exact wording of the lettering were designed on a 3D graphics computer at the company’s factory, which fed the information into a computerised engraving machine to produce the finished piece.
This newspaper understands that the firm has signed a confidentiality agreement at Labour’s behest and risks a severe financial penalty if it breaches the terms.
One source said the gagging order document was ‘hefty’ and so stringent the company is not allowed even to confirm its existence.
‘It’s almost like the guys behind this whole idea were worried from the start about the negative publicity it could attract,’ one source said.
‘The Edstone is very heavy – about 300kg (47st) – but it is also very brittle,’ said another source last night. ‘All you would have to do is push it over and it would smash into 50 pieces. Then you could just pick them up and shove them in a skip.’
Boozy women: Fruit of feminism
Pushing women to compete with men puts them under stress -- and alcohol is one refuge from that. The author below, Amanda Platell, is a prominent British conservative journalist of Australian origins. She has lamented that a medical condition prevented her from having children
The woman who wrote to me was in her 40s, single, and had given up hope of ever finding a husband and having children. She’d wanted both, but had devoted so much of her life to her high- flying City career that she’d found neither.
On the day she was made partner in her firm, she drank two bottles of champagne to celebrate with her colleagues — and then a third on her own when she got home. That was her rock bottom, and I thought of that lonely, unhappy high-flyer as I read the report this week claiming middle-aged professional women drink to dangerous levels because they’re trying to keep up with their macho male colleagues. They are supposedly driven to drink by a feeling that they have to match the boys chablis for chablis in the workplace, at client lunches and in the pub afterwards.
It’s no surprise to me that the spokesman behind the study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a man. He described the pressure on women to network and drink as the ‘dark side of equality’.
But only a 57-year-old career woman like myself can truly understand why educated, successful women of a certain age drink so much. I know a lot of them. Just as I know many happy career mums who let their jobs take a back seat while nurturing their kids and supporting their husbands — and they rarely drink to excess.
If the OECD report had done a bit more research, it would actually have found there’s a direct link between middle-class alcoholism among women and being single or divorced.
It’s not professional pressure that stiffens all these women’s wrists as they pull out that cork when they get home at night — it’s loneliness. That’s the real dark side of equality.
Let’s not forget the depressing statistic that 40 per cent of marriages now end in divorce, with a third of decree absolutes arriving on the doorstep before the 20th wedding anniversary.
One in four women over 40 are now childless and they’re mostly career women. Some don’t want kids, some left it too late. Others simply cannot have children and many are just waiting for the perfect man who never turns up.
And no surprises that this places many of these women firmly in the red-alert category of the OECD report; professionals in the 45 to 64 age group who drink dangerously.
It was about this time last year I realised my own ‘social drinking’ had got out of hand. A couple of glasses of wine with lunch, then a couple more with dinner, it was adding up to way more than was healthy.
I wasn’t drinking to dull any pain. I had a boyfriend, a great job, my life was happy — but a little too merry, if you know what I mean.
And it was taking its toll on my body. My weight had slowly crept up and I could no longer disguise my muffin top. Enough.
So I took drastic action and gave up drinking completely for nearly a month. When I restarted, gently, I drank far less, mainly G&Ts with slimline tonic to cut the calories. I could make one drink last all dinner.
Since last August when I did my detox, I’ve lost nearly a stone without doing any more exercise or dieting. It just shows how much we drink without even thinking. I realised the damage I was doing to myself in time, but other career women have paid a heavy price for their success.
It’s not just my friends I observe. When I wrote an article for the Mail last September about the perils of mid-life female drinkers, I was inundated with emails and letters from women.
One came from that unhappy but courageously honest City worker. Another that particularly struck me was from a 55-year-old lawyer who felt so poorly she was sure something was drastically wrong and asked her doctor for a blood test. They found a major problem with her liver. A mother of two teenage children, she had divorced in her 40s, left her dependable but dull husband for someone who duly dumped her, and was now alone with her kids and her career — and a bottle of shiraz each night.
The only thing that marked her out from the majority of the women who contacted me was that she had children still with her. Almost all were mid-life, mid-career and living in lovely homes provided by their fab jobs — yet alone. The message was loud and clear. They didn’t drink because of the pressures of work, but because of the consequences of their careers.
Keeping up with the boys is not about downing bottles of wine at corporate dinners, but drowning the sadness of leaving the office at 10pm with nothing and no one to go home to. Many learned the painful lesson that you can’t take a career to bed, that a job is no comfort on sad days, nor capable of sharing the joy on happy ones. Your cat is no company for brunch on a sunny Sunday. And there was an abiding sense of betrayal from the women who contacted me that we, the post-feminist generation, the glass ceiling breakers, were duped.
With a copy of The Female Eunuch clenched tightly under our shoulder-padded, power-suited armpit, as young women we were told we could have it all — a husband, children, career and happiness ever after. We believed that our personal satisfaction and achievement were what really mattered. But we didn’t look at the fine print.
What life has taught this generation of women drinkers is that if you put career before everything else when starting to scale that shaky ladder of success, you will pay a heavy price. Women were sleepwalking into disaster, disappointment and depression — and they drink to blot it out.
Now, as we look back, perhaps we can see that those of our contemporaries without glittering careers, the ones we professional women sniffed at who preferred to be ‘home-makers’ and work part-time, were often happier with their lot. A bit like my mum.
She has been married for 67 years. A clever woman, she could have held her own in any of the corporate positions I’ve had. Yet she was part of the generation where she accepted that raising her three children and supporting her husband was the most rewarding job she could do.
Mum will be 87 next month, and is now cared for by my dad, who’s soon to be 89. They still live in their own home supported by carers but, more importantly, she has the love and support of her husband, children and adoring grandchildren. She will never be alone.
Mum has been teetotal all her life. She never needed the booze to get through life’s sorrows, including the loss of her firstborn.
Thankfully, there is no solitary life for her in her twilight years, full of regrets in the dark of night. She can sleep soundly and happily in the knowledge she is loved.
It’s only now when I look back at my short marriage that I realise that I’d bought the false feminist agenda hook line and sinker. I didn’t think it mattered that I worked six days a week and never got home before 10pm. To be successful, to achieve my full potential was my right. But I was wrong. Is it any wonder my marriage ended after just four years, when he had an affair with a woman who ‘needed’ him.
He said it was a cry for help, that he loved me but was tired of spending his days and nights alone and living in my shadow. Looking back, I realise I didn’t even cast a shadow in our marriage, as I was never there.
Now I know it’s not all about us, we career women, our jobs and our right to be up there with the big boys, calling and then downing the shots.
No relationship lasts without care for the other, however big your salary or impressive your title. I learned that decades ago, as did many of the women who wrote to me last year. It’s about a balance between love of your job and love of family and friends.
Now if it’s a choice between my man and my boss, I choose the former, and celebrate both over a glass of wine, not a bottle.
And if any of us needed a lesson in what feminism brings you, look to Germaine Greer, author of The Female Eunuch and one of the most strident female voices of the 20th century — aged 76 and living alone.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.