Man accused of filming castrations for 'eunuch maker' website

Man accused of filming castrations for 'eunuch maker' website

A man has appeared in court accused of carrying out and broadcasting castrations on his “eunuch maker” website.

Marius Theodore Gustavson, 45, is one of a group of men arrested on Wednesday in London, Scotland and South Wales.

Nine people now face charges after penises and testicles were allegedly removed and the procedures filmed for paying subscribers.

Gustavson, 45 and originally from Norway but living in London, is accused of being the ringleader.

As well as five counts of GBH with intent, he’s also charged with making and distributing an indecent image of a child and possessing criminal property.

Westminster Magistrates Court was told Gustavson, who appeared in a wheelchair alongside other defendants, has had his own penis, leg and nipple removed.

Met Police said the charges relate to 13 victims, with the crimes said to have taken place between 2016 and 2022 and earning £200,000.

The accused men are said to have been part of a subculture in which people willingly undergo extreme body modifications, such as becoming “nullos” – short for genital nullification.

None have yet entered any plea and they have been bailed to appear at the Old Bailey in April.

Those charged with conspiring to commit GBH are: Ion Ciucur, 28, of Gretna; Peter Wates, 65, of Purley; and David Carruthers, 60, Janus Atkin, 37, and Ashley Williams, 31 – all from Newport, Gwent.

Damien Byrnes, 35, of Haringey; Nathaniel Arnold, 47, of Kensington and Chelsea; and Jacob Crimi-Appleby, 22, of Epsom were all charged with one count of GBH.

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New technique 'about 80% effective' at producing babies of desired sex, study suggests

New technique 'about 80% effective' at producing babies of desired sex, study suggests

A new technique to select a baby’s sex appears to be safe and about 80% effective, a study suggests.

Researchers used a technique to separate sperm on whether they had an X chromosome (making female offspring) or a Y one (male offspring).

Sperm with an X chromosome are slightly heavier than those with a Y, the research indicates.

However, the study has again raised long-held concerns over the ethics of such a process.

Selecting embryos without reasons such as a sex-linked disease is illegal in many countries.

Experts behind the research, from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, said their technique was inexpensive and “extremely safe”.

The small study involved 1,317 couples, with 105 men in the group that used the sperm sorting process.

Fifty-nine couples wanted a girl and it resulted in 79.1% (231 out of 292) female embryos, with 16 girls being born without any abnormalities.

Fifty-six couples wanted a boy and the technique produced 79.6% male embryos (223 out of 280), resulting in 13 healthy male babies.

Professor Gianpiero Palermo, one of the authors, called it “extremely safe as well as efficient, inexpensive, and ethically palatable”.

However, some experts have expressed serious concerns despite the technique’s apparent effectiveness.

Dr Channa Jayasena, head of andrology at Imperial College London, said “their technical achievement is insignificant compared to the serious ethical concerns raised by the research”.

“They propose sperm selection as an ‘ethical’ alternative to embryo selection,” he said.

“I find this incredible since sperm selection is just another way of selecting embryos to manipulate the sex of offspring, with detrimental societal implications.”

He said regulation was urgently needed to control such developments, adding that it could be adapted in future to choose traits such as skin or eye colour.

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Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, also said sex selection was “ethically fraught”.

“Separating sperm beforehand may provide a legal loophole in some countries but not the UK,” he said.

“There have been numerous methods around for decades, some effective but potentially harmful, others dubious in their effectiveness.

“The current paper seems to have found a method in which the approach is effective to some degree…

“I am convinced that the science is sound and that, instead of the usual 50:50 ‘coin toss’ then a couple can get a baby with the desired sex a little under 80% of the time.”

The study is published in the PLOS ONE journal.

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Boris Johnson wants to forget partygate, but will parliament let him?

Boris Johnson wants to forget partygate, but will parliament let him?

Did Boris Johnson intentionally mislead parliament about what he knew – and when – about rule-breaking events in Number 10? The privileges committee maintains it is “very likely” he did.

Wednesday’s appearance in front of the privileges committee was billed as the day of reckoning for the former prime minister, with all the jeopardy that it brought. Instead, after months of gathering evidence and testimony from witnesses, there was no smoking gun.

That’s not to say it wasn’t uncomfortable, awkward and at times terse as Mr Johnson underwent over three-and-a-half hours of hostile cross-examination from a cross-bench group of MPs.

The former prime minister insisted he did not intentionally or recklessly mislead parliament when he told MPs that guidance and rules had been followed at all times in Number 10, not once but on two occasions in December 2021.

At the heart of his defence was the argument that while guidance was at times broken, in the round, officials tried to stick to the principles, even when social distancing wasn’t “complied with perfectly”, and that he relied on advice of his officials.

But there were difficult moments, no doubt, as the prime minister at times grew tetchy under cross-examination.

Boris Johnson hearing – latest: Johnson offers ‘hand on heart’ defence at heated partygate session

Sir Bernard Jenkin, who quizzed Mr Johnson on Lee Cain’s unsocially distanced leaving do in Number 10, was told by the former leader that such a gathering was “essential for work purposes”.

The senior Conservative shot back that had the former prime minister had been asked at his press conference podium whether “it was okay for organisations to hold unsocially distanced farewell gatherings in the workplace” – he was asked what would he have said.

Mr Johnson spluttered something about how they’d have to decide how they were going to implement the guidance: Even the non-cynical would likely say that answer was implausible.

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‘I do not believe you can find me guilty’

And what of the “BYOB” – Bring Your Own Booze – Number 10 garden party in May 2020? Again, Mr Johnson was adamant this was a work event to thank staff (many of whom were fined). Why then was Lee Cain, his then director of communications, concerned about the “optics, not about the rules”?

“I think he was concerned about the impression that people might gain if they looked over the garden wall, if they were coming from the media room and thought that we were doing something other people weren’t allowed to do,” said Mr Johnson.

“I can see why people might have felt that way. But as I told the House when I came to report on that event, I still believe it within the guidance and within the rules.”

It might not pass the “head-over-the-garden-wall” test, but in Mr Johnson’s version of life at Number 10, unsocially distanced farewell gatherings were allowed at work – a memo the rest of the country failed to receive.

What these examples show was the incredulity of MPs quizzing the former prime minister on what they clearly thought were obvious breaches he saw with his own eyes – and Mr Johnson’s resolute assertion that everything he laid his eyes on was within the rules.

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Boris testimony ‘uncomfortable’

And the stuff he didn’t see? Well, he relied on key staff to advise him whether events were in the rules.

On this, the former leader came a bit unstuck, with evidence from three of his closest advisers – his then director of communications, his cabinet secretary and his principle private secretary – stating they did not give assurances that all guidance and rules were followed at all times.

And on that, the outstanding question is why the former prime minister didn’t come to the Commons to correct the record earlier. His response seemed to be that, in the round, he thought guidance had been followed where possible – and even when asked by chair Harriet Harman if he wanted to correct the record and acknowledge guidance wasn’t followed at all times, he refused to budge.

“My view remains that the guidance allowed for social distancing not to be carried out with rigid drill sergeant precision, particularly in difficult circumstances, such as the ones in which we were operating, provided you had mitigations.”

No smoking gun, and both sides sticking to their guns.

At one point during the hearing, Tory committee member Sir Bernard Jenkin said: “I don’t think we agree with your interpretation of guidance.”

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Social distancing ‘imperfectly observed’

Read more:
Boris Johnson says No 10 leaving do was ‘absolutely essential for work purposes’
Boris Johnson’s privileges committee grilling: What happens if it finds he misled MPs?

Ms Harman was incredulous that the ex-PM was relying on assurances from staff on rules, when he’d seen events with his own eyes.

“I mean, if I was going 100 miles an hour and I saw the speedometer saying 100 miles an hour, it would be a bit odd, wouldn’t it, if I said, somebody assured me that I wasn’t?”

Questions then: Was Mr Johnson diligent enough in seeking assurances? Did he correct the record when it emerged that rules and guidance weren’t followed? Or did he intentionally mislead parliament?

The committee now has to deliberate on what to do next, and we’re unlikely to know for weeks whether Mr Johnson will be censured.

At worst he could be suspended for at least 10 days, which would enable voters in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency to hold a “recall petition” and seek to trigger a by-election – a nuclear option that would cause real ructions on the Conservative benches.

It’s not just Mr Johnson who wants to put the whole sorry affair behind him – it’s the current prime minister too. What’s still not clear is whether parliament will let them.

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Investment banks Cenkos and finnCap to merge in all-share deal

Investment banks Cenkos and finnCap to merge in all-share deal

Cenkos Securities and finnCap Group, the London-listed brokers, are in advanced talks to merge in an all-share deal that will create the City’s biggest dedicated investment bank serving small-cap growth companies.

Sky News has learnt that Cenkos and finnCap are close to agreeing a tie-up.

An announcement from both companies is likely as soon as Thursday morning.

If confirmed, it will accelerate the consolidation among London’s smaller broking firms during a challenging period for capital markets specialists.

Company flotations have been rare in the City in the last year because of economic and market volatility.

The merger of Cenkos and finnCap will come months after Panmure Gordon, the investment bank owned by a vehicle headed by Bob Diamond, the former Barclays chief, abandoned a bid for finnCap.

The two sides were unable to agree on a price.

City sources said on Wednesday that the deal would see finnCap acquiring Cenkos.

The two companies have virtually identical market capitalisations of £21m and £22m respectively.

Other details of the deal, including the leadership of the combined firm and which brand it would use, were unclear.

Despite their lowly valuations, the deal will be closely watched in the City by both peers and the firms’ clients.

A slowdown in corporate activity has driven a hunt for enhanced cost savings among brokers, with the prospects for corporate activity this year dampened by the economic backdrop.

FinnCap has endured a difficult period, parting company with Sam Smith, its chief executive and one of relatively few female City bosses, last summer.

Other broking firms are expected to participate in industry consolidation, including WH Ireland, which is under siege from an activist shareholder.

A finnCap spokesman declined to comment, while Cenkos could not be reached.

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US interest rates increased despite worst banking turmoil since 2008

US interest rates increased despite worst banking turmoil since 2008

The Federal Reserve – the US central bank, known as the Fed – has increased interest rates for the ninth time in a row.

The rate has been increased by 0.25 percentage points in an effort to bring down inflation, which in the US stood at 6% over the 12 months to February.

A higher increase had been expected prior to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the rescue of regional US banks and the takeover of Credit Suisse.

At the start of this month, before the worst banking turmoil since 2008 began, Fed chair Jerome Powell had floated the idea of a 0.5 percentage points increase, a speeding up of rate increases.

High interest rates lead to higher profits for lenders but also put pressure on banks as some government bonds, state IOUs, lose value.

Following Wednesday’s increase, US interest rates stand at 4.75% to 5%, up from 4.5% to 4.75% since the last increase in February.

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What is happening to banks and should we be worried? Sky’s Ed Conway explains.

In the US, the interest rate is a range, rather than a single percentage – as in the UK – because the Fed is not permitted to set a specific number.

A target rate is instead set as a guide for banks to follow.

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Gwyneth Paltrow's claim fellow skier crashed into her not 'plausible' because of accuser's injuries, court told

Gwyneth Paltrow's claim fellow skier crashed into her not 'plausible' because of accuser's injuries, court told

The injuries suffered by Gwyneth Paltrow’s accuser could not “plausibly” have been caused by him crashing into her, a US court has been told.

Terry Sanderson, 76, showed “typical hallmarks” of a traumatic brain injury and “deteriorated abruptly” following the 2016 incident on the slopes of the Deer Valley Resort in Utah, according to a radiologist.

Mr Sanderson, a retired optometrist, is suing the Hollywood star for $300,000 (£245,000) after she allegedly “slammed” into him from behind, leaving him unresponsive with several broken ribs and brain damage.

Terry Sanderson in court. Pic: AP
Accuser Terry Sanderson. Pic: AP

The Oscar-nominated actress also allegedly “bolted” from the scene without saying a word.

But 50-year-old Paltrow, who is also a lifestyle influencer, rejects the claims, with her lawyer calling Mr Sanderson’s version of events “utter BS”.

Her legal team has told jurors in the Utah town of Park City that Mr Sanderson was the one who crashed into her during her family holiday – a collision in which she sustained what they called a “full body blow”. Paltrow claims he has been overstating his injuries as well as trying to exploit her celebrity and wealth.

On the second day of the court case, radiologist Dr Wendell Gibby, who examined him in the aftermath of the crash, said Mr Sanderson would have “protected himself” if he had collided with Paltrow head on.

Radiologist Dr Wendell Gibby
Radiologist Dr Wendell Gibby

“I think it’s very unlikely that this would have been caused by Terry running into Gwyneth Paltrow,” he said.

“I don’t think it would be plausible that if he were running into her he would have broken the ribs on the side of his chest – he likely would have had his arms extended, he would have protected himself.

“Had he been the person running into her, I don’t think he would have sustained these types of injuries.”

“The rib fractures certainly corroborate that there was enough force to cause a head injury,” Dr Gibby testified.

Gwyneth Paltrow with her lawyer Stephen Owens in court on Wednesday
Gwyneth Paltrow with her lawyer Stephen Owens

‘Terry Sanderson was a high-energy person before collision’

In court, the radiologist also talked about what Mr Sanderson was like before the 2016 incident, saying: “Terry had been a very high-functioning, high-energy person. Every day he was doing lots of things.

“But after his accident he deteriorated abruptly and many of the activities he used to do he stopped doing like dancing, for the most part, his skiing activities.

“His personal interactions with his children and grandchildren suffered and he had trouble multi-tasking… He would go to Home Depot and forget why he was there. Those are all typical hallmarks of someone who has had a traumatic brain injury.”

Read more: ‘Paltrow never said a word after hitting fellow skier and bolting’

Dr Gibby added: “In Terry’s case… he was a well-respected guy, but I think he lost some of that connectedness. [He had] difficulty in maintaining friendships and the relationships that he had.”

‘Not the person he was’

The court then heard from neuropsychologist Sam Goldstein, who conducted tests on the plaintiff and said Mr Sanderson had told him he was “not the person he was” following the 2016 ski crash.

“He has become obsessed with trying to return himself to the level of functioning he perceived he had before this accident,” he told the court.

“From his view, he is not the person he was. From his view, he has lost Terry Sanderson.”

Sam Goldstein
Neuropsychologist Sam Goldstein

‘Acute, rapid downturn’

Mr Goldstein also said the ski incident caused an “acute, rapid downturn” in Mr Sanderson’s behaviour and functioning which had not stemmed from pre-existing medical issues.

“Were it not for that particular accident, the life he was living in the six months to a year before… would be the life he would continue to be living,” Mr Goldstein said.

“These pre-existing vulnerabilities he had don’t explain the acute [very quick] change and now the long-term change in his behaviour and functioning – this is an acute, rapid downturn.”

“The problems he had before – his mood, his anxiety, his personality style – are not the reasons he’s struggling today. They don’t explain the acute change in his functioning and the adverse pattern of emotions and behaviour and communication he presents with in everyday life.”

He added Mr Sanderson was not “faking” his problems or “making a mountain out of a molehill”.

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Craig Ramon was the first witness to give evidence.

On ski slopes, Utah law gives the skier who is downhill the right of way, and a central question in the case is who was farther down the beginner’s run when the collision happened.

Both Paltrow and Mr Sanderson claim they were further downhill when the other rammed into them, causing their skis to intertwine and the pair to tumble.

During day one of the case, jurors heard from Craig Ramon, who had been skiing with Mr Sanderson and was present in the aftermath of the collision.

Mr Ramon said he had seen a skier, later identified as Paltrow, “slam” into Mr Sanderson and later “bolt” down the hill without saying a word.

The hearing continues.

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