Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Terror in London, Trump in London and a resignation in Malta

7 December 2019

9:00 AM

7 December 2019

9:00 AM


Usman Khan, aged 28, out of prison on licence after serving eight years of a 16-year sentence for preparing acts of terrorism, stabbed to death Jack Merritt, aged 25, and Saskia Jones, aged 23, at Fishmongers’ Hall and wounded three others before being stopped on London Bridge by members of the public and shot dead by police. A Polish kitchen worker called Lukasz Koczocik tried to disarm him with a pole; another man grabbed a narwhal tusk from the wall at the hall where Khan had been attending a conference on rehabilitation while a third let off a fire extinguisher to distract him from further bloodshed. One man who pursued the killer was said to be a murderer present at the conference. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said there were ‘probably about 74 people’ convicted of serious offences who had been released early, and their licence conditions would be reviewed.

A visit by President Donald Trump of the United States to London petrified the Conservatives, who feared he would say something rash and embarrass their election efforts. But he insisted the US did not have designs on the NHS: ‘If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we’d want nothing to do with it.’ Having come for the Nato summit, he remarked that it had been ‘nasty, insulting, and disrespectful’ of Emmanuel Macron of France to have said: ‘What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato.’ The bone of contention was America’s withdrawal from northern Syria and Turkey’s incursion there. Sir Michael Howard, the military historian, died aged 97. Jasper Griffin, the classicist and Public Orator at Oxford, died aged 82. More than 50,000 teddy bears from China with loose eyes were destroyed at Felixstowe.

Workers on South Western Railway began a 27-day strike called by the RMT union, causing delays, queues and crowding. Labour said it would cut rail fares by 33 per cent with money from Vehicle Excise Duty. Boris Johnson declined to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, but happily appeared on The Andrew Marr Show. Other party leaders took part in often dull television debates, though even Adam Price of Plaid Cymru had his moment of glory by flummoxing Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, by asking: ‘Why is it when you’re in government in Wales — you’ve had free social care in Scotland — why can’t we have it in Wales?’ Ted Baker, the clothes chain, said it might have overstated the value of its stock by between £20 million and £25 million. Sky is to build new film studios on a 32-acre site at Elstree.


Joseph Muscat said he would resign as prime minister of Malta in January, in the midst of a scandal over the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. Adel Abdul-Mahdi resigned as prime minister of Iraq after weeks of protest. Iranian state television said the security forces had killed ‘thugs and rioters’ during last month’s protests which followed a rise in petrol prices, during which Amnesty International says at least 208 died. In America, the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry report released by the House Intelligence Committee spoke of ‘a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election’. David Boies, the lawyer for five women who accuse the late Jeffrey Epstein of abusing them, said he wanted to serve subpoenas on the Duke of York to testify as a witness. President Robert Mugabe was found to have died with ten million US dollars in the bank but was said by his lawyer to have made no will.

China required anyone registering for new mobile phone services to have their faces scanned. China (as represented by Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang) ranked first for all subjects in the latest Pisa tests for schoolchildren, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; the United Kingdom was happy to rise from 22nd to 14th in reading and 27th to 18th in maths. An aeroplane full of horses bound for Mexico City from Amsterdam turned back because of an ash cloud from Popocatépetl.

About 25,000 people directed their carbon footprints to Madrid for the COP25 UN climate conference. ‘People are underestimating the force of angry kids,’ said Greta Thurnberg, aged 16, arriving in Spain on a catamaran. In Bariyarpur, Nepal, a Hindu festival began with the sacrifice of a goat, a rat, a chicken, a pig and a pigeon to the goddess Gadhimai before the despatch of thousands of buffalo. CSH

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