Category Archives: Australia

TOP STORIES, Australia

Cheryl Grimmer: Murder charge in toddler’s 1970 disappearance dropped”:


Cheryl disappeared shortly after her family migrated to Australia

Australian prosecutors have dropped their case against a man who had been accused of murdering a UK-born toddler almost 50 years ago.

The disappearance of three-year-old Cheryl Grimmer from a New South Wales beach in 1970 is one of Australia’s longest-running mysteries.

A man was arrested in 2017, and he later pleaded not guilty to murder.

On Friday, a judge ruled that a key part of the prosecution case could not be used as evidence in a trial.

It concerned statements made by the man during a police interview in 1971, when he was aged 17.

The Supreme Court of New South Wales found that the evidence could not be heard because the teenager had not had an adult representative present during the interview.

Justice Robert Allan Hulme said: “The Crown accepts that its case cannot succeed without it.”

Family devastated

Cheryl went missing from a shower block on 12 January, 1970, in Wollongong, a city 70km (44 miles) south of Sydney, shortly after her family moved to Australia from Bristol.

It sparked a massive search at the time, but no trace of the girl was ever found.

GETTY IMAGES

Police conduct a search days after Cheryl’s disappearance

On Friday Cheryl’s brother, Ricki Nash, said the family was devastated by the latest development and felt let down by police.

“We’re just a bit numb, a bit shocked… no words can describe how I feel at the moment,” he said outside the court.

Over the years, the family had expressed frustration at the lack of progress in the case.

Another of her brothers, Stephen Grimmer, said in 2016: “My mum and dad have passed on now not knowing, and we want to know too before we pass on.”

‘Unfair’ evidence

In explaining his decision, Justice Hulme acknowledged that the man had made a written statement and engaged in a “walk-through style interview” with police in 1971.

Unlike now, minors were not legally required to be accompanied by an adult when giving such statements.

NSW POLICE

Cheryl with her late father, Vince Grimmer

However, Justice Hulme ruled that the man’s police interview “should be excluded on the basis of unfairness”.

He also noted testimony from psychologists who had reviewed the case for the trial.

They found that the man had “low intellect” and would have been “more vulnerable to influence” at the time, the judge said.

The man’s trial had been due to begin in May.

US Australia and make record crystal meth bust


Australian police have arrested six people in Victoria and New South Wales after the biggest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in US history.

Authorities say the 1,728kg (3,800lb) stash – the largest ever intercepted drug shipment to Australia – was found in January at a port in California.

The haul is said to be equivalent to 17 million doses and worth an estimated A$1.29bn ($910m; £705m).

Three of those arrested appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Among the suspects are two Americans: a 52-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman. Australian Federal Police (AFP) say they were found with “hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds of crime” during a raid in Melbourne.

They are believed to be involved with a US-based crime syndicate that tried to smuggle the drugs in containers marked as carrying audio equipment.

“By stopping this, we have ensured criminals will not profit from the immense pain these drugs would have caused our community,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill told reporters.

A collection of containers used to conceal the stash of crystal meth, heroine and cocaine
The crystal meth had been hidden in boxes marked as audio equipment

The arrests are part of an ongoing joint investigation by local and national agencies in the US and Australia.

In 2015, Australia’s government established a national taskforce  to tackle the growing use of crystal methamphetamine (dubbed “ice”), which has become the most common illicit drug in the country.

The move followed a report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that found crystal meth posed the highest risk to communities of any illegal substance.

Crystal meth is a powerful form of amphetamine and can be smoked, snorted or injected by users.

Victoria state – Australia’s second-most populous – consumes more than two tonnes of crystal meth every year, according to government figures.

The ACC says the price of crystal meth in Australia is among the highest in the world, driving the country’s organised crime gangs to trade increasingly in the drug.

Commissioner Hill said police believe Mexican cartels are targeting the country, but the identities of the cartels have not been disclosed.

The previous record for an Australia-bound crystal meth seizure was 1,300 kg in 2017.

Black Saturday: The bushfire disaster that shook Australia”:


Ten years ago, Australia experienced its worst-ever bushfire disaster when 173 people died across the state of Victoria. Immediately branded “one of the darkest days in Australia’s peacetime history”, Black Saturday has left a profound legacy. Sharon Verghis reports.

“It was like the gates of hell. There is no other way to describe it.”

For Tony Thomas, 7 February 2009 began as another ordinary day. It had been a summer of record-breaking temperatures, prompting days of safety warnings.

But Mr Thomas wasn’t overly concerned; they had had scorching days like this before.

In the lush, peaceful hills on the outskirts of tiny Marysville, about 90km (55 miles) north-east of Melbourne, he and wife Penni had carved out a fruitful life running a bed and breakfast on a 60-acre property.

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His in-laws had arrived for a birthday lunch. It was a pleasant gathering, despite the suffocating heat. But in the late afternoon, they spotted smoke in the west. Going for a closer look, they saw fire.

The remnants of Australia’s worst day of fires

“It came out of the forest behind us on the other side – at 100k [kilometres] it just roared towards us,” Mr Thomas tells the BBC.

At 18.45, the fire hit – “and pretty hard”. Mr Thomas’s family and the B&B guests ran for shelter in the house as he, his brother-in-law and an employee battled the fire. It was effectively three men with buckets and garden hoses against a roaring, wind-whipped blaze.

At 21.30, another wind change swung the fire towards the hay shed: “That threw flaming hay bombs at us for the next hour or so, massive embers and hay landing on us.”

“When you’ve got 20 to 30 metre-trees burning and the flames are well above that, like a huge ball…” his voice trails off.

“Why people say gates of hell is because everything turned from light to dark very quickly – the sun got blocked out by the smoke.

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“The only thing you could see is the glow of the fire through the smoke. We were choking. We only had large tea towels which we were wetting down constantly and wrapping around our faces so we could breathe.”

Nearby, David Baetge was also fighting for survival on his property near the town of Buxton, directly adjacent to a large state park.

An aerial view of a road passing through a forest of burnt-out trees near Kinglake in Victoria, Australia
The town of Kinglake and surrounding regions were devastated

Armed with a comprehensive fire plan and previous firefighting experience, he had seen the smoke but chosen to stay. Like Mr Thomas, the decision would almost cost him his life.

At about 1830, Mr Baetge spotted fire on top of peaks about 3km (2 miles) away – with what he estimated to be 100m-high fireballs.

Even for a bushfire veteran, he was shocked at the speed of the fire as it raced towards him. “The sky was iridescent red with a deafening roar like standing next to a 747 jet,” he would later recall in his blog.

“It was like being inside a cocoon of smoke with a maximum visibility range of about 30m and the whole of this hemisphere in every direction was glowing cherry red.” He said it was “like being sandblasted – but with burning embers”.

All through this once-bucolic landscape, others faced similar struggles.

Karen Curnow was among them. As her house caught fire, she fled in her car with her old dog, hurtling over and around burning trees, guilt-struck at having to leaving her panicked horses behind.

‘I escaped the inferno – then found my horse’

Nearby in Kinglake West, local artist Michelle Bolmat was also making a mad dash to safety.

“The ash started to fall, and the darkness came… it became completely black everywhere,” she tells the BBC. A tree came down in front of her; but as the heat started to build, she revved her engine and drove over it. “I looked back and saw the fire coming.”

All four got through that nightmare night.

But when the sun rose the next morning, it was eerily quiet. The lush landscape was gone.

“Our world turned from beautiful colours to black and grey,” Mr Thomas recalls. “There wasn’t a spot on the property that wasn’t burnt and it was the same across the whole area.”

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Kinglake suffered the heaviest toll, with 120 perishing. In Marysville, 39 people died – 34 of them locals – and the town was effectively obliterated.

“Probably 22 of those 34 were friends of ours,” Mr Thomas says.

An aerial view of a row of houses in Kinglake shows houses destroyed
Like Marysville, Kinglake had rows of buildings destroyed

After the final embers were doused (the Black Saturday fires continued to 14 March), the true scale of the fires was revealed.

About 400 blazes had burned, most sparked by faulty power lines and lightning, but there were also cases of arson.

A total of 173 people died – Australia’s deadliest ever bushfire event. It left several hundreds more injured, more than 2,000 homes destroyed, and more than 7,500 people displaced. The RSPCA estimated that up to one million animals died.

It was unprecedented – even for a country long used to bushfires.

Over the years, Australia has been hit with several deadly blazes. But the Black Saturday fires of 2009 were singular in their ferocity – equal to 1,500 atomic bombs.

The fires scorched houses and vehicles

So what made this event so severe?

Kevin Parkyn, a Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster, says it was a combination of record temperatures, unusually strong, howling north-westerly winds in excess of 100km/h (60 mph), and a tinder-dry landscape courtesy of a long-running drought. In Melbourne, the temperature reached 46.4C.

“That’s a record for Melbourne in 100 years,” Mr Parkyn says. “When you went outside, there was just this blast of hot air – it was like having a hairdryer to the face.”

No firefighting force stood a chance, especially when the blazes hit Australia’s highly flammable eucalypt forests, he says. Spot fires sprang up kilometres downwind of the main front.

A helicopter prepares to fight bushfires in Victoria's Bunyip State Park
Firefighters continued to battle blazes in the weeks after Black Saturday

Did climate change play a role? Mr Parkyn refers to his scientific training: he says it would be hard to say there’s no link given the record temperatures now being experienced in Australia in particular, and the frequency of extreme weather disasters internationally. He points to last year’s California fires, the US state’s deadliest, as one example.

The damage from Black Saturday was also exacerbated by urbanisation, he says. Risk Frontiers, a research centre, has estimated that nearly a million addresses in Australia are located less than 100m from bushland.

In the aftermath, a royal commission inquiry was announced, resulting in widespread changes in bushfire preparation and protocols. The inquiry put the financial cost of the disaster at A$4.4bn (£2.4bn; $3.14bn).

Survivors also secured a A$500m payout the biggest class action settlement in Australian legal history. But this didn’t account for the invisible toll.

A farmer struggles with the conditions on his property near Labertouche, Victoria
A farmer struggles with the conditions on his property

The Beyond Bushfires report, which surveyed more than 1,000 people affected by the fires, found evidence of significant mental health issues including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe psychological distress. The rates were significantly higher than what would be expected in the general population, it found.

Lead researcher Prof Lisa Gibbs, from the University of Melbourne, likens the disaster to a fractured window: the cracks spread far and wide, magnified by the small rural populations. She has seen a measurable increase in domestic violence along with mental health issues.

Out of the embers, however, some good has also come. Australia is now significantly better prepared for fires, with new measures including redesigned building codes and improved warning messages.

Internationally, Australian researchers are now leading the way in many firefighting technologies – from tanker perseveration strategies to a world-leading electrical-fault study. The Beyond Bushfires report is now used internationally.

A fern grows in a bushfire-ravaged region, in an image taken two years after Black Saturday
A bushfire-ravaged region, pictured two years after Black Saturday

Regeneration and growth has taken place on a more personal level as well. Mr Thomas is amazed by the resilience of the locals. Communities have rebuilt, the bush has regenerated.

For Karen Curnow says it gave her a chance to start anew: “I don’t see myself as a victim or a survivor. I just consider myself a very lucky person.”

This week, solemn events have marked the anniversary of the tragedy.

But for many scarred directly by Black Saturday, there will be relief when Thursday is over and people can move on, Mr Thomas says. Marysville is slowly recovering but “it will never be the same town”.

“But as a community we stick together,” he says. “We’re still here. We’re still standing.”

Additional reporting by Simon Atkinson and Hywel Griffith.

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Backpacker raped by Australian farmer after job lure, trial hears


A farmer in Australia has gone on trial accused of kidnapping and raping a Belgian backpacker in a shed during a two-day ordeal.

Gene Charles Bristow, 54, has pleaded not guilty to attacking the 24-year-old woman in rural South Australia in 2017.

Prosecutors say she was chained up in a pig shed and repeatedly raped after going to the farm believing she had been given work. She was later freed.

Mr Bristow’s lawyers have called the allegations “an invention”.

On the first day of the trial, the District Court of South Australia was told that Mr Bristow had contacted the woman after she wrote on classifieds website Gumtree that she was seeking work.

He then arranged to drive her to his farm in Meningie, 150km (90 miles) south-east of Adelaide, the jury was told.

Prosecutor Michael Foundas alleged that Mr Bristow threatened the woman with a fake gun after they arrived at the farm, before trapping her in an “old, dirty pig shed”.

‘Thought-out plan’

The jury was told that the woman was repeatedly sexually assaulted in the shed, which was located out of sight from a house that Mr Bristow shared with his family.

“This was a premeditated and thought-out plan,” Mr Foundas told the court in Adelaide.

“A plan to lure a young female backpacker to his farm where the unlucky victim would be held against her will and sexually abused by him,” he said.

The court heard that the woman managed to break free at one point and use her laptop to send messages to relatives and police, who began a search.

However she then re-shackled herself because Mr Bristow had threatened to kill her if she tried to escape, Mr Foundas said.

Prosecutors said Mr Bristow released the woman the next day, driving her to a town, because he was spooked by police search efforts. She was later found by authorities.

The defence team said it did not contest that the woman stayed overnight at the property, but rejected that the woman was held against her will. Mr Bristow also denies that any sexual assaults occurred.

The trial continues.

Tears, tantrums & YouTube – what we learnt from the Australian Open


Tears. Celebrations. Hugs. Broken racquets.

Tsitsipas dedicated a post to his father on his birthday, writing: “I am proud to say that I’ve spent 20 years of my life with the best memories in the back of my head… and most of that thanks to you!”

The Australian Open has brought us everything from dramatic finals to people willingly drinking pickle juice.

.Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic laid down the marker at the first Grand Slam of the season as they walked away with the titles, and there was plenty else to enjoy over the fortnight in Melbourne.

Here’s five things we learned at the Australian Open.

Andy Murray can still make you believe

There was plenty of praise for Andy Murray when he announced on the eve of the tournament that he plans to retire in the summer.

Given Murray’s injury struggles in 2018, his first-round match against Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne was always going to be difficult.

But if there’s one thing we know about Murray, it’s that giving up is really not in his nature.’A colossal match’ – best moments as Murray bows out of Australian Open in style

On the opening day of the tournament, Murray battled for four hours and nine minutes.

In front of a packed Melbourne Arena, he fought back from two sets down to force a fifth set.

Ultimately, the Scot fell just short – but it offered a stark reminder of how much we will miss Murray.

No-one could decide who they wanted to be women’s champion

Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova are arguably two of the most likeable players on the women’s tour.

Japan’s Osaka has endeared herself to the public with her down-to-earth and slightly awkward public speaking.

The controversial US Open final against Serena Williams reduced her to tears as she collected her maiden Slam trophy to boos from the crowd.

Kvitova, meanwhile, has made a remarkable return to tennis since she suffered career-threatening injury in a knife attack at her home in 2016.

People couldn’t decide who they wanted to win…

Ultimately, it was Osaka who took home the title and the world number one ranking with a dramatic 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 win.

Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova’s thrilling match lasted for two and a half hours

The changing of the guard might have to wait

This time last year, Osaka was 72nd in the world rankings and was yet to win a WTA title.

Now, she’s at the top of the world rankings with two Grand Slam titles to her name.

Melbourne was also where Ashleigh Barty reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final and rising American Danielle Collins thrashed second seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.

Top seed Simona Halep lost to Serena Wiliams in the fourth round, before Williams, despite holding four match points, fell to Karolina Pliskova in the quarters.

So, things are changing in the women’s game. Is it the same in the men’s?

ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev, 21, has yet to go beyond the quarter-finals in a Slam.

He continued that record when he fell to Milos Raonic in the fourth round, promptly taking his frustration out on his racquet.

Alexander Zverev’s racquet was barely recognisable by the time he had finished smashing it

French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, 25, also lost his cool and his racquet during his second-round match against Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin.

Thiem was forced to retire injured, while last year’s semi-finalist Kyle Edmund was easily beaten by veteran Tomas Berdych in the first round.

However, Stefanos Tsitsipas – more on him later – claimed a fine victory over Roger Federer, leading to some suggestion of a “changing of the guard”.

Not that Federer was convinced.

“I’ve heard that story the last 10 years. From that standpoint, nothing new there,” he said, while Rafael Nadal said the next generation can “wait a little bit”.

Novak Djokovic looks unstoppable

Novak Djokovic is five Grand Slam titles away from Roger Federer’s all-time record

If proof was needed that the champions are not done yet, then Djokovic provided it by thrashing Nadal in the final.

Djokovic inflicted a first straight-set defeat in a Slam final on Nadal to claim his 15th major title.

Since the start of 2015, Djokovic has competed in 10 of the 17 Grand Slam finals – winning eight of them – and has risen to the top of the world rankings.

His victory over Nadal in Melbourne means Federer’s record of 20 Slam titles is very much within reach.

“It was the first time where I have watched the Australian Open and thought that one man can win all four Grand Slams this year,” BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller said.

“He was outstanding and on a different planet.”

Are they set for a rematch at Roland Garros in May?

Tsitsipas takes YouTube lessons to beat idol Federer

Stefanos Tsitisipas arrived at the Australian Open as one of the NextGen – the young players tipped for major success in the future.

He had studied defending champion Federer on YouTube

as a child, and one of his favourite matches was the then-teenage Federer’s victory over Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001.

So what did Tsitsipas do when he met Federer in the fourth round? He beat him in four sets.

The Greek fell in the semi-finals to Rafael Nadal but he captured the imagination in Melbourne.

His YouTube channel, where he vlogs about life on tour, cracked 100,000 subscribers and he even had a dish named after him at a local Greek restaurant.

Tsitsipas recently said he used filming and photography as a way to explore the various countries tournaments are held in

Tsitsipas has a Youtube channel, where he post vlogs of his life on tour

Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari paired up for the Hopman Cup, where they beat Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic in the mixed doubles

Tsitsipas lost to Roger Federer 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) at the Hopman Cup

Tsitsipas beat Australia’s Alex de Minaur to win the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals title

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Australian Open 2019: Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to win record seventh title


Novak Djokovic won a record seventh Australian Open title and a third successive Grand Slam as he swept aside Rafael Nadal in Melbourne.

The Serb, rarely troubled on his serve, won 6-3 6-2 6-3 for his biggest victory in a major final over his great rival.

Spanish second seed Nadal, 32, looked rattled by the world number one’s intensity and made 28 unforced errors.

Djokovic, 31, won in two hours and four minutes to move clear of six-time men’s winners Roy Emerson and Roger Federer.

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A forehand winner down the line brought up two championship points, Djokovic taking the second when Nadal clubbed a backhand long.

Djokovic, who was the top seed, fell to his knees after sealing another triumph on Rod Laver Arena, smacking the court with both hands and screaming towards the sky.

The reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion claimed his 15th Grand Slam title, moving him outright third ahead of American Pete Sampras in the all-time list, closing in on Switzerland’s Federer (20) and Nadal (17).

Djokovic has now won 13 of his past 16 meetings with Nadal, who has not beaten the Serb on a hard court since the US Open final in 2013.

He leads 28-25 in their record 53 meetings between two male players.

Djokovic continued his fine record of going on to win the tournament every time he has reached the semi-finals, while Nadal lost for a fourth time in the Melbourne showpiece.

The result meant the 2009 winner was unable to become the first man in the Open era to win all the Grand Slams at least twice and was the first time he had lost a major final in straight sets.

Djokovic’s dominance stuns an expectant Melbourne

Djokovic said his clinical semi-final win over French 28th seed Lucas Pouille on Friday was one of his best performances on Rod Laver Arena.

Two days later, he surpassed that against the man with whom he shares what many consider to be the greatest male rivalry.

Most expected a much closer encounter between the pair, whose previous meeting at Melbourne Park had been the epic 2012 final, which lasted five sets and almost six hours.

Quickly it became apparent that a repeat was unlikely in front of a stunned crowd.

Djokovic was as close to flawless as he could have been – dominating on serve, controlling the rallies with crisp groundstrokes, rarely making a mistake and showing incredible athleticism around the court.

His tally of 34 winners and nine unforced errors highlights how high his level was.

The Serb made a fast start by breaking in Nadal’s first service game and, although that was the only break in the opener, the gulf between the players felt much wider.

He took his first set point after landing a first serve which Nadal could only bat back into the net, wrapping up the opener in only 38 minutes.

More pressure came on Nadal’s serve immediately in the second set, Djokovic eventually going a break up in the fifth game and, after surviving Nadal taking him to deuce in the following game, broke again to leave him serving for a two-set lead.

Djokovic then underlined his dominance by firing down three aces to leave him one set away from the title.

Another break for a 2-1 lead in the third put Djokovic on his way to a comfortable win, before he fought off a break point in the sixth game and then sealed victory on the Nadal serve.

Nadal sees positives despite being outclassed

Rafael Nadal just could not find a way to challenge a brilliant Novak Djokovic

Nadal had not dropped a set on his way to the final but, having come into the tournament without competitive action since September’s US Open, he was nowhere near the level required to cause problems for an in-form Djokovic.

The Spaniard looked like he lacked belief as he made a slow start, winning only one point in the opening three games.

Nadal particularly struggled to make an impact on Djokovic’s serve, not managing to win a receiving point until the ninth game and with more than half an hour on the clock.

Nadal continued to toil in the second and third sets, although a rare error from Djokovic brought up a first break point for the Spaniard after one hour and 46 minutes.

However, a backhand into the net left Nadal grimacing and looking up the sky in frustration as the chance – and the championship – slipped from his grasp.

The Spaniard won 53 points compared to Djokovic’s 89, and took only 13 receiving points.

“I have been going through tough times over the past year. I only played in nine events and had to retire from two, and I was not able to play professional match since the US Open,” said Nadal.

The Spaniard, who cut short his 2018 season with an abdominal muscle problem and to have ankle surgery, retired injured in the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year.

“Even though tonight was not my night, it was very important for me in coming back from injury,” he said.

“I believe I played a good two weeks of tennis and it is a great energy and inspiration for what is coming.

“I will keep fighting and keep practising to give myself better chances in the future.”

Can Djokovic overtake Federer’s tally?

If Djokovic is to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once by winning the French Open, he may well have to get past Rafael Nadal, who has won the title a record 11 times

Australian great Rod Laver, watching in the arena which bears his name, said before the final he felt Djokovic would eventually overtake both Federer and Nadal in terms of Grand Slam titles.

On the evidence of this victory, and his performances over the past six months, few would disagree.

Djokovic was ranked outside the world’s top 20 in July after coming back from elbow surgery.

But he showed he was back to his best with victory at Wimbledon and followed up that performance with another triumph at the US Open in September.

Now Djokovic, who reclaimed top spot in the rankings in November, will go to the French Open in May aiming to hold all four major titles simultaneously for the second time.

Victory over Britain’s Andy Murray in the 2016 French Open final meant Djokovic became the first man since Laver in 1969 to hold all four Slams at once.

“I’m trying to contemplate on the journey in the past 12 months. I had surgery exactly 12 months ago,” Djokovic said.

“To be standing now here, in front of you today, managing to win this title and three of the four Slams is truly amazing.”

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic claimed his 15th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Sunday

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

This was one of the great Grand Slam final performances by Djokovic. He simply knocked the stuffing out of Nadal.

The offensive side of Nadal’s game, which had been so eye-catching in earlier rounds, was snuffed out by Djokovic. The world number one took all of Nadal’s time away and forced him on the defensive from the very first ball.

If he wins Roland Garros in June, he will hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time in his career. This might just be the best chance Djokovic has ever had to win all four Slams in the same calendar year.

Nadal will have a lot to say about that – especially in Paris. The Spaniard felt four months away from the Tour caught up with him here: as he says, he was just not able to find the higher gear required to make the match competitive.

He is, though, optimistic things will look a lot brighter in a couple of months’ time: just as the clay-court season looms into view.

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Australian woman bitten by snake in toilet


An Australian woman “jumped off her seat” after being bitten by a snake on the toilet, a reptile handler says.

Helen Richards, 59, received the non-venomous strike in the dark at a relative’s house in Brisbane on Tuesday.

A professional snake handler was called to remove the 1.5m (5ft) python

She received minor puncture wounds from the 1.5m (5ft) carpet python.

Handler Jasmine Zeleny, who retrieved the reptile, said it was common to find snakes seeking water in toilets during hot weather.

Ms Richards told local media she had felt a “sharp tap”.

“I jumped up with my pants down and turned around to see what looked like a longneck turtle receding back into the bowl,” she told The Courier Mail newspaper .

The carpet python curled up in the toilet bowl
The carpet python was most likely seeking water, handler Jasmine Zeleny says

Ms Zeleny said Ms Richards had treated the minor bite marks with an antiseptic, describing carpet pythons as relatively harmless.

“Unfortunately, the snake’s preferred exit point was blocked after being spooked by Helen sitting down, and it lashed out in fear,” Ms Zeleny told the BBC.

“By the time I got there, she had trapped the snake and calmed down. Helen treated the whole situation like a champion.”

Carpet pythons are a common species along the east coast of Australia. They are not venomous but tetanus shots are recommended for bites.

Australia has experienced a fortnight of extreme heat that has broken dozens of records across the nation. Several wildlife species have suffered

with reports of mass deaths of horses, native bats and fish.

Recent Topics

Australia horse deaths: Wild animals perish at dried-up waterhole


An extreme heatwave in Australia has led to the deaths of more than 90 wild horses in the outback, authorities say.

Rangers found dead and dying animals in a dried-up waterhole near Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, last week.

About 40 of the animals had already died from dehydration and starvation. Surviving horses were later culled.

Rangers found the horses in a dried-up waterhole in the Northern Territory

It comes amid record-breaking heat, with temperatures hitting 49.5C north of Adelaide in South Australia.

The mercury rose to 47.7C in the city itself on Thursday, breaking a record set in 1939.

How hot is it?

Australia has experienced a fortnight of extreme heat,

that has broken dozens of records across the nation.

More than 13 towns in the state of South Australia have seen heat records eclipsed.

Emergency services in more than 13 districts are on alert for fear of possible bushfires.

Meanwhile in Alice Springs, near where the horses were found, temperatures have exceeded 42C for almost two weeks – more than 6C above January’s typical average, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

WARNING: Readers may find some images in this article disturbing

How have animals been affected?

Rangers came across the horses after their absence was noted by a remote community, said local authority Central Land Council (CLC).

A local resident, Ralph Turner, also visited the site and posted photos online, describing the scene as “carnage”.

One of the dead wild horses discovered at the dry water spot
The animals were found in the Apwerte Uyerreme waterhole

“I was devastated. I’d never seen anything like it – all the bodies,” he told the BBC.

“I couldn’t believe something like that had happened.”

Another local, Rohan Smyth, told the ABC that water was “normally there” and that the horses “just had nowhere to go”.

The council said it had organised a cull of the remaining horses because they were found close to death.

The bodies of several wild horses in a dried-up water hole near Alice Springs
The region has experienced prolonged extreme heat

They also planned to cull another 120 feral horses, donkeys and camels “dying from thirst” in a neighbouring community, said CLC director David Ross.

“With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them,” Mr Ross wrote in a press release.

Several other wildlife species have also suffered, with reports of mass deaths of native bats in New South Wales.

Up to a million fish have also been found dead along river banks in the drought-affected state.

Locals in New South Wales are angry about the mass deaths of fish

The government has launched a review into the fish deaths.

How have people been coping?

South Australia health authorities said 44 people had come in for treatment in the space of 24 hours due to the extreme temperatures.

Officials nationwide have issued health warnings urging people to stay indoors and minimise physical activity, with heightened concerns for the elderly, the chronically ill and children.

Earlier this month, officials confirmed that 2018 and 2017 had been Australia’s third and fourth hottest years on record respectively.

A beachgoer reads his phone in the sun in Sydney, January 2019
People have flocked to the beach to help cope with the heat

The bureau’s State of the Climate 2018 reportsaid climate change had led to an increase in extreme heat events.

How is climate change affecting Australia?

Even if global temperatures are contained to the Paris accord limit of a 2C rise above pre-industrial levels, scientists believe Australia is facing a dangerous new normal

Parts of eastern Australia suffered their worst drought in recent history last year, while thousands of Australians fled their homes  when bushfires swept through Queensland in November.

The country has committed to reducing its emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, under the Paris climate agreement.

But in November school students nationwide left class in protest at what they said was a response the government’s inadequate action on climate change.

According to the UN’s 2018 emissions gap report, Australia’s climate policy saw no improvement in 2017, and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be above target.

Chart showing how Australia has been getting warmer in recent decades

Related Topics

Australia swelters through record-breaking heatwave


By mr ben rory

Australia has just sweltered through at least five of its 10 warmest days on record, authorities estimate.

An extreme heatwave has afflicted the nation since Saturday, causing wildlife deaths, bushfires and a rise in hospital admissions.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said preliminary readings showed daily national temperature highs of 40C (104F).

The town of Noona in New South Wales hit a night-time temperature of 35.9C.

It was the highest minimum temperature ever recorded anywhere in Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said.

Temperatures on Friday will soar above 42C in “broad areas”, the Bureau predicted.

▪ Swelters through record-breaking heatwave

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Forecasters have compared conditions to the nation’s worst heatwave in 2013, where the mercury soared to 39C for seven consecutive days.

The hottest day on record for Australia is 7 January 2013, when the national average maximum temperature was 40.3C.

A beachgoer reads his phone in the sun in Sydney on Tuesday
A beachgoer in Sydney on Tuesday

A woman walks her dog at Port Melbourne Beach on January 15, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. Heatwave conditions are expected across the country this week with temperatures expected to reach the mid 40s in some areas
A woman cools down with her dog at Port Melbourne Beach

“The current heatwave ranks alongside that of January 2013 as the most extensive and prolonged heatwave on record over Australia,” BOM senior meteorologist Blair Trewin told the BBC earlier this week.

“There have been other notable heatwaves but none affecting such a large area of the country.”

Where is affected?

A large swathe of New South Wales is bearing the brunt of the heat, with temperatures also soaring in parts of Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

Temperatures are expected to drop in southern and central areas over the weekend.

But meteorologists say they are then set to rise in Western Australia.

Parts of the state could see temperatures up to 14 degrees higher than average in the days to come.

Is it dangerous?

Meteorologists say that the heatwave has broken heat records at more than 10 places around Australia, largely central inland locations.

The record-setters included the outback town of Tarcoola in South Australia which soared to 49C on Tuesday, and Port Augusta in South Australia which reached 48.9C.

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Sixteen people in South Australia were admitted to hospital due to the heat on Wednesday, the state government said.

Authorities in several states have also issued health warnings urging people to stay indoors and minimise physical activity, with heightened concerns for the elderly, the chronically ill and children.

Grandmother and granddaughter take a dip in the water at Red Leaf Beach on January 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia
Australians are used to high temperatures – even though the current heatwave appears to be particularly bad

A man sunbakes at a Sydney beach
State authorities have issued heat stress warnings to people

In coastal cities, many Australians flocked to pools, beaches and other watering holes to cool off.

Some people also shared their attempts to cool down on social media, including one Reddit user who wrote that he was “refrigerating my pyjamas to survive the stuffiness of my bedroom”.

Dozens of bushfires were burning across Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales on Thursday in conditions exacerbated by the heat and drought.

At Cobar’s Empire Hotel, temperatures reached 50C on Friday.

“It’s very difficult but we push through,” bar attendant Britney-Lee Fazulla told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

She said it was the worst heatwave she’d experienced.

There were also reports of mass deaths in native bat colonies in New South Wales, and fruit orchards spoiling under the Sun.

Up to a million fish are believed to have died along river banks.

How is climate change affecting Australia?

Last week, officials confirmed that 2018 and 2017 had been Australia’s third and fourth hottest years on record respectively.

The Bureau’s State of the Climate 2018 reportsaid climate change had led to an increase in extreme heat events.

Even if global temperatures are contained to the Paris accord limit of a 2C rise above pre-industrial levels, scientists believe the country is facing a dangerous new normal.

Parts of eastern Australia suffered their worst drought in recent history last year, while thousands of Australians fled their homes when bushfires swept through Queensland in November.

Chart showing how Australia has been getting warmer in recent decades

Related Topics

Swelters through record-breaking heatwave


By mr ben rory

Australia has just sweltered through at least five of its 10 warmest days on record, authorities estimate.

An extreme heatwave has afflicted the nation since Saturday, causing wildlife deaths, bushfires and an increase in hospital admissions.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said preliminary readings showed daily national temperature highs of 40C.

The town of Noona in New South Wales meanwhile recorded a night-time temperature of 35.9C.

Temperatures on Friday will soar above 42C in “broad areas”, the bureau predicted.

Forecasters have compared conditions to the nation’s worst heatwave in 2013, where the mercury soared to 39C for seven consecutive days.

The hottest day on record for Australia is 7 January 2013, when the national average maximum temperature was 40.3C.

A beachgoer reads his phone in the sun in Sydney on Tuesday
A beachgoer in Sydney on Tuesday

A woman walks her dog at Port Melbourne Beach on January 15, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. Heatwave conditions are expected across the country this week with temperatures expected to reach the mid 40s in some areas
A woman cools down with her dog at Port Melbourne Beach

“The current heatwave ranks alongside that of January 2013 as the most extensive and prolonged heatwave on record over Australia,” BOM senior meteorologist Blair Trewin told the BBC earlier this week.

“There have been other notable heatwaves but none affecting such a large area of the country.”

Where is affected?

A large swathe of New South Wales is bearing the brunt of the heat, with temperatures also soaring in parts of Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

Temperatures are expected to drop in southern and central areas over the weekend.

But meteorologists say they are then set to rise in Western Australia.

Parts of the state could see temperatures up to 14 degrees higher than average in the days to come.

Is it dangerous?

Meteorologists say that the heatwave has broken heat records at more than 10 places around Australia, largely central inland locations.

The record-setters included the outback town of Tarcoola in South Australia which soared to 49C on Tuesday, and Port Augusta in South Australia which reached 48.9C.

Sixteen people in South Australia were admitted to hospital due to the heat on Wednesday, the state government said.

Authorities in several states have also issued health warnings urging people to stay indoors and minimise physical activity, with heightened concerns for the elderly, the chronically ill and children.

Grandmother and granddaughter take a dip in the water at Red Leaf Beach on January 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia
Australians are used to high temperatures – even though the current heatwave appears to be particularly bad

A man sunbakes at a Sydney beach
State authorities have issued heat stress warnings to people

In coastal cities, many Australian flocked to pools, beaches and other watering holes to cool off.

Some people also shared their attempts to cool down on social media, including one Reddit user who wrote that he was “refrigerating my pyjamas to survive the stuffiness of my bedroom”.

Dozens of bushfires were burning across Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales on Thursday in conditions exacerbated by the heat and drought.

At Cobar’s Empire Hotel, temperatures reached 50C on Friday.

“It’s very difficult but we push through,” bar attendant Britney-Lee Fazulla told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

She said it was the worst heatwave she’d experienced.

There were also reports of mass deaths in native bat colonies in New South Wales, and fruit orchards spoiling under the Sun.

Up to one million fish are believed to have died along river banks.

How is climate change affecting Australia?

Last week, officials confirmed that 2018 and 2017 had been Australia’s third and fourth hottest years on record respectively.

Even if global temperatures are contained to the Paris accord limit of a 2C rise above pre-industrial levels, 

scientists believe the country is facing a dangerous new normal .

Parts of eastern Australia suffered their worst drought in recent history last year, whilethousands of Australians fled their homes when bushfires swept through Queensland in November.

More on this story