The news you missed: Stephen Ward gives a round-up of events over Christmas

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN A counterpoint to the festivities, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey warned in his Christmas Day sermon of a new 'meanness of spirit' afflicting Britain.

'As a nation there are worrying signs that we are becoming a people ready to scoff, eager to knock authority whether it deserves it or not,' Dr Carey said.

'Our British reputation for ribbing ourselves is in danger of degenerating into an uncharacteristic meanness of spirit. At the levels of both social and family life we see many signs of materialism and acquisitiveness.'

At the Vatican, the Pope spoke against suffering in Bosnia without mentioning Serbia by name. He said: 'I am thinking of the children of Sarajevo, of Banja Luka, of the peoples of Bosnia- Herzegovina, hostages of programmed and inhuman violence,' he said.

In an apparent reference to Israel's expulsion of 415 Palestinians last week, he said a climate of 'hate and hostility' in the Holy Land was driving away hopes of success for the Middle East peace conference. The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly, speaking at midnight mass in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh City, urged the IRA to call a permanent ceasefire.

As so often at Christmas, there were individual examples of the darker side of human nature. A 67-year-old woman was raped as she returned home from midnight mass near the centre of Ludlow in Shropshire. Police linked the rape to an attack 90 minutes earlier half a mile away.

In High Wycombe, Bucks, the body of Mohammed Riaz was found on the floor of his home, with a single stab wound in the chest. Police at first suspected the death could have been suicide but no weapon was found.

Fire engulfed a home in Caernarvon, Gwynedd, as nine people gathered for Christmas lunch. A 20-year-old man died as he was trapped in a top-floor room, and three others were seriously hurt. In Southborne, Bournemouth, Steven Kiely, 22, died on Christmas morning in a blaze at his bedsit.

In Coventry, about 300 youths went on the rampage shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve, hurling bottles at police, smashing windows and looting stores. Police arrested 14 people for theft and public order offences.

Despite a power failure which closed Barclays cash dispensers across half of England on Thursday and a series of false alarm bomb scares in London, there was a late surge of spending reported in the high streets on Christmas Eve.

And predictions of a white Christmas proved illusory as the low temperatures were replaced by warmer weather in most parts of the country, saving the bookmakers William Hill more than pounds 100,000. The last time they had to pay out was in 1976.