1. An Australian man has been charged with murdering his wife on their honeymoon cruise.
Lewis Bennett charged with murdering wife on catamaran off Cuba https://t.co/JdWLM0wTdy
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 20, 2018
Australian sailor Lewis Bennett is facing charges of second-degree murder, with US authorities alleging he intentionally sank a catamaran to kill his wife during their honeymoon cruise from Cuba to Florida.
Bennett, an Australian-UK citizen, was rescued on May 15 last year by a US Coast Guard helicopter after he abandoned the sinking 12-metre catamaran he had been sailing with Colombian-born wife Isabella Hellman, 41.
He’d claimed he was asleep and he believed his wife was at the helm at around 1am when he heard a thud.
He told investigators his wife vanished and he abandoned the vessel into a life raft west of The Bahamas.
Hellman was never found and Bennett took the couple’s one-year-old daughter Emelia, who was not on the catamaran, to England soon after the incident and she is being cared for by his family.
Hellman’s family wants Emelia returned to the US.
Authorities do not believe Bennett’s account adds up.
A Coast Guard expert determined the catamaran had suffered intentional damage, not from a collision, but “from inside the vessel” in both hulls.
Two escape hatches were also open below the waterline, leading to flooding in the cabin, investigators alleged.
“The opening of both escape hatches is unexplainable as an accident and defies prudent seamanship,” a US Coast Guard Academy associate professor of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering told investigators, AAP reports.
“I cannot think of any items that would accidentally cause similar holes in both hulls at roughly the same time.”
The FBI’s announcement of the murder charges came as Bennett, 40, was sentenced on Tuesday in a Miami court to seven months’ jail for transporting stolen gold and silver coins.
The coins were discovered during the same May 15 rescue when a Coast Guard rescue swimmer claimed Bennett’s backpack “was unusually heavy” when he was pulled from the lifeboat.
The $US100,000 ($A140,000) in gold and silver coins were stolen from a sailing vessel Bennett worked on as a first mate in St Maarten a year earlier.
A search of Bennett’s Florida apartment allegedly discovered 162 gold coins hidden in a pair of boat shoes.
Bennett allegedly used a satellite phone while in the life raft to call a colleague in Australia to give his coordinates and ask the colleague to notify the US Coast Guard.
2. Gold Coast high school students are fighting for their lives after suspected drug overdose.
Four Gold Coast high school students are fighting for their lives in hospital after a suspected drug overdose, with police believing the substance may have been purchased off the internet.
Seven boys fell ill at St Stephen's College in Upper Coomera, with four taken to Gold Coast University Hospital in a critical condition while a fifth was in a serious condition.
The other two boys were stable when they were taken to hospital on Wednesday afternoon. Six of the boys are aged 15 and one is 14.
An older student told media outside the school the boys had taken anti-depressants belonging to one of the boys. Media reports have named the Russian designer drug phenibut - designed as an anti-anxiety "smart pill" that promises to improve mental clarity, News Corp reports.
Police have launched a full-scale investigation and are waiting for toxicology reports for more information.
"These boys started to become very giddy, not aware of their surroundings, one was having trouble with his consciousness, others were feeling nauseous," Queensland Ambulance Service Inspector Patrick Berry said.
"QAS do have to applaud the response from the school. It has been absolutely amazing they have been able to identify these children were deteriorating and were able to have ambulance service respond accordingly."
Mr Berry said it was "too early to tell" just how the students would recover.
"At this stage we're leaning towards overdose," he said.
Distraught Saint Stephen’s College Principal Jamie Dorrington looked visibly upset as he addressed the media after seven of his students were hospitalised following a mass drug overdose today. Here's what he said >>https://t.co/OnFOEpGzf1
— Gold Coast Bulletin (@GCBulletin) February 21, 2018
Police are investigating how the drugs were obtained with several students assisting them with their inquiries.
The school has contacted the families of the boys affected and principal Jamie Dorrington said he would visit the hospital later on Wednesday.
"Our primary concern at the moment obviously is to ensure their wellbeing, which I'm confident is being looked after," Mr Dorrington said.
Speaking to Gold Coast Bulletin parent at the school Claudia Stoessel said she arrived to pick up her son and "almost had a heart attack" when she saw the ambulances.
"I just got here and saw all the police and the ambulances and I didn’t even get told anything," she said.
"My son is 14 and people were saying it was a 14 year old, it was so scary. I say to my kids, don’t take anything. Kids always think they’re safe but it’s so dangerous."
3. Trump agrees to meet students on gun violence, as George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey join the fight.
George and Amal Clooney said they were “so inspired by the courage and eloquence of these young men and women” from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida https://t.co/h6BcoojAsk
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 20, 2018
US President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of gun rights, plans to meet with parents, students and teachers who have been victims of gun violence, including those affected by last week's school shooting in Florida that saw 17 killed and several others injured.
Tightening gun laws would mark a change in course for Trump, who has championed gun rights and who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association gun lobby during the 2016 presidential campaign, AAP reports.
This comes as Oprah Winfrey has pledged to match actor George Clooney and his wife Amal in donating $US500,000 ($A700,000) to students organising protests against gun violence in the US.
Winfrey wrote on Twitter that she "couldn't agree more" with the actor, who had said "our children's lives depend on it", and said she would donate the same amount to the March For Our Lives fund.
"These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we've had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard."
Clooney said he would attend next month's protest with his wife, a human rights lawyer, as he praised the "courage and eloquence" of the survivors of the Florida school shooting that killed 17.
4. British KFC outlets have run out of, erm... chicken.
'Don't call police over KFC crisis' https://t.co/kPoUWblSW7
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 21, 2018
Chicken is still as scarce as hen's teeth at KFC's British outlets.
KFC said about 470 of the fried chicken chain's 900 UK restaurants remain closed on Tuesday because of a chicken shortage.
The company said the disruption started last week, when it changed its delivery provider to DHL, AAP reports.
Open branches are operating on shortened hours or with limited menus.
The fried chicken chain first apologised for the problems on Saturday. It said it expects problems to continue throughout the week.
The company declined to offer details about what it is doing to address the inadequate chicken supplies.
"We anticipate the number of closures will reduce today and over the coming days as our teams work flat-out all hours to clear the backlog."
5. Wife and her secret lover guilty of murdering Melbourne man using cyanide so they could be together.
Hell-bent on being together, a Melbourne wife and her lover resorted to murdering her husband by poisoning him with cyanide.
Sofia Sam, 33, and Arun Kamalasanan, 35, have been found guilty of murdering Sam Abraham at the Epping family home in October 2015.
After nearly six days of deliberations, the Supreme Court jury delivered its verdict on Wednesday afternoon, AAP reports.
Mr Abraham was found dead in his pyjamas and was initially thought to have suffered a heart attack. But an autopsy revealed he died of cyanide poisoning and had a sedative in his system.
Detectives used a long lens to spy on Sam and Kamalasanan for months after the death, watching them meet for lunch and run errands.
They also got hold of a secret diary Sam shared with Kamalasanan, illustrating their feelings. It was alleged the killers were having a secret affair, and this motivated the murder.
"Can you hold me tight? I want to drift away in your love," prosecutor Kerri Judd QC read from one of Sam's diary entries during the trial.
"She is the best match for me - but what to do? I am sure that one day she will be mine," Kamalasan wrote, as read by Ms Judd.
It was alleged the pair sedated Mr Abraham and poured cyanide-laced orange juice into his mouth as he slept.
"Putting liquid into your throat causes you to swallow," said medical witness Dr Michael Burke, detailing the automatic reflex people have when asleep.
An alternative theory was that Sam prepared a cyanide-laced drink for Mr Abraham before he went to bed.
The jury was played the raw audio from the triple-zero call made on the morning of the victim's death.
"We can't do the breaths now," a voice, believed to be Sam, says. "There is a lot of foam and blood coming out of his mouth. And he's biting his tongue."
Sam and Kamalasanan denied the murder. But the jury decided they were both responsible. They are due to face pre-sentence hearing on March 21.
6. Coldilocks, the oldest polar bear in the US, dies. (But she lived 14 years longer than was expected.)
The oldest captive polar bear in the US has died.
The Philadelphia Zoo on Tuesday said that the 37-year-old Coldilocks has been euthanised following a serious decline in her health.
The zoo said Coldilocks had a variety of age related medical issues and showed worsening changes in her behaviour and appetite before her death.
They also said the bear far surpassed the roughly 23-year life span of a typical polar bear, AAP reports.
Dr Andy Baker, the zoo's chief operating officer, said Coldilocks brought attention to how climate change affects polar bears and she will be greatly missed.
Coldilocks was born December 13, 1980 at Seneca Park Zoo in New York and arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo about a year later.