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News in 5: Aussie accused of wife's boat murder; Pill testing push; Deadly super typhoon.

-With AAP

1. An Australian man has been accused of murdering his wife to ‘end marital strife’.

Australian and British dual national Lewis Bennett, 41, has been charged with his wife’s second degree murder during their Caribbean honeymoon.

Isabella Hellmann’s body has never been found, and prosecutors allege Bennett murdered his wife before sinking his 37ft catamaran off the coast of Cuba in May 2017.

The Independent reports court papers filed this week allege Bennett killed 41-year-old Hellmann to end “marital strife” between them.

The newlyweds were sailing towards their US home when Bennett made an SOS call to say his wife was missing and his boat was sinking.

Bennett was discovered to be smuggling stolen coins when he rescued of the coast of Cuba.

Prosecutor Benjamin Greenberg asked a US judge to admit into evidence conversations that Hellmann had with loved ones about the couple’s arguments over a move to Australia, money and raising their child.

Greenberg said these conversations show the pair were constantly arguing and by allegedly murdering his wife, Bennett would remove marital strife from his life and enable him to inherit her estate.

2. NSW Premier vows to shut down dance festival after two drug deaths.


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is being asked to introduce pill testing at major events rather than follow through on her promise to shut down a dance festival after a spate of serious drug overdoses.

Two people died and three remain critical suspected drug overdoses at dance festival Defqon.1 in Sydney on Saturday.

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Hundreds more sought medical treatment during the celebrations and Ms Berejiklian says she will shut down the festival.

“Of course I want young people to have fun at these festivals, but this particular one has had a bad safety record and now we have had yet another night of terrible tragedy,” she said on Twitter on Sunday.

“I want to send the strongest message to event organisers. More needs to be done to address the serious drug culture at these events.”

Her social media account was quickly inundated by dozens of calls for new drug strategies, chiefly pill testing.

“How about you engender real change?” one person wrote.

“Drug reform and legalised pill testing. Prohibition has failed and continues to kill.”

“Shocking is 2 Sydney kids on mortuary slabs when Canberra kids had their pills tested and are still alive,” another wrote, in reference to the ACT’s use of pill testing at a music festival earlier this year.

Their comments echoed calls from Greens MP David Shoebridge, who called for festivals to introduce pill testing, amnesty bins and other harm minimisation measures.

3. Super typhoon slams into China, after killing dozens in the Philippines.


A super typhoon has made landfall in China’s Guangdong province after wreaking havoc in Hong Kong and Macau and killing potentially more than 50 people in the Philippines.

Packing winds of more than 200km/h, tropical cyclone Mangkhut is considered the strongest to hit the region this year, equivalent to a maximum Category 5 “intense hurricane” in the Atlantic.

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That’s more powerful than the maximum sustained winds of 150km/h when Hurricane Florence roared into North Carolina in the US on Friday.

The eye of Mangkhut skirted 100 kilometres south of Hong Kong but the former British colony was still caught in the typhoon’s swirling bands of rain and gale-force winds.

Hong Kong raised its highest No. 10 typhoon signal at mid-morning as ferocious winds uprooted trees and smashed windows in office and residential buildings, some of which swayed in the gusts, residents said.

The plans of tens of thousands of travellers were disrupted by flight cancellations at Hong Kong’s international airport, a major regional hub. Airlines such as flagship carrier Cathay Pacific cancelled many flights last week.

In the Philippines, casualties reported by various agencies on Sunday evening indicate the death toll from the impact of Mangkhut could exceed 50, with most killed in landslides in or near mountainous areas of the Cordillera region.

Francis Tolentino, an adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte and head of the government’s disaster co-ordination, said the latest number of casualties was 33 dead and 56 missing.

But the head of the military’s Northern Luzon Command, Emmanuel Salamat, told Reuters that at least 19 more were killed in landslides in one part of Benguet province.

The 19 who died were part of a bigger group of 43 people, likely miners, and those who were still alive were feared to be trapped in an old mining bunkhouse that had collapsed under rubble, according to Tolentino.

In Macau, which halted casino gambling late on Saturday and put China’s People’s Liberation Army on standby for disaster relief help, some streets were flooded.

The typhoon made landfall in Guangdong’s Haiyan town at 5pm local time, packing winds of more than 160km/h, weather officials said.

Guangdong is the country’s most populous province with a population of 100 million.

Ports, oil refineries and industrial plants in the area have been shut. Power to some areas were also reduced as a precaution. In Shenzhen, electricity supply to more than 130,000 homes was cut at one point on Sunday.

No deaths have been reported so far.

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4. Strawberry saboteur manhunt now nationwide after more contaminated punnets discovered across Australia.


The search for the culprits inserting needles into strawberries is spreading after more punnets of contaminated fruit were found in South Australia and NSW.

It’s feared copycats might be behind the latest discoveries inside supermarket strawberries, with consumers warned to continue to cut up any fruit not on the recall list before eating it.

Numerous needles and pins have been found in the fruit across the country, prompting the federal government to announce it’s examining the states’ handling of the problem.

The latest contaminated batch was detected in Woodville, outside Newcastle NSW. The punnet of Wallace Road strawberries was bought from Coles at the nearby Stockland Greenhills shopping centre, NSW Police told AAP on Sunday.

Authorities hope a $100,000 reward for information offered by the Queensland government will lead to the capture of the culprit or culprits.

NSW detectives will meet on Monday to share information as they work to figure out the origin of the contamination.

The sabotage spread to South Australia at the weekend, with a needle found in a punnet of Mal’s Black Label strawberries on Sunday.

Tasmania police are also investigation the possible contamination of a punnet bought at a Woolworths in Hobart.

The discovery came as Coles and Aldi supermarkets pulled all strawberries from their shelves across the country, except Western Australia, as a precaution.

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Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries have recalled their strawberries nationwide.

Police are also investigating contamination of fruit sold by Delightful Strawberries, Love Berries and Oasis in stores in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the national food safety watchdog to assess the states’ handling of strawberry contamination.

“This is a very vicious crime and it’s a general attack on the public, and it’s also an attack on a specific industry,” he told reporters on Sunday.

A health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

“Remember, if in doubt, throw them out. Otherwise, make sure you chop before you chomp,” Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said.

5. Push to increase the Newstart allowance by $75 per week.

Calls to increase the Newstart allowance will grow louder following the release of a new report into welfare payments.

The study from accounting giant Deloitte has found raising allowances by $75 per week would lead to a boost for the Australian economy and to regional communities.

The Australian Council of Social Services commissioned the report to look at the economic impact of lifting Newstart and other allowance payments.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the report “confirms what we knew” about increasing payments.

“The injection of millions of dollars into regional communities will create new jobs, lift wages and profits as well as increase the incomes of the lowest five per cent,” Ms Goldie said.

“An increase to Newstart and youth allowance will benefit every single community in Australia, particularly regional communities doing it tough.

“We call on all federal politicians to do what is right for our communities, and increase Newstart and youth allowance by $75 per week as a matter of urgency.”

Deloitte’s David Rumbens said the report found an increase in payments would have a “range of prosperity effects” that would boost the economy and number of people employed.

“The latter effect would result in an additional 12,000 people being in work in 2020-21, though those effects would then fade over time,” Mr Rumbens said.

“The bigger impacts are fairness effects.”

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