Australian woman charged with stealing van carrying 10,000 doughnuts

File photo of Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Image caption,The woman who allegedly stole the delivery van may not have known it was packed with 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts

By Kelly Ng

BBC News, Singapore

A woman in Australia has been charged with stealing a delivery van packed with 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The van went missing from a petrol station in a Sydney suburb in the early hours of 29 November.

Police found the vehicle abandoned a week later – along with thousands of spoiled doughnuts – at a car park.

They arrested the woman, 28, on Thursday. She was refused bail and faces charges including vehicle theft and driving while disqualified.

CCTV footage of the incident allegedly shows the woman lingering at the service station at around 04:00 local time (17:00 GMT on 28 November) before getting inside the unattended delivery van and then driving away.

It is unclear if she knew the van contained 10,000 doughnuts. http://kasikan12.com/ Her delicious haul included Christmas-themed and classic doughnuts, News.com.au reported.

Krispy Kreme reported the incident to the police and reassured customers then that it was “working to replace the 10,000 stolen doughnuts”.

Coral islands in Australia at risk of disappearing

Fish and corals in the sea in Cairns, Australia

More than a dozen of the coral islands that mark Australia’s maritime boundaries are at risk of disappearing, a study has found.

Multiple stresses including rising sea levels threaten their existence.

Their disappearance could have implications for the country’s maritime borders, the study said.

The islands extend the jurisdiction of Australia, with over a million square kilometres of its territory supported and demarcated by their presence.

The study assessed 56 islands based on factors including how vulnerable they are to heatwaves and being flooded.

The report, which was published in the Science of the Total Environment journal, identified three islands on Western Australia’s North West Shelf that were considered at “very high risk” of climate threats.

Eleven more islands in the Coral Sea off the Queensland coast were classed as facing high risk.

None of the islands had zero risk.

The risk assessments were based on the current conditions the islands endure, but the report said the threat of marine heatwaves and rising oceans will increase due to climate change.

The study said the risk to the islands has implications for the communities that live and rely on them. It said the risk of their disappearance also has geo-political implications.

The islands “provide large amounts of area that Australia has rights over – fishing, transport, mineral exploration,” Dr Thomas Fellowes, of the University of Sydney, told the BBC.

Dr Fellowes – who co-wrote the study – said Australia’s coastal management depends on the survival of the coral islands.

He said taking steps to reduce fossil fuel usage could help slow the decline of island decay.

Coral islands are low-lying land masses composed of the sediments produced by coral debris.

Coral is under threat in Australian waters.

The Great Barrier Reef http://juswortele.com/ has lost more than half of its corals due to climate change, including mass bleaching events – a phenomenon where corals under stress drive out the algae that give them their distinctive colours.

Approximately 25% of the world’s marine species are dependent on coral reefs at some point in their life cycle.

A haunted Australia stares down bushfire disaster again

Greg Mullins on a fire ground
Image caption,Former fire commissioner Greg Mullins says he’s nervous about more bushfires

By Tiffanie Turnbull

in the Southern Highlands, New South Wales

As Australia edged into spring in 2019, former fire brigade chief Greg Mullins warned the country was disastrously primed to burn.

Over and over, he begged to be heard. In letters, phone calls, press conferences and countless interviews, he painted an apocalyptic picture of the summer ahead.

But his pleas fell on deaf ears, and his premonitions would come true.

Over the coming months, Mr Mullins watched on as 24 million hectares was torched – an area the size of the UK. Almost 2,500 homes burned down, and 480 people died in the flames and smoke.

Now a worrying combination of conditions has Mr Mullins sounding the alarm again.

Authorities have stressed this summer will not reach the same scale. But years of rain have caused an explosion in plant growth, which is drying out after Australia’s warmest winter on record, and an El Nino-affected summer promises more oppressively hot and dry conditions.

Just days into spring, parts of the country are experiencing catastrophic-level weather warnings.

“Bushfires will be back in the headlines,” Mr Mullins tells the BBC.

“I’m nervous.”

A firefighter’s ‘nightmare’

Out in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales (NSW), it’s not hard to see why.

Walking through the thick scrub of Nattai National Park, the occasional blackened tree trunk peeks out from behind a wall of leaves. Only by craning your neck can you see that the canopy is still threadbare. The area was incinerated four years ago.

“If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, there’s no way I would believe that had burned as hard as it did,” local firefighter Andrew Hain says.

In 2019 it resembled “the surface of the Moon with sticks coming out of it”, he adds.

“You think nothing will ever grow in there again… [but] I could now go in there 30 metres and you won’t see me any more.”

Burnt trees
Image caption,Centre Ridge in Nattai National Park, days after the fire in 2019
Andrew Hain walking in front of a fire truck
Image caption,The same road now

In November 2019, a lightning strike had sparked an inferno of a scale and ferocity unlike anything Mr Hain had seen in his decade in the state’s Rural Fire Service. It was relentless.

Usually, darkness brings a reprieve for exhausted firefighters – but this fire kept “burning at night like it was at midday”.

“We were working on trying to get a ring around this thing, put it in a box, but it would just keep popping out and keep going,” he tells the BBC.

By the time heavy rain extinguished it after 75 days, the Green Wattle Creek fire had burned through 278,000 hectares, killed countless animals and destroyed 37 homes. It left the communities of Balmoral, Buxton and Bargo traumatised.

Surveying the national park that borders those towns, Mr Hain points to dense undergrowth which is already turning brown, and then to the ground. It is a carpet of parched leaf litter.

“You hear that?” he says, stepping heavily. “They call that the cornflake factor, the crunch factor.”

He calls it a firefighter’s nightmare. “I look at that and I go, that is gonna burn hot, and that is gonna burn hard. If you get the right conditions, all of this will go. It could just be a lightning strike and we’re back to doing it again.”

Australia unprepared

The Black Summer, as it is known, was characterised by the unprecedented: scenes Australia had never seen before and will never forget.

Some 15,000 separate fires burned across the country, several growing so intense they generated their own weather – pyrocumulonimbus storms and fire tornadoes. One picked up a 10-tonne fire truck and inverted it, killing a volunteer firefighter inside.

Smoke clouded the sky for months, stretching as far as New Zealand and choking many Australian cities.

Mr Hain remembers one day in particular – when dozens of homes in his own community were destroyed and two of his peers died. Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer – both young dads and volunteer firefighters – were killed when a tree fell on their fire truck.

For the first time in his career, Mr Hain grappled with the possibility of one day not returning home to his own family.

“I hadn’t considered it before,” he says.

“They got up that morning, said goodbye to their families… for what was just meant to be a shift to go and help people.”

Andrew O'Dwyer and Geoffrey Keaton
Image caption,Firefighters Andrew O’Dwyer and Geoffrey Keaton were fatally crushed by a tree

For Mr Mullins – a veteran firefighter – the most visceral memory is driving past a traffic jam, as ten of thousands of people desperately tried to flee burning towns on the south coast of NSW.

“I just remember thinking: ‘They’re all gonna die. I’m going to come back tomorrow and there’ll be burnt-out cars everywhere full of bodies.’ I almost threw up.”

A royal commission inquiry later found a recipe of conditions had made the summer so catastrophic.

Not only did climate change exacerbate the extreme hot and dry conditions which caused the fires, it was limiting the nation’s ability to prepare for them.

Hazard reduction burns – which are controlled fires lit in cooler weather to reduce the fuel available to bushfires – have long been a key part of Australia’s arsenal. But the inquiry heard that windows of safe weather were getting narrower and narrower.

It also found Australia did not have the firefighting resources it needed – forced to rely on a largely volunteer force and overseas water-bombing aircraft to battle blazes.

Warnings to escalate

This year, Australia faces many similar circumstances.

Already, serious fires have broken out – some triggering emergency evacuations – in the Northern Territory, Queensland, NSW and Tasmania.

Although experts say this will not be another Black Summer, they have put almost the entire country on high alert.

“It doesn’t need to be a Black Summer to be dangerous. We don’t need reminders given what’s happened with the northern hemisphere fires,” said Rob Webb, head of Australia’s national council for fire and emergency services.

The general consensus is this summer will be tough, but the coming years – when the country dries out further – are the real worry.

But is Australia better prepared this time?

Both Mr Mullins and Mr Hain say governments have acted on calls to improve the equipment available to firefighters – the aerial firefighting fleet in particular.

However fuel management is another story, and one increasingly out of human control. Despite the scale of Black Summer, there are still dense swathes of bushland – for example surrounding the Sydney basin – which were left largely untouched.

Elsewhere rapidly growing grass has already died and found a new life as tinder. That is the chief concern this year, experts say – the speed of grass fires can make them extremely difficult to stop.

Graphic: How fast do fires spread?
Short presentational grey line

Authorities have again struggled to find the right conditions – not too hot, not too wet, not too windy – to do hazard reduction burns.

“In years gone by, we’d be doing multiple midweek burns. I’ve only been to one so far this year and this is the back end of the season,” Mr Hain says.

The looming question is how prepared can you truly be anyway, in the era of climate change.

“I keep saying to people, look at Maui for example,” says Mr Mullins, who now works with the Climate Council.

“Mother Nature, when she’s angry, is way beyond the capacity of the human race to tame.

“Fires driven by extreme weather, exacerbated by climate change, are unfightable. We delude ourselves that we can have enough fire trucks or firefighting aircraft.”

Hearing these warnings is “confronting” for many like Elizabeth Atkin, a resident of Balmoral in NSW.

After the Green Wattle Creek fire claimed her house, she lived in her shed for over a year – with a bucket for a bathroom. She then spent another couple of years in a modified shipping container.

“It’s literally only several weeks since I moved into my new replacement home,” the 73-year-old tells the BBC.

Wildlife is just beginning to move back in too, she says, pausing to point out native birds outside her window.

Elizabeth Atkin standing in front of her partially rebuilt house
Image caption,Ms Atkin with her partially rebuilt house in December

But the town is still fragile – and frightened by the idea of staring down fires again.

“There are people saying that you never really recover,” she says.

“Even things like the smoke from http://darsalas.com/ hazard [reduction] burns that drift into our area triggers feelings of anxiety, if not panic.”

Heeding the pleas of authorities, Ms Atkin is determined to be better prepared for the next fires. She’s stocking up on water, cleaning out her gutters, and clearing fire breaks around her new house.

Because even if flames don’t return to her property this summer, Ms Atkin feels confident they’re coming eventually.

“I am sincerely hoping and praying… [but] I’m very sad that probably it will happen again.”

Australia and China eye new ways to heal old wounds

Albanese and Xi meet on the side-lines of the G20
Image caption,Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping meeting at the G20 in September

By Hannah Ritchie

BBC News, Sydney

When Prime Minister Anthony Albanese touches down in Shanghai on Saturday, he will be the first Australian leader to visit China in seven years.

It ends a hiatus triggered by a string of prickly disputes, including various Chinese sanctions on Australian goods, and back and forth accusations of foreign interference.

Now both sides have renewed ambitions and have cleared the way for the visit with a series of gestures, experts say.

Last month China announced the surprise release of Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was detained for over three years on national security charges. It has also said it will review its tariffs on Australian exports.

On its side, Australia has suspended action it had taken against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and greenlit the Chinese lease of a critical port in Darwin.

But the “structural issues plaguing the relationship” haven’t changed, analysts say, as both countries vie for influence in the Pacific Islands region, and Australia updates its defence posture to counter China’s military build-up.

And there is “some gap” between what each side sees as the next steps, they argue.

Chinese officials have expressed a will to advance the relationship by adding “more meat to the bone”, says Elena Collinson from the Australia-China Institute.

“For Australia, though, this represents the pinnacle of stabilisation, and it’s near as good as Canberra wants the relationship to get at this point,” she adds.

‘Poking Beijing in the eye’

Mr Albanese’s visit marks 50 years since former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam travelled to Beijing, following the establishment of diplomatic ties.

From its inception the relationship has been based, as Mr Whitlam put it, on “mutual benefit”.

Gough Whitlam and Stephen Fitzgerald meet Chairman Mao Zedong
Image caption,Gough Whitlam (background) and an Australian official meet Mao Zedong (left) in 1973

China’s transformation into an economic superpower created huge demand for Australian exports like iron ore, coal and gas.

And that helped Australia weather global recessions, while underpinning decades of uninterrupted growth.

It also led to strong cross-cultural exchanges – with 5.5% of Australia’s population today having Chinese ancestry.

Cracks appeared in 2018, when Australia’s former government banned Chinese firm Huawei from rolling out the country’s 5G network, citing “security concerns”.

“That could be described as the first shot,” China’s ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said last year.

Australia criticised Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong protesters, and led calls for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, triggering a period of what then leader Scott Morrison termed “economic coercion” by Beijing.

At the time, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “We will not allow any country to reap benefits from doing business with China while groundlessly accusing and smearing us.”

The culmination of those years was Australia’s landmark decision to join the Aukus security pact – widely seen as a long-term commitment to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.

But when Mr Albanese came to power in 2022, both Australia and China saw an urgent need for a thaw in relations, analysts say.

Since then, Australia has swapped “poking Beijing in the eye and kicking it in the shins because it feels good” with a stated policy of “stabilisation”, University of Sydney historian James Curran says.

But with polls showing most Australians still view China as an emerging military threat, Prof Curran says Mr Albanese will be “worried about doing anything that smacks of weakness”.

‘Guardrails’ and sticking points

Mr Albanese’s trip to Beijing comes hot on the heels of his US state visit.

And when he sits down with Chinese President Xi Jinping, “the Americans will be watching for any signs that could point to a softening Australian stance on China, a concern that has started to take hold again in Washington”, Ms Collinson says.

“Trust but verify” was US President Joe Biden’s parting advice when asked whether Australia could continue to “do business” with Beijing in the current security climate.

Biden and Albanese at the White House
Image caption,Mr Albanese met US president Joe Biden last week

But Mr Albanese has tried to position his meeting with President Xi as a chance to “build in guardrails” and help to avoid a miscalculation between two massive militaries.

“It is in Australia’s interest, as well as China – but, I believe, in the global interest – for us to have a relationship where there is dialogue,” he said at the White House last week. “Through dialogue comes understanding and a defusion of tension.”

But as talks resume, a significant list of sticking points remain.

Australian writer Yang Hengjun – whose health is said to be rapidly deteriorating – has been imprisoned in China on espionage charges since 2019, and his supporters want Mr Albanese to secure his release.

“It’s morally indefensible to normalise ties when the Chinese government is holding an Australian citizen as a political hostage,” his friend Chongyi Feng told the BBC.

Then there are ongoing debates about influence in the Pacific Islands region, where Australia has long tried to play a leadership role. A recent Chinese security pact with the Solomon Islands prompted panic in Canberra.

On China’s side, a landmark overhaul of Australia’s defence posture – which resulted in a commitment to buy long-range missiles – hasn’t gone unnoticed either.

Nor has the deepening of US-Australia military ties, as Beijing continues to assert its claims over the South China Sea and Taiwan.

But the “mutual benefit” need that Mr Whitlam articulated in 1973 hasn’t changed. Which leaves Australia walking a familiar diplomatic tightrope.

“China still broadly underwrites Australia’s prosperity and that’s only strengthening,” Prof Curran says.

“But our position will continue to http://surinamecop.com/ be heavily influenced by the US… so there’s minimal movement for Australia beyond a China relationship based on economic self-interest.”

And Australia will “remain guarded” while Beijing looks for ways to expand the relationship over the next 50 years, he adds.

What Canberra will try to avoid, for now at least, is another period of silence.

If the trip goes well, all remaining trade barriers could be removed – but beyond that, Ms Collinson isn’t expecting any “major announceables”.

How laksa fever took hold in this Australian city

Crowds outside Mary's Laksa stall
Image caption,Crowds outside the much-loved Mary’s Laksa stall

By Tiffanie Turnbull

in Darwin, Australia

Darwin is a city obsessed.

Here in this town on Australia’s northern edge, laksa is the meal of choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, weekday or weekend, a staple everywhere from food courts and cafes to snazzy restaurants.

The sour and spicy noodle broth, traditionally topped with meat or seafood, is the love child of Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean cuisine, though each tries to claim it.

If you ask Darwin though, they’ll say it’s theirs now.

Such is the love for laksa in this multicultural city that it’s inspired weekly rituals, sparked rivalries that have divided households, and turned humble chefs into local celebrities.

“As a dish, it really does help sum up not just the community, but where we are and what we are,” says demographer Andrew Taylor.

“You’ve got a population here that’s just different and laksa too is different to everything else.”

Nowhere is the city’s infatuation more obvious than at its local markets.

The mercury in Darwin rarely dips below 20C and the air is often so thick with humidity that walking to the letterbox leaves you needing a shower.

And yet, every Saturday like clockwork, sweaty crowds form lines between stalls at the Parap Markets, craving a fix. A tangy scent and a choir of electric fans greet the faithful, many armed with containers to take home a few ladlefuls of the beloved soup.

Kristy holding a cup of laksa
Image caption,Kristy says she will miss the laksa when she leaves Darwin

Everyone has their favourite.

“It’s very controversial which laksa you go to,” local Elly says. “It’s properly a debate in our household. There’s two people that love Yati’s, there’s two people that love Purple Lady, and one undecided.”

Kirsty’s family is firmly on team Mary – a stalwart of the Parap Markets who has been dishing up steaming bowls of brothy goodness for two decades.

“We’re a military family and we’re actually coming to the end of our two years [here], so we’re trying to get our Mary fix as much as we can,” Kirsty says.

In October, the mania kicks into another gear for the month-long laksa festival.

A giant shrine to laksa is erected in the city’s mall, the streets are decked out with banners promoting the event, and the most outlandish and tasty dishes become excited water cooler-buzz and fodder for group chats.

On offer are traditional laksas of every ilk – thick and soupy, or thin and light; topped with wontons or adorned with prawns; chicken or pork or vegetarian.

But there’s also the more adventurous oddities – laksa ice-cream, laksa pies, laksa smoothies, even vegan laksa-gna and laksa crocodile dumplings.

A bowl of laksa in front of Chok's Place
Image caption,Chok’s Place is a Darwin institution

No one is sure exactly when, or exactly how, this laksa obsession began in Darwin.

“I grew up in Darwin and laksa just has always been a thing that people love,” says Jo Smallacombe, who organises the government-backed festival.

But the answer likely lies in the city’s long and rich multicultural history.

It is far closer to Asia than it is to every other Australian capital. From the Japanese pearl divers and Chinese gold rushers who came in the late 1800s to now, Darwin has been a hotspot for travel. There’s even evidence the Top End’s First Nations people were trading with their neighbours before the country was colonised.

And today the Northern Territory is one of Australia’s most culturally diverse places – more than half of the population was born overseas, or has a parent who was.

“Everyone’s just contracted this laksa fever,” Jason Chin tells the BBC, grinning. Stopping to greet at least four people, the 42-year-old explains how he accidentally became the city’s laksa king and the festival’s most decorated chef.

His mum Loretta bought a modest food court joint called Chok’s Place from a friend 30 years ago. He spent years helping out after school and raiding the drinks fridge, before having an epiphany.

“I actually woke up one day and said ‘Mama, I’d like to start doing what you’re doing.”

Loretta and Jason Chin
Image caption,Jason Chin and his mum Loretta

Fast forward to 2019 and Mr Chin – who had by then bought the business from his mum and quietly built on her legacy and her recipes – became a last-minute entry to the city’s first-ever laksa festival.

Vendors compete for the coveted Golden Bowl, the winner of which is determined with a blind tasting.

When judgement day came, Mr Chin plated up his laksa then, without a fuss, went straight back to work. “I didn’t wait around because it was a Saturday and we have a skeleton staff on,” he says with a shrug.

He only found out he’d won when the festival organisers called the next day to ask where he’d gone.

Almost overnight, business exploded. Chok’s Place went from sometimes selling only six laksas a day, to almost 100. Now Mr Chin caps the number of dishes at 50 to ensure quality, making it even more of a commodity.

He took himself out of Golden Bowl contention this year to share the love, but was inducted in the Laksa Festival Hall of Fame.

Alongside the more traditional offerings, there are also scores of vendors who vie for the title of best laksa-inspired dish.

Laksa basque cheesecake
Image caption,The laksa cheesecake wasn’t for everyone

Among the most controversial is a Basque burnt cheesecake at Kopi Stop. Its Singaporean creator Jules Mou has strong laksa credentials; her traditional bowl is an undeniable hit and this year, it won People’s Choice, but she also wanted to plate up something unique.

The top is innocent enough – sweet and fluffy – before it gives way to a thick slab of laksa paste, in place of a biscuit base.

“I was thinking laksa coffee, ‘Mmm, I really want to try it, but I really don’t’,” Ms Mou said with a laugh: “[But] one day, it just came to me like, ‘Oh, maybe we can try a cheesecake’.”

When word got around that One Mile Brewery would be making an alcoholic Laksa Seltzer, customers were similarly sceptical.

A man pouring a pint of laksa seltzer
Image caption,The Laksa Seltzer has been a surprise hit for many customers

“People were very much like, ‘Really?’ And some people were just like, ‘Why?'” brewer Stuart Brown said.

He and business partner Bardy Bayram briefly tossed up working noodles and coconut milk into the drink somehow, but decided floaties and a creamy flavour would probably be a bridge too far.

They landed on a brew which, by their own admission, smells “pungent”. But it is surprisingly palatable – fruity, with notes of lime, coriander and chilli, and a slight salty aftertaste.

“You look at it and you think: it’s chunky, it’s full, and it’s not the right colour. But if you close your eyes, block out your nose and have a sip…” Mr Bayram says.

“I’ve said to people, try it without breathing if you can,” Mr Brown adds.

Some laksa-inspired dishes are cult favourites though – one local says she has to buy and deep-freeze laksa sausages for her mum to take home when she visits from interstate.

And even the dishes that don’t work, http://clasicccop.com/ that are borderline offensive, are a fun celebration of the things that make Darwin extraordinary, locals say.

“It’s something different, it’s exciting, everybody’s trying to be innovative – it’s great!” Ms Mou says. “It represents who we are.”

That includes laksa chocolate, which is dividing opinion in Darwin.

Elly tries a laksa chocolate
Image caption,The laksa chocolate got mixed reviews from Elly and others

Getting a whiff of “curry” before biting, brave taste-testing volunteer Tim’s face shifts from concern to relief as he chews.

“Oh my god, it does taste like laksa… then a caramel, sweeter taste at the end,” he says.

Would he buy it for himself? That’s a polite but resounding no.

Cheryl Grimmer case: New witness in Fairy Meadow disappearance

Photo of Cheryl Grimmer
Image caption,Three-year-old Cheryl Grimmer’s disappearance from Fairy Meadow beach in Australia has been a mystery for 53 years

By Jon Kay

Presenter of Fairy Meadow podcast & BBC Breakfast

A potential new eyewitness has told the BBC he saw a teenage boy carrying away a small child from an Australian beach on the day a three-year-old vanished.

Police believe Cheryl Grimmer was abducted but the 53-year-old mystery has never been solved. Her family had recently migrated to Fairy Meadow in New South Wales from the UK.

The witness was seven in 1970 but said the moment was “etched in my mind”.

Police have now contacted the man, the BBC understands.

In a new episode of the BBC’s true crime podcast Fairy Meadow, the potential new witness gave a detailed description of seeing an adolescent male leaving the female changing rooms at the beach on the outskirts of Wollongong, about 50 miles (80km) south of Sydney.

Cheryl disappeared from the changing rooms on 12 January 1970 when her brother, who had been taking care of her, turned away for a few seconds. The British toddler and her family had only recently migrated to Australia from Bristol as so-called Ten Pound Poms.

A policeman directs a crowd of officers and volunteers at Fairy Meadow beach
Image caption,Locals joined the police search for Cheryl the day after her disappearance

The possible eyewitness, who asked to keep his identity private, said: “When I glanced back at the toilet block, the profile of the guy was sort of full-stride with this baby in his arm, just kind of screaming and yelling at his hip, like low on his hip.”

He said the teenage boy had medium-dark hair, short back and sides and was of average build.

The witness said he believes he can pinpoint this memory to the afternoon of 12 January 1970 because he recalls that the wind suddenly strengthened and changed direction, causing people to leave the beach in panic.

A rare “southerly buster” is known to have blown through Fairy Meadow in the moments before Cheryl Grimmer vanished.

Fairy Meadow beach today - the open-air ladies' changing rooms, where Cheryl was last seen, are closest to the camera
Image caption,Fairy Meadow beach today – the open-air ladies’ changing rooms, where Cheryl was last seen, are closest to the camera

The man told the BBC: “I heard this screaming of the kid. That’s what caught my ear. What was that shrieking sound? I turned around and that’s what I saw.”

He said that he did not tell police at the time what he had seen because he did not realise that a child had been abducted. The man said he and his family did not speak English in 1970 because they had only just arrived in Australia from eastern Europe.

“We had only been in the country for three or four weeks. We didn’t have a TV and we never read the newspapers at that time. We were oblivious to what was really going on,” he said. “It wasn’t even on my radar that it was such an important thing that I saw.”

The man added that his family lived several miles from Fairy Meadow, so he was not aware of the huge public search for Cheryl in the days after she disappeared.

The BBC contacted him after a friend who listened to the Fairy Meadow podcast emailed with details of his story, which she said he had recounted for several years.

A retired detective who reinvestigated the case in 2016 has now spoken to the man and believes his testimony is “compelling”.

Former Det Sgt Damian Loone said it is the first time anyone has described seeing a teenage boy carrying a child from the beach.

Former Det Sgt Damian Loone
Image caption,Former Det Sgt Damian Loone said the potential witness sounded “very credible” and his claims should be “fully investigated”

He told the BBC: “He sounded very credible to me – and what he says he saw on that particular day is very important and it should be fully investigated. I can understand the reasons why he didn’t come forward beforehand, but he’s now come forward to you. I have got his permission for an officer from the unsolved homicide unit to contact him.”

The BBC understands that New South Wales Police have made contact with the man in the past few days.

Cheryl Grimmer’s eldest brother Ricki – who is four http://masurip.org/ years older and was looking after her in the moments before her disappearance – said that he is “praying with everything I have left that police will now follow through and investigate… I won’t sleep until it’s over. And the only way it’s going to be over is when I hear the truth.”

Australian woman charged with stealing van carrying 10,000 doughnuts

File photo of Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Image caption,The woman who allegedly stole the delivery van may not have known it was packed with 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts

By Kelly Ng

BBC News, Singapore

A woman in Australia has been charged with stealing a delivery van packed with 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The van went missing from a petrol station in a Sydney suburb in the early hours of 29 November.

Police found the vehicle abandoned a week later – along with thousands of spoiled doughnuts – at a car park.

They arrested the woman, 28, on Thursday. She was refused bail and faces charges including vehicle theft and driving while disqualified.

CCTV footage of the incident allegedly shows the woman lingering at the service station at around 04:00 local time (17:00 GMT on 28 November) before getting inside the unattended delivery van and then driving away.

It is unclear if she knew the van http://sayurkana.com/ contained 10,000 doughnuts. Her delicious haul included Christmas-themed and classic doughnuts, News.com.au reported.

Krispy Kreme reported the incident to the police and reassured customers then that it was “working to replace the 10,000 stolen doughnuts”.

Coral islands in Australia at risk of disappearing

Fish and corals in the sea in Cairns, Australia

More than a dozen of the coral islands that mark Australia’s maritime boundaries are at risk of disappearing, a study has found.

Multiple stresses including rising sea levels threaten their existence.

Their disappearance could have implications for the country’s maritime borders, the study said.

The islands extend the jurisdiction of Australia, with over a million square kilometres of its territory supported and demarcated by their presence.

The study assessed 56 islands based on factors including how vulnerable they are to heatwaves and being flooded.

The report, which was published in the Science of the Total Environment journal, identified three islands on Western Australia’s North West Shelf that were considered at “very high risk” of climate threats.

Eleven more islands in the Coral Sea off the Queensland coast were classed as facing high risk.

None of the islands had zero risk.

The risk assessments were based on the current conditions the islands endure, but the report said the threat of marine heatwaves and rising oceans will increase due to climate change.

The study said the risk to the islands has implications for the communities that live and rely on them. It said the risk of their disappearance also has geo-political implications.

The islands “provide large amounts of area that Australia has rights over – fishing, transport, mineral exploration,” Dr Thomas Fellowes, of the University of Sydney, told the BBC.

Dr Fellowes – who co-wrote the study – said Australia’s coastal management depends on the survival of the coral islands.

He said taking steps to reduce fossil fuel usage could help slow the decline of island decay.

Coral islands are low-lying land masses composed of the sediments produced by coral debris.

Coral is under threat in Australian waters.

The Great Barrier http://kolechai.com/ Reef has lost more than half of its corals due to climate change, including mass bleaching events – a phenomenon where corals under stress drive out the algae that give them their distinctive colours.

Approximately 25% of the world’s marine species are dependent on coral reefs at some point in their life cycle.

Barry Humphries: Entertainer’s life celebrated at Sydney Opera House state memorial

people arrive
Image caption,People – some in costume – arriving for the event

By Tiffanie Turnbull and Phil Mercer

BBC News, Sydney

Hundreds of people have gathered to celebrate the life of Barry Humphries – the man behind Dame Edna Everage – at a Sydney Opera House state memorial.

The 89-year-old died in April of complications from hip surgery.

Over seven decades, the Australian entertainer built a global reputation as one of the greatest raconteurs and comedians of his age.

Among those who sent tributes were King Charles, Sir Elton John and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

In a message read out at the extravagant service, the King said “no-one was safe” from the wit of Humphries, who elicited both “fear and fun” in his subjects.

“Barry Humphries, through his creations, poked and prodded us, exposed pretensions, punctured pomposity, surfaced insecurities, but most of all, made us laugh at ourselves,” he wrote.

“Like so many, I have been deeply saddened by his passing. Life really won’t be the same without him.”

Mr Albanese called the performer a “comedy giant”, while Sir Elton remembered him as a great friend.

“Barry Humphries was one of the funniest people in the world… but he was also one of the kindest and most generous [people] to me,” Sir Elton said in a video message.

Watch: King Charles, Elton John pay tribute to Barry Humphries

Fans too turned out in droves, celebrating with laughs, tears and champagne. They spoke of how in Humphries and his creations, they caught glimpses of themselves.

One woman who had travelled in from out of town likened the performer to the late Queen. “He’s an icon… I’m so sad he’s gone,” she told the BBC, decked out in a pair of Edna’s signature glasses.

“He captured who were and took us to the world,” another man said.

Born in Melbourne in 1934, Humphries began inventing fictional characters from an early age.

He acted in the Australian theatre, but it was after moving to London in 1959 that he exploded onto the international art scene.

A gifted creative, he dabbled as a writer, painter, and scholar, but it was his comic caricatures – which played on Australian stereotypes – that brought him adoration.

There was the lecherous drunk Sir Les Patterson and the charmingly boring Sandy Stone, but no persona was as beloved as the shrill-toned and sequined Dame Edna Everage.

First debuted in 1955, she became more flamboyant as the years went on, and was famed for her lilac-rinsed hair, gaudy outfits and snappy catchphrase: “Hello possums!”

Humphries tested the limits of political correctness – he had revelled in being “outrageous”, according to his son Rupert.

“He loved to torment his audiences, but it was from a place of love,” he said.

His brand of humour was both an inspiration to and the envy of his peers, said comedians David Walliams and Jimmy Carr: “He was a genius,” the latter said.

The star’s other credits included voicing shark Bruce in the 2003 animated film Finding Nemo, and appearances in films such as Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

He has been recognised as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and Commander of the British Empire (CBE), but among his proudest achievements was his sobriety. After a near-death experience in 1970, he was treated for alcohol addiction at a hospital in Melbourne and swore off drinking.

However, Humphries’ life was not without controversy. His marriages often made headlines and, in his later years, he drew criticism for comments about transgender people, sexual harassment, and people of colour.

He is survived by his fourth wife Lizzie Spender, four children and 10 grandchildren. They say they’ve been moved by the outpouring of love.

“His was a brilliant and kaleidoscopic life… to see how much he meant to people has been a buffer against grief,” his eldest son Oscar said.

The service, which took place months http://jusnarte.com/ after Humphries’ death at the request of his family, will culminate in the illumination of the Sydney Opera House sails in his honour on Friday night.

Queensland floods: Airport submerged and crocodiles seen after record rain

Major floods have inundated parts of northern Queensland – with the heavy rain thwarting attempts to evacuate a settlement hit by rising water.

Extreme weather driven by tropical cyclone Jasper has dumped a year’s worth of rain on some areas.

Images show planes stuck on Cairns airport runway, and a 2.8m crocodile captured in floodwaters in Ingham.

Authorities called off the evacuation of Wujal Wujal’s 300 residents due to adverse conditions.

No deaths or missing people have so far been reported.

However, authorities expect the flooding to be the worst recorded in the state, and intense rainfall is expected to continue for another 24 hours.

Hundreds of people have been rescued – with many homes inundated, power and roads cut off and safe drinking water dwindling.

The city of Cairns has received more than 2m (7ft) of rainfall since the weather event began.

Its airport was closed after planes became trapped by flooding of the runway, although authorities say the waters have since cleared.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that the natural disaster was “about the worst I can remember.

“I have been talking to Cairns locals on the ground… and they say they have never seen anything like it,” he said.

“For someone from far north Queensland to say that, that is really saying something.”

A BBC map shows the total amount of rainfall received in north Queensland in the week to 18 December, with highs of 400mm received around Cairns and Wujal Wujal

Rain thwarts evacuations

In the remote town of Wujal Wujal, about 175km (110 miles) north of Cairns, nine people including a sick child spent the night on the roof of a hospital after emergency crews were unable to reach them.

The group were relocated to another spot on Monday, but Mr Miles said he had been forced to call off the evacuation of the rest of the town due to the bad weather.

Another attempt would be made on Tuesday morning local time, ABC reported. All those remaining were “safe and on higher ground”, said Queensland’s Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy.

Mr Miles had earlier voiced “concerns about drinking water, about sewerage, power and telecommunications, the roads – many of the roads are blocked and we can’t get aerial support in”.

Forecasters said the torrential rain would continue for most of Monday and coincide with a high tide, intensifying the impact on low-lying communities.

While the rain is expected to begin easing on Tuesday, rivers are yet to peak and will remain swollen for days.

Planes submerged at Cairns airport
Image caption,Floods have inundated many places in far north Queensland, including Cairns Airport

Several rivers are expected to break records set during a flood event in 1977. The Daintree River, for example, has already exceeded the previous record by 2m, after receiving 820mm of rain in 24 hours.

State officials estimate the toll of the disaster will top A$1bn (£529m; $670m).

Eastern Australia has been hit by frequent flooding in recent years and the country is now enduring an El Nino weather event, which is typically associated with extreme events such as wildfires and cyclones.

Australia has been plagued by a series of disasters in recent years – severe drought and bushfires, successive years of record floods, and six mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef.

A future of worsening disasters http://kueceng.com/ is likely unless urgent action is taken to halt climate change, the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns.