'It went wrong right from the beginning'

The Yousef Makki inquest, plus the rest of our weekly briefing

Dear Millers — welcome to our Monday briefing. There are now 15,000 of you on our mailing list, amazingly enough. It feels like yesterday that there were 500 Millers and we were begging you to tell your friends so that we could see if this new venture would take off.

Now, less than 18 months after we sent our first newsletter, we are going out to enough readers to fill the Royal Exchange 21 times! On top of our core readers in Greater Manchester, we also have Millers in Sydney, New York, Stockholm, Los Angeles, London, Birmingham, Munich, Amsterdam, Oslo and Budapest — and last week we got an email from a new one in Hong Kong. Thanks to all of you for reading, sharing and helping us get here.

Last week, we sent Mill members a report about Oldham’s conspiratorial online activist Raja Miah, who has sparked civil war with his former allies in the borough by backing the Conservatives. “He’s on social media now going absolutely berserk,” one local figure told us. “He’s in meltdown.” We also investigated the provision of home sexual health tests in large parts of Greater Manchester and found that kits were available for less than an hour per day, and that for days the system broke down entirely.

This week, we will be visiting an Ashton-based company that makes sets and props for theatres. When we visited last year the company was in deep trouble, so we’re finding out what happened next and what the future holds. We are also paying a visit to an adult literacy class in the city, and publishing a fantastic, elegiac piece about the surviving old-school boozers of the Northern Quarter — though of course, they don’t call it that.

To read all those stories and support our growth, join us as a member now.

This week’s weather 🌧

Our weather forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles who says: “A drier week is on the way, the main exception being Monday which will bring us heavy rain at times. However, temperatures will be noticeably colder than of late, and we will be increasingly prone to overnight frost and patchy fog from midweek.”

Tuesday 🌦 Mostly cloudy with a few showers. Winds will be lighter compared to recent days, but it will feel chilly. Max 10°c.

Wednesday 🌦 A foggy start is likely, especially rurally, where fog may prove stubborn to clear. Skies will be mostly cloudy elsewhere. A few showers are possible PM. Max 9°c.

Thursday 🌤 Sunshine should become plentiful after a misty start. It will feel cold, though, especially when exposed to a north-westerly breeze. Max 9°c.

Friday ☁️ A touch milder and largely dry, although cloudy. Max 11°c.

Weekend 🍂 Cloudy and relatively mild with rain at times.

For the full forecast, please visit Manchester Weather.

Inside the new mills

“It is a big difference to the fast-fashion world, and ultimately it comes back to the provenance of the goods. Where they’re from. Who made them? Who picked this cotton? It gives responsible consumers a real sense that they are buying something that isn’t degrading the planet.”

That’s the journalist Michael Taylor, who wrote our great piece about the re-emergence of textiles manufacturing in Greater Manchester, speaking on our weekly podcast about the reporting he did. Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts or search ‘Manchester Weekly from The Mill’ on your podcast app.

The big story: The inquest for Yousef Makki

Top line: The long-delayed inquest for schoolboy Yousef Makki is due to begin next week at Manchester South Coroner’s Court. Makki died aged 17 after being stabbed by his friend Joshua Molnar in Hale Barns in March 2019, and the case generated widespread anger in the city.

The coroner says the inquest will not be a “rehash” of the criminal trial. An inquest is a fact-finding process that answers questions about how a person died.

The background: Makki was a star student from a working class family in Burnage who had a scholarship at Manchester Grammar School. Molnar, who comes from a wealthy family, was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter but admitted to possessing a knife and perverting the course of justice. He initially told police Makki had been stabbed by someone who had driven off in a grey VW Polo, but that turned out to be false.

  • The trial heard how Molnar became fixated with knives and had "idiotic fantasies" of being a middle-class gangster.

Why it matters: We spoke to Makki’s sister Jade Akoum today, and she told us she was “pleased, because we’ve been waiting so long for this.” She and the family hope that the inquest will clear up some misconceptions about Yousef and what he did on the night of his death — allegations that were made in the courtroom. She says:

In the criminal trial, we felt like Yousef was a pawn between prosecution and defence. Whereas this is more about Yousef – it’s more personal. All we’ve got left is his name.

At the pre-inquest review last month, Molnar’s lawyer questioned the need for the inquest. However, Matthew Stanbury, who represents the Makki family said:

The full facts did not come out. Yousef’s character was badly attacked during the trial. An inquest will allow that balance to be redressed. What is needed is a full and fearless exploration of what happened.

Local disquiet: Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, responded to the verdicts in 2019 by saying: “You do have to ask if these defendants were black, at state school and from, say, Moss Side whether they would have been acquitted.” Akoum has made a similar point, telling The Guardian: “If it was the other way round – my brother is half-Arab and from a council estate ... [the verdicts might have been different]. I think it went wrong right from the beginning.”

Bottom line: It is hoped that the inquest will shed more light on the circumstances of Makki’s death, and answer some of the long-debated questions about what caused the argument between the boys. Molnar and the other boy present, Adam Chowdhary, are expected to appear, although they may choose to do so via video link.

Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that Adam Chowdhary was acquitted of Makki's murder. That was incorrect - Chowdhary was cleared of perverting the course of justice, but handed four months in youth detention after he admitted possession of a flick knife.

We will be writing more about Makki’s death in the months ahead, so if you would like to contribute to our reporting, please hit reply to this newsletter or email joshi@manchestermill.co.uk.

Home of the week

This spacious 5-bed terraced house in Crumpsall has large windows and airy rooms. It’s on the market for £285,000.

Other local news in brief

  • Ahead of the COP26 climate change summit this week, Andy Burnham claimed that Greater Manchester’s plans to remove a million tonnes of carbon emissions from the city region are “in the balance” because of a lack of government support. The mayor “didn’t hear enough” in Rishi Sunak’s Budget “to give us the confidence” that GM’s accelerated carbon reduction plan could move as quickly as required. Read more.

  • Manchester will be home to the UK’s largest purpose-built village for rough sleepers. Embassy Village is the work of the Christian charity Embassy and will be built underneath 10 railway arches in the Castlefield district. “To qualify for residency in Embassy Village, residents must be men with no alcohol or drug addictions. (Embassy will soon open a separate, more low-key project for homeless women fleeing domestic violence.)” Read more.

  • The owner of G-A-Y nightclub Jeremy Joseph has given up the Manchester branch after struggling with his mental health. The current site manager of Manchester’s G-A-Y has taken over as owner of the popular venue, which is on Canal Street in the Gay Village. There is also a G-A-Y nightclub in London. In a statement, Joseph said: "Since the pandemic I haven't even been on a train and I knew I couldn't give Manchester the attention that it needed. I don't know what the future holds for me.” Read more.

Photo of the week

“Rital”, a pastel on paper drawing by Barbara Baker, who has recently died aged 89. She was the identical sister of documentary photographer Shirley Baker.

Our favourite reads

Life after the bombBig Issue North

Susan Griffin explores A Manchester Story, a new documentary that looks at the arena bombing of 2017. “Tellingly, not one image from that night is shown during the 90-minute run time. Instead the emphasis is on the people, and a city, affected by the event, as well as the life-affirming stories that emerged from the horror.”

Tales of weavers, the drunk policeman and dad’s alligator rescueMiddleton Guardian

We enjoyed this look back into Middleton’s past by Harold Cunliffe, whotakes a gentle amble down memory lane. It includes Old Lancashire dialect, children picking wimberries, and travelling handloom weavers. “The lanes were decked with hawthorn spray, but now cogwheels rule the day.”

Other lives: Barbara Baker obituaryThe Guardian

The ‘Other lives’ obituaries section of The Guardian, written by friends and family members of the departed, is often a lovely read. This edition tells the story of the identical twin of documentary photographer Shirley Baker, Barbara Baker, who was an artist, who has died aged 89.

The 'Strangers Book'The Portico Library

Another interesting article from The Portico’s “Off the Shelf” blog. This piece uncovers 19th-century logbooks of those who visited the library. One such visitor was a Reverand C.W Denison on an American relief ship in 1862. “Chaplain to the American relief ship ‘George Griswold’, Denison travelled to Manchester more than once during the Lancashire Cotton Famine, with intriguingly mixed responses from those he met.”

Our to do list

📚 Poetry | Manchester Literature Festival is taking part in the Corridor of Light on Oxford Road. In “Postcards from Oxford Road”, three poets answer the question of what Oxford Road. Watch them perform their poems. It’s free to attend and runs until 14th November. More information here.

🎥 Film | HOME is showing Shalom Taiwan this Sunday, which is part of the UK Jewish Film Festival. The film’s about a Rabbi from Buenos Aires who travels to Taiwan and undertakes a journey that not only saves his community, but also his marriage. More information and tickets here.

🗣 Talk | If you’d like to experience virtual reality for yourself (we’re very tempted after Jack Dulhanty’s fascinating piece about VR), the University of Salford is hosting an interesting talk on Thursday. Expect to be transported through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which includes a VR exhibition. More information and tickets here.

🍷 Food | There's a French cheese and wine tasting evening this Friday at The Castlefield Hotel. Hosted by the Northern Wine School, the tasting will consist of three red and three white wines, each paired with a regional French cheese. Book here.

🎨 Art | There's a talk with artist Laura Daly this Wednesday at Salford Museum and Art Gallery about her latest work: The Storm Cone. The piece combines augmented reality and original music. Daly will be in conversation with collections curator Lindsay Taylor. Find out more.

🖼 Exhibition | This week is the last week of the exhibition “She Appeared to Vanish,” at the art venue The Waterside in Sale. The exhibition questions the representation of women in visual culture and features work from international artists. More here.

Covid-19 update

  • Case rates: Cases continue to fall locally as well as nationally. The case rate for Greater Manchester is 351.3, down 14% in a week compared to England’s 416.8, down 15.1%. Trafford has the highest infection rates in GM, around 500. Manchester has the lowest, of about 300.

  • Hospitalisations: Back on 10th October, there were 45 Covid-19 patients in critical care in our hospitals, and we’ll get an updated number this week. The total number of Covid patients in GM’s hospitals minus critical care was 322. The rounded 7-day average for GM Covid-19 deaths is 5.

  • Vaccinations: Over 1.7m (73%) adults in GM have received both doses of the Covid-19 jab. That’s 93% of over 70s, 86% of 50-69s and 61% of 18-49s.

Letters to the editor

Owd Jenny Greenteeth was certainly alive and keeping children in check, up in Rossendale a few years back. (‘ Owd Jinny Greenteeth’s comin’ with a knife'.) Walking with my grandmother through her childhood haunts at Goodshaw Chapel, up in the hills on the old road towards Burnley, she told me all sorts of tales and traditions of that little hamlet. Chris, Scotland

I love hearing about folktales and local legends. Jenny Greenteeth sounds terrifying. I don’t recall anything as sinister back where I grew up in Devon. We did however have the Hairy Hands on Dartmoor and plenty of ghosts roaming the moors… Emilie, Trafford