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What happened in the Benjamin Mendy trial?
Plus: NHS bottlenecks in Greater Manchester hospitals and your reactions to our weekend read
Good evening Millers — we hope you had a lovely weekend. In today’s edition, we look at what happened in the rape trial of Manchester City footballer Benjamin Mendy after jurors returned a string of not-guilty verdicts on Friday.
Plus: we’ve got great reads about the police raids on Bury New Road, recommendations at Matt & Phreds and the National Football Museum, and a very grand Home of the Week in Chorlton.
Before we dive in: Joshi’s weekend read about issues between the old residents of Ancoats and the new residents of New Islington has quickly turned into one of our most popular stories ever. Hundreds of people shared the piece on Twitter and dozens of members left fascinating thoughts and responses in the comments.
“Thoughtful, nuanced and beautifully written piece about the realities of community in Britain today,” tweeted the author Jon Alexander. “This is honestly one of the best pieces on the specific type of gentrification in Manchester I think I’ve ever read,” tweeted Frankie Leach, and Jon Owen shared the story saying “If you only read one piece this week about places, communities and change, read this.”
Partly thanks to that piece, we’ve just hit our next big goal: as of last night, we now have 1,750 members, just a few months after we passed 1,500! The next big goal of 2,000 is now firmly within our sights.
A very warm welcome to the new members, and big thanks to all of you who have renewed your membership recently and told friends about what we are doing. If you’re not a member yet but you have been enjoying our free newsletters recently, please hop aboard today. You’ll be allowing us to do more stories like the one we published this weekend, and to commission and hire more local reporters.
We loved this tweet from Emily Brook yesterday about why she joined up:
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🌤️ This week’s weather
Our forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “A break from the rain at last! However, it will feel much colder this week, especially at night. Milder weather will return by the weekend, though.”
Tuesday ☀️ Cold & mostly sunny with the slight chance of a snow shower. Max 3°c.
Wednesday 🌤️ Cold with sunny spells and the odd, wintry shower. Breezy. Max 5°c.
Thursday 🌤️ Mostly dry with spells of winter sunshine. Max 4°c.
Friday 🌦️ Milder and cloudy with occasional rain showers. Max 7°c.
Weekend ☁️ Staying cloudy and mild. Given the milder air and thick cloud cover, light rain and drizzle will be possible.
The big story: What happened in the Benjamin Mendy trial?
Top line: On Friday, Manchester City footballer Benjamin Mendy was partially acquitted on seven counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and a count of sexual assault. A jury of seven men and four women found Mendy not guilty on six of the seven rape charges and the one charge of sexual assault. He will face a retrial on the remaining charges of rape and attempted rape in June.
Context: The trial of Mendy and his “fixer” Louis Saha Matturie — concerning charges alleged to have taken place between October 2018 and August 2021 — lasted five months and featured harrowing testimony and intensely personal details of Mendy’s life. At one point, women alleged that they were locked in the rooms of the French footballer’s Cheshire mansion.
A game: The jury heard how Mendy treated the pursuit of sex as a “game”, and that it was “normal” for him to have sex with multiple women in one night, usually after meeting them in Manchester nightclubs and inviting them to parties at his mansion. Mendy’s own legal team admitted that his actions were “callous” and “morally dubious” but denied that anything he did constituted rape.
As the Guardian’s Helen Pidd points out, the reason Mendy has been cleared of the charges isn’t because of proof that the alleged sexual activity didn’t take place, but because there was insufficient proof, in the eyes of the jury, that it took place without consent.
Videos of “enthusiastic and obviously consensual sex” were shown, clearing Matturie of one count of rape.
Some of the women sent messages of “unbridled joy” to friends after encounters with Mendy, encounters the prosecution suggested were later “reframed”.
Hung jury: Both Mendy and Matturie will face separate retrials on the charges that the jury, after nearly 70 hours of deliberation, failed to reach a decision on. In Mendy’s case, the retrial will concern the respective charges of attempted rape and rape of Women One and Two, as they were referred to in the original trial.
In the case of Woman One, Mendy has admitted to telling her he wanted to “kidnap” her in an attempt to “flirt”.
Insight: The trial has laid bare the inner lives of professional footballers like Mendy. The jury heard from one of Manchester City’s “support managers”, essentially PAs who help players with paying their bills, finding schools for their children and dealing with banks. These managers “look after the first-team players and the management staff in every aspect of their lives".
Perspective: The CPS and the police have had well-catalogued troubles in bringing and prosecuting charges of rape. According to the charity Rape Crisis UK, only 1 in 100 rape cases recorded by police in 2021 resulted in a charge, much less a conviction.
In a statement, Cheshire Police said:
We are committed to investigating all allegations of rape and sexual assault — no matter how long ago they took place. If you are a victim of this type of crime, please don’t suffer in silence, come forward and we will listen to you, we will take action and we will provide you with the support that you need.
Home of the week
We don’t have a million pounds going spare, but if we did, this is how we’d spend it. A four bedroom Edwardian house in Chorlton is on the market for £925,000. With original stained glass features, it has a modern kitchen with granite worktops and French oak windows opening up to a large garden.
Your Mill briefing
Government guidance on mould will be reviewed following the death of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old who died of a respiratory condition caused by mould in his Rochdale home. The new guidance, expected this summer, comes after a coroner asked the government to take action to prevent future deaths. "Awaab's case has thrown into sharp relief the need for renewed action to ensure that every landlord in the country makes certain that their tenants are housed in decent homes, and they are treated with dignity and fairness," says housing secretary Michael Gove and health secretary Steven Barclay.
A junior doctor in Manchester says there are "numerous bottlenecks" preventing patients from getting off hospital wards. Dr Matt Kneale says, while social care shortages are the main issue, pharmacy opening times also mean that patients that could be sent home are having to wait an extra night in hospital for their medication. These "smaller factors stack up to create a big problem,” he tells the Telegraph. According to official figures, around 14,000 patients fit to leave hospital remain in NHS beds everyday.
University of Manchester students currently withholding their rent payments in protest of high costs have vowed to carry on the strike until their "demands are met". First year student Maya Tanna told BBC Politics North West that she has been "really struggling to eat and just pay for basic needs that I normally would have at home". The 250 students withholding their payments are demanding a 30% reduction in rent.
Bus services in Bolton and surrounding boroughs will be cut because their operator — Diamond — missed out on a major franchising contract last year. From April 16, multiple services from Bolton, Salford and Bury into Manchester city centre will have their timetables reduced or partially withdrawn. The services will be picked up again by Go North West, who did win the contract, in September.
And finally, Stockport is getting the Marks & Spencer stamp of approval. Under a £480m investment plan, M&S are opening 12 new food halls across the country, including in Stockport. It comes after a strong Christmas trading period for M&S, and a Guardian feature on the borough's rise and rise. Go deeper and read our report from last week about the hipsterfication of Stockport.
Our favourite reads
It’s no secret that Bury New Road is a treasure trove for counterfeit goods. Dubbed ‘Counterfeit Street’, the area is estimated to house half the worth of the UK’s entire counterfeit fashion industry. In this piece, Vice follows ‘Operation Vulcan’, which aims to end criminal activity in the area by seizing millions of pounds worth of fake merchandise, drugs and phones.
Paul Johnson, prolific historian prized by conservatives, dies at 94 — The New York Times
Born in Manchester in 1928, Paul Johnson’s “public conversion in 1977 from Labour Party stalwart to bulldog defender of Margaret Thatcher and conservatism made him a divisive figure in British literary circles,” writes this New York Times obituary. A renowned journalist, historian and author, he was “capable of 6,000 words a day when in harness,” and “modelled his career after earlier English men of letters, like Thomas Babington Macaulay and G.K. Chesterton.”
Growth outside the city — The Guardian
You’ve probably read plenty about ‘Atom Valley’ in our pages but now the Guardian is getting in on the act. This editorial argues that Greater Manchester needs to return to its innovative streak — think splitting the atom and the first computers — if it wants to drive transformative economic growth. Andy Burnham’s plans for a hi-tech manufacturing and research hub in Rochdale, Bury and Oldham could be the answer, says the newspaper, potentially creating 20,000 new jobs.
Our to do list
⚽ A hotly-anticipated art exhibition just opened at the National Football Museum, running until the end of May. From Moss Side to Marseille is curated by Eric Cantona and the artist Michael Browne, using the images of sport heroes to interrogate power. More here.
🥗 Wondering where to eat this month? We recommend The Drop in Chorlton, which creates clever combinations of British and Caribbean food, and is currently offering 50% off your bill if you visit on a weekday. Closer to the city centre, try 10 Tib Lane if you’re craving a gigantic roast dinner, or The Black Friar for an exquisitely fancy menu and a daily pie. It’s a tough time to be in hospitality, so show them some support.
🖼️ Learning about wallpapers throughout history might not sound like a thrilling way to spend an afternoon, but our new editorial intern Kate Woodmass tells us the display in Whitworth Gallery was a charming exhibition, which allows you a window into other people’s homes. More here.
🎷 A jazz collective from North Wales, who play mostly Latin Jazz alongside original compositions, are performing a free gig at Matt & Phred’s this evening. Arrive early for happy hour.
🍷 If you’re curious about wine from the Aboriginal nations of central Australia, Kerb Wines in Ancoats offers tasters from their wide collection of wines every Thursday. Tasting sessions are free to attend, but you have to pay for the wine. More here.
😆 Fern Brady, a comedian known for her deadpan humour and surreal stories, is performing at the Fitzgerald, and tickets are going for as little as £3. The event is part of a pay-as-you-can scheme to give everyone a chance to see the show.
For our glitteringly well-informed weekend to do list — which we send out every Thursday — hit the button below to join us as a member.