Newspaper headlines: Sex attacks, war deaths, Flying Scotsman and Lotto jackpot

The fallout from New Year's Eve sex attacks on women in Cologne and elsewhere in Europe is widely covered.

The way the situation was handled in the German city has been strongly criticised, and has cost its police chief his job.

This makes the lead story for the Guardian which says Wolfgang Albers was being sent into early retirement by the state government.

"Cologne's mayor, Henriette Reker, suggested yesterday that police had held back information from her, and said in a statement that her 'trust in the Cologne police leadership is significantly shaken'," says the Guardian.

The paper's Kate Connolly in Cologne reports that migrants have been horrified by the attacks - and far-right groups have been quick to take advantage.

The Financial Times says pressure was also growing on German Chancellor Angela Merkel after it emerged that newly arrived asylum seekers were among possible perpetrators.

The paper says the affair took on a wider dimension when Poland's foreign minister demanded an investigation into whether Poles were among the victims.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cologne's police chief Wolfgang Albers lost his job amid claims of a cover-up

The FT comments: "Angela Merkel's decision to allow more than one million migrants from the Middle East and north Africa to take refuge in Germany has generated deep divisions in her country.

"Few events have sharpened the debate more acutely than the shocking mass sex attack on women in the city of Cologne on New Year's Eve."

The Times says feelings were running high in Germany where Mrs Merkel has called for tougher laws to deport criminal asylum seekers but is blamed by many for encouraging too many migrants.

The Telegraph says Mr Albers was told he was being suspended from duty as allegations continued that police covered-up the involvement of asylum seekers in the attacks.

In an editorial comment, the paper believes the assaults test German liberalism.

"For years, the country has tried to atone for the sins of the past by opening its doors to outsiders," it states. "Now its leaders are slowly coming to terms with the fact that some migrants, or even refugees, can be criminal - and that some cultures do not relocate easily to Western soil."

Military 'witch-hunt'

The papers pick up on news that about 280 UK veterans of the Iraq War are being investigated over claims of torture and murder, including more than 50 deaths.

The Independent reports that the MoD's Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) has sought advice from the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA), the military equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service.

SPA director Andrew Cayley tells the Independent: "Make no mistake we will give all these IHAT cases the thorough scrutiny the law requires and if prosecution is warranted we will not flinch from proceeding."

The paper says the fact that dozens of unlawful killing cases have been shared with prosecutors highlights how seriously the allegations are being treated.

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Media captionCaroline Frost, entertainment editor of the Huffington Post UK, and David Williamson, political editor of Wales Online and the Western Mail, join the BBC News Channel to review Saturday's front pages.

The Mail is far more forthright in its language, saying the troops are being "hounded" in a "witch-hunt".

"Some veterans are even handed letters personally and quizzed on their doorsteps by taxpayer-funded detectives," it claims.

The Sun reports that a lawyer who has previously represented soldiers has called for British troops to be given "battlefield immunity" from abuse claims.

The paper describes the very existence of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team as a "national scandal".

"Only Britain, plagued by the political correctness of successive governments, would blow millions minutely examining baseless claims about 'crimes' our troops committed while fighting a war," it says.

"Only Britain would let parasite lawyers get rich dragging Our Boys' names through the dirt. Or pay an agent in Basra to help Iraqis come up with yet more compo claims.

"Defence Secretary Michael Fallon must halt this disgusting gravy train now, disband the appalling MoD-funded IHAT organisation and sack the 145 pen-pushers hunting for 'evidence'."

Back on track

There are some spectacular images of the Flying Scotsman which is back on the rails after a decade following a restoration project.

The Telegraph pictures the famous steam locomotive on its front page puffing its way across the Roch Viaduct in Lancashire.

The paper says years of hard work paid off as the restored engine came through its first low-speed public run with flying colours.

The Times describes how the locomotive moved out of its shed in Bury and travelled a short distance down the East Lancashire Railway heritage line to Bolton Street station.

This is how the Guardian sets the scene: "The 1923 engine pulled into Bolton Street station in Bury yesterday, tooting its arrival as it elegantly exhaled clouds of steam. People on the platform closed their eyes and sucked in deeply."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Flying Scotsman made the short journey on a heritage railway in Lancashire

The Mail's Robert Hardman says Flying Scotsman looked "quite magnificent" as it crossed the viaduct.

He writes: "We have lost Concorde. The last Vulcan can fly no more. HMY Britannia is a floating museum and the Routemaster bus a collector's item.

"But one beloved icon of British engineering refuses to give up. A month after our last coal mine closed, this coal-powered colossus, built in 1923, is back."

Paul Routledge in the Mirror conveys the same sentiment.

"It's 60 years since I first gazed spellbound at Sir Nigel Gresley's classic locomotive 60103 hammering through Doncaster," he recounts.

"The ragged cheers from trainspotters then were nothing to the adulation in wintry Lancashire that greeted her comeback."

The Express calls it the return of a British icon: "There is something wonderfully British about spending so much time and money bringing such a project to fruition. All aboard!"

'Rotten bet'

Much anticipation, of course, for many people with the prospect of a record £57.8m National Lottery jackpot on Saturday.

The Times says even renowned statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter has got caught up in the excitement of what he describes as a "rotten bet".

Sir David, professor for the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, tells the Times he never normally buys a lottery ticket - but is making an exception on this occasion.

"Normally, the expected return is very poor," he says. "It is much better to play roulette."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Someone will definitely be celebrating as the record jackpot must be won

In a leading article, the Times thinks the statistics may for once bear out buying a ticket.

"A rational philosophy in buying a lottery ticket is 'it could be you but the probability that it will be is so close to zero as to make no practical difference'.

"Today, however, the rollover has very slightly reduced the effective price of having fun - provided that there isn't a surge in ticket sales as newspapers thoughtlessly draw public attention to the accumulated jackpot. Oh."

Eye-catching headlines

  • Spa to the stars give bathers a splash of the Med: An expensive London club has gone to the not inconsiderable effort of transporting a tankerful of Sicilian seawater so that its members can have that authentic Mediterranean bathing experience Times
  • Swap a glass of claret for a cuppa, says health chief: At the end of a hard day, a nice cup of tea is a better option than a glass of wine, England's chief medical officer has said, defending controversial new official guidance on drinking Telegraph
  • Seoul music a weapon in response to H-bomb test: Seoul unleashed a high-decibel propaganda barrage across its border yesterday in retaliation for North Korea's claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb Independent

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