Newspaper review: Villains, real and fictional, on front pages

Villains, both real and fictional, dominate the pages of Friday's newspapers.

The conviction of the final three gang members on trial for the raid on safe deposit boxes in London's Hatton Garden jewellery quarter, over the Easter weekend last year, brings with it a wealth of newspaper coverage and background material on the men and their audacious crime.

The Daily Mirror, which was the first paper to uncover and publish the CCTV footage of how the gang bored their way into the vault, throws the spotlight on the gang's mastermind Brian Reader.

Labelling him the "£150m Wadfather", it tells readers the 76-year-old had been Britain's most successful thief, pulling off some of the most notorious and lucrative raids of the past 60 years.

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Video surveillance showed John Collins, Terry Perkins and Brian Reader meeting in a London pub weeks after the Hatton Garden Raid

Several papers focus on the money and jewels that have yet to be recovered, with varying estimates of how much that amounts to. The Daily Mail goes as high as £20m for the "missing loot".

The Independent says that the ongoing police investigation is now heavily focused on hunting for "red-headed 'Basil', the only thief who got away".

The age of the gang members appears to add to the papers' fascination with the crime, and the Sun's front page is among several to label them "Diamond Wheezers".

The Daily Telegraph adds some context by explaining "George VI was still on the throne and Winston Churchill was fighting for re-election when the Hatton Garden masterminds began their life of prolific crime".

The Times reveals that, during the raid itself, the biggest risk to the "Bad Grampas" was not the security system or the risk of police capture. It was their own "incontinence, diabetes, cancer and sleep apnoea" - illustrated when the lookout fell asleep on the job.

The Guardian's description of how the crime was planned - including the gang consulting a book called Forensics For Dummies - is headlined "Swansong of the analogue criminal".

But if this is all starting to sound a little too romantic and wistful, the Daily Express helpfully quotes a former Flying Squad officer who warns "they are not cuddly old men, they are professional villains".


Farewell to the movies' greatest villain

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"Our favourite villain" (Daily Mirror) , "RIP Rickman, UK's favourite villain" (Daily Star) and "The best baddie ever" (Daily Express) are just three of the headlines used to report the death at 69 of Alan Rickman, the actor who was very, very good at portraying someone very, very bad.

The Mirror points out that he was a "true romantic" off screen with a real-life romance that lasted 50 years.

And the Express quotes Harry Potter director David Yates who had found him "really prickly and unpleasant" even between takes while the actor was on set in the black robes of evil Professor Snape, but found him "really lovely" once they stepped away from the cameras.

The Daily Mail's film critic Brian Viner explains that as well as his acting skills, Rickman himself suggested some of the dialogue and character traits that made the Sheriff of Nottingham, Hans Gruber and Severus Snape such memorable movie baddies.


Four questions that the papers answer

What is the Aaron Ramsey curse? The Sun explains that when Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey scores a goal, it is often followed the next day by the death of a major figure. So far that has been the case in the deaths of Osama Bin Laden, Steve Jobs, Colonel Gaddafi, Whitney Houston, David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

Will we see Danny Dyer on Strictly Come Dancing? The Daily Star watched Good Morning Britain and reveals he won't be following in the dance steps of EastEnders co-star Kellie Bright - because he's "too lazy" and couldn't cope with "13 weeks of mincing about".

What do one in three teachers do? According to the Daily Mirror, a third of teachers bring in food to give to "desperate", hungry pupils.

Which MPs owe us a decent cuppa? The Daily Mail has checked parliamentary expense claims and says that Stephen Kinnock (Labour) was reimbursed £34.99 for a "milk frother so he can whip up cappuccinos". Meg Hillier (Labour) claimed £99 for a coffee machine. But Geoffrey Cox (Conservative) had his claims of 49p for a pint of milk and £2 for a box of tea bags rejected.


In the Independent, Geoffrey McNab writes a full-page appreciation of the "most mellifluous of actors" and declares: "No-one could do superciliousness or clammy nastiness like Rickman."

As the Daily Telegraph's obituary points out, Peter Mandelson once said he would choose Rickman to portray him in any biopic "because he's not afraid to play the hard guy".

Rickman is widely hailed as a particularly generous and social person off screen and, while he kept his cancer from his many friends, the Times reports that he had been a "prominent" donor to Cancer Research and helped fund the UK's first cancer centre devoted to immunology.

The Guardian pays the warmest tribute, reshaping its front page to carry a large picture of him above the masthead at the top of the page and calling him "an actor of singular charm and hypnotic charisma".

Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, a friend of the actor, writes in her own tribute that as well as his many acting talents he had a "particular gift for friendship".

She explains: "He was devoted to a large number of people and would somehow always manage to visit their obscure art exhibition, or phone them at 2am when he heard they were in deep trouble, or attend their opening night even when, as we now know, he was already seriously ill. He threw dinners; he ordered every dessert on the menu if you couldn't decide."


New pensions - good or bad?

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There are changes on the way to the state pension but the newspapers are undecided as to whether it is a good or bad thing and for whom.

"Millions get pension boost" is the triumphant headline on the front of the Daily Express, which explains that in the next 15 years about three-quarters of those reaching retirement age will receive higher payments.

But the Daily Telegraph is more downbeat, calculating that the majority of people aged under 43 will be worse off as a result of the new "flat rate" state pension being introduced. It suggests those in their 20s, 30s and early 40s are facing "lost income worth thousands of pounds" when it comes to the time that they retire.

Of course there is always the option to make an extra bob or two during your retirement years and many papers report the news that people will be charged £150 a head to attend one of the 90th birthday celebrations for the Queen.

But the Daily Telegraph quotes her grandson Peter Phillips who reassures readers it is not a money-spinner for the monarch. He explains the "picnic lunch" street party in the Mall in June will not make a profit.

The Daily Mail hails the event as the "biggest ever street party" with "Pimms, PG Tips tea and Wall's Ice Cream" for every one of the 10,000 guests.

The Daily Telegraph explains that most of the tickets will go to charities and organisations of which the Queen is patron but 1,000 will be sold to members of the public through a ballot opening in February.


Time for Coe to go?

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A new independent report on what has been going on at the IAAF - the organisation that runs world athletics - makes damning reading on two newspaper front pages.

The Times says that the report - commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency - revealed that a state-owned Russian bank paid $25m to the IAAF in 2012 after officials arranged to cover up widespread doping by the country's athletes.

The Independent goes for a more singular target, highlighting that the report said that the IAAF council - including Lord Coe, who has since been elected its president - "could not have been unaware of the extent of doping".

Its front page asks whether Lord Coe was "part of the problem". By page two, the paper's editorial is spelling it out: "Time to go, Lord Coe."

Lord Coe is quoted in the Times explaining that his role as vice-president - at that time - only amounted to 10 days a year.

In a news conference on Wednesday, he said there had been no "cover-up", that the IAAF had failed as an organisation and the sport needed to move on from the "horror show".