Northern Ireland

Paper Review: WhatsApp 'boasts', top IRA spy arrested

News Letter front page Image copyright News Letter
Daily Mirror Image copyright Daily Mirror

The ongoing trial of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players features heavily on Wednesday's front pages.

On Tuesday a court was told that Paddy Jackson from Oakleigh Park and Stuart Olding, from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, both raped a 19-year-old woman after a night out in the city.

The players, who both deny the charges, are on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

The headlines focus on the alleged contents of a "WhatsApp" (phone messaging service) group. One word links them all: Boast.

"Rugby duo 'boasted of sex exploits in texts," says The Belfast Telegraph, while the News Letter goes with "Rape case rugby stars 'boasted on WhatsApp".

"Rugby Stars WhatsApp Sex Boast," headlines The Daily Mirror.

The Irish News goes in a different direction with the headline: "English police arrest Scappaticci".

It focuses on the arrest of a man alleged to have been the Army's most high-ranking agent in the IRA.

The agent codenamed Stakeknife has been named as Fred Scappaticci.

The Irish News reports that the 72-year-old West Belfast man was arrested, citing the so-called Kenova team, which announced yesterday it had arrested a man on suspicion of a number of offences.

It also reports that there were "unconfirmed searches" at a property in west Belfast.

Image copyright Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Image caption Freedom: Kenneth Branagh - now a freeman of the city of Belfast

Watch out Belfast, because Sir Kenneth Branagh now has the freedom of you!

The actor was made a freeman of the city in a ceremony in the Ulster Hall all the papers are pleased to report.

"Belfast shaped me and sent me into the world," - The Irish News quotes Mr Branagh, who said he was "humbled" to receive the honour and said his parents would have been "super super proud".

He told the paper about his humble beginnings: "Dad was a joiner and mum worked in a chip shop and there wasn't much money about".

The News Letter reports that the actor said he was he keen to put together a great "romantic comedy" set in Belfast.

Could When Billy Met Siobhan hit the cinemas soon?

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Police said items had been stolen from from places of worship and homes in recent months

Good news for those whose knockers and doorbells have been going missing.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that police have "knocked on the head" a growing trade in stealing door knockers, bells and brass artefacts.

St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh was the most high-profile target during the "spate of organised thefts".

CCTV footage showed a man "brazenly" unscrewing five 180-year-old brass handles during the day.

However police "noticed a pattern emerging in the thefts", and saw many of the items were being sold on eBay, says the paper.

The police said they had managed to track down a suspect, who has now been bailed.

Brave pharmacists

The Irish News reports that two pharmacists who were stabbed during an attempted robbery in west Belfast have been recognised for their bravery.

Paul McDonagh and Peter Wright were attacked at the Falls Road premises of James McDonagh Pharmacy last April.

One man was stabbed in the arm and the second sustained a stab wound to his chest.

Despite their ordeal, the paper reports that the two were back at work the next day.,

Almost a year later they picked up a Pharmacy Hero Award in the Pharmacy in Focus awards at the Titanic Hotel in Belfast.

They were presented their award by TV presenter Eamonn Homes.

Mr McDonagh said he wanted to raise awareness about the "issue of drug misuse and the vulnerability of pharmacists and their staff".