When Nudes Are Stolen: Inside the online ‘nude trade’

Warning: This article contains strong language and a reference to sexual assault.

When former glamour model Jess Davies started modelling at 18 she had no idea her images would be used to con money out of men all over the world.

Jess Davies

Over the years Jess, now 27, has received hundreds, if not thousands, of messages from people telling her they’ve been speaking to someone using her pictures and until now she’s never understood why. 

In a new BBC Three documentary When Nudes Are Stolen Jess traces where and how her pictures are being used – and explains the effect it’s had on her life.

I can barely remember the first time it happened.

I got a message on social media, telling me someone was using photos of me and pretending to be me online.

At first I thought it would be a one-off, but it’s nearly ten years since that first message and I’m still getting them on an almost weekly basis.

Either they rip off my whole identity or use photos of me under a false name, then they use those profiles to try to get money from unsuspecting men. They generally find out who I really am after doing a reverse image search and coming across my real-life social media profiles. 

They can use any photos from my past: me sitting on my sofa at home, me as a baby, me at a baseball game. They’ve even used pictures of me and my dad on a bike ride.

But there’s a common theme: almost all of these fake profiles include pictures from when I was a teenager.

These days I work as a model and influencer but when I was 18 I decided to be a glamour model, modelling for magazines like Nuts, Zoo and FHM – which had a massive following among young men in the UK.

I’ve never posed fully nude, but I did appear topless in these magazines. None of the print versions of the magazines exist anymore, but the photos from that time never seem to go away.

Jess Davies
Jess, 27, is now a model and influencer. When she was 18 she decided to be a glamour model

It’s difficult to describe how it feels, knowing that someone, maybe even lots of people, are using photos of me from what feels like a lifetime ago to con men. It’s like being in an invisible battle and I have no idea who my opponent is.

I manage to get the fake profiles taken down, but more always pop back up. My identity is constantly and repeatedly robbed from me, and over time that does have an impact on how I feel about myself.

I’ve only recently found out why this keeps happening – and where my photos have ended up – with some help from private investigator Laura Lyons.

Laura and I met in a grey office in London where she showed me print outs of where my photos had been found online. It started with the kind of fake profiles I know about, like “Khira” on Tinder, “Andrea” on Instagram and “Jasmine” on Facebook.

But then Laura started to show me accounts I had no idea existed: a French escort website, sex chat and porn sites. There was a sea of photos looking back at me.

There was one profile on a sexting website with a picture of me at 19 years old under the heading: “Who’s down for a massive rape role-play now?”

If someone consents to do sex chat or porn then I don’t see anything wrong with that, but I’ve never done porn and I didn’t consent for my photographs to be used in this way.

Seeing them all in front of me was pretty devastating. The problem is so big, I don’t know if I’ll ever get a handle on it but I need to at least know why it keeps happening to me.

Laura suggested that part of the reason is because I have a mixture of relaxed, at-home pictures on my social media accounts that can be mixed in with the older glamour model pictures, which means it’s easier to build a fully-rounded persona with them.

Fake profiles
Some of the fake profiles that were set up using Jess’ images. “My identity is constantly and repeatedly robbed from me,” she says

“Your pictures are very, very realistic,” Laura told me. “A lot of people like yourself have their profiles open because of their work, but it makes it so much easier for these scammers because they can just go in and take content.”

It feels like those old topless photos literally haunt me. Every situation I go into where I meet new people leaves me wondering whether they’ve seen them. What will they think if they Google me?

When I first made the decision to have topless photos taken when I was a teenager, I had no appreciation of how the internet worked. When a photo of you gets put online then it’s out there forever, and people seem to be able to use it however they want with impunity.

‘My photos are everywhere and it’s happening repeatedly’

In the UK there are laws around how photographs can be shared or used online, but they don’t all fit into one neat set of rules.

There are copyright laws meaning if you took the photo and own the copyright then you can request that it is taken down.

The challenge I have is that a lot of the photos were taken of me but not by me, so I don’t own the copyright.

If someone is using your photos to catfish people then it could be covered by laws around fraud, however this depends on the circumstances.

■ Zara McDermott: ‘Revenge porn still affects me today’

‘Deepfake porn images still give me nightmares’

There are also much newer laws relating to so-called “revenge porn” – also known as image-based sexual abuse.

“Revenge porn” – the sharing of private or sexual images or videos of a person without their consent – became an offence in England and Wales in April 2015. Similar laws were later introduced in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

But for this to be applicable you need to prove that there was intent to cause harm to the person whose photos are being shared and proving someone’s intention can be very difficult.

On top of that, the internet is global and laws only cover one country at a time. My photos are everywhere and it’s happening repeatedly.

‘It felt devastating. How often had my images been used?’

What I’d never understood is who the people using my photos might be and that’s when I came across the term “e-whoring,” which is a more extreme version of catfishing using nude images.

Pictures of people – mostly women – are traded and sold in packs between scammers. Then they impersonate those women to get money out of unsuspecting victims.

Looking at the sites where these images are sold is pretty grim. Peoples’ pictures are being traded and sold like Pokémon cards. There’s also a community built around it in forums and chat rooms where stolen pictures are traded.

Sometimes people in these groups ask for help identifying women so they can find more pictures of her. I decided to post my own picture there to find out if my photos had been used in this way.

Within two minutes, someone said they had a pack of my photos and were willing to sell it to me for a $15 (£11) Amazon Gift Card.

It felt devastating. Just how often have my photos been used for them to recognise me so quickly?

Jess Davies
Jess (pictured taking part in a lingerie photo shoot) discovered where and how images of her were being used online

The community of people who trade pictures like this is an incredibly secretive one, and I only managed to find one person who was willing to talk to me openly.

Aku, whose name we have changed, is now in his 20s and lives in New York. He said he was recruited into it when he was 13 by older teenagers and explained how people involved in it would stalk peoples’ Instagram profiles then take their pictures.

Disturbingly, he told me that photos and pictures of “revenge porn” would be used, although he said he never used them himself.

“[With] e-whoring… you’re scamming people and you’re actually looking to exploit people for your own financial gain,” Aku told me. “And as I got older I saw that these people are actually going through something and I felt bad every single time I was doing it, so I just said ‘you know what, I’m just not doing this anymore’ and I just gave up on it.”

It was clear Aku felt remorse for the people he had exploited but I wondered whether he’d ever thought about the women in the images he used.

“These pictures were [from] cam girls,” he said. “I mean, you put yourself out there.

“Considering we know the risks of the Internet, it’s like, were you not expecting this to happen?”

Although I know there will be many people who agree with Aku, I don’t think I or anyone else should expect photos of themselves to be misused. I don’t think I should accept that my identity is being sold and traded online without my consent.

I hope that something can change in how consent is seen when it comes to photos that are shared online. To me, it’s simple: if you consent to a photo being taken in one context, it doesn’t mean it can be used however and wherever anyone chooses.

By: Jess Davies

Covid: Rapid home test kits to be available for workers

Employers in England will be able to offer free rapid coronavirus tests to staff to take at home under the extension of a government scheme.

Home kits will be offered to firms with more than 10 employees from 6 April, where on-site testing is not possible.

Businesses should register by 12 April for the lateral flow tests, which can give results in less than 30 minutes, and they are free until 30 June.

Some 60,000 firms have already signed up for workplace testing.

The hope is that asymptomatic cases can be detected quickly, helping to prevent workplace outbreaks.

The wider availability of the rapid flow tests is part of government policy to ensure all kinds of workplaces are able to operate safely as lockdown measures are eased, with the stay-at-home rule ending on Monday.

The schools testing programme – in which pupils, their family members and staff at secondary schools and colleges are tested twice a week – combined with the wider use of workplace testing, has seen the total number of Covid tests carried out in the UK jump.

There were about 500,000 tests a day in mid-February – whereas on two days this week there were more than 1.8 million.

Initially, only businesses with 250 or more employees were eligible to access lateral flow tests. Earlier this month, it was made available to all businesses and this has now been extended to home testing.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said rapid testing was a “vital part” of the roadmap out of lockdown, “helping us to cautiously lift restrictions on our economy and society”.

“Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms,” he said. “So extending employee testing from the workplace to the home will help us identify more cases we otherwise wouldn’t find, prevent further transmission and save lives.”

Employees will be told to inform their bosses of a positive test result, as well as the NHS, which will then offer them a confirmatory PCR test. 

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson welcomed the move, saying: “This is something we have called for as the next step for smaller businesses and stores where the space for testing at work is limited. It is also supported by employees as a practical approach.”

Most businesses in England can register via an application form on the government’s website. Charities and some other organisations, including those who are a building society, a partnership or a sole proprietor, will need to register by email, with details listed on the same web page.

Bafta Games Awards 2021: Hades takes Best Game

Hades has won Best Game at the 2021 Bafta Games Awards.

The Ancient Greek-themed action adventure was the big winner of the night, taking away five awards in total.

The title, made for PC and Nintendo Switch, has been commended by critics for its unique art style and distinctive gameplay.

Fans voted voted The Last of Us Part 2 as the EE Game of the Year.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure took the British Game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons won in the Multiplayer category and the Game Design award went to Hades.

It was the second time the awards ceremony was held online due to lockdown.

‘A platform for changing gaming’s image’

Analysis by Steffan Powell, Newsbeat gaming reporter

Bosses sitting in PlayStation HQ will have a big smile on their faces after watching this year’s ceremony.

Titles that are exclusive to Sony’s consoles walked away with almost half of the awards up for grabs on the night.

From Ghost of Tsushima to Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, PlayStations’s knack of making exclusive games which resonate with players was clearly on show.

However, the big winner of the night was action roleplaying game Hades which walked away with five golden masks – some achievement for a team of only 20 developers at Supergiant Games.

Gameplay from Hades
image captionHades was the night’s big winners

Aside from the winners and losers, the ceremony also took the opportunity to celebrate the positive role that games have played in boosting people’s mental and social wellbeing in lockdown. 

From winners’ speeches, to presenter commentary and videos that were shown during the event – the industry used the shop window that Bafta provides to try and keep changing the perception of gaming as just a pastime. 

The message was clear: The industry wants those who’ve turned to games in recent months to become ambassadors and encourage more people to pick up a controller.

Fan-favourite Last of Us 2 wins three awards

A record-breaking 13 nominations this year meant Naughty Dog’s title The Last of Us Part 2 was always expected to do well.

In the end, it won three awards: Audience-voted Game of the Year, Animation and Performer in a Leading Role, for Laura Bailey.

Joel in The Last of Us 2
image captionLast of Us 2 was nominated for a number of awards including best game

It won big at the 2020 Game awards and was crowned BBC Sounds podcast Press X to Continue’s game of 2020

Despite controversies over its depiction of violence, divisive plot twists and character portrayals, the title had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from players and critics.

The lockdown effect

Right from host Elle Osili-Wood’s opening speech, the positives of gaming during lockdown kept coming up.

“Games, and the developers behind them, have proven themselves to be more essential than ever,” she said.

“In 2020, games connected us in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.”

A still from Animal Crossing

So it wasn’t a surprise when Animal Crossing: New Horizons – one of “the” games of lockdown for many people – won two awards.

The Nintendo title won in the Multiplayer category, and also took the Game Beyond Entertainment award – which recognised “games that made us think and made us feel”.

Diversity recognised in Bafta’s highest honour

Siobhan Reddy was honoured with a Bafta Fellowship for her work as studio director of games company Media Molecule – the team behind games such as LittleBigPlanet and Dreams, the game creation software made for PlayStation.

The accolade comes in recognition of her “pioneering work on advocacy for diversity, inclusion and creative and collaborative working culture”. View original tweet on Twitter

“I have to be honest, I felt like vomiting,” laughs Siobhan as she recalls the moment she found out she’d won the prestigious award. 

“It’s incredibly humbling. I went through a lot of emotions, and I came out the other end of just feeling incredibly grateful, incredibly moved, and incredibly motivated. I’m totally delighted,” Siobhan tells Newsbeat.

The winners in full

Animation: The Last of Us Part 2

Artistic Achievement: Hades

Audio Achievement: Ghost of Tsushima

Best Game: Hades

British Game: Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Debut Game: Carrion

Evolving Game: Sea of Thieves

Family: Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Game Beyond Entertainment: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Game Design: Hades

Multiplayer: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Music: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Narrative: Hades

Original Property: Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition

Performer in a Leading Role: Laura Bailey (The Last of Us Part 2)

Performer in a Supporting Role: Logan Cunningham (Hades)

Technical Achievement: Dreams

EE Game of the Year: The Last of Us Part 2

By: Steffan Powell and Imran Rahman-Jones
Newsbeat reporters

John Lewis: Call for ‘devastating’ Aberdeen closure rethink

The retailer John Lewis is being urged to reconsider its decision not to reopen its branch in Aberdeen.

The department store – which opened in 1989 and employs 265 people – is among eight in the UK closing down.

Cross-party politicians and business leaders have called for more talks, and one online petition already has more than 12,000 signatures calling for the store to be saved.

John Lewis said it would “continue dialogue” about the Aberdeen decision.

The company said the eight shops were “financially challenged prior to the pandemic”.

Earlier this month, the retailer warned it would be making more store closures after the impact of the pandemic led it to report a hefty annual loss.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said there was determination to save the store from the axe.

He said of the closure announcement: “This is sad news, not just for the 265 that worked at John Lewis but for Aberdeen city centre and the north east of Scotland.

“Aberdeen is Scotland’s third city. There is still an appetite for the real life bricks and mortar shopping experience and our offer to John Lewis is that they should engage with the Aberdeen economic partnership to discuss whether there may be ways found to enable them to reconsider this decision.

“Decisions being taken now could see our town and city centres, places that should be the beating heart of our communities, become urban deserts of the future. We must not allow this to happen.”

‘Loss felt widely’

Adrian Watson, chief executive of business-led initiative Aberdeen Inspired, said it was “devastating” news for the city.

“John Lewis is an iconic, trusted and respected retail brand which employs 265 local people, its loss will be felt widely by both staff and the people of the north east”, he said.

“Shoppers are attracted to the city by the presence of John Lewis which, in turn, supports other city centre businesses.”

After the initial announcement on Wednesday, John Lewis said in a later statement: “We’ve been in contact with the chamber of commerce in Aberdeen and relevant local politicians about the proposal to close and we will continue dialogue with them.”

More than 30 stores will start reopening from 12 April, subject to government guidance, with the exception of Glasgow, which will reopen from 26 April, and Edinburgh, which will reopen on 14 May.

Covid-19: ‘The night-time industry needs to come back’

Nightclubs were some of the first businesses to close at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and haven’t been able to open since. More than a year on, their wait continues. How is the night-time economy in a rural market town hoping to bounce back when venues can finally reopen?

‘It’s going to be a blank canvas to start again’

Nightclub owner Beth Hurley
image captionNightclub owner Beth Hurley says the last year has been financially “horrific”

When nightclub owner Beth Hurley closed her venue’s doors a year ago, she thought it was going to be for just a few weeks.

A year on, the doors are still closed.

“One of the DJs said, ‘I don’t know when we’ll walk back in here’, and I said ‘don’t say that’ – and then here we are,” she says.

“We talk about that conversation a lot and it haunts us because we had no idea.”

Club Infinity nightclub in Sudbury
image captionClub Infinity, like all nightclubs, closed a year ago and has not been able to reopen

Ms Hurley runs Club Infinity in Sudbury, a rural market town in Suffolk.

As with other nightclub owners up and down the country, she was not allowed to open her venue when restrictions eased over the summer and had to watch on as pubs, bars and restaurants served customers.

By the time June comes around – when it is hoped all legal restrictions on social contact will be lifted – nightclubs will have been closed for 15 months.

“Financially it’s been horrific and emotionally it’s been hard for everyone that works here,” she says.

“A nightclub is a lifestyle choice: you choose to give up your weekends to deal with the general public and it’s like a family. So to have that taken away from you without having any preparation, it doesn’t feel real.”

She says nightclubs were also excluded from a number of government grants. 

Empty dancefloor
image captionWhen nightclubs closed a year ago, bosses did not expect them to remain shut for more than a year

Looking forward, she says the night-time industry “needs to come back”. 

“Everyone needs it – the people who work here need it and the people who come here need it.”

While Sudbury’s nightlife industry vies to keep pub and club-goers in the town, rather than heading off to nearby Ipswich, Colchester or Bury St Edmunds, people there say it benefits from attracting people from surrounding villages and also by being somewhere people feel “safe”. 

Ms Hurley says: “A lot of people were regulars who would come here even if they popped in for one drink after being at one of the pubs or whether they came here from 10pm. You knew all the same people. 

“When people came here, they felt safe, they felt looked after. The security team, the management team, we’re all long-standing and as opposed to them going somewhere else like Colchester, this is their home town, and they felt a lot safer.”

In terms of reopening, she says “it’s going to be a blank canvas to start again”. 

“It’s going to be a total rebuild of a business,” she says.

‘Will people’s going out habits change?’

Suffolk DJ Gareth Harper who works for the events company Romeo Done
image captionDJ Gareth Harper says clubbing is “so important” for lots of people growing up

“If you would’ve told me 12 months ago that we would be shutting and we wouldn’t be DJing, and I wouldn’t have a dancefloor full, I wouldn’t have believed you,” says Gareth Harper. 

He has been a DJ for all of his working life and his usual packed calendar of bookings has been empty for the last year.

Mr Harper says clubbing is “so important” to so many people growing up – and that’s been something that’s been lost this past year.

Suffolk DJ Gareth Harper who works for the events company Romeo Done
image captionMr Harper says he did not expect to have empty dancefloors a year on from the first lockdown

He said: “As soon as they hit 18 they’re into a nightclub, they’re into a bar, and they find what kind of music they like, they find what kind of people they want to associate themselves with, they find what kind of dancing they like doing, they find themselves in such a different way in a nightclub than what you would express yourself in everyday life. 

“Now a whole generation of people have lost that.”

But, he says, the enforced closure could bring a change in people’s going out habits.

“Lots of people pre-drank at home because they could get it from supermarkets so cheap,” he said.

“Is that mentality now going to go because they haven’t been out for so long? Are they going to say ‘stuff staying at home, I’m going out’?”

‘We have a loyal customer base’

Rachel Price
image captionSudbury town manager Rachel Price says people are “dying to socialise again”

Town centre manager Rachel Price admits Sudbury isn’t necessarily first on the list of somewhere you’d go for a night out.

But, she says, it draws in trade from its satellite villages and its train line makes it somewhere many people start their night out before heading into the larger town of Colchester, just over the county border in Essex.

However, she says Sudbury boasts lots of restaurants, bars and pubs, and its nightlife was “picking up” before the first lockdown began.

image captionMs Price says the town’s high street bounced back “straight away” in the summer

A number of new venues had opened and the past year had been a “real blow” for them, she adds.

Over the last year, she says more people have been discovering what is on their doorstep and it is hoped Sudbury’s hospitality sector will benefit from that when it is allowed to reopen.

“When restrictions relaxed in the summer, the footfall in the high street bounced back straight away so we hope the same thing will happen again if the roadmap happens as we expect it to do,” she said.

“People are dying to socialise again and we have a loyal customer base here in Sudbury.”

She says the town council has decided to keep the Market Hill area pedestrianised for when outdoor hospitality returns – due to be from 12 April – so restaurants and cafes can spill outside.

Although that will not help places like the nightclub, she says the council will be there to support them when they can reopen. 

‘If we can get through this, we can get through anything’

William Ward
image captionWilliam Ward says the curfew during the summer impacted his business

William Ward had just opened gaming venue Caffeine Lounge three months before the first lockdown. 

He says things were just starting to pick up before the first coronavirus wave hit.

And although he was able to open back up between July and September, he says he lost 90% of revenue overnight when the 22:00 curfew came in as “people were not coming out”. 

The Caffeine Lounge in Sudbury
image captionMr Ward says his business is still viable a year on from the first lockdown

As well as being a venue for gaming, the business has a cocktail bar and opens late.

He says he will hold off opening again until June because it would be “too much of a financial burden” otherwise, and “not worth it”.

The 30-year-old started with 21 members of staff and is now down to six after having to let some of his workforce go.

He says keeping on top of the bills has been a “big headache” and trying to make plans for when they can reopen is a “real head-scratcher”.

The Caffeine Lounge in Sudbury
image captionAs well as being a gaming venue, the Caffeine Lounge has a bar and opens late

Mr Ward is looking at diversifying, including working with local authorities and charities to establish the gaming side of the business and working with children with special educational needs. He is also going to start serving food. 

“The good thing about all of this is that it’s the worst possible trading situation we could probably ever have been in and we are going to come out of it and still be here and for us that’s very promising.

“The business is still viable – if we can get through this, we can get through anything,” he says.

Covid-19: Foreigners in the UK on lockdown isolation from family – Difficulties

When the country went into its first lockdown in March 2020, it meant many people from abroad who were working or studying in the UK were unable to go home to see their families. What effect have travel restrictions had on people not being able to see their loved ones? 

‘I learnt how to manage myself’

Heema Chauhan
image captionHeema Chauhan moved out of student accommodation in Bedfordshire in September 2020

Heema Chauhan, 22, left her home country of India in September 2019 to begin her master’s degree in management and entrepreneurship at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, and has not seen her family in person since then.

After finishing her studies in September 2020, Heema says she has found it difficult to get a job related to her qualifications, and has mainly been working in warehouses and taking on part-time jobs.

“Given the pandemic, international students have had other barriers and, as I need a sponsorship license for people to hire me, it has really affected my job prospects,” she says.

“I have been looking for jobs in charities, trusts and foundations, but as they haven’t been able to secure funds the way they were able to beforehand, I haven’t been able to get a job in my chosen profession.

“I was really looking forward to getting some experience of working here in UK.”

Miss Chauhan, currently living in a bubble with five friends in Bedford, says: “I decided not to travel, as the chances of contracting the virus if travelling, are high and I felt it was safer to stay.

“My visa expires at the end of March, so unless I get a job, I will have to return.

“I don’t regret it – whatever challenges that come in front of me – I look at them as opportunities to learn from them.

“The pandemic was something no-one anticipated. I learnt how to manage myself, to keep myself calm in certain situations – when I am alone or when things are up and down.”

Heema Chauhan
image captionHeema Chauhan, from India, says she is missing her whole family, especially her mother’s food

A WhatsApp group created by her course director “kept me sane”.

“Every day she used to give us some fun challenges or ask us some questions regarding what kind of activity we did today,” she says.

“That kept us energetic and many more other interesting things.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my family. They are ready to welcome me back.”

‘I missed my nan’s funeral’

Kristin Johnson
image captionKristin says she is “homesick” and tries to find Jamaican food whenever she can

Kristin Johnson, 24, is counting down the days until she can return home to Jamaica to see her family, after leaving them in August 2019 to study for her master’s in forensic science at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. 

She says she came to the UK to get “a first world experience in the lab and to learn new skills”, but once the first lockdown rules came into force a year ago, she was left as the only one on her floor in her accommodation, unable to mix with the other five remaining students in her building.

Despite the changes, she completed her dissertation in October and was awarded her degree in February 2020.

“It’s been really difficult. It wasn’t what I expected at all. Everything changed drastically,” she says. 

She is “devastated” the learning experience she hoped for did not happen even though her university “did the best they could”.

A family photo
image captionKristin talks to her family, who are in Jamaica, regularly via Facetime

Kristin has found it really difficult not being able to visit the Caribbean, as her planned trip home in Easter 2020 never happened.

Due to Jamaica closing its borders going home was never an option.

“My nan, back home, died and I wasn’t able to go home – that was really difficult,” she says.

“Their borders did open for a short while, but I was working.”

She has “no clue” when she will be able to return home and feels “in limbo”.

“My family only wants me to return when it is safe for me, so when the borders do reopen, I will travel home, but only if it is safe.”

‘It’s irresponsible to travel home’ 

Rebecca Zeitlin
image captionRebecca Zeitlin plans to travel back home to the US as soon as she feels it is safe to do so

Rebecca Zeitlin, 31, from the USA, says “it’s the longest I’ve ever gone never being on an airplane”. 

She works for Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company behind Airlander – the world’s longest aircraft which was developed at the giant hangars at Cardington near Bedford.

Ms Zeitlin has been in the UK seven years and her last visit to see her family in Kentucky was over Christmas 2019.

“I would normally see them twice a year, I would go over and they would come here,” she says.

She lives in Ampthill in Bedfordshire, and says she decided not to travel home.

“Even if I could, it is the responsible choice not to. How could I live with myself for doing that?” she asks.

“I live alone; in the beginning it was awful.

“I’m an extrovert so being alone is hard, but it’s what we’ve got to do.

“I feel like later this year can’t come fast enough as I hope I will be able to see my family and hug them. 

“I’m 31 years old, but even 31-year-olds want to hug their mom. 

“My parents are vaccinated now which makes me feel better, so I am less worried about them.”

Ampthill Great Park
image captionRebecca Zeitlin has enjoyed getting to know Bedfordshire including lots of walks in Ampthill Great Park

She describes herself as a “pretty tough cookie”, but the three lockdowns have been stressful. 

“I’ve been exercising a lot more, and finally I believe that exercise is good for you and makes you feel better; I actually like it now,” she says.

By Alex Pope & Theo Chikomba
BBC East

Covid: Paris lockdown as France fears third wave

The French capital is set to go into a month-long Covid lockdown as the country fears a third wave.

Some 21 million people in 16 areas of France will be placed under the measures from midnight on Friday.

These measures will not be as strict as the previous lockdown, Prime Minister Jean Castex said, with people allowed to exercise outdoors. 

France has recorded more than 35,000 new infections within the past 24 hours.

Mr Castex said a “third wave” of infections in the country was looking increasingly likely.

The situation in Paris is particularly worrying with 1,200 people in intensive care there, more than at the peak of the second wave in November, Health Minister Olivier Véran said. 

Under the new measures, non-essential businesses will be forced to close, but schools will remain open, along with hairdressers if they follow a “particular sanitary protocol”. 

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal stressed there would be differences with the two earlier lockdowns and said further details would be given of which business could stay open or would have to shut.

People will be allowed to exercise outdoors within 10km (6 miles) of their home and are not allowed to travel to other parts of the country unless they have a valid reason. Those in the affected areas will have to fill out a form to explain why they have left their homes. 


Parisians prepare for lighter lockdown

Analysis box by Hugh Schofield, Paris correspondent

There is a weary resignation about Paris, as people prepare for another four weeks of tedium. Yes, we know this third lockdown won’t be quite as bad as the second – which was itself a lighter version of the first. But still.

Another month of bits of paper for the police; another month of having to justify a trip to the supermarket; another month without meaningful social contact. It’s enough to drive you to distraction.

Passengers wait before boarding trains at Montparnasse railway station in Paris, on March 19, 2021
image captionFrance’s SNCF train company reported a surge in bookings ahead of the new lockdown

Except it hasn’t. In general, most Parisians simply knuckle under. Those who can are leaving by train or car, but because schools are staying open, most families will stick it out in the city.

Everyone’s made the calculation. The long Easter weekend in two weeks is a bust. But the Paris school holidays start on 17 April – exactly when the lockdown is supposed to end.

That’s the light that will keep people going. Spring break.


As well as the greater Paris region, the northern Hauts-de-France, Seine-Maritime and Eure areas will go under lockdown as well as the Alpes-Maritimes on the French Riviera.

France’s nationwide curfew will remain in place. However, it will begin an hour later at 19:00 (18:00 GMT), taking into account the longer hours of daylight. 

Fears of a third wave come as the French government faces criticism for its slow vaccine rollout. 

From Friday, France will resume vaccinating using the AstraZeneca jab following the EMA’s announcement that it was fit for use. Mr Castex said he would be getting the vaccine straight away to prove that it was OK.

France had suspended the jab after a number of people in Europe reported blood clots developing after the vaccine was administered. 

A survey conducted just as the suspension was announced found that only 20% of the French have confidence in AstraZeneca.

H&M sales recover in March as stores reopen after lockdown

Sales at fashion group H&M fell slightly less than expected in the three months through February and rose in the first half of March as pandemic restrictions were eased in some markets, allowing hundreds of stores to reopen.

The world’s second-biggest apparel retailer said on Monday net sales fell 27% from a year earlier, or 21% measured in local currencies, to 40.1 billion crowns ($4.72 billion).

Analysts had on average forecast a 30% decline in net sales in the period – H&M’s fiscal first quarter – according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate.

“Sales development was significantly affected by the COVID-19 situation, with extensive restrictions and at most over 1,800 stores temporarily closed,” H&M said in a statement.

“Since the beginning of February, a number of markets have gradually allowed stores to reopen and at the end of the quarter around 1,300 stores remained temporarily closed.”

H&M said sales in the March 1–13 period were up 10% in local currencies as many countries, including its biggest market Germany, begun allowing some stores to reopen. On March 13, around 900 of H&M’s around 5,000 stores remained closed due to government lockdowns to fight the pandemic.

($1 = 8.4917 Swedish crowns)

Barbie has best sales in more than five years in lockdown boost

Sales of Barbie hit $1.35bn (£940m) last year – the most since at least 2014 – as parents stocked up on toys to get children through the pandemic.

Sales of the doll rose 16% globally, helping to lift toymaker Mattel to its best sales year since 2017.

The pandemic has been good for the toy industry, which has gained from limits facing other forms of entertainment.

The surge in demand strained supply chains earlier in the year.

Chief executive Ynon Kreiz said the firm, which also owns brands such as Hot Wheels, was ultimately able to meet the “extraordinary” increase in demand for its products. 

“Yes, the industry as a whole benefited from increased demand related to Covid, but we significantly outpaced the industry,” he said.

Arch-rival Hasbro, which owns Nerf and board games such as Monopoly, this week reported that full-year 2020 sales slumped 8% to about $5.4bn, despite rising 4% in the final quarter.

At Mattel, sales rose 2% last year to more than $4.5bn, and were up 10% in the last three months of the year, which includes the critical Christmas season. 

Profits in 2020 were $126.6m, compared to a loss of more than $200m last year.

Mattel on Tuesday also announced a new cost-savings programme, which it said would help save $250m by 2023. 

Unlike prior efforts, which focused on cutting the firm’s manufacturing footprint, Mr Kreiz said this one would be broader, including plans to standardise its global marketing and revamp the retail operations of American Girl.

He declined to comment on specific job cuts.

“It’s less about people and payroll and more about systems and processes,” he said.

Sony raises profit outlook by a third amid home entertainment boom

Japanese electronics and media giant Sony Corp raised its full-year profit outlook by one-third and said it was struggling to keep up with pandemic-fuelled demand for the new PlayStation 5 amid a global shortage of semiconductors.

Sony, which launched the PS5 in core markets in November, said on Wednesday it expected to sell more than 7.6 million consoles by end-March.

PS5, which sells for as much as $500, quickly sold out after its launch on online retail sites in the United States and Japan, thanks to pent-up demand for videogames from people stuck at home due to coronavirus lockdowns.

The shift to the new games console is also expected to encourage gamers to move to online downloads or subscription services, helping Sony boost the profitability of its gaming unit.

But Sony warned that it was struggling to match demand due to the chip shortage that has hurt production from businesses ranging from smartphone makers to car companies.

“It is difficult for us to increase production of the PS5 amid the shortage of semiconductors and other components,” Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki said at a press briefing.

Sony now expects 940 billion yen ($8.95 billion) in operating profit in the 12 months through March compared with the 700 billion yen it previously expected.

Totoki also said Sony had resumed some shipments of sensors to customers in China from late October.

Sony had worried about the potential impact on its sensor business following U.S. restrictions on sales of chips using U.S. technology to Chinese smartphone maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. In November, Huawei revealed plans to sell its budget-brand smartphone maker Honor. After the spin-off, Honor last month said it had signed deals with chip suppliers and component makers, including Sony. Huawei was Sony’s second-largest image sensor customer after Apple Inc, accounting for about fifth of its $10 billion in sensor revenue, according to analysts.

Sony’s third-quarter operating profit for the October-December quarter jumped 20% to 359.2 billion yen from a year ago, sailing past a consensus 179 billion yen estimate from six analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Historically better known for hardware like the Walkman music player and TVs, Sony has invested heavily in recent years in beefing up its entertainment content and distribution business.

At the same time, Sony is streamlining its consumer electronics business, with plans this year to close a factory in Malaysia which manufactures home audio equipment, headphones and other products.