What the papers say


Journalist Liz Kennedy takes a look at Friday's newspapers.

The trial of Hazel Stewart continues to command most coverage.

The Belfast Telegraph says that the strain of listening to convicted killer - her former lover - Colin Howell's testimony is taking its toll on Hazel Stewart.

It was his last day on the stand at the murder trial on Thursday.

The Mirror and the News Letter headlines use Howell's description of himself: "I was a monster."

Both papers document the scam in the Philippines, in which the dentist had invested and lost £350,000.

The Mirror said that "falling for the fraud was the last straw".

The Irish News reports the trial inside the paper, but it leads with a dissident threat said to have been made to the brother of Pat Finucane. Seamus Finucane is a former IRA prisoner, now community worker.

The election trail continues to wend its way across the papers in the Republic.

The Irish Independent reports that Fine Gael is admitting that families will pay more tax in the Republic, if they are elected, but says people would pay even more under Labour.

Elsewhere in the paper is a more alarming statistic.

Another 5,000 mortgage holders in the Republic have gone into arrears, which means that 45,000 homeowners there have failed to pay their mortgages for three months or more.

Ghost estates

And the Irish Times says that hundreds of the so-called ghost estates there have been identified as "hazardous" for residents. The government has set aside money for the purpose of making them safer, but warns that developers must repay it.

There's alarm for parents, after a police investigation into social networking sites.

The alleged child sex abuse in Devon is the lead in the Mail.

Police believe as many as 50 young people may have been caught by internet predators, but they have taken the "extraordinary step" - says the paper - of warning parents at 14 schools there that it is no longer safe for their children to go out alone.

The Times emphasises that the investigation involves only a very small proportion of children, but that police warn parents to be more vigilant.

And the Sun returns to the story of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal in 2007. An Angolan-born investigator claims that a paedophile ring has taken her to America.

Obama visit

The American state visit in May by the Obamas is widely reported.

The US couple are to stay at Buckingham Palace and the Daily Telegraph reproduces the picture of Michele Obama departing from protocol and putting her arm on the Queen's shoulder, when they met in 2009.

The Guardian warns the US couple to "watch out for the corgis" on their three-night stay. More seriously, they speculate that President Obama will hold discussions with David Cameron about a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

It's Britain's relations with Bahrain that concern the Independent. And it says that Britain is "under fire" for selling arms to a number of Arab governments that have cracked down on pro-democracy protests in recent weeks.

Finally, could hibernation be the key to space travel?

The Guardian documents the first study of black bears in Alaska.

They hibernate for up to seven months of the year, managing to drop their heartbeat to just 14 beats a minute and their metabolism reduces by three quarters.

Then they emerge, have a bit of a stretch and resume as normal.

Findings could help astronauts on long missions in deep space. A small stretch for bears, but a big step for mankind.

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