Archive | July, 2010

Tallaght: Missing Man’s Family Await Result Of Test On Murdered Remains Found In Wicklow/Dublin Mountains: UPDATED

31 Jul

MISSING MAN’S FAMILY AWAIT TEST RESULTS ON MURDERED REMAINS FOUND IN DUBLIN/WICKLOW MOUNTAINS:

ANXIOUS relatives of a missing Dublin man are waiting to discover if the decomposed skeletal remains discovered in a wooded area of Wicklow are those of their son.
Shocked forest workers found a skull while felling a tree on Thursday afternoon in a hilly area near Manor Kilbride, Blessington.

Items of clothing and other bones were discovered by forensic gardaí on the wooded ground.

Forensic tests expected last night and today were set to reveal whether the decayed remains where those of missing father- of-two Paul Byrne.

The Tallaght man, 20, was last seen driving out of his estate, Kilmartin Green, with friends on July 15 last year.

His family yesterday spoke of their hope that tests on the remains could turn out to be his.

Joe Dempsey, his step-father, said family members had visited the site of the skeletal remains in west Wicklow.

"We’re all hopeful. But it’s difficult for us at the moment also," he told the Irish Examiner.

Gardaí though are keeping an open mind on whose body it is.

Superintendent Eamon Keogh said the remains belonged to a male aged anywhere between the ages of 18 and 50.

There were no indications of any external injuries to the bones, a separate investigation source confirmed.

Tests on the skull’s teeth are expected to help identify the male’s remains.

Superintendent Keogh added: "It’s too early to say yet who it is. The search is still ongoing around where the skull was found and will be for sometime."

State Pathologist Marie Cassidy arrived at the wooded site yesterday and a forensic garda team continued to examine the sealed off area.

Mr Byrne’s aunt, Debbie, and sister, Leah, were among those anxiously standing near the sealed-off site yesterday.

The family had recently held a Mass to mark the anniversary of his disappearance and prayed for his body to be found.

While not known to gardaí, Mr Byrne is believed to have been targeted by a local gang.

His partner, Martina McQuillan, only discovered that she was pregnant with their second child just weeks before he vanished. She gave birth to a second baby girl in February.

One daily newspaper has claimed the Real IRA contacted its offices and threatened "swift actions" against Paul’s alleged killers unless his body was returned to his family.

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THE MOTHER of a missing Dublin man today said she hopes skeletal remains found in Wicklow woodland are those of her son.

Dad-of-two Paul Byrne (20) has not been seen since he disappeared from his Tallaght home a year ago.

His mother Ashley Dempsey told the Herald today: "I hope it is Paul and I can at least give him a proper funeral."

It’s feared that he was murdered by a local crime gang — despite the fact that he was not known to gardai.

Mr Byrne’s partner Martina McQuillan had the couple’s second child last February.

His mother was contacted by gardai last night, after forest workers discovered a human skull in woods near Blessington — 11 miles from where Mr Byrne disappeared.

Ashley Dempsey said: "I got a call last night. I just hope this puts an end to it now for me.

"No mother wants to hear that their son has been murdered, but the agony of not knowing what happened to Paul is too much.

"I have prayed so much for the return of his body that I hope it is Paul and I can at least give him a proper funeral," she added.

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UPDATE:

The family of a man who disappeared more than a year ago face an anxious wait today as forensic experts work to identify a skull and human remains found in a wooded area of Co Wicklow.

Gardaí discovered skeletal remains and several objects, which may have belonged to the deceased, yesterday when they resumed searching a wooded area in Ballyfolan, close to Blessington.

Garda dog teams and technical units have been searching the area for several days following the discovery of a human skull by forestry workers last Thursday. The skull, which is estimated to belong to a male between the age of 18 and 50, has been sent to the State laboratory for identification.

Gardaí have sought the help of a forensic anthropologist to help their investigation. DNA tests are expected to be concluded shortly.

Relatives of Paul Byrne, a 20-year-old from Tallaght who went missing last year, attended the scene of the search operation on Friday and said they fear the human remains could be his.

Byrne, who is a father of two children, was last seen getting into a car outside his home on July 15th, 2009. His family fear he was murdered and his body hidden.

Several objects have been found at the scene including a set of keys, a bracelet and track suit bottoms, which are expected to help the identification process.

A Garda spokesman said yesterday the remains had not been formally identified and searches of the wooded area were expected to continue over the next few days.

Detectives recently renewed a public appeal for information on Byrne’s case on the first anniversary of his disappearance. If the remains belong to the missing father they are likely to change the status of their investigation to a murder inquiry.

Paul Byrne was last seen wearing a white T-shirt with a red Nike emblem, grey tracksuit bottoms and white K-Swiss runners on July 15th, 2009.

State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy attended the scene on Thursday evening and determined that the skull probably belonged to a man. The best estimates provided so far suggest the skull was lying on the ground of the wooded area for between one and 20 years. However, the State Pathologist’s office is expected to establish how long the human remains had been in the area shortly.

Supt Eamonn Keogh of Baltinglass Garda station told reporters on Friday animals may have moved human remains around the site. He said there were animal bones in the area.

The area is in a hilly area of Co Wicklow with few houses and fields populated by sheep. The terrain is making the search operation difficult for gardaí.

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UPDATE:

The mother of missing Tallaght man Paul Byrne has visited the site where her son’s remains are believed to have been buried.

As Garda forensic experts continue to investigate remains found in West Wicklow, Mr Byrne’s mother Ashley Dempsey has told of her torment.

Ms Dempsey had been away in Spain when news broke on Thursday of the grim discovery of a human skull near woodland in Ballyfolan, close to Blessington.

Bracelet

She organised a flight home as soon as she heard the news she had been waiting for since her son went missing in July last year.

"I only got to the search site yesterday, not that I could see much, but I just felt I had to be there," Ashley told the Herald.

A bracelet and set of keys, as well as clothing found at the scene, have been identified as belonging to Paul, who vanished after getting into a wine coloured Mitsubishi car outside his Kilmartin Green home on July 15 last year.

His family have long believed that he was murdered by local criminals. They are surprised Paul got into the car, even though he knew who was in it.

"No mother wants to hear that their son has been murdered, but the agony of not knowing where Paul disappeared to is too much," said Ashley.

"I have prayed so much for the return of his body that I hope it is Paul and I can at least give him a proper funeral and put him in a proper place I can visit him."

Paul is presumed to have been murdered by a criminal gang despite the fact that he has no criminal record and was not known to be in any trouble.

Paul’s partner, Martina McQuillan, had only found out she was pregnant with their second child in the weeks before he vanished.

She gave birth to their second daughter, Faith, a sister to Abbey, in February.

If the skull is Paul’s, gardai will change the status of their investigation from that of missing person to murder.

"I’m feeling numb. I don’t know what to feel," said Martina. "The T-shirt and bottoms they found — the family has confirmed they are Paul’s.

"The gardai are waiting for the State pathologist to do tests. They said it could be a few days, it could even be a few weeks."

Martina said the past year has been "a complete nightmare. I started eating again about a month ago. I don’t sleep".

A garda spokesman said the skull and human remains had not yet been formally identified and searches of the wooded area were expected to continue over the next few days.

Ms McQuillan said the last time she saw Paul she had been in The Square in Tallaght and had brought him home a takeaway.

CALLED

"He was standing outside on the road and I called him down to come in and get his McDonald’s," she said.

"I called him again and he came in the second time. He went outside and he was standing at a car and I called him. He said to me, ‘Martina, you just say you want me to mind Abbey because I don’t want to go out’.

"So I said ‘right’ and I went out to get him then and he was gone."

www.garda.ie

Spain: International Police Dragnet For Violent British Criminal Wanted For Dublin Man’s Murder

31 Jul

VIOLENT BRITISH (LIVERPOOL) CRIMINAL DARREN O’FLAHERTY WANTED BY SPANISH POLICE FOR THE MURDER OF DUBLIN MAN JOHN O’NEILL:

THE man at the centre of an international police hunt following the shooting dead of an Irish father-of-two has a string of convictions for violent crime and has been on the run from British police for four years.

A Spanish judge yesterday issued a Europe-wide arrest warrant for Darren O’Flaherty, 35, who is wanted in connection with the shooting of 40-year-old Dubliner John O’Neill outside Coco’s bar in Benalmadena, Costa del Sol, on Wednesday morning.

Originally from Liverpool, O’Flaherty has faced charges of grievous bodily harm, assaulting a police officer, dangerous driving with intent, and conspiracy to kidnap, robbery and gang membership dating back to the mid-1990s.

While he has served time in prison for some of the offences, he fled to the Costa del Sol before his kidnap and robbery trial in 2006.

He remained in the Costa del Sol until his disappearance after Wednesday morning’s attack.

In September 1995, O’Flaherty was brought before Liverpool Crown Court on charges of stabbing a man nine times outside a nightclub in a violent, unprovoked midnight assault in December 1994.

The then 21-year-old was found guilty of grievous bodily harm and given five years in jail.

In October 1999 the then 25-year-old, who had been released from prison early, was before the courts again after inflicting serious head injuries on a police officer.

O’Flaherty was sentenced to a number of years in prison for the assault.

In 2006, he was again before the courts on conspiracy to kidnap and robbery charges before fleeing to Spain. http://www.costadelcrime.blogspot.com/

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THE prime suspect in the murder of an Irish holidaymaker in Spain is a violent criminal wanted for kidnapping in the UK, it emerged last night.

Spanish police yesterday named Darren O’Flaherty (35), from Liverpool, as the man who they believe shot Dubliner John O’Neill (41) in a Costa del Sol bar.

The father of two from Bunratty Drive in Coolock was gunned down in the seaside resort of Benalmadena in the early hours of Wednesday.

O’Flaherty was already on the run from the UK, where he is wanted by Yorkshire police in connection with kidnapping and robbery offences from 2006.

He was charged with the offences in 2008 but absconded before his trial.

He had previously served five years for wounding a police informant.

O’Flaherty was subsequently described as one of Britain’s most wanted criminals on the BBC ‘Crimewatch’ programme.

A spokesman for Yorkshire police told the Irish Independent that Spanish authorities had sought information from them about O’Flaherty following Mr O’Neill’s murder.

The spokesman said both police forces were co-operating in the search for the fugitive.

O’Flaherty is one of two men on the run following the theft of a lorry containing €400,000 worth of computers, televisions, radios, fridges, microwaves and other electrical goods in October 2006.

A lorry driver was kidnapped and held at knifepoint for several hours before eventually being freed.

The raiders then set the lorry on fire.

Spanish police said they believed O’Flaherty had been living with a girlfriend in a rented flat in Benalmadena.

Neither of them has been seen since the shooting. Police searched the suspect’s apartment and found the bloodstained clothes.

A judge overseeing the murder investigation from a court in Torremolinos issued a warrant for O’Flaherty’s arrest on Thursday.

Yorkshire police also said they were in the process of obtaining a European arrest warrant in relation to the kidnapping and robbery charges.

Mr O’Neill was one of dozens of Irish holidaymakers who had flown to Spain for a wedding which had been due to take place today.

Row

On Tuesday night, a large number of the group went to Coco’s bar in Benalmadena for a quiet drink, but a row broke out in the early hours.

The argument started when an English drinker began banging on the door of a locked cubicle in the men’s toilet. Mr O’Neill is believed to have acted as a peacemaker and attempted to diffuse the situation.

The English man was ejected from the bar, but returned at around 3am on Wednesday morning with a .38 calibre pistol and opened fire.

At least five shots were sprayed around the pub and Mr O’Neill was fatally wounded in the back.

The gunman fled as holidaymakers in the bar, including women and children, dived for cover.

Mr O’Neill stumbled out into the street and collapsed in a pool of blood by a bus stop 50 yards away, where he died despite the efforts of paramedics to save him.

His girlfriend Maxine suffered a panic attack and was also treated but she was not injured.

Mr O’Neill’s aunt Peig Dowdall described her nephew as "a gorgeous, big soft guy, always with a smile on his face" and said he was "just in the wrong place".

He worked as a plasterer and was well liked in the Coolock area, where he played darts and was a pigeon enthusiast.

He is survived by two children, a son Jake (3) and a daughter, Jasmine, who is just nine months old.

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UPDATE:

THE family of Irishman John O’Neill fear his body will not be returned to Ireland for weeks because it is part of an ongoing Spanish police investigation.

Mr O’Neill’s sister Sharon, speaking on the eve of the now-postponed wedding that the 40-year-old father-of-two had travelled to Spain to attend, said grieving relatives were concerned there may be no way to avoid the delay.

The innocent plasterer – who was shot twice outside Coco’s bar in the Arroyo de la Miel area of Benalmadena at 3am on Wednesday – had been on holiday with his partner Maxine, three-year-old son Jake and nine-month-old daughter Jasmine, when the incident occurred.

All three are still in Spain while police continue with their inquiries.

They are being assisted by Sharon – who flew out yesterday – while a judge in the Torremolinos area of Spain issued an international arrest warrant for Darren O’Flaherty in connection with the murder.

A native of Liverpool, 35-year-old O’Flaherty is the main suspect in the shooting of the Irishman.

Spanish police sources have confirmed the identity of the man, while a spokesman for north Yorkshire police in Britain said they have been asked to provide information on O’Flaherty to Spanish authorities.

O’Flaherty has a history of violent crime and has been on the run from British police since being charged in connection with a €400,000 robbery and conspiracy to kidnap case in 2006 as part of an 11-strong gang.

O’Flaherty also received a five-year sentence for grievous bodily harm in 1995, after stabbing a man who was lying on the ground nine times in the back with a pen-knife, causing injuries which included a collapsed lung.

His other offences involved assaulting a police officer, causing severe head injuries; dangerous driving with intent to damage and assaulting a police informer.

O’Flaherty is understood to have been living in the Benalmadena area of the Costa del Sol with his girlfriend since 2006.

Neither has been seen at their apartment since Dublin father-of-two Mr O’Neill was shot dead on Wednesday morning.

Gardai Smash Gang Of ‘Ex-Military’ Albanian Burglars: UPDATED

28 Jul

GARDAI SMASH TEAM OF EX-MILITARY ALBANIAN BURGLARS:

A HIGHLY professional Albanian gang behind 50 successful burglaries across eight counties over an 18-month period has been smashed by gardaí.

10 gang members — from Albania or Kosovo — were arrested in a garda swoop and detained under powerful legislation allowing up to seven days’ detention.

The gang, containing former soldiers, was never caught or disturbed in any of the burglaries and gardaí said they dropped any target if they ever got "spooked".

They engaged in lengthy planning in identifying and researching a potential target and used sophisticated technology to disable alarm systems.

Civilian crime analysts employed by gardaí played a key role in connecting clues from multiple crime scenes, across the south and south east, between October 2008 and May 2010.

Extensive surveillance was placed on gang members by gardaí over the last four months in particular.

Reflecting the money earned by the gang, the Criminal Assets Bureau is analysing a large volume of documentation and bank accounts taken in the 22 raids. In one raid alone, the outfit got away with €100,000 in cash. Many were claiming social welfare here.

Garda sources said their operation, code-named Crake, was "intelligence-led", with considerable work done by the force’s civilian crime analysts.

"They looked at commonalities between crimes, helped identify links and identify the different gang members."

He said this included trawling through the Garda Pulse computer system and other intelligence looking for links.

For example, they spotted that a similar car was used in separate burglaries in different counties.

They produced detailed charts for investigators showing the connections and where their local target fitted in with the gang.

Gardaí described the gang, aged between 30 and 44, as highly professional, with many ex-military from Albanian, Kosovan or Russian armies. They also had Albanian ex-police contacts and had gathered information on investigation techniques used by gardaí.

"They were not confronted in any of the burglaries," said a garda source. "They did a lot of work staking out places. They made sure they were not disturbed and if they didn’t like something they walked away. It speaks volumes about how professional they were."

Garda sources said, in some cases, the gang patiently dug through walls to gain access.

They disabled alarms, often by installing blockers to stop alarm signals from being transmitted.

Gardaí said they carried out burglaries of petrol stations and post offices in counties Carlow, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

Some suspects have been found with sophisticated false travel papers. Europol assisted gardaí in confirming identities and checking their status abroad. Gardaí hope to be in a position to recommend charges to the DPP by the end of the detention period.

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UPDATE:

Monday, August 02, 2010

FOUR Albanian nationals were charged over the weekend following a major garda investigation into organised crime across the south and south-east of the country.

A total of 11 Albanians were arrested last Tuesday by a garda team investigating 50 alleged burglaries across Munster and south Leinster during an 18-month period.

One of those arrested was taken to Clonmel District Court on Saturday and charged with burglary offences. The 34-year-old, with an address in Tralee, Co Kerry, was remanded in custody with consent to bail.

A second man was charged yesterday morning at Dungarvan District Court with burglary offences.

The 44-year-old, with an address in Cork city, was also remanded in custody with consent to bail.

Two other men were due, separately, to appear before Wexford and Killarney district courts yesterday evening.

All but one of the others arrested has been released without charge.

The garda team, together with the Criminal Assets Bureau, is now preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The 11th man arrested, who was picked up at Dublin Airport after Tuesday’s swoop, is still being questioned by gardaí.

They were all arrested under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, which allows for seven days’ detention.

They were picked up by gardaí as part of Operation Crake, set up to investigate 50 seemingly unconnected burglaries in eight counties between October 2008 and May 2010.

Garda sources said their investigation was "intelligence-led", with considerable work done by the force’s civilian crime analysts.

The Criminal Assets Bureau was brought in to follow the money trial.

Officers attached to the bureau are examining documentation and bank account details seized during Tuesday’s searches.

www.garda.ie

BREAKING NEWS: Spain: Irishman Shot Dead In The Costa del Sol: UPDATED: Reports

28 Jul

A 41-year-old Irishman is reported to have been shot dead in the Costa del Sol in Spain early this morning.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the reports and was seeking confirmation of the death.

According to El Mundo , the man was shot in Benalmádena in Málaga at about 3am (2am Irish time) following a row with another man in a bar.

It is believed that one of the men returned to the scene a short time after with a firearm and shot the other man dead.

Neighbours rang to say the emergency services to report the incident and the man was confirmed dead by police.

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http://www.costadelcrime.blogspot.com/

An Irishman has been shot dead during a row at a popular Spanish tourist resort.

John O’Neill, 40, from Dublin, was shot at Coco’s Bar in Benalmadena, near Malaga, on the Costa del Sol.

It is understood a British man has been arrested in connection with the attack.

Mr O’Neill was understood to be holidaying in the resort with his girlfriend at the time.

It is believed she was in the bar with him when he was shot in the early hours of this morning. She was uninjured.

Unconfirmed local reports say Mr O’Neill was hit in the stomach after an argument.

The shooting is not believed to be gang-related.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing consular assistance.

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UPDATE:

Spanish police are hunting a British man who allegedly shot dead an Irish holidaymaker outside a bar on the Costa del Sol.

John O’Neill, from Coolock in north Dublin, was gunned down outside Coco’s Bar in Benalmadena.

It is thought that the 40-year-old had been caught up in a fight that spilled out on to the streets of the small seaside town around 3am local time.

Investigators are looking for a British man who is reported to have fled the scene of the killing, although they have not released a name.

Mr O’Neill, the father of a three-year-old boy and a nine-month-old girl, had been in the Costa del Sol for a friend’s wedding along with his partner.

She was with him in the bar at the time the fight broke out but was uninjured in the gun attack.

Nicole Cacho, a reporter for La Opinion de Malaga newspaper, said police believed Mr O’Neill was shot twice with a .38 calibre pistol.

"Apparently the suspect shot the victim and fled to the beach," she said.

"A fight started in the bar and they brought it outside and one of the guys got a gun and shot three bullets.

"Two of them apparently hit the victim and the other bullet was lost."

Initial reports that a man had been arrested in connection with the attack were later dismissed. Spanish police have confirmed they are still looking for the suspect.

Sources said investigators have a clear idea of the identity of a British man they believe carried out the shooting.

Spanish police have told Irish authorities they do not believe the gun attack was gang-related.

Washington: Attention Deficit Medication Helps Cocaine Addicts

28 Jul

ATTENTION DEFICIT MEDICATION HELPS DRUG ADDICTS: STUDY:

The active ingredient in Ritalin, a medication used to control the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, could help boost self-control in cocaine addicts, a study published Monday showed.

Yale University psychiatry professor Chiang-shan Ray Li administered Ritalin’s active ingredient, methylphenidate, to volunteers who were addicted to cocaine, and asked the participants to perform a computer test that assessed impulse control.

The participants were instructed to quickly press a button whenever a "go" prompt appeared on the screen.

But randomly during the test, the "go" prompt was rapidly followed by a "stop" prompt, indicating that the subjects should resist the impulse to press "go."

Study participants who were given methylphenidate were better able to resist pressing the button than were participants who were given a placebo, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found.

"The main finding of this work is that methylphenidate improved inhibitory control in cocaine-dependent patients," the study says, suggesting that the active ingredient in Ritalin should be investigated as a treatment for disorders such as addictions, which are related to self-control deficits.

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Paris: Alcohol May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis: Study

28 Jul

ALCOHOL MAY EASE RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: STUDY:

Drinking alcohol may help reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis and cut the risk of developing the painful and crippling disease, a study published Wednesday has shown for the first time.

Researchers led by Gerry Wilson, a professor at the University of Sheffield in Britain, asked 873 arthritis patients and a control group of 1,004 people how frequently they had consumed alcohol in the previous month.

The participants also completed a detailed questionnaire, were given X-rays and blood tests, and had their joints examined.

"We found that patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently had symptoms that were less severe than those who had never drunk alcohol or only drunk it infrequently," said lead author James Maxwell, a rheumatologist at the Rotherham Foundation NHS Trust.

X-rays showed less damage to joints, and blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, according to the report, published in the journal Rheumatology.

There was also less pain, swelling and disability.

Earlier studies had reported similar results in rodents, but this is the first to show that arthritis symptoms diminish in humans in proportion to the frequency of alcohol consumption.

The researchers found that non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis that people who drank alcohol on more than ten days a month.

They cautioned that any possible benefits from alcohol consumption in relation to rheumatism must be weighed against all the well-known health consequences of immoderate drinking.

The findings held equally true for women and men, and for two distinct forms of the disease, one called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) and the other known simply as "negative".

"Anti-CCP antibodies are not present in most ‘normal’ people without arthritis," explained Maxwell.

Previous research has shown that these antibodies develop prior to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, and are likely linked to the process which causes the disease.

Some patients don’t develop anti-CCP antibodies, but the symptoms are much more severe in those that do.

The scientists could only speculate as to why alcohol helped reduce symptoms and risk.

"There is some evidence that alcohol suppresses the activity of the immune system, and that this may influence the pathways by which rheumatoid arthritis develops," Maxwell said.

Once the disease has developed, it is also possible that drinking may act as a pain killer, he added.

One limitation of the study is that it did not measure how much people drank, only the frequency. It also relies on people’s memories, and does not report long-term drinking habits.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about one percent of people in the United States and Europe, mainly in older populations. Incidence appears to be somewhat lower in Asia, suggesting that genetics may play a role.

Exactly what causes the disease remains a mystery, and there is no known cure.

London: Health Professionals Dealing With An ‘Obesity Epidemic’ In Pregnant Mothers

28 Jul

‘OBESITY EPIDEMIC’ IN PREGNANT MOTHERS: HEALTH EXPERTS:

Health professionals are dealing with "an epidemic of obesity" among pregnant women as weight gain across the wider population continues to rise, experts said.

About half of women of childbearing age are either overweight (with a BMI of 25-29.9) or obese (with a BMI of 30 or above) and approximately 16% of women in England are obese from the start of pregnancy, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

The organisation launched new public health guidance on Tuesday on weight management before, during and after pregnancy, in the face of growing evidence concerning female obesity and the related risks it poses for both the mother and baby.

Professor Lucilla Poston, director of maternal and foetal research at King’s College London, said: "These guidelines are incredibly timely; we have an epidemic of obesity amongst our pregnant population.

"At St Thomas’s recently we looked at our stats and there has been an exponential increase in obesity amongst our women attending ante-natal clinics, such that now 40% of the women are overweight or obese, and in the UK the best statistics we have suggests between 15% and 20% of pregnant women are coming into pregnancy with a BMI which is less than ideal."

She added that obese women were at increased risk of "almost every complication in the book in pregnancy".

Commenting on Nice’s new guidance, Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "There is a real need to address the issue of obesity, and this draft guidance shows this is particularly important for pregnant women.

"The growing volume of evidence shows that the health of a mother with obesity is further compromised by the pregnancy, also impacting the health of her unborn baby. Midwives are ideally placed to assist women in developing healthy lifestyles during pregnancy and during the postnatal period."

"As a result of the increase in obesity among pregnant women, midwives are, (on top of the continuing baby boom) dealing with more complex births. These women need to see a midwife as early as possible in their pregnancy. They need more time to spend with a midwife to help and advise them as well as involving the wider healthcare team."

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), said: "Thousands of women attend NCT courses each year and we know from listening to them that weight management and weight loss during and after pregnancy is a concerning issue."