The aircraft-carrier Ark Royal set sail for the Gulf and 1,500 reservists were called up. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said in a speech to a conference of more than 100 British ambassadors that Britain should remain the closest ally of the United States. ‘The price of British influence is not, as some would have it, that we have, obediently, to do what the US asks,’ he said. ‘But the price of influence is that we do not leave the US to face the tricky issues alone.’ He thought that the United States should listen to opinions on the Middle East, global poverty, global warming and the United Nations. Six men from North Africa were arrested in London under the Terrorism Act 2000, and some material recovered by police from premises in Wood Green, north London, was found to contain the poison ricin. A man was charged with the murder of three women after parts of bodies were found in his flat and in the street at Camden Town in London. A man ran wild with two hatchets, injuring three people at Waltham Abbey and smashing a reredos by William Burges and other fittings in the Abbey church. A man escaped from a flat in Hackney, in east London, where he had been held hostage by a man with firearms for 11 days while the building was surrounded by armed police. A man was shot dead at the wheel of his car in Sheffield. Two young black women, Letisha Shakespear and Charlene Ellis, were shot dead in the early hours during a party at a hairdresser’s at Aston, in Birmingham, where two gangs mixed up in drugs, the Burger Bar Boys and the Johnson Crew, had been vying for control. Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said that a new law would impose a minimum sentence of five years for the possession of a gun; in 2001, 757 people were convicted of such offences, and the average sentence was about 18 months.