The strange case of Natalia Grace Barnett, a Ukrainian “orphan,” captured headlines worldwide.
Her adoptive parents claimed the girl — a little person — was an adult masquerading as a child.
A new docuseries has investigated the bizarre claims and counterclaims of the people involved.
It was perhaps one of the strangest stories ever in the headlines.
Natalia Grace Barnett, a little person with a rare bone-growth disorder, was adopted from Ukraine by a family who thought she was 6 years old. Her adoptive parents later claimed that she was a “sociopathic” adult pretending to be a child.
Michael and Kristine Barnett of Indianapolis said Natalia wanted to harm them and their biological children. Meanwhile, authorities charged the parents with neglecting their disabled daughter.
The convoluted tale is chronicled in the new docuseries “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace” on Investigation Discovery. The filmmakers tried to find out the truth behind the affair. Michael Barnett defended himself during extended interviews. Kristine Barnett and Natalia chose not to give their sides of the story.
Michael Barnett said the family had no reason to suspect that Natalia was an adult
Speaking in the series, Michael Barnett, who is now divorced from Kristine, said the family was “living with a con artist and a psychopath.”
The Barnetts adopted Natalia in 2010 from an adoption agency in Florida. Barnett said in the film that they were given a day to decide whether to do so.
“They said, ‘She has dwarfism. You have 24 hours to sign; otherwise, she is going straight to foster,'” he said.
“We adopted Natalia because we wanted to help somebody who was in danger of never being loved,” Barnett said, adding that her Ukrainian birth certificate said she was born on September 4, 2003.
He said they had no reason to believe she wasn’t a 6-year-old orphan. She had spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia. The rare kind of dwarfism can cause skeletal abnormalities and issues with vision and hearing. Natalia was barely 3 feet tall.
In the film, Barnett said that Kristine gave Natalia a bath a day after the adoption. He said that his ex-wife was shocked to discover that their “brand-new” little girl had pubic hair.
Soon afterward, he said, Kristine confronted Natalia because she’d found some blood-stained underwear in her bedroom. Speaking in a home video shown in the series, Natalia replied, “I have a period, and I’ve been hiding it.”
Barnett said Natalia displayed disturbing behaviors, such as urinating and defecating in the car and smearing the windows with feces. In public, he said, she’d “throw herself” out of the passenger door for attention.
“The idea was to look like a poor, helpless little girl,” he said.
He said in the documentary that she started hoarding knives and once told him, “I’m going to kill you in your sleep.” Another time, the father said, she appeared at the foot of their bed with a knife in her hand.
The Barnetts became convinced that Natalia’s Ukrainian birth certificate had been forged
Barnett also accused Natalia of trying to poison Kristine by pouring cleaning supplies into her coffee, shoving her against an electric fence, and threatening to stab her older brothers.
“She was doing everything possible to cause hurt or harm or mental distress to the family,” Barnett said.
Interviewed in the series, Natalia’s eldest brother, Jacob Barnett, said he “didn’t feel safe around Natalia.” He added: “I was just scared.”
Natalia spent time in the state mental hospital where, Michael Barnett said, a therapist diagnosed her as a “sociopath.” A number of hospital staffers who spoke in the docuseries on condition of anonymity said she was released after making “inappropriate” sexual remarks to male patients. By then, the Barnetts were convinced that their daughter was an adult. They said her Ukrainian birth certificate had been forged.
The same year, the parents successfully petitioned a court to change Natalia’s birth records, citing that she hadn’t grown in their care. It determined that she was born on September 4, 1989 — some 14 years earlier than she claimed. The court order said she was a 23-year-old adult.
The Barnetts found an apartment for Natalia and paid the rent. Neighbors who lived in the housing complex told the filmmakers that Natalia would introduce herself as a “little person” in her early 20s. They befriended her, they said. But, they added, they lost trust. Natalia’s closest neighbors, Sue McCallan and Toby and Melanie Miles, said she’d appear unannounced in their homes. They said they were also unnerved by how she seemed to behave “sexually” around people, including kids.
Toby Miles said that he became increasingly frightened of Natalia because she told him “that she had tried to kill her mom.” A recording of a 911 call that she made at the time was played in the documentary.
“I’m stalking one of my neighbors,” Natalia told the operator, adding: “I don’t want to harm them.”
The Barnetts, who were soon to engage in a bitter divorce, moved to Canada when Natalia’s lease was up.
Police accused the Barnetts of abandoning their dependent Natalia and forcing her to fend for herself
They moved her into an apartment in a rundown part of Lafayette, Indiana. Speaking in the documentary, Natalia’s neighbor Kyra Weaver said Natalia struggled to climb the steps to her apartment and couldn’t reach the kitchen counter or a washing machine.
“I felt like she had been thrown to the wolves,” Weaver said.
Other neighbors said Natalia could barely cook for herself and had a limited diet of takeout pizza and instant noodles. She relied on food stamps, according to a neighbor.
Authorities became involved once Natalia’s electricity and phone line were cut off after her bills weren’t paid. She moved in with the family of a neighbor, Cynthia Mans, and was helped by a social worker who liaised with the police. Detectives questioned the Barnetts, accusing them of leaving Natalia to fend for herself for more than three years.
In 2019, the Barnetts, who gave opposing accounts of what happened, faced a string of charges related to neglect. Prosecutors dropped the original charges of neglect of a child because of the court-ordered change to Natalia’s age in 2012 and the statute of limitations. Instead, Michael Barnett was tried for neglect of a dependent. The authorities said that even if Natalia had been an adult at the time she was abandoned, she was dependent on her parents because of her dwarfism.
Natalia appeared on Dr. Phil and maintained that she was 6 when she was adopted
A judge did not allow the issue of Natalia’s age to be raised in front of the jury. Michael Barnett was found not guilty of all charges in fall 2022. Kristine Barnett’s trial was scheduled for February this year, but the case was dismissed. Still, Michael Barnett excoriated his ex-wife in the documentary, saying, “Kristine is a walking epitome of evil.”
As for Natalia, she maintained that she was 6 when she was adopted. She appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show in November 2019.
“They say that you scammed them, that you lied about your age and came over here and terrorized them,” the host, Phil McGraw, told Natalia about the Barnetts.
She insisted that she was born in 2003, not 1989.
“You say you are 16,” McGraw said during the interview. He then asked, “Are you a 30-year-old scam artist?”
“No,” Natalia replied.
Natalia’s claims have never been proved. Now, at least in the eyes of the law, she’s a 33-year-old woman. Whatever the case, speaking in the documentary, Michael Barnett said he had compassion for Natalia, even though she testified against him in court. He said that they exchanged a discreet “wave” after the jury gave its verdict.
“I looked her directly in the eyes,” Barnett said in the series, adding: “I mouthed to her, ‘This is hard. I’m sorry.'”
“The Curious Case of Natalia Grace” will premiere across three consecutive nights on ID beginning Monday, airing nightly at 9 p.m. ET.
When a sporting superstar talks about the prospect of retirement, it can fire their burners all over again and that may be the story for Novak Djokovic at the French Open.
Djokovic eased into the second round of the French Open after a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (1) victory over American Aleksandar Kovacevic, with the 22-time Grand Slam champion seemingly in good form after heading into the second major of 2023 with concerns over his injured elbow.
He also made some interesting comments prior to the event, as he hinted retirement from the sport has come into his mind for the first time.
Djokovic, who celebrated his 36th birthday earlier this month is currently in his 20th season as a professional, but he admits confirmation that his great rival Rafael Nadal is planning to retire next year has focused his mind on his exit from the sport.
“It made me wonder and, and question myself and, and where, where the end of my career is going to be and how,” ” he told Eurosport.
“We all knew that that might be coming around the corner because of his injuries and everything and, and of course, the age and the number of years he has played on the tour.
“But still, when he announced that his, the next season will be his last season. It still came as a bit of a shock, you know, to, to me and, so I, I kind of, you know, have this internal conversation with myself as well.”
Djokovic showed no signs that his appetite for the battle was waning as he beat Kovacevic in Paris on Monday, with his level of performance improving as he raced through the third set tie-break in impressive fashion.
After his stunning victory at the Australian Open last January, Djokovic appeared to have the tennis world at his mercy.
Yet the landscape has changed dramatically since that opening major of 2023, with Djokovic now at No 3 the ATP rankings behind Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev, while his uncertain form and concerns over his fitness undermined his preparations for the French Open.
So Djokovic’s army of admirers around the world will have been encouraged by his opening display in Paris, as he gave a big indication that he is ready to move through the gears ahead of a potential blockbuster semi-final against Alcaraz next week.
“The body is not responding as promptly and quickly in terms of recovery as was the case 10 years ago,” conceded Djokovic after his first round win in Paris.
“I think you have to be a little smarter with time management and energy management.
“So we just try to pick and choose which tournaments we want to peak, and where I want to have a physical, emotional, mental state the best. And those are the Grand Slams, no secret about it.
“After I won the Australian Open earlier this year, I said the next big goal is Roland Garros.
“Of course I would’ve liked to win a few more matches in the clay court season leading up to Roland Garros but that wasn’t the case, but it’s OK. I’ve been feeling good the last week or so of training. And today was a good day at the office.”
When you start to think about the end of your career, you begin to appreciate how precious each and every chance to win a Grand Slam title will be.
With Nadal’s hopes of making a comeback to the top of the game hanging by a thread, Djokovic may only need to win one more major title to ensure he finishes this golden era in the sport with the most majors.
That achievement has never felt close to Djokovic as Roger Federer and Nadal drop out of the picture, but recent history will remind that the final major is often the hardest to win.
Serena Williams was chasing Margaret Court’s all-time major record in her final years in the sport and that golden moment never arrived.
Djokovic will feel his destiny will have a different conclusion.
Blue Ivy also joined Beyonce’s backup dancers to help with the performance of the song “Black Parade.”
Previously, Tina Knowles-Lawson congratulated her granddaughter for the set noting that there were nearly 70,000 people in the audience and that the 11-year-old was able to learn and rehearse the choreography in a week.
And once again on Monday, Blue Ivy took the stage during a stop in London. Videos online show her in a red jumpsuit, dancing to a remix of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.”
The Renaissance tour — Beyoncé’s worldwide tour for her latest album — isn’t Blue Ivy’s first experience under the spotlight. In January, she helped her mother perform “Brown Skin Girl” during an hour-long concert in Dubai for the opening of Atlantis The Royal Resort.
Beyonce said “I can’t believe this is my job” as she dazzled on the first London night of her Renaissance world tour.
The pop superstar told fans “I love you” as she opened the first of five nights at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, before plunging into a number of ballads including favourite 1+1.
It was a family affair for the global superstar, who brought her daughter Blue Ivy on stage leading a troupe of dancers during My Power and Black Parade – with fans shouting “Hey Miss Carter” as she left the stage to a standing ovation – while her husband and rapper Jay Z had the crowd in raptures when he arrived to watch from the VIP box.
Kardashians star Kris Jenner also had the arena clapping and cheering when she arrived to watch the Monday night performance, walking around the VIP box and waving at fans.
Beyonce began her almost three-hour set with gratitude, saying: “I just want to thank you guys, because y’all are the reason I am living my dream with your support and loyalty and I’m so grateful.
“I can’t believe this is my job, thank you.”
During the show, the Grammy-winning singer performed hit tracks from her dance-focused seventh studio album Renaissance, including favourites Alien Superstar and Cuff It.
She also delivered a tribute to Tina Turner, singing River Deep Mountain High, telling fans: “You know how much I love Tina Turner”, finishing the song with a sign of the cross before blowing a kiss to the sky.
Turner, who died aged 83 last week, duetted with Beyonce in 2008 at the Grammys, performing a rendition of her hit song Proud Mary.
To fans’ delight, the 41-year-old also revisited her back catalogue, delivering powerful renditions of classic tracks including Crazy In Love, Run The World (Girls), Partition and Love On Top – with the crowd impressing the superstar as they sang the lyrics back to her a cappella.
Beyonce said: “Definitely the loudest so far, am I going to get in trouble?”
The tracks were paired with Beyonce’s signature sassy choreographed routines, with theatrics which included her appearing in a glittery clam shell during new track Virgo’s Groove, a moving walkway on stage, fireworks, a giant horse prop and futuristic video projections.
She also worked her way through an array of extravagant outfit changes, including a sparkly silver leotard with thigh-high iridescent boots, a red glittery jumpsuit with matching hat, and a blue full-length floaty number for the ballad songs.
The seven-part disco party delighted energetic fans who danced and sang along throughout the performance, and particularly enjoyed moments of fun which included Beyonce wrapped up in a silver duvet during song Cosy and vogue-ing during Break My Soul.
She kicked off the first of the UK dates of her tour in Cardiff last Wednesday before moving to Edinburgh and Sunderland, expecting to deliver her last London show on June 4.
The Renaissance world tour is Beyonce’s first in seven years, and saw her kick off with an explosive show in Stockholm.
The Only Way is Essex star Ella Rae Wise has called out some of her co-stars for getting “a bit above their station.”
The reality star joined the ITVBe series back in 2018, and had some harsh words for some of her co-stars in an interview with OK! Magazine.
“I think that I find it very easy to be myself, but there are a few people on there, not naming names, who get a bit above their station,” she said. “At the end of the day, if that makes you feel better then do that but for me, I can switch on my public life and personal life.
“It’s very important to keep yourself grounded because you don’t know what could get taken away in an instant – it’s about morals,” she continued. “I have my group outside of the public eye, we’re all still really close and they’re all normal. They’ve got boyfriends and homes and they’ve settled down.
“Sometimes it’s not like ‘what you see is what you get’, sometimes people are just friends with you because it benefits them,” she added about the nature of the show.
Ella, who has also appeared on Ex on the Beach, isn’t the only TOWIE cast member to criticise their co-stars, with Pete Wicks slating his colleagues after his departure from the show earlier this year.
The reality star, who has also appeared on Celebs Go Dating, likened the show to a speaking engagement he had at the Houses of Parliament, saying: ‘Interesting day. Interesting people. It was a lot like TOWIE actually because that’s another place full of f**king snakes and shit storylines.”
(Bloomberg) — Imran Khan has been summoned by Pakistan authorities to face questioning over the outbreak of violence that followed his brief detention earlier this month in which military buildings were attacked, as pressure mounts against the former premier amid a crackdown on his party and supporters.
The probe focuses on an attack on the Lahore Corps Commander’s house in central Punjab province, known as Jinnah House, a historical building and military residence that was set alight and damaged in the unrest that broke out after Khan’s arrest on corruption charges.
The 70-year-old politician was issued with a notice from Lahore’s deputy inspector general of police, requiring him to attend questioning at 4 p.m. local time Tuesday, according to Dawn news. There was no immediate comment from the 70-year-old politician and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. 398722188
Khan is under attack from all sides over claims his supporters were responsible for damaging military and state property. The army has said those responsible will be tried under military law, as the political crisis engulfing Khan, the government and the powerful military continues to escalate even as the country’s economic situation deteriorates.
Khan has condemned the Jinnah House assault, saying it brought ‘disgrace’ to the country, and has denied his party workers were responsible for the May 9 violence. The former cricket star has also called for immediate talks with the government, which the ruling coalition has yet to agree to.
He’s facing increasing challenges as his party’s senior leaders quit in droves, thousands of his supporters have been detained around the country, and he continues to battle dozens of legal cases — all of which he denies.
Pakistan’s powerful military in a statement has indirectly accused Khan of attempting to drive a wedge between Pakistan’s citizens and the armed forces with his rallies and comments.
“The nexus between the internal collusive elements and external forces to create instability has amply been exposed to the people of Pakistan,” the Chief of Army Staff, General Syed Asim Munir, said during a visit to the Quetta Garrison, according to the military’s media wing.
Khan in the past has accused certain senior army officials of orchestrating his removal from power more than a year ago and being behind an alleged assassination attempt, which they have denied. Pakistan has been directly ruled by the army for almost half of its modern history and most prime ministers, including Khan, have depended on the institution’s support to stay in power.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also weighed in against Khan with a late night Twitter post. “The terrible events of May 9 alone have cost the economy billions of rupees & are an irrefutable endorsement of his nefarious designs,” he said. “He also conveniently forgets his own role in deepening economic challenges.”
Pakistan’s economy remains in deep distress, the latest data showed growth slowing sharply to one of the lowest levels in its history, amid record inflation and interest rates, as the country struggles to revive a stalled International Monetary Fund bailout.
(Bloomberg) — Qantas Airways Ltd. said international flying will be at least twice as lucrative in the post-Covid era, thanks to new income from marathon direct flights that crisscross the world and deep cost cuts during the pandemic.
In its first investor day in four years, the Australian airline on Tuesday laid out the projected boost from a vast fleet overhaul and a three-year turnaround plan implemented shortly after Covid grounded travel in 2020.
The forecast for bumper profit margins suggests there will be no immediate end to soaring fares on overseas flights that are supercharging airline revenues. The optimistic outlook reflects an aviation industry that was forced to become more efficient to weather the Covid crisis, a worldwide reset that is now enriching investors.
Read more: Qantas Forecast for Seat Shortage Suggests No End to High Fares
Qantas said it also expects fatter margins in its domestic business, the airline’s earnings engine, due to rising demand and the introduction of more efficient jets. Operating profit at the loyalty unit could double by 2030 as it expands into holidays and hotels, the carrier said.
For details: Qantas Targets Loyalty Earnings as Much as A$1B by FY30
“This is a structurally different business than it was before Covid, operating in markets that have also changed,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said in a statement accompanying a 97-page investor presentation.
Qantas shares climbed 0.9% to A$6.48 at 10:53 a.m. in Sydney.
Operating profit margins at Qantas International will grow from about 5% before the pandemic to more than 8% next year, and to between 10% and 12% in following years, the airline said. Margins at the domestic business will be 18% next year and beyond, up from 13% before Covid, Qantas said.
After a multibillion dollar fleet order in 2021, Qantas can tap about 300 new Airbus SE jets and is due to receive a new aircraft every three weeks for the next three years. The airline aims to start non-stop flights linking Sydney with London and New York in late 2025 with 12 new long-range Airbus A350s.
The airline on Tuesday disclosed its first income projections for those ultra-long-haul flights, dubbed “Project Sunrise.” The A350s and Project Sunrise will deliver at least A$400 million ($261 million) of operating profit a year when all 12 aircraft are in service, Qantas said.
As negotiations towards a new pandemic treaty pick up pace, observers warn of watered-down efforts to ensure equitable access to the medical products needed to battle future Covid-like threats.
Shaken by the pandemic, the World Health Organization’s 194 member states are negotiating an international accord aimed at ensuring countries are better equipped to deal with the next catastrophe, or even prevent it altogether.
The process is still in the early stages, with the aim of reaching an agreement by May 2024.
But critics warn that revisions being made to the preliminary negotiating text are weakening the language — notably in a key area aimed at preventing the rampant inequity seen in access to vaccines and other medical products during the Covid pandemic.
“I think it is a real step backwards,” Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Geneva Graduate Institute, told AFP.
If poorer nations do not see solid language ensuring they will be better protected when the next pandemic hits, “there is a real risk that countries will walk away” from the talks, she warned.
– ‘Not good enough’ –
Observers said the new draft, which will be considered during the next round of negotiations led by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) in mid-June, was “cleaner” — but also weaker on some major points.
In particular, public interest groups said the removal of a call for public funds given to private sector R&D to be conditional on more transparent pricing of their products was an issue.
Instead, the updated draft urges countries to strive to promote knowledge-sharing and transparency “in accordance with national laws and as appropriate”.
Countries should also “incentivise manufacturers of pandemic-related products to transfer relevant technology and know-how” to lower-income countries, one option says.
“Voluntary measures are not good enough,” Luis Villarroel, head of the Innovarte NGO, which is focused on ensuring a balanced intellectual property system.
The text is “very weak”, he told reporters.
– Urgency –
There are also elements in the text that will likely not sit well with the pharmaceutical industry. They include the option to link the sharing of pathogen samples with a requirement to share the benefits from the resulting products.
While agreeing it is important for all countries to swiftly share samples of viruses and bacteria that could cause dangerous outbreaks, poorer countries want access to the benefits, including the vaccines produced, technology transfers, royalties or capacity building programmes.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations has warned that linking access to pathogen samples with such benefit sharing could dangerously slow down the sharing of vital data.
“We remain concerned that decisions could be taken that we come to regret in a future pandemic,” IFPMA chief Thomas Cueni said in a statement to AFP.
“The innovation system and rapid access to pathogens were both crucial in enabling the pharmaceutical industry to develop new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics in response to Covid-19.”
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that new pandemic threats are looming, and there is urgency in aligning positions to meet the May 2024 deadline.
“I think we’ll get an accord in place if everyone realises that our window before this next pandemic, this next health threat, is probably not far away,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told journalists in Geneva last week.
With the clock ticking towards the 4pm deadline, Baroness Hallett is demanding to see all government messages, which she claims are vital for the inquiry’s deliberations on COVID decisions.
She is said to have warned the government that failure to release material would amount to a criminal offence, a claim the government disputes and is therefore poised to launch a legal challenge.
The government argues that handing over all ministers’ messages to the inquiry – including those of Mr Johnson – would stop them communicating freely in future and that much of the material is irrelevant.
In a ruling last week, Baroness Hallett said: “The entire contents of the documents that are required to be produced are of potential relevance to the lines of investigation that I am pursuing.”
But the government’s opposition to handing over WhatsApp messages and diaries in full and the threat to launch a legal challenge was strongly backed by the former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he accused Lady Hallett of “trying to be Agatha Christie” by turning the COVID inquiry into a “whodunnit” rather than “whatdunnit”.
Sir Iain said: “It’s completely unnecessary chasing individuals. They are on a fishing expedition and they should stop fishing. There is enough evidence out there to know what went wrong.”
Mr Johnson has claimed publishing his diaries in full would be a breach of national security.
And the standoff now appears to be heading for the extraordinary spectacle of a legal battle between the government and the inquiry.
Mr Sunak and the former PM are expected to speak this week, for the first time since last year, about their approach to the COVID inquiry and also to discuss the former PM’s controversial resignation honours list.
As a result, officers from the Metropolitan Police and the Thames Valley force are now considering whether meetings that took place with allies in Downing Street and at Chequers in May 2021 broke COVID rules.
The diary entries include Chequers visits by outgoing BBC chairman Richard Sharp, Mr Johnson’s cousin Sam Blyth, who loaned him £800,000, and Tory peer Lord Brownlow, who funded decorations to the Downing Street flat.
Another diary entry refers to a visit to Chequers by two friends of Carrie Johnson, though Mr Johnson’s spokesman has insisted that this event was “entirely lawful”.
In an exclusive Sky News interview at Dulles Airport in the United States last Friday, a defiant Mr Johnson declared: “None of them constitute a breach of the rules during COVID. They weren’t during lockdown.
“They were during other periods of the restrictions. None of them constitute a breach of the rules. None of them involve socialising. It is total nonsense.”
Mr Johnson’s allies are also accusing Oliver Dowden, Cabinet Office minister, deputy prime minister and Mr Sunak’s closest ally, of sanctioning “a political stitch-up” to smear Mr Johnson and prolong the Privileges Committee inquiry.
It has been reported that Mr Johnson believes Mr Dowden “has form”, after helping to trigger his downfall last year with a dawn resignation as party chairman within hours of two disastrous by-election defeats for the Conservatives.
The former PM told Sky News: “I think it’s ridiculous that elements of my diary should be cherry-picked and handed over to the police, to the Privileges Committee, without even anybody having the basic common sense to ask me what these entries referred to.”
Johnson allies have also demanded a leak inquiry to catch the “ratty rat” who disclosed that his diary entries had been passed to police, a reference to the so-called “chatty rat” who leaked a lockdown announcement in November 2020.
Despite the threat of a looming legal battle, a spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said: “We are fully committed to our obligations to the COVID-19 inquiry.
“As such, extensive time and effort has gone into assisting the inquiry fulsomely over the last 11 months.
“We will continue to provide all relevant material to the inquiry, in line with the law, ahead of proceedings getting under way.”