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December 2005

3 December 2005

France's Sadrine Sellies, 34, used alcohol and sleeping pills to calm herself before flying from Hong Kong to Australia for a holiday. Midway through the flight, an air stewardess saw Sellies making her way, with an unlit cigarette and lighter in her hand, toward the aeroplane's door. A Brisbane court heard that she began tampering with the door but was taken back to her seat. Pleading guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft, she admitted in court that she tried to open the door to have a smoke, but she insisted that she has no actual memory of the incident and has a history of sleepwalking.

Our next story involves an incident before take-off. At the Memphis, Tennessee, airport, passenger Chip Romine said, he was 'trying to put my bag in the overhead, and it was too big. One [Mesaba flight attendant] came up and was trying to help me get it up, and the other [...] came up and grabbed it and said "I'll take care of that" - then the two flight attendants started to quarrel some more.' After the dispute, the pilot decided to return to the gate and have the flight crew replaced. Hours later, the aeroplane finally took off.

Norway's Verdens Gang reports on Tor Martin Johansen's journey from Trondheim to Namsos, flying via Trondheim. The 21-year-old Johansen, who caught some sleep on the short flight to Namsos, his home town, said: 'I was really taken aback when I heard the cabin attendant say "welcome to Trondheim" when I opened my eyes.' Speaking for the Widerøe airline, Richard Kongsteien said the route had several stops and thus the plane was never emptied. He said the crew should in any event have noticed that the passenger count was off by one from the list. Johansen was given a free ticket to Namsos.

Moving on to automobile-related items, a 40-year-old Turk in Switzerland drove past the same speed camera, mounted on a traffic light between two roundabouts in the centre of Kreuzlingen, four times in less than two minutes. The man, whose name is protected by Swiss privacy laws, said he'd thought someone was trying to annoy him with a flashgun and explained that he wanted to see what was going on. Each time he drove past the camera, he was speeding and not wearing his seat belt. He faces fines and could lose his driving licence.
Rolf Müller, director of communications for the Thurgau police, said: 'Usually, speed cameras are in a box on their own. He could not believe it was on top of a traffic light.'

In California, we have - for a change - a story about someone who was intoxicated but decided not to drive. Police say the 20-year-old man summoned a cab after a night of drinking. Shortly thereafter, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Deputy Esther Beckman began questioning a cyclist on the street nearby. Thinking his cab had arrived, the intoxicated man, who had also ingested cocaine, got into the front passenger's seat of the cruiser, according to Sheriff's Sergeant Fred Plageman. The man was arrested.

The owner of a ramen restaurant in Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture had reportedly been using a burning rolled-up newspaper to remove spider webs from his storage facility next door when a fire broke out. Koga Fire Station sent a fire engine to tackle the blaze. Station head Yoichi Tamiya said: 'We had drained water from the tank and were conducting an inspection, removing pebbles and other items ahead of the fire season. We dispatched the fire engine thinking there would still be a bit of water in it.' There wasn't. The firefighters went to a nearby hydrant for water. The storage facility and 45 square metres of the restaurant were destroyed before other units were able to bring the blaze under control.

Last year, Jean Balashek, 86, was found strangled in her New Scotland, New York, home. The police suspected her child, Corianna Thompson, and hoped one of her drug addict friends would rat her out, reports the Times Union. To encourage this during their interrogations of 200 people, investigators left a reward poster on the table. The flyer offered $150,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Balashek case. It also said in small print: 'This is not real, you stupid crackhead'. Thompson's boyfriend told investigators that Thompson had confessed to the crime. The evidence against Thompson is weaker than it was when he confessed, as Corey Thompson, to killing a nurse in 1981.

While preparing a meal for her boyfriend, son, and daughter, Pennsylvania's Victoria Lynn O'Donnell went upstairs. She said that when she came back downstairs, she could smell bleach in the macaroni and cheese. She confronted her mother, 56-year-old Nancy, the home's fifth resident. According to court records, Nancy said she wanted to poison her daughter because 'you don't deserve those children'. Nancy, who denied pouring bleach into the food, is being held in jail, and a judge has ordered that she receive mental health tests.

Florida's Makeisha Dantus died in 2004 at the age of three months. The cause of death was alcohol poisoning - her parents allegedly put a bit too much of a vodka, water, and sugar mixture in her bottle in their attempts to stop her crying. When she stopped being responsive as well as crying, the child's father contacted emergency services. When she died, her blood alcohol level was 0.47 per cent. Both parents, Mackenson Dantus and Mardala Derival, were charged with aggravated manslaughter last month, but they had disappeared by then.

Toronto police detective Steve Peconi said a 16-year-old boy and a female friend 'weren't doing anything wrong' in her parents' home, but the boy still wanted to avoid being caught in her home by her parents. When the parents returned home, they found the door dead-bolted and contacted the police. By the time the cops arrived, the boy and another friend had fashioned a rope from bedsheets and started to leave through a bedroom window. The rope didn't quite reach the ground, and the 16-year-old boy fell to his death, from the 15th floor. The other didn't take the leap and is unharmed.

A Florida man told the police in Daytona Beach, Florida, that ex-girlfriend Bernette Powell began following his car and honking at him and his new wife. He drove to the police station to evade and report Powell. In the car park at the police station, the ex-couple began arguing. When officers approached, the 27-year-old Powell peeled out of the car park, colliding with a patrol car on the way. A motorcycle officer took up the chase. Then Powell hit a palm tree and flew into the Halifax River. She fled on foot but was caught. After treatment in hospital, she was arrested for aggravated assault on a police officer (for hitting the cruiser) as well as on old warrants.

North Carolina's Lincoln Times-News reports that Lincolnton narcotics officer Rick Lynn received a call on his mobile telephone at 4am. Lynn said: 'The voice on the other end says: "Who's this?"; I said: "Who's this?"' - so the caller told Lynn his name. When Lynn asked what the man wanted, he asked for 'a 50', apparently referring to a $50 rock of crack cocaine. Lynn collected two other officers and headed to the man's home. When they knocked on the door, a voice asked: 'Who is it?' and Lynn said: 'It's me'. The door opened, and Lynn revealed to the man that he'd rung the police to order drugs. The man, 37-year-old Mark Lewis, said his girlfriend had been calling numbers in his telephone's history menu and trying to buy drugs. Lynn said his number was among these because an informant had used it earlier to try to set up a purchase.

Reuters reports that a Canadian man's car was ticketed for being parked illegally. The 85-year-old man's car was then towed to a police compound in Edmonton. The police later said that frost made it impossible for the tow-truck driver to see the man still in the driver's seat. Edmonton Police spokeswoman Lisa Lammi said the tow-truck driver and the facility's security officer noticed movement before abandoning the car to its fate. The man inside was disoriented. He was taken to hospital for observation.

Michael Panorelli, a 51-year-old carpenter from Lawrence, Massachusetts, was at a Home Depot outlet with a client, who picked up the pencil next to the till in order for Panorelli to perform some quick calculations. Panorelli, 51, put the pencil in his pocket. When he reached the parking lot, he was met by a store employee, who asked for identification and gave him two letters. One said he was banned from Home Depot locations worldwide for shoplifting, and the other said company lawyers would contact him. After the Lawrence newspaper published his story, Panorelli received an apology from Home Depot headquarters, but he is still boycotting the chain.

13 December 2005

Jessica Booth, 18, allegedly decided to hire a contract killer to help her break into a Memphis, Tennessee, home and eliminate the men there, whom she believed to have a brick of cocaine. She was put in touch with a hit man, whom she told to steal the cocaine and make sure any children old enough to testify in court were killed. The hit man was really a police officer, who gave her fake handguns before the planned break-in, and the cocaine was really a block of queso fresco cheese.

Vegard Sjåstad, a Peppes Pizza manager in Norway, brought a pizza to an address in Ålesund, where the customer handed him a credit card for payment. Sjåstad recognised the photo on the back of the Visa card as his own. His credit card had been stolen the day before. He told the Associated Press: 'I wasn't going to play hero. [...] I just accepted the card and said: "I hope you enjoy the meal" as we always say.' He then reported the address to the police, who recovered suspected stolen goods of various types from the residence.

Argentina's Página 12 reports that Carla Aguilera claimed to be a Peruvian man when she was arrested for attempted robbery. She was processed and sent to a men's prison in Marcos Paz, where she managed to be sent to the infirmary when prisoners were due to be inspected while naked. She remained in the prison until an anonymous tip a month after her incarceration led to a medical examination aimed at ascertaining her gender. Aguilera, whose file is still titled 'Manuel Martín Aguilar', said she liked being in the men's facility and hopes to return there.

Denmark's Ekstra Bladet reported on a 40-year-old man who hailed a cab in Odense. When the driver told him that he and his four friends were one person too many for the taxi, the man became excited and a fight ensued. The fight ended with the would-be customer losing at least part of his finger. The driver claimed that in the commotion, which included at least one punch being thrown, he accidentally bit off the tip of the man's finger.

Australian shop-owner Erich Alexander Sorger allegedly set fire to his television repair shop and then hired Shane Long to set fire to a neighbouring hairdressing salon, perhaps to throw off suspicion. Prosecutor Kate Youngson told Brisbane District Court that Long tried - and failed - three times to set the salon ablaze. On the third attempt, he apparently set himself alight with a petrol bomb by accident, destroying his clothes.

Tokyo's Hideki Yamashiro, 33, has been arrested for practising medicine without a licence. The Metropolitan Police Department suspects that he pretended to be a medical doctor at about 20 hospitals since 1997. His credentials were never verified. Yamashiro, who dropped out of high school, earned about 20 million yen a year for his work at each of two Tokyo hospitals.

Also in Japan, officials and teachers at a Fukuoka girl's school visited her home a few times over the last decade to try to persuade her to attend school. Each time, the visitors were told that the girl was visiting a relative. In fact, the girl's 40-year-old mother was keeping her locked in the home. The girl, now 18, escaped in late October after being injured for watching television without permission. She lived in parks until the police rescued her. 'Because she never left home, I don't think the neighbors even knew she existed', said Hiroki Tokunaga, head of the board's school affairs division. The mother has been arrested for inflicting bodily injury.

The media in Michigan report that Hamtramck police officer Ronald Jay Dupuis II and his female partner got into an argument about where to drive next. Apparently, Dupuis wanted to stop for a soft drink, and Prema Graham did not. Then, the two apparently struggled for control of the steering wheel. Sergeant Frederick of the Hamtramck police said that, next, allegedly, 'the male officer pulled his Taser and effected a tase on the female officer', who was driving. Dupuis, 32, has been fired and charged with assault.

The Denver Channel reports that Ryan Young, 22, and another man climbed about 10 storeys up a large construction crane in the middle of the night at a Colorado University building site and attached climbing ropes to it. When they swung from the crane, Young hit the side of the university power plant building and died. Witness Logan Nahmias said: 'We heard this loud noise like something bouncing off metal' and saw the silhouette of a man hanging by a climbing harness.

Donald Pirone, 42, said he saw a fellow Atlanta, Georgia, metro passenger struggling with a token vending machine. Pirone said: 'I gave him a token, and, I guess out of his generosity, he gave me the money for it'. A transit officer was watching and handcuffed Pirone, citing him for disobeying a law against selling Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit tokens, worth $1.75 each. Transit authority spokeswoman Jocelyn Baker said: 'What you've got to keep in mind is that fare abuse is a chronic problem [...]. There are customer service phones for people who are having trouble getting tokens out of the machine.'

According to AP reports, a New Zealand bank robber wasn't satisfied with his haul. Detective Sergeant Chris Winder of the Auckland Police said the man rang the bank he'd robbed earlier and said: 'I'm the guy who robbed you the other day, and I want the manager to put some money in a bag and go and stand in the street'. The man explained that he would drive by slowly and take the bag. A plain-clothes officer waited with a bag, but the man called again to suggest a location down the road. He failed a second time to show up. Police traced the call and made an arrest anyway.

Rosalean Walker, 36, of Manhattan went to the cinema with her 11-year-old son and a man last weekend. The two adults watched a different film from the boy. They didn't find him in the lobby when their film ended so left. He was likely still watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which had over an hour to go. Walker later decided to turn herself in to the police for abandoning her son but changed her mind shortly after reaching the station, when she saw reporters waiting outside. Allegedly, when an officer grabbed her arm to stop her leaving, she gave him what a witness described as 'a very good whack' across the chest with her cane. She threatened a 'big lawsuit'.
The boy was found at 2:17am by shopping centre security guards, and the police rang Walker to ask her to collect him. When they refused her request to 'just put him in a police car and bring him home', she reportedly said: 'This will be another lawsuit'.

The UK's Bernard and Joyce Rogers wed in 1967. In 1991, Bernard underwent a sex change operation and became Bernadette. The couple had to divorce in order for the 76-year-old retired physicist to be recognised as a woman under the Gender Recognition Bill. After the divorce, Bernadette received a new birth certificate. The Rogerses have now had a civil partnership ceremony recognising them as a gay couple.

Raybon E. Upton of Arkansas went out hunting Wednesday and was on his deer stand when his ankle became caught on the structure and he slipped in the sleet. He had been hanging upside down about 10 metres from the ground for several hours when his wife went to fetch him because he hadn't shown up for supper. She summoned a fire crew, who brought a ladder and freed him, 8 1/2 hours after he had become trapped. Apparently, no deer were the worse for wear that day.

Judith Henke, speaking for the Melbourne Zoo, said that a woman and a man tarried at the zoo after hours on Thursday. According to Henke, the woman 'made a comment along the lines that she wanted to pick a flower [...] inside the safety barrier' that was about a metre from the lion enclosure. The woman climbed the one-metre barrier and slipped her hand inside the enclosure. Only one finger was bitten. She was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital for treatment.

Finally, Mainichi Shimbun reports that police in Chiba received a call from Hirokazu Tahiro, 39, who said his 67-year-old father wasn't moving. Officers arriving at the home where the two lived alone found the older man collapsed with a necktie securely fastened around his neck in an unconventional arrangement. He died in hospital shortly thereafter. Police said Hirokazu admitted to strangling his father with the necktie and quoted him as saying: 'I did it because when I was going out I said: "I'm 100 yen short for the bus fare; give it to me!" but he refused, and I just lost it'. He had reportedly been drinking at the time.

28 December 2005

A few weeks ago, a Milwaukee fire department lieutenant was in an online chat room with a woman while on duty. The woman persuaded him to masturbate in front of a Web cam. Watching the display in reality were bored firefighters at another station, who had been given the woman's password and were posing as her. A female firefighter reported the incident. Patrick Curley, chief of staff for Mayor Tom Barrett, said the department has suspended two or three firefighters, apparently with pay. At least four are under investigation, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A female motorist stopped to help Ryan Caples, whose car was stuck in a ditch in Kootenai County, Idaho. Smelling alcohol and hearing thumping sounds from the car's boot, she rang the police. Caples apparently told the police that he and another man ran into a deer and decided to place the still-living venison in the back of the car. An officer shot the deer, whose legs had been broken, and Caples was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

About a month ago, a car belonging to the owner of California's Sense Fine Art Gallery was stolen. Inside were paintings valued at a total of $75,000 to $100,000. A week or so later, the gallery began receiving telephone calls from a man who wanted to bring in a painting for appraisal. Based on the description of the painting, the gallery and the San Mateo County sheriff's office prepared for the man's visit. Deanna Joao, Jeffrey Harp, and Derek Hanson showed up for the appointment with two of the stolen paintings and were arrested.

Deutsche Welle reports that, after representing Father Christmas at a department store in Wiesbaden, Stefan Stettler remained in costume while awaiting his train home alongside some tired shoppers. He said he asked two men to 'tell Santa what they would like for Christmas' and they responded by hitting him over the head, breaking his fingers when he tried to protect himself. The 31-year-old Stettler is quoted as saying: 'I should have know better but come on, who beats up Santa Claus?'

Another Father Christmas, Stefan Chapman, was the worse for wear when a celebration in New Zealand went awry. At Wellington's Carols by Candlelight festival, his aerial descent in front of an audience of about 20,000 stopped when his beard became caught in a pulley. He found himself hanging suspended in mid-air. The lights were dimmed, and the guest fiddler provided a musical diversion while staff worked to free Chapman, eventually hoisting him to safety.

Larry Gold of Monticello, New York, installed a video camera in the loo at his law office. A secretary who had been on camera while using the toilet contacted the police, and Gold was arrested for unlawful surveillance. Gold has testified that a friend installed the camera for him in 1999 because transients had been stealing from the office, and that he had intended the camera to be installed in the entry area. He said one of his secretaries found the device the following day and he turned it off. It remained disconnected, he said, until 2004, when Gold claims he found evidence of people smoking pot there.
Gold said he didn't know the camera was illegal and that he should have found a camera that would have shown the entire room instead of just close-ups of those using the facilities.

Yasuyuki Kawai, from Yokohama, Japan, saw a 21-year-old woman he described as 'my type' on an early-morning train journey. She was the only other person in his carriage, so he flashed her. She then flashed her police badge. The officer, who was on her way to work, arrested him for indecent exposure. The 36-year-old Kawai admitted to the crime when questioned.

Police spokeswoman Elsa Gerber told the South African Broadcasting Corporation that a man robbed a couple in Bloemfontein and ran off, with security guards at his heels. She said that 'he had nowhere else to go' so jumped over the fence of the Bloemfontein Zoo. He hid in the Bengal tiger's cage, where his mauled corpse, with a can of beer next to it, was noticed the next day by a visitor to the zoo.

After a gas leak near their home was repaired, Michael and Catherine Hopcroft of Bristol were told that an engineer would visit shortly to reconnect their gas meter. The next morning, they found a 'Sorry we missed you' calling card from Wales & West Utilities stating that the engineer had come by at 3:35am. Michael asked: 'Did they really think we would be up?' A spokesman for the utility company said that the schedule slipped that night and that the company operates on a 24-hour basis. The couple's gas was reconnected the next day.

According to federal agents, Florida's Jorge Sanchez, 49, tried to buy the ingredients for a pipe bomb as part of an attempt to get back at a pizza place that set up shop next to his Cuban sandwich shop and, he says, caused him to go out of business. Michael Pistilli, one of the pizza shop's owners, said this wasn't very surprising, since Sanchez had previously pulled a gun on him in front of several witnesses.
When questioned by police, Sanchez claimed to have chest pains and was taken to hospital. When released, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Branch manager Kitiphol Kramwong of the Siam Commercial Bank in Pattaya, Thailand, said that the bank detected 30 fake banknotes in the space of a week. These were kept in a drawer at the bank. According to Police Major Sutham Chaosithong, they were taken, along with mobile telephones, in a break-in. While police were taking notes at the crime scene, he said, they were told that vendors at a market nearby had caught two 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl trying to use counterfeit money. They have been detained in connection with the break-in at the bank.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reports that Yoshio Fukuoka, 75, of Nagoya stole a 10,000-yen note from a 59-year-old man who was preparing to buy lottery tickets on Nagoya Station premises. Fukuoka fled the scene but later discovered that he had lost the pass granting him free access to public transport as a senior citizen. So he visited a police box in front of the railway station to ask whether the pass had been handed in. He was taken into custody by officers, who had alredy begun searching for him on the basis of the information on the pass.

Tricia Owens, 33, was arrested for robbing the First Federal Bank in Mount Gilead, Ohio. When she was caught, she explained to the police that she got the idea from her younger brother's robbery of the same bank three years earlier. She agreed to record conversations with brother Rodney Houghton II, and these led to his arrest.


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