anna's archive anna's archive anna's archive

March 2005

1 March 2005

As part of a publicity effort, Dutch pharmaceutical company Organon sent Valentine's cards to 800 gynaecologists. The anonymous cards read: 'Now shall we tell everyone?' The next day, the doctors received a second card, which explained the significance of the slogan on the first, to promote a new product. The company has been forced to apologise because the first card caused several family arguments. In some cases, the company sent bouquets of flowers to the doctors and their partners in apology.

San Francisco's Jonathan Fish decided to toss his cigarette from the window of his sport utility vehicle whilst driving across the Bay Bridge. When the cigarette was blown back into Fish's $30,000 Ford Expedition, the back seat caught fire and the vehicle filled with smoke. Fish pulled over and leapt from the vehicle. It continued rolling until it crashed into a guardrail. California Highway Patrol Officer Shawn Chase said: 'It was in flames by the time he got out. He had some of his hair singed on the back of his head.' In addition to a misdemeanour charge of littering, Fish faces the fact that the car 'burned down to the frame', Chase said.

Two people at a café in Shelbyville, Indiana, bought a Hoosier Lottery ticket. They had the clerk check the scratch-off ticket to see if they'd won $40. She did so. As it wasn't a $40 winner, the couple threw the ticket in the bin. Not sure that the other numbers on the ticket had been checked, Karrie Jeremiah pulled the ticket from the rubbish. A check against other possible winning combinations showed that the ticket was a $100,000 winner. Lottery security director Ellen Corcella said Jeremiah, who has been given a cheque for the amount less taxes, was probably the rightful owner of the prize. While an investigation is being conducted and more training of the café staff is planned, she said: 'If I drop $100,000 in the street and walk away and the next person picks it up, it's their money.'

A police officer in Texas thought he smelled burning marijuana in a park and approached Matthew Porter and his two friends, interrupting their Frisbee golf game to ask them a few questions. While the officer was checking for outstanding warrants against the men, Porter's Labrador retriever, J.D., helpfully retrieved a plastic bag of marijuana from a nearby creek. Porter, 25, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and friend Micah Hays with possession of marijuana. J.D. was turned over to the third person at the park.

A 42-year-old computer expert from Vlaardingen in The Netherlands killed his 76-year-old mother. Then, late at night, he began wandering the streets while wearing what some believed was a fancy-dress costume draped over his shoulders. He was arrested after 90 minutes, for directing traffic in a confused state of mind. When the man, named as Ronald Z., was taken to the police station, officers realised he was wearing the bloody skin of his mother, complete with fatty tissue. He later confessed to the killing, and the public prosecutor has reported that the woman's severely mutilated body had been found. The suspect's attorney said in an interview that his client said that 'he has literally been ordered by God to do this. However strange this may be, it shows how important his mother was to him. He really did make a sacrifice.'

Detectives in Pittsburgh claim they have cracked a 15-year-old case of a house fire. New evidence and new interviews of about 20 witnesses have led to this explanation: One of Tequilla Newsome's two toddlers was allergic to the family dog. The child's grandmother refused to get rid of the animal, so Newsome abandoned it in downtown Pittsburgh. It returned home. Then, Newsome and her friend, then-15-year-old Lachan Russell, decided to douse the animal in kerosene and set it alight. The dog, in turn, set the house on fire. Newsome's two toddlers died in the late-night blaze.

Charlene Gayton, a 68-year-old woman from Fulton, Arkansas, suffered an apparent stroke and an ambulance collected her at her mobile home. Perhaps distracted by something, ambulance driver and paramedic Jeff Ferrand started to cross the railroad tracks near Gayton's home. Gayton's daughter, Aeda, said she chased after the ambulance to warn the medics that a train was coming. The engineer of the oncoming train said the ambulance driver stopped on the tracks and then tried to back up. He couldn't do so in time. The three paramedics were thrown from the ambulance and died, which wiped out a quarter of the area's emergency medical team. The patient in the back of the ambulance survived. Her daughter crawled through a broken window, pulled her out of the ambulance, and took her the rest of the way to the hospital.

Police in Charlottesville, Virginia, report that Raymond Rashawne Carter, 20, asked to look at an engagement ring and a set of wedding bands, then took off with the three rings. Police Detective Jim Mooney said that Carter then presented the rings to his girlfriend. Mooney said: 'He had told her where he got [the rings] from, not thinking she would take them there to get them resized.' When the woman showed up at the jeweller's shop, an employee agreed to do the work, took the woman's information, and rang the police when she had gone. Mooney said the woman burst into tears when she heard the truth.

Dressed for their wedding, South Africa's Inspector Gustav Myburgh and Constable Barbara Beogner were on their way to the church ceremony near Johannesburg when they saw three armed men hijacking a car. The couple and their chauffeur, who was also a police officer, stopped and confronted the hijackers, who sped away in a truck. The wedding party eventually forced the men off the road and arrested them. Police spokesman Eugene Opperman said: 'They ended up being 45 minutes late for their own marriage. There is no doubt they have made all of the police force proud.'

Arild Nicolaysen of Oslo told state radio that she was wrong when she thought no-one can steal a swimming pool. When her family recently visited their mountain cabin, they discovered that the in-ground swimming pool, installed 20 years ago, had been removed. Sometime since early November, when the cabin was closed for the winter, the pool, which was five metres in diameter, and all its equipment was taken. Brit Nicolaysen said: 'It must have been a terrible job to disassemble such a big pool. There is a steel lining all the way around, plus there is a plastic liner and then there was a skimming system, a filter system and a lot of big hoses, and pipes.'

After he had been drinking with friends, Monroe County, Florida, prosecutor Albert Tasker, decided to run naked across a car park and jump into a friend's car. He miscalculated slightly and jumped into the wrong car, ending up in the back seat of a vehicle occupied by a woman who was waiting for her boyfriend. She screamed, her boyfriend appeared, she rang the police, and a police officer responding to the call found Tasker in the middle of the car park. He faces misdemeanour charges of disorderly intoxication and indecent exposure. The county's chief assistant state attorney, J. Jefferson Overby, said: 'It's terribly embarrassing for both him and for us, and we'll wait to see how the facts unfold.'

Also in Monroe County, Marathon's Steven T. Denton, 22, was taken into police custody following an altercation in which he became upset that staff at a bar refused to serve him more liquor and attacked a fellow patron who tried to ring the police. Deputy Mark Eastty said: 'Denton told me that if I would drive him to McDonald's, he would buy me two cheeseburgers if I let him go and did not take him to jail.' Eastty must have seemed unimpressed by the offer, as Denton 'also stated that if I did not like cheeseburgers, he would buy me some chicken instead'. Eastty added attempted bribery to the list of charges that Denton faces.

Hugh Graf, speaking for the Broward County sheriff's office, said they had received a credible tip that a murder suspect who'd been on the run for two years was going to attend a particular funeral. The deputies at the funeral thought 20-year-old Donovan Lightbourn matched the suspect's description. Witnesses say that just after Lightbourn's grandmother had been buried, at least 10 deputies ran onto the gravesite, grabbed him, and handcuffed him with weapons drawn. Lightbourn is about 13 centimetres taller than the wanted man, 26-year-old Kareem Lightbourn, and weighs 27 kilos more. When they realised that they had arrested the wrong man, they quickly released him.

California's Sacramento Bee reports that intern teacher Margaret De Barraicua has been arrested for the statutory rape of one of her 16-year-old students. She is accused of having sex with the teenaged boy in her car while parked at another school. Police responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle found the windows steamed up. When the car door opened, police saw the pair and the teacher's two-year-old son, who had been safely strapped into a car seat in the back seat of the car during the encounter. De Barraicua, who is married, has been placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation into the sexual relationship continues.

Jack William Pacheco of Chowchilla, California, didn't want the others in town to know that he had been arrested for alleged methamphetamine possession, so the 35-year-old man went out early in the morning and purchased every copy he could find of the weekly town paper, which typically covers any drugs-related arrests on its front page. He visited convenience stores, petrol stations, coin-operated news racks, and the newspaper office itself. He said: 'I have a whole garage full of newspapers' - on which he estimates that he spent hundreds of dollars. By afternoon, the newspaper's officer reported that there were no copies available for sale anywhere in the city. However, additional copies have been printed, and regular subscribers' copies were delivered safely.
Pacheco claims he is innocent and that the drug belonged to the friend of a relative, who was in his home to fix a computer. He said he'll use the embarrassing news reports to clean windows and toilet train his new puppy.

Two Danish burglars broke into a summer cabin near Kaldred and returned to their car with the loot. A passer-by who had witnessed the break-in confronted them at this point, asking them to return the stolen property. The witness removed the keys from the getaway car and refused to return them. 'The two young men then called us and said they needed our help getting their keys back,' said chief police superintendent Asger Larsen. The police said they were happy to help. They arrested the two men, ages 18 and 20, after they confessed their crime.

Illinois physician Richard Phillips won the right to sue ex-girlfriend Sharon Irons, also a doctor, for using his sperm to impregnate herself without his permission. During the couple's brief relationship, which ended when Phillips realised that Irons had lied in saying that she was divorced, the two never had sexual intercourse but did have oral sex three times. Irons sued Phillips for child support two years later. He now pays her $800 per month.
While Phillips has been allowed to sue Irons on grounds of emotional distress, the appeals court rejected his claims of fraud and theft since 'when plaintiff "delivered" his sperm, it was a gift'.

Florida's Shannon Scavotto opened his toilet lid to discard a piece of tissue. It landed on a python, which began rising from the toilet bowl. The 30-year-old Scavotto grabbed his camera cum telephone, took a few photos, and called around. The animal control agency's reptile expert was out of town and a snake rescue company wanted $150 to collect the snake, so Scavotto fashioned a lasso from a piece of PVC pipe and a string. He hooked it over the snake's head and pulled it taut. He told his wife to catch the African rock python's head in a pillowcase. He reported that she asked: 'Where's the tail?' After about two metres of snake had emerged from the toilet, the tail did appear. Scavotto rang his supervisor at work to say he would be late. His boss didn't believe the story, so Scavotto showed up at work with the snake. A co-worker's friend who raises snakes took the animal off his hands, but Scavotto is still trying to find the snake's owner.

Federal officials report that a bank robbery that occurred almost a year ago has been solved thanks to an unwitting confession. A caller trying to win a prize on a 'confessions' radio talk show bragged on Chicago's WKSC-FM that he had committed the crime, stealing $81,000 from the bank. A bank employee heard the programme and contacted the authorities. The man, Randy Washington, apparently mentioned details about the robbery that had not been made public. The radio station provided investigators with the caller's telephone number and a recording of the call, leading to the arrest of the 24-year-old Washington. Washington, who identified himself on the air by an alias well known to the police, has denied responsibility for the robbery and said he had just wanted to win a prize.

Australia's Savonne Scrubby hoped that her husband's two-year obsession with having sex with a 13-year-old girl would be cured if he actually did so. A Darwin court heard that one day, her husband kept asking her to persuade the girl to have sex with him. Threatening both with a fishing spear, the 32-year-old Aboriginal woman forced them to have sex. After they did so, she took the crying girl's clothes, hid them, and disappeared. She then walked 22 kilometres to an outstation, arriving early the next morning with the spear and a knife in hand. She admitted what she had done. Claiming that she was the primary offender, she pleaded guilty to a charge of the rape of the girl, with whom she remains on good terms. Her husband is not being charged.

Kim Sutton, a 23-year-old woman from Odd Down, Bath, was pulled from the River Avon, where she was apparently trying to kill herself. Three months later, she threw herself into the water there again, at least twice within two hours. On another occasion, she was found 'hanging by her fingertips' from a railway parapet. She has now been given an anti-social behaviour order that bars her from visiting rivers, bridges, railway lines, and multi-storey car parks. Chairman of the bench Pamela Gwyther warned her: 'You are not to dip one toe, not one finger, in a river or canal.'

12 March 2005

Washington's Seattle Times reports that officials at the US/Canadian border discovered 'a crude device thought to be an explosive' under a seat in a 42-year-old motorist's car, according to RCMP Corporal Dale Carr. The border was closed for about four hours while investigators determined that the device was a closed-ended metal tube containing ball bearings. Carr said further investigation revealed that the man's co-workers in Olympia were responsible for the device being in the vehicle; the idea was to 'create a rattle that the driver would find difficult to locate'. US authorities will decide whether the man's co-workers are to face any charges in connection with the incident. Canadian Border Services Agency spokeswoman Paula Shore said of the incident: 'It's not a good idea to play practical jokes at the border'.

South Africa's The Citizen describes a report that police in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, are obliged to investigate. Police captain Benjamin Bhembe said that a 48-year-old woman reported that she awakened to find a man undressing her. Only after having sex with him, she said, did she realise that the man was not her husband. According to a police report, the woman said the intruder hid his face when she lit a candle in preparation for getting out of bed. She claimed the man, who is allegedly her neighbour, grabbed his clothes and left through a window when she began screaming. Bhembe said: 'It is very puzzling; normally you know your partner by weight or smell.' Police are looking for the suspect.

Mississippi's Sun-Herald reports that Jimmy Shofner of D'Iberville went to a tanning salon in Ocean Springs and brought his camcorder with him. The 39-year-old Shofner readied himself to videotape a customer in an adjacent tanning room. However, the customer saw the camera moving around and told the salon staff. Shofner explained to the police that he'd merely wanted 'to see a naked lady'. The customer he was trying to spy on turned out to be a man. Shofner has been charged with felonious photographing without permission.

Tim Bargfrede told Florida's Local 6 News that he was following friends when he tried to jump from one Orlando parking garage to the next. He was knocked unconscious when he hit the ground 25 metres below. The family's attorney, Vincent D'Assaro, said: 'there have been four or five other individuals before him that did this', so D'Assaro is suing the city, which owns one of the garages, and the private owner of the other for not going far enough to counter a potential deadly risk. The fencing at the garages was not an adequate deterrent, he said. The family says both garages must take responsibility before a garage jumper dies.

None of the 27 registered voters who live in the Black Hawk County portion of Jesup, Iowa, cast a vote on a recent ballot to decide whether to extend the local sales tax another five years. Phyllis Peters, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Secretary of State's office, said the measure therefore failed: 'Unless there are more votes for "yes" than "no", it's [sic] doesn't pass.' Jesup officials had no comment on the vote.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials have released information on a 21 February incident involving 34-year-old Francisco Portillo and an escalator at Porter Square Station. Portillo's co-worker, sushi chef Kriz Chong, said the Salvadoran cook was apparently drunk when leaving work early. When Portillo reached the bottom of the escalator, the hood of his sweatshirt somehow became caught in the machine's comb plate. Another commuter saw Portillo being choked and hit the emergency stop button. Workers were at the scene within two minutes but were unable to remove the sweatshirt. Portillo was pronounced dead shortly after he was cut loose by paramedics and the police.
Newer models of escalator are equipped with a sensor that shuts them down if something becomes caught in the comb plate.

Police chief Bill Landry of Gonzales, Florida, said that Billy Joe Compton, 40, was angry after being discharged from his job at a restaurant. He and his wife asked Librado Guinonez for a ride so they could pick up some money. On arriving at his destination, Compton drew a dinner fork and told Guinonez to surrender his 1982 Ford Granada. He complied. Compton's wife also abandoned the vehicle at this point. The car made it as far as a nearby shopping centre before running out of petrol. The police were quick to arrive and arrest the former restaurant employee. When his wife rang the station in search of her husband, she was tracked down and arrested on an outstanding warrant for child desertion.

Escondido, California, fire captain Dale Mosby said a fire engineer was outside a local business during a safety inspection when two men walked past with a gas can and asked where they could buy diesel fuel for their car. The fireman directed them to a nearby petrol station. Mosby said the fire truck's Nuke Alert radiation monitor went off as the two men walked past and stopped sounding shortly thereafter. While the firemen were trying to figure out what to do, the pair returned from the petrol station, setting off the detector again on their way past before leaving the area in their 1975 Mercedes. The firemen relayed information on the men to the police, who pulled the car over and cordoned off the surrounding area of central Escondido. Police sergeant Robert Healey said the driver explained that he had just received a radiation treatment. After this information was verified with the man's physician and it was clear that the motorist himself was the source of the alert, 'there were no hard feelings', Healey said. The alert condition lasted an hour.

Portsmouth Today reports that 30-year-old Giles Gauntlet decided to track down his father after having watched a television programme about family trees. He had seen his father, Barry Alp, only once before, when a child. After knocking on Alp's door in Buckland, Portsmouth, he waited but no-one came to the door. Looking through the letterbox, Gauntlet saw a man lying on the floor. It was the 56-year-old Alp. Coroner David Horsley recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. Alp had died of pneumonia a few days earlier.

Anita Depczynski, a 64-year-old woman from Cheektowaga, New York, was charged with repeatedly feeding deer in the town's Stiglmeier Park. Citing local reaction to the issue, Judge Thomas Kolbert recused himself from the case. Depczynski has been sentenced to 15 days in jail. And Kolbert himself has now been charged with feeding deer.

Florida's Fort Myers News-Press reports that local firm Wayne Wiles Floor Coverings has been sued by former employee Austin Smith. Smith, who is black, claims he was stunned and humiliated by a noose that was hung by a desk near a rubbish bin in a company warehouse. He says the noose is a symbol of decades of lynchings in the South and that he felt like a slave going to work in 2002. The company says the noose was in the warehouse five months to a year before Smith started working there and that it was part of an employee joke about 'taking the easy way out' when work became hard to bear.

Wisconsin's Green Bay Gazette reports that shopping-centre owner Norm Watermolen is under fire for his display of historically significant flags outside his Heritage Village Shoppes in Allouez. Among the 18 flags are the flag for the battle of the Alamo, a replica of a design by Betsy Ross, and a Confederate flag. It is the latter that keeps getting stolen and that some locals say has no place on public display.

York County, Pennsylvania, farmer Terry Patterson installed an alarm and intercom system after repeatedly finding evidence of sexual assault on his sheep. When the alarm sounded at 3am, Patterson's wife rang 911 while he investigated. Bruce Charles Englar, 53, was arrested by Officer Patrick Gartrell, who suspects that the baler's twine he found in Englar's pocket was to be used to secure the sheep for sexual intercourse. Englar, who jumped over a fence to enter Patterson's property, allegedly told the police he was just there to pet the sheep.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reports that 26-year-old Yoshimasa Yamada was arrested for breaking the Swords and Firearms Control Law when he broke into a Fukushima dormitory and allegedly shouted a demand for money while brandishing a knife. Police believe Yamada might have targeted a Japan Railways office next door, but the dormitory he burst into instead was being used by a different group with deceptively similar uniforms: the police. Yamada said he 'never dreamed I'd end up where I did' or that he'd be instantly surrounded by police officers.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that 40-year-old Ernesto Almonte was in stable condition at the Zamboanga City Medical Center after severing and eating his own penis. Hospital staff could not confirm a report from local radio station DXRG that an erectile dysfunction problem triggered the act. One staff member did offer this opinion of Almonte's mental state: 'If you cut your sex organ and then eat it, then something is wrong with you.'

Thieves recently broke into the office of Ohio's Fostoria Bureau of Concern, an agency that serves the poor. They made off with a small amount of petty cash and a large safe. Agency director Susan Simpkins said the safe was empty and that the group had wanted to get rid of it but found it too big and heavy to move. She said: 'It is really quite comical [...]. They did us a favor by taking it.'

During the 15-nation Battle Griffin military exercises in Norway, a Leopard tank rolled over a nearly new Mercedes-Benz on a roadway. Half of the car was flattened, but there were no injuries. Less than a week later, Vassbotna homeowner Odin Viken was awakened by what he thought was an earthquake. A CV-90 armoured fighting vehicle had crashed through a wall and entered his bathroom. Viken said the tank driver told him the vehicle lost control after hitting a patch of ice. The military said an investigation is continuing.

Pennsylvania's Caren McDonald is serving a three-year prison sentence for shooting husband William in the head, beating him with a baseball bat, and leaving him for dead. The 42-year-old William has now issued a statement - he still has difficulty speaking - in which he asked for the 'immediate release of my loving wife that is being held falsely'. To this end, he has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Caren was coerced into approaching prosecutors to report that she had beaten him after an argument. He claims he had awakened with a start, pulling sheets against the trigger of the gun in the bed he shared with Caren. He says he then grabbed the baseball bat to check for intruders, spreading blood throughout the house. He had initially claimed that two intruders attacked him and that a physical struggle ensued, shortly before saying he couldn't remember what had happened.

The Sudanese government began an investigation following the release of the transcript of a 2 March hearing held by the strategic forces subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. At the end of the transcript, Representative Ellen Tauscher is quoted as saying: 'The Sudan test displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep in over 1,000 feet in diameter'. Sudanese foreign minister Osman Ismail has now reported that the statement, which raised some concern in the Sudanese press, contained a typing error and that the nuclear test in 1962 and 1970 actually took place in Sedan, Nevada. The US embassy in Khartoum reports that the mistake has now been corrected, and a note added that refers to the stenogropher's error.

Turkish news agency Anatolia has reported that 47-year-old Serafettin Gencel of Balikesir disguised himself as his mother in order to pocket her pension payments. After allegedly burying his 68-year-old mother in his basement, he regularly put on a headscarf, overcoat, tights, and spectacles to visit the bank and make withdrawals. After Gencel had withdrawn the equivalent of about 2000 euros over a little over two years' time, a clerk at a Ziraat Bank branch became suspicious on account of his voice and told him to return later for the money. The police were notified, and Gencel's mother's body is now being examined. If she died of natural causes as he has claimed, he still faces possible charges of fraud and conducting a burial without proper notification.

The AFP reports that one of nine paintings stolen from an exhibition in Zagreb last year has been uncovered. The mother of the painter, Slavica Medjeri, saw a photograph of the 'Mountain Motive' landscape being presented to Croatian president Stipe Mesic by local businessman Ramo Dedic. Zagreb police chief Krunoslav Burovac said: 'We took control of the painting from the presidency on Thursday and the artist confirmed its authenticity'. Dedic told Novi List: 'I could not even dream that the painting might have been stolen' and said he received it as a wedding gift from his best man.

28 March 2005

Heidi Brown, 22, was told it was okay to leave her new scooter parked outside the vehicle registration office while she waited for licence plates. Police in Ipswich confirmed that local businesspeople raised concerns that the scooter could be a bomb. A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said: 'We weren't able to identify whose vehicle it is because there were no licence plates on it'. Brown left the registration office to discover that her moped had been destroyed in a controlled explosion.

According to the Canadian Press, a Vancouver First Call Service driver was called to pick up a deceased senior citizen from the Shirley Dean Pavilion, which provides nursing care. Fraser Health Authority spokeswoman Helen Carkner said: 'He was shown by the nurse which room the resident was in and the nurse pointed to the resident and gave the name. She then went back to the nursing station to complete the paperwork. For whatever reason, the driver picked the wrong individual.' As a result, a sleeping 87-year-old woman was taken to nearby Surrey Memorial Hospital's morgue and left in a corridor on a gurney. She was returned to the nursing home by ambulance after the mistake was discovered. The driver has been fired.

Knox County, Tennessee, District Attorney General Randy Nichols invited 582 parents to a meeting aimed at addressing their children's excessive absence from school, and discussing the legal consequences of it. About 41 per cent of the parents didn't show up to the meeting. One of these, Cecelia Donaldson, said: 'I don't want to hear what Randy Nichols has to say'. She explained that the letter had upset her: 'I sat down and I ate three Mr. Goodbars because I was so angry. You can't lump parents in one group.'

Norway's Vesterålen Online reports that a 79-year-old man from Boe was inebriated when he drove his ageing Opel to the petrol station to buy tobacco. When he left the station, he was in someone else's Opel, a newer model. Staff members at the petrol station rang the police. Meanwhile, the man realised that the car was not his. The police found him sitting in the back seat of the vehicle, parked near his home. His blood alcohol level was five times the allowable limit for driving. He has been fined the equivalent of about 2,000 euros and had his driving licence revoked for three years.

Fred Simunovic brought a pitchfork into the Keys Federal Credit Union off the Florida coast. He removed the pitchfork from the bin liner in which he'd been carrying it, then told a teller: 'I'm dying of AIDS, I'm homeless, and I'm robbing you'. He abandoned the garden tool and left with money in its place, said Detective Sergeant Donie Lee. Simunovic then headed to the Key West ferry terminal but was not allowed on board the boat to shore because he appeared to be intoxicated. After he consented to a search, officers found $1,859 in cash on his person. He didn't explain the origin of the money. The bank manager and teller who served him were more helpful in this respect.

In Quincy, Massachusetts, 42-year-old Steven Jakaitis fell asleep in his car at a CVS pharmacy. When the police noticed this, they also noticed that Jakaitis was wearing a wig and nylon stocking on his head. Beside him was a note, reading: 'I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors know Empty the All the register'. Captain Anthony DiBona said Jakaitis spoke incoherently after the officers at the scene woke him. They discovered a cap pistol in the potential robber's pocket and, on the back seat of the stolen car, a bag containing 36 unused hypodermic needles. Jakaitis, who had never made it into the pharmacy, pleaded innocent to charges including attempted armed robbery.

The Guardian reports that Chatham's Robert Downey decided to hold up his local bookmaker's shop with a banana. The plan was hatched as a means of paying for more crack cocaine. The clerks continued to chat when Downey screamed: 'I want the money or I will effing shoot you!' - after which they rang the police, noting that the colour and bend of the 'weapon' in Downey's plastic bag suggested banananess. Downey then briefly brandished a pair of scissors before giving up and leaving the shop. Officers found Downey nearby. He was fighting his tight balaclava. A police dog found the bruised banana in its bag nearby. Downey pleaded guilty to one count of attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm. Downey's lawyer, Rajiv Menon, called the robbery attempt 'farcical and incompetent'.

Miguel Carnerero bought a lottery ticket in 1999 in Vitoria, Spain. After the winning numbers were announced, he came forward with pieces of lottery ticket and the explanation that the approx. 50,000-euro winner had been through a washing machine. A six-year court battle with the National Organisation of Blind Spaniards, the lottery organisers, ensued. A Madrid court has now ruled that microscopic analysis proves that the pieces had matching edges that almost certainly came from the same ticket.

A Japanese court, under Judge Joji Ito, has thrown out a case claiming that a land reclamation project involving a seven-kilometre-long dike was destroying the natural habitat of endangered migratory birds and various other animals. The reason is that the suit was filed on behalf of fiddler crabs, Dunlin birds, mudskippers, and other residents of the wetlands - who have no legal standing as plaintiffs. Court spokesman Michiharu Kawasaki explained that nature itself has no rights under the law.

Borders Today reports that seamstress Kitch Kelly, 57, has been suspended from her job at the Johnstons knitwear factory in Eastfield, Scotland, for singing songs such as 'Please Release Me' on the production line. Less than 24 hours after the factory opened its doors to the public as part of a recruitment campaign, Kelly's renditions of this song and others, including Queen's 'I Want To Break Free' and The Animals' 'We Got To Get Out of This Place', caught the management's attention. The 16-year Johnstons veteran was shown the door. She reflected that, while she is 'absolutely tuneless', 'singing has always been part of the mill tradition'. Tony Trench, Edinburgh spokesman of the Transport and General Workers Union, said: 'They sang in prison camps, and even slaves in the fields sang as they picked cotton'.

Whilst there is nothing especially unusual about running into another car while having a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, perhaps it is unwise to end up in this situation when one is the chief of police, as Roger Ashley, 41, of Middletown, Virginia, discovered in his unmarked police car. His licence to drive was suspended. About five hours later, he was arrested again, this time for driving his personal vehicle while intoxicated. His blood alcohol level was slightly lower this time. Mayor Gene T. Dicks said: 'It's a shame he has to ruin his life and throw everything away over something like this'.

The New Zealand news site Stuff reports that Emanuel Hurley, of Ohaupo, Waikato, was digging in his garden when he hit a metal object. Wife Jane said: 'He started uncovering it, thinking he could pull whatever it was out, but he had no luck. Then a friend made it his mission to uncover whatever it was. He had a go at it every day or so and slowly exposed it.' She was editing the photographs she had taken of the emerging object when a customer identified it as a bren-gun carrier, a World War II tank weighing in at four tonnes.

Reuters reports that Suleyman Topcu, mayor of the town of Demre in southern Turkey, has decided to modernise the image of its famous son Saint Nicholas. The city council voted unanimously to replace a town square statue of Saint Nicholas, a bronze work donated by a Russian artist five years ago, with a brightly coloured plaster-of-paris statue of his representation as Santa Claus. Topcu said in a statement: 'The current statue is the best way to introduce Saint Nicholas because the whole world knows this image of him in his red clothes and hat, with his sack of presents and a bell in his hand'. The move, he said, would help draw more tourists to the predominantly Muslim nation. The city's official seal has been similarly updated.

James Allan Donalson, a 59-year-old Texan man who was convinced that his mother's pacemaker was killing her, carved the pacemaker from her chest with a kitchen knife after she died. Facing charges of tampering with evidence, he has now surrendered the pacemaker, although he would still prefer to keep it to back up his claim that she was supplied with a dangerous experimental unit. The charges against him have been dropped. 'No one wants to prosecute someone whose mother just died', said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Leslie LeGrand III.

Judge William Danser of Santa Clara County, California, was convicted last year for 'fixing' traffic tickets for friends. Due to his ill health, he was sentenced to house arrest rather than jail time. One of the conditions of his 90-day sentence was that he abstain from drinking alcohol. Seven days before the end of his sentence, a probation officer made a surprise visit to his home. Danser's wife said her husband was in bed with a cold, so the officer asked her to wake him so he could provide a urine sample. The test revealed alcohol. Danser's attorney said the former judge had simply neglected to tell his probation officer before taking the cough medicine Nyquil. Danser spent the remainder of his sentence in jail, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Harold David Goldstein, a 59-year-old convicted felon, has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for falsely representing himself as an attorney. For eight months he operated a Newport Beach, California, law office, representing hundreds of clients, many of them immigrants at deportation hearings. Assistant US Attorney Andrew Stolper said: 'It's a disaster' and that nothing can be done for those of Goldstein's clients who were deported. Goldstein said: 'I lied about being a lawyer but other than the lie, everything else was totally legit'. His convictions date from the 1970s, when he was found guilty of cheating 13,000 investors and selling $1 million in bogus gold contracts. More recently, his phony overseas bank allowed him to steal $4 million from small businesses that were seeking loans.

George Kaminski, a veteran of the Pennsylvania prison system, has amassed a collection of 72,927 four-leaf clovers since 1995. He found all of them on various prison grounds. Now that he's been moved to a lower-security installation with fewer clovers and Edward Martin, Sr, has claimed to have a collection that's 3,000 clovers larger, Kaminski is worried. He claims the competition is unfair, because Martin has 'got the whole world - I have two or three acres'.

Zimbabwe's Herald reports that businesswoman Magrate Mapfumo has claimed to have paid the equivalent of over 5000 euros to fly invisible mermaids to Harare. For many in Zimbabwe, mermaids are known to avenge those who treat them well. Mapfumo hoped to recover her stolen car and cash with the mermaids' help. The idea of flying the spirit creatures in from London was that of musician Edna Chizema, who is now on trial for theft by false representation. Mapfumo claims she also paid for the mermaids to stay at a fancy tourist resort and be supplied with mobile telephones and electrical generators. She said of Chizema: 'All the time, she told me I could not see the mermaids as only spirit mediums could do so'. A report was made to the police after Mapfumo was unable to recover her car.

According to the AFP, a woman in Kununurra, Australia, rang the police to report that she had found a taped-up crocodile in her laundry. She was unaware that it was being kept there by her son's friend, who is a licensed catcher of the animals. The police released the 1.8-metre reptile into the waterways near a popular recreation area. They had believed they were dealing with a freshwater crocodile when in fact the animal was the more dangerous saltwater variety. 'Obviously we wouldn't want to see any children or dogs swimming in the water until we can recapture it', Brad Rushforth of the local conservation department told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Krissie Glover came to Brian Carter's door seeking help after her car became stranded in southern Orange County, Florida. After walking two kilometres, Carter came upon the 21-year-old woman's daughter, age 3, face down on the golf course and groaning. Her body temperature had dropped below the level the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider severe hypothermia. When investigators asked Glover why the girl had been left in the woods, she 'stated that she wanted to teach her child how to survive on her own, to make her more independent', said Orange County Sheriff's Sergeant Rich Mankewich.

The US news media carried many stories about Terry Ratzmann opening fire in a church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, killing seven people. One person who heard about the incident was a Waukesha, Wisconsin, woman. Police Sergeant Jeff Fulwiler said the woman felt that the shootings proved that God does not exist. Ten hours after the shootings, she therefore decided to ram her car into St. Joseph's Catholic Church. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fulwiler reported that there was no damage to the church but that the woman was unconscious when the police arrived and her car was ruined.

When a family moved from Belleville, Illinois, to Florida, they took their panic alarm system with them but forgot to inform the manufacturer of their change of address. One-year-old Olivia Lake was visiting her great-grandmother in Florida and accidentally bumped the alarm, causing rescue officials to be summoned to the Illinois home. An officer approaching the house detected the odour of natural gas. Homeowner Jim Maple was awakened and, while confused about the nonexistent alarm system, agreed to leave the home. While the gas leak was being dealt with, a concerned Maple contacted the previous owners of the home to make sure everything was okay. After finding out what had occurred, Maple said: 'Give that little girl a kiss and buy her an ice cream for me'.

In Port St. Lucie, Florida, vandals tore apart Joseph Bernstein's boat, where he lives. They threw the motor into the river, broke all the windows, etc. WPBF News quoted him as saying: 'I'd get off work early and they'd already [been] here and gone. I didn't have any idea until I found a piece of homework paper, and I looked at it and said "I gotcha!"' When Bernstein found his boat saturated with petrol and oil a short while later, he took the science notebook evidence, which bore a 13-year-old's name, to the police. Detective Lee Rehm said: 'It's just irrefutable evidence'. The suspect squealed on his three co-vandals, and all four confessed to the crimes. Divers will search the water near the boat in the coming days to try to recover some of Bernstein's belongings.

Weld County, Colorado, District Attorney Ken Buck received several complaints from farmers and ranchers who complained that winds were too strong for the Forest Service to have carried out a controlled burn of prairie weeds in the Pawnee National Grassland. After gusty winds carried flaming cow dung outside the controlled burn site, a 365-hectare wildfire broke out. The sheriff's office agreed to investigate whether the Forest Service workers can be charged with arson in connection with the incident. District Ranger Steve Currey said that, regardless, the Forest Service will have to replace 14 power poles and a fence that was damaged.

David Gibbs, 15, owed $50 to Joseph Garrett, 17. Police in Fort Myers, Florida, said that when Gibbs wasn't able to pay back the loan, Garrett and two other teenagers held him at knifepoint and forced him to ring his father and ask him to leave the money in a plant pot in a Taco Bell restaurant. The father rang the police instead. Two people who picked up the cash told the police that Garrett had paid them $10 to collect the money. They set up a meeting at a Goodwill store, where one of the kidnappers was found. The others were located or turned themselves in.

California's Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that Watsonville's Jonathan Peter Mitchell decided to carry out a burglary in a style 'just like Mission Impossible', according to sheriff's sergeant Dan Campos. Dressed all in black and with a blackened face, he 'belly-crawled' up to a campsite market and then slid into the laundry room through a roof vent. An alarm was activated when the 41-year-old Mitchell punched holes in the wall in order to enter the market itself. A deputy responding to the late-night alarm saw legs dangling from the rafters. Mitchell, who Sergeant Jim Hart said was wearing a belt full of burglary tools, was arrested. The campsite manager said the door was unlocked.

Shingle by shingle, brick by brick, thieves dismantled a three-bedroom house along the main street in Lindale, Texas. In the end, only a pile of rubble remained. Authorities accuse Brandon Ray Parmer, 29, and Darrell Patrick Maxfield, 44, of taking the house and selling it for drugs. Smith County Constable Dennis Taylor said the two men worked during daylight, with passers-by assuming the involvement of two retail stores that were laying foundations nearby. Taylor said: 'It's the strangest case I've ever worked in my life. Everybody drove by and waved at them.'

Appleton, Wisconsin, police officer Pat DeWall said an officer decided to check for footprints in the snow leading away from a store robbery. Instead, he noticed a coin. 'He walked a little further and saw another coin, and then a little further he saw another one', said DeWall. The trail continued for four blocks, then turned west for a block. The number of coins increased along the way. A full roll of dimes was found at one point. The trail ended with several coins on the front porch of a home - two of whose residents were arrested in connection with the crime.
DeWall said the burglars placed stolen rolls of coins in a milk crate and that investigators think coins fell through the slats of the crate when some of the rolls started to break apart.

Patrick Clete Blankenship of Decatur, Alabama, has been sentenced to three years' probation and fined $5,000 for impersonating a federal tax agent. Authorities claim that the 36-year-old Blankenship claimed to be an IRS agent when state Game and Fish Commission officials accosted him for killing more geese than he was allowed to, and using illegal calling devices and shot. He faced a $627 fine. Blankenship told jurors that he reacted by showing the officials a phony IRS business card he had created using a logo downloaded from the Internet. He said he then asked pointedly whether the officers had been audited lately.
Blankenship, whose felony conviction could cost him his job as a civil engineer for the state of Alabama, said he didn't realise he was committing a felony by pretending to be an IRS agent.

Ed Bingham was working at a Bismarck, North Dakota, convenience store, when a prospective robber entered. Bingham said he pressed an alarm button while being thrown around 'like I was nothing, and I weigh 220 pounds'. Crystal Senger, 19, said she stopped at the store and 'saw Ed in a choke hold, yelling for help and gasping for air; there was blood everywhere'. She told a friend to ring emergency services, ended up doing so herself because the friend was 'in shock', went back inside and ascertained that the assailant was unarmed, then picked up green bananas from a basket nearby and began hurling them at the 17-year-old suspect. He bolted from the store. Intoxicated and stunned by the fruit attack, he tripped over a piece of wood and was quickly captured by police.
Senger, who said her baseball experience allowed her to hit the suspect on the head with each banana she threw, said: 'If there would have been cans of soup on the counter, I would have thrown those at him'.

Albany, New York, station WRGB reports that Diane Viza of Albion decided to settle an argument with her son by getting an outside opinion. Viza's son believed she had been drinking when she picked him up at a friend's house. Maintaining that she was sober, she drove to the police station and asked to be given a sobriety test. Viza, 45, failed the test and was charged with driving while intoxicated.

After her mobile telephone disappeared, a Kennewick, Washington, woman rang her own number in the hope that someone had found the telephone and would answer. Jason Dawson, 33, answered and told her she'd have to pay $50 if she wanted to see the telephone again. He threatened to publish explicit photos from the integrated camera if she didn't comply. The woman arranged to meet with Dawson, 33, for the exchange. She then rang the police. As soon as the handover occurred, plain-clothes officers arrested Dawson, who is being held on charges of second-degree extortion.

Philip Dederer, 20, was confined to a wheelchair about six years ago when he dived off a road bridge into a New South Wales river. He sued the Roads and Traffic Authority and local council, claiming that signs prohibited diving but did not say diving was dangerous or explain why. Judge John Dunford agreed and awarded Dederer AUS$ 1,050,000 in damages. He explained that the signs 'were not effective in the sense that large numbers of young people continued to dive, do somersaults, etc. from the bridge'.

Florida's Hernando Today reports that a 20-year-old female physical education teacher entered an equipment room at Parrott Middle School to collect a jump rope. Realising she had the wrong one, she returned to the room and heard a noise above her head. Turning on the lights, she saw golf coach Dan Madril, 39, climbing down from a shelf leading to the ceiling. Detective Carlos Douglass said in his report on the incident that, when asked why he had been in the ceiling, Madril explained to the teacher that he planned to throw basketballs down to scare her and two female students, who had just changed their clothes in an area visible from the ceiling. The 20-year-old teacher told the authorities that Madril didn't have any basketballs at the time. He faces three counts of misdemeanour voyeurism.

Three Albany, Georgia, teenagers ordered pizza for delivery to their flat. They then decided to provide a different flat number in the same building. When the driver showed up at the building, he was robbed by three young men with a pistol. The robbers made off with a pizza, a box of chicken wings, and a soft drink. The pizza delivery service supplied both flat numbers to the police. Lieutenant Tracey Barnes said officers 'made contact with the original address that was given. And we found the evidence inside - the pizza box and some of the other items' in plain view. Three teenagers in the flat were charged with armed robbery.

In front of passengers at Los Angeles International Airport, an airport police officer opened an abandoned bag after his bomb-sniffing dog indicated that there were no explosives inside. The bag contained what looked like pipe bombs, so the terminal was evacuated. Officials say the bag, which contained fake bombs and explosive powder, had been left behind by a police unit after a training exercise for bomb-sniffing dogs. John Miller, in charge of the LAPD's counter-terrorism bureau, said that from now on someone will be in charge of keeping track of equipment used in training exercises.


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