Odds & Ends
Eric J. Garcia
Dateline: England—A judge presiding over the trial of three Muslims accused of using the Internet to incite terrorism admitted in court he doesn’t know what a website is. Judge Peter Openshaw brought a halt to the trial as a witness was being quizzed about an extremist Web forum. He told prosecutors at Woolrich Crown Court in east London, “The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a website is.” Prosecutor Mark Ellison tried to help the judge by explaining terms like “website” and “forum.” But the 59-year-old Openshaw admitted, “I haven’t quite grasped the concepts.” Violent Islamist material posted on the Internet, including beheadings of Western hostages, is central to the case. Concluding last Wednesday’s session and looking ahead to testimony on Thursday by a computer expert, the judge told Ellison, “Will you ask him to keep it simple, we’ve got to start from basics.”
Dateline: England—Police in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, held a terrified man in custody for 13 hours after they mistook his life-sized statue of videogame vixen Lara Croft for a gunman. David Williams, 42, had contacted police regarding nuisance phone calls he was receiving. According to The Sun, two officers arrived at Williams’ home late at night. After one of them spotted the limited-edition 6-foot statue standing in a living room window, Williams found himself pinned to the ground, handcuffed and quizzed. Fearing the plastic-molded Tomb Raider star was an armed robber, the officers called in support and held the homeowner at gunpoint. “I can’t believe the police could be so stupid,” said Williams, who runs a computer games store. Williams told the newspaper he had brought the limited edition figure home from his business and was intending to sell it on eBay.
Dateline: Canada—A hitchhiker became the victim of instant karma after the car she had just stolen from an elderly driver crashed, killing her instantly. The crash happened near the town of Hawkesbury, about 60 miles northeast of Ottawa, after the man stopped to pick up 20-year-old Mandy Deschambeault. “The male driver proceeded to step out of his vehicle momentarily at which point the female jumped in the driver seat, stealing the male person’s car,” a local police statement said last Monday. Immediately after stealing the car, Deschambeault lost control of the vehicle, crossed over oncoming traffic and hit some trees. According to the police report, “The female was ejected from the vehicle and found to be without vital signs.”
Dateline: Ohio—According to a report on Cincinnati's WLWT-5 news, a father and son got a smelly surprise when they opened up a heavy punching bag they had purchased. Joe Heckel and his son were moving the TKO brand punching bag from their garage to the basement when they decided to see what was inside in case the bag later leaked. Instead of sand or plastic pellets, Heckel found the exercise equipment stuffed with men’s and women’s underwear. Heckel described the smell as “bad, real bad.” Heckel said that contacting the store where he’d purchased the bag didn’t help. “I called to ask them if they could tell me if these were clean underwear, but I don’t think they believed me,” he told the TV station. Attempts by partner website WLWT.com to contact Technical Knockout Inc., the company that owns the TKO brand, were initially unsuccessful. But late last week, a company representative saw Heckel’s story on a Houston website and called him. Heckel said the representative told him the underwear in the bag was a “quality problem” they were dealing with and that the people who had made the decision to put underwear in the bags had been fired. The rep said a new, un-underwear-filled bag would be shipped to Heckel shortly. Heckel described the incident as “gross but kind of funny in a way.”
Dateline: Rhode Island—Evonne Maurice decided to rob a bank, so she hired a limousine to take her there in style. The 22-year-old from Westbrook, Conn., pleaded guilty last Wednesday to attempted bank robbery for the December 2005 incident. Maurice had hired the limo to take her to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. While en route, she asked the drive to stop at a bank in Cranston. After the driver pulled into the drive-up lane, Maurice got out and handed the teller a note demanding money and saying there were two bombs in the bank. The teller hit an alarm and Maurice jumped back into the limo without her cash. The limo driver left, unaware anything had happened. Maurice told police in Florida, where she was arrested, that she robbed banks in order to pay the drug-dealing debts she and her boyfriend had racked up.
Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to email@example.com.