Weird Britain: Bizarre British Burglaries – Maybe more to follow

Wearing a plastic bag over your head as a disguise: a bad idea on so many levels. Image Source: The Mirror. Attributed to SWNS.

Wearing a plastic bag over your head as a disguise: a bad idea on so many levels.
Image Source: The Mirror. Attributed to SWNS.

Well, fans of mystery fiction may be saddened to know that ITV’s adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (which has been going on since before I was born) is set to come to an end, due in no small part to their just plain running out of stories to adapt.

And, of course, as a big fan of crime stories, I find myself wanting to fill in the void. And, of course, since I’m Anglotopia’s resident Music News and Weird News columnist, I’ve decided to devote a column to showing that British crime isn’t always as ingenious as The Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.After all, Crime doesn’t pay and nothing shows this better than seeing the really stupid examples.

Maybe I’ll  make this a recurring column, like my Gallagher Brothers Scandal Sheet (and the next one is coming up shortly.) But, surprisingly, in the weeks since I started this, I only found these three incidents in the ten weird news sites I use. So, Poirot fans, see if you can see the basic problem that made these heists doomed to fail.

The Great Fishtank Fleece.

Nigel Ball, of Wakefield in the West Riding Yorkshire, decided to steal a £50 tank for his fish at the Pets at Home store. And in a move that will baffle commentators for years to come, he went back to the scene of the crime to buy fish for the tank he just stole.

Staff became suspicious when they mentioned the model of tank that just got stolen. They asked him to fill out a sheet with his name and address, and he happily complied.

Quoth Ball: “I went to buy goldfish but had to fill out a form with my details. That’s what got me,” He was arrested at his home, and admitted to stealing it in court. He claimed that he broke his daughter’s old tank while washing it, and that’s why he stole this one.

However, Prosecutor Rory Byrne had a different perspective. Quoth Byrne: “As brazen as anything he lifted the fish tank off the shelf, as big as it is, and simply walked out of the store, Some sight it must have been. It was his return which got him. No pun intended, but the main prosecution witness is a Mr Severn, as in the river.”

Google has shown that there are a total of six pet shops in Wakefield, including the one he robbed. As much as I don’t want to encourage his crime, I have to ask: couldn’t he have gone to any of the other five shops to buy the goldfish?

The Carrier-bag-headed Crook, or Kei Dedh Dohaje‧dh: Kernow

Dog Day Afternoon told the story of a robbery that was doomed from the very start whose perps were only able to evade capture long enough because (paradoxically) everything went wrong in the beginning. This incident, I believe, may be the Cornwall equivalent of that (hence the Cornish in the title).

It happened last September; Two crooks decided to rob the Co-op petrol station in St. Austell, Cornwall. The older one, Jamie Neil, aged 41, used a transparent carrier bag as a mask when raiding the store, and his face showed up on CCTV; Look above and you can see it. His sidekick, Gareth Tilly, aged 20, had a slightly more sensible mask on; he wore a scarf over his head, but the weapon he brandished turned out to be a mobile phone. When the keypad lit up, garage assistant Kim Clowes pressed an alarm instead of handing over any cash.

Before they left, they wrestled and head-butted Kim, and absconded with several bottles of liquor. It should be noted that both Tilley and Neil were both high on alcohol and prescription drugs at the time. They were arrested two days later after being spotted by off-duty detective Lauren Holley (presumably no relation to the actress.)

The duo were found guilty and jailed.

The case of the Seedy Spectacle.

Well, this wasn’t an actual crime, but it certainly did look like it. In Spalding, Lincolnshire, a town that looked like it could very well be the model for Sandford in Hot Fuzz, a retirement party for Sgt. Stuart Botherton of the Spalding PD at the Punchbowl pub caused chaos in the town of 28,000.

Landlord Pete Williams spent £200 on genuine police uniforms for the revellers, and even recreated a murder scene with chalk outlines, ketchup for blood, and yellow tape barring anyone not invited from entering. But the residents were shocked to see their local pub covered in tape, and they were convinced that a major incident had really taken place.

Williams would later say: I must have had 20 or so phone calls from people throughout the evening and they genuinely thought something had happened. Also Facebook started going crazy with all sorts of rumours. People are not used to serious crimes around these parts. The amusing thing is that if any of them had tried to call 999 to find out what was going on they wouldn’t have got anyone because all the police were here.”

Townsman Richard Thomson (no relation to the guitarist) passed the pub and got his wife to phone the landlord to explain what was really going on. He said: “I was going to my car and I got the shock of my life when I saw the windows all taped up and these chalk marks outside. We really thought there was something really bad happening there. They should have given people some warning.”

Of course, the thing that really surprises me is that these days, in a murder investigation, they never do a chalk outline. It smears too easily and contaminates a crime scene with foreign substances, thus screwing up the scene. I’m surprised that nobody seemed to know this. You see… screw it; Cecil Adams explained it better than I can.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

So, yeah. Next time, it’s another Gallagher Brothers scandal sheet. Of course, I’ve only got nine articles, only one of them covers Noel, and there’s remarkably little in the department of “Liam Gallagher don’t care, Liam Gallagher don’t give a shit, he just takes what he wants.”