June 2019 Competition Results: Allie Spencer – Adjudicator

The June competition was judged by author, Allie Spencer.  The brief was to write a journalist’s report of a crime involving an unusual criminal.

And the winners were:

First Place:  Catastrophe in Chipping Clayton by Lynn Clement    

Second Place: Emma, 13, Exploding Golf Ball Assassin by Mark Eyles

Third Place: The Gentlebunny Thief by Jordan Ezekude      

Highly Commended: Joyce to the Rescue by Maggie Farran  

Highly Commended: Amazing Grace by David Lea       

june winners
June Competition Second Prize and Wordtamer Highly Commended, Mark Eyles; Wordtamer Winner, Helen Adlam; June Competition Winner, Lynn Clement; June Competition Highly Commended, Maggie Farran; and Wordtamer Third Place Winner, Annie Gray

   Photo by Alex Carter

First Place: Catastrophe in Chipping Clayton by          Lynn Clement  

‘I am a big fan of the absurd – as well being a big fan of over-hyped local news stories – and I particularly like it when the two come together. I also like cats. So this story about a cat-stealing nun called Frances Coppola was always going to appeal to me. However, from a literary point of view, what I liked about this was the quality of writing. The first paragraph neatly summed up the story, the second paragraph set up the crime, the third revealed the character of the perpetrator and the final paragraph gave us some ‘local colour’. There were also some terrible puns – CATastrophe for example – and some brilliant name choices for the cast of characters. A worthy winner.’

Sister Francis Copolla of the order of Saint Gordon and the Holy Martyrs was arrested yesterday and charged with the abduction of several cats. The cats, all ginger toms belonged to local vicars of the Parish of Lower Clayton.

The felines all went missing on Friday nights. Something that inspector Dick Husband of Dullchester police found intriguing, ‘I knew this was a serial abductor, after the third cat in a row went missing on a Friday night,’ he said to the press gathered outside Bodge Street police station.

Sister Francis is a well-known figure in the area. Riding her bike around the parish, she could often be seen with her robes tucked into her undergarments, presumably to stop them getting caught in her bicycle chain.

Local publican Harry Chambers remembers seeing her on one particular Friday night and he became suspicious. ‘I was just slopping out the drip trays into the roses, when I heard a repeated creak, that sounded like an un-oiled bicycle wheel, and when I looked up there was Sister Francis with something up her habit – well either that or she’d eaten too many pies. I shouted hello but she ignored me and rode off towards the abbey,’ he said.

Fortunately the cats have since been returned to their owners and all in good health; however the three local vicars affected by this catnapping episode are reportedly seeking damages from Sister Francis, as all three toms were returned minus certain body parts – namely their testicles. ‘I am devastated,’ said Father Gerry O’Goran, when asked how he felt about the operations the nun had supposedly performed. ‘She has robbed me of my right to choose.’  Father Patrick Callaghan was in tears, ‘I hope he had anaesthetic,’ he wailed.

Sister Francis was held at an undisclosed location overnight, in order to protect her from the frenzy of male protesters rallying on the station steps. She’ll appear in court on Friday.

Second Place:  Emma, 13, Exploding Golf Ball Assassin by Mark Eyles 

This was an amusing and well-written story. Succinct but still packing in huge amounts of information, it built up a picture of unintentional digital terrorism having real-life consequences: a teenage girl, thinking she is donating to an environmental campaign accidentally has President Trump murdered by an exploding golf all. It was well-structured – the story playing out as a proper narrative – and made me want to read to the end. Getting your reader to the end of your piece of writing is a prerequisite, whether it is news, poetry, scripts or a novel. Also, I am from Salisbury – so the final sentence about Russian involvement spoke to me in a particular way!’

The United States is seeking the extradition of thirteen year old Canadian Emma Smith to stand trial for her involvement in the assassination of the President of the United States. Emma Smith, an ordinary thirteen year old who likes playing football and computer games, has been linked to the untimely death of the President who was killed ten days ago by a polonium laced exploding golf ball at his Scottish golf course.

The FBI has not yet arrested the person who switched the President’s golf ball for the exploding one, but has traced the money paid for the assassination back to the Assassination Crowdfunder website, hidden in the murky Dark Web online world of organised crime and terrorism. Apparently Emma came across the website while doing research for a school project on environmental damage. She made a $2 contribution to ‘End the President’ from her father’s Bitcoin wallet which had been left open on the family computer.

Emma said: “I thought I was giving money to stop the President poisoning the planet.” The FBI claims that Emma’s $2 contribution to ‘End the President’ on Assassination Crowdfunder pushed that fund over a million dollars, triggering the successful assassination attempt. The FBI is calling on Emma to stand trial since it was her payment that switched the assassination from ‘pending’ to ‘fully-funded’. The FBI claims that technically Emma is the person who ordered the death of the President and, even though a minor, she can stand trial in a juvenile court.

The US Congress has signalled that unless Emma Smith is delivered to America there will be dire consequences. The Canadians are refusing to send Emma to the United States and have recalled their Ambassador. In a show of strength US troops are massing on the US/Canadian border. A Russian connection to the exploding golf ball is rumoured.

 

Third Place: The Gentlebunny Thief by Jordan Ezekude 

This was a lovely piece of writing. I was particularly drawn to the idea of a Robin Hood rabbit, righting the wrongs committed by others and then disappearing into the night through a cat-flap. He leaves behind ‘rabbit fur, rabbit tracks and a familiar calling card signed with the name ‘Armand Lapino’ – genius. This captured the feel of a news story and, to my mind, there was an awful lot of potential here to expand the story into something bigger – I look forward to the Adventures of Armand Lapino in due course.’

“Rabbit robs riches and returns them to the rural”, so say the tabloids. Sounds too good to be true, I know, but that’s what seems to be the case for the recent Falland Hall heist in County Durham. Last week, somebody snuck into the Georgian country house through the chimney, stole a handful of small antiques and escaped through the cat flap, so say the crime scene investigators. So how do we know the culprit isn’t Santa Claus? Because the perpetrator left behind three things: rabbit fur, rabbit tracks and a familiar calling card signed with the name ‘Armand Lapino’.

This notorious ‘gentlebunny thief’ has been causing an uproar in town after a month’s history of pickpocketing, burglary, trespassing and reckless inline skating. And people say he only steals things which were already stolen from others and returns them to their rightful owners. Three weeks ago, he reportedly sabotaged an armed robbery at a Middlesbrough jewellery store by stalking the robbers to their lair and taking back the stolen necklaces while they were asleep. And, just the other day, a schoolgirl told me that he helped her find her missing hamster, which she said was abducted by her school bully!

So far, nobody has ever photographed or captured this crafty rabbit. Many folks believe he’s just an urban myth or an elaborate façade, but there’s no physical evidence to identify Armand Lapino as a human thief posing as a rabbit: no human fingerprints, no human footprints, nothing! But, one thing for sure, the police are all the more eager to put him behind bars, whether in a prison cell or in a hutch. P.C. Stella Barcly stated yesterday “Whether Lapino’s really a rabbit or just another human criminal, the police will be ready to set the dogs on this stinker!”

 

Highly Commended: Joyce to the Rescue by

Maggie Farran   

‘I loved the idea of rescuing garden gnomes – particularly the thought that the gnomes then became ‘part of a large community of like-minded individuals.’ This was a nicely-written, amusing and original story. It could also, I think, be expanded into a very good short story.’

A large number of garden gnomes have been reported missing on the Isle of Wight. They have been disappearing from gardens all over the island for the last six months. Yesterday the police discovered them safe and sound in a large garden belonging to Mrs. Joyce Butterworth aged eighty-five of Gurnard. Mrs Butterworth is a keen collector of garden gnomes and has over a hundred displayed in her beautiful garden overlooking the sea.

‘I just wanted them to be happy.’ She stated when I interviewed her.

‘Some of the gnomes looked so lonely on their own and they were having to put up with living in tiny, often neglected gardens. I was just rescuing them and giving them a lovely lawn to stand on with a fabulous sea view. All the gnomes like being part of a large community of like-minded individuals.’

The gnomes are very varied in appearance from gnomes holding lanterns to gnomes with tiny fish at the end of their fishing rods. I asked Joyce if she had a favourite.

She looked appalled. ‘Of course not, I love them all equally. Although I have got a soft spot for all my rescue gnomes, the ones that have been neglected and come from poor homes.’

Joyce is a diminutive lady with long silver-grey hair and rosy cheeks. I asked her how she managed to transport the gnomes.

‘I take my wheel barrow in the back of my estate car. I always do my rescue work at night. I wrap them up in a blanket to keep them warm and drive home slowly. I find a lovely new spot on my lawn for them to live out their days in my gorgeous garden. I can see at once how happy they are to be among friends.’

 

Highly Commended: Amazing Grace by David Lea

‘This story concerned an elderly lady, Grace, staging a naked protest in the window of Debenhams in Winchester. It was original, funny and I loved the characters of Chip and Chop the Yorkshire terriers who prevent Grace from being arrested.’

I received a phone call on the morning of Tuesday 11th June suggesting that if the Chronicle were interested in some “real news” I should get myself to the front of Debenhams in Winchester High Street as soon as possible. I did so, but there was already a large crowd in front of the store’s display windows, and I was too late for a scoop. Almost everyone was taking photos on their mobile phones and many were pressed up against the glass attempting to take selfies. Grace Pottinger’s protest went viral and before the end of the day it had become international news, particularly when President Trump tweeted his enthusiastic endorsement of her actions:

“GO Grandma Grace! Strip back to the NAKD TRUTH about Amazon and

BASHFULL BEZOS!!!”

Grace refused to meet representatives of the national press but, having been released under investigation, she granted me an interview at her bungalow. Although we failed to make the deadline for last week’s edition, a world-wide exclusive report explaining her actions and her response to her new-found celebrity is to be found on pages 3, 4 and 5.

Grace, eighty-seven, spent an hour and a half in the store window, surrounded by placards and naked but for a thong. She was chained to an oversize deckchair that was part of a swimwear promotion while her two Jack Russell terriers, Chip and Chop, kept Debenham’s staff at bay. When police arrived, they were clearly unsure how to deal with an elderly, near-naked woman who had the vocal approval of a very large crowd and was being filmed by BBC South.

Mrs Pottinger’s stand against the demise of high street shopping was applauded by the Shopworkers’ Union, USDAW, but Debenhams declined to comment.

The Hampshire Chronicle is grateful for Grace’s support of local newspapers.

 

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