Thursday, October 03, 2013
Astounding, astonishing, amazing - just some of the superlatives uttered, printed and captured on camera this afternoon in reaction to a decision made by Riverdale County Circuit Judge Emily McPherson to dismiss the case against Greg Jaskowiak, 58, dubbed the "Blackmailer who never was" by regional and national press organisations. The case is becoming a national and international Cause célèbre.
The case against Jaskowiak came into being following the tragic suicide of 43 year old Silvia Mary Hammond, in Riverdale, Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, 2012. Detectives who interviewed friends and family of the deceased began to become aware of a sudden change which had taken place in the behaviour of Mrs Hammond in the weeks leading up to the holiday period. She became withdrawn, moody and started drinking alcohol to excess. This behaviour was out of character and those close to her were very worried by these developments. They firmly believed that her state of mind had resulted directly in her self administered demise.
Then detectives made a startling find. Hidden among her possessions, trapped between the pages of one of her books, was an envelope, addressed to Mrs Hammond using her home address. Inside the envelope was a folded piece of paper, which when unfolded revealed five words "I KNOW YOUR LITTLE SECRET". From this point on, the police investigation became a hunt for a potential blackmailer. A blackmailer who may have indirectly caused the death of Silvia Mary Hammond.
Then the police had tremendous amount of luck. Analysis of the envelope and its postmark revealed that the letter had been mailed at a Post Office in a small town some 200 miles west of Riverdale on the 12th December 2012, at 3.15pm. Interrogation of footage from CCTV cameras, which had been installed in the Post Office only months before, revealed that only four people had purchased stamps and posted mail within the identified timeline. As it turned out, all four were locals and known to staff at the Post Office and were therefore very easy to trace. One customer in particular drew the attention of investigating officers. It could clearly be seen that he had posted a small bundle of envelopes. Envelopes which even on the grainy footage looked very much like the one sent to Mrs Hammond.
Before approaching any of the four potential suspects, on-line searches were carried out to try and discover any links between the individuals and Mrs Hammond. In addition, other records were searched with the same aim. No connections were found.
Acting on a hunch, and with the CCTV footage in mind, they decided that their first call would be to Greg Jaskowiak, who lived alone in an old converted farmhouse four miles out of town. Armed with a search warrant, a team of six officers made a dawn raid on the remote property. Detectives were astonished when the first thing Jaskowiak said to them was "Is this about the Hammond woman?" He told them that he had read about her death in his weekly newspaper. They were convinced that they had captured their blackmailer. However, they were to be further astounded when, following a full search of the dwelling, they found what was thought, at that time, to be the ultimate incriminating evidence. In a neat pile, beside the computer printer were 50 sheets of printer paper, on each one of which had been printed the five words "I KNOW YOUR LITTLE SECRET" The paper, the font and the placement of the letters on the paper were all an exact match to the letter sent to Mrs Hammond on the 12th December.
Jaskowiak was arrested and taken away for questioning. Evidence from the house was bagged and confiscated for analysis and to be used as exhibits in the subsequent trial.
Following his arrest, a very strange thing happened. The local press got hold of the story and details of the blackmail note were somehow leaked. Following publication of some of the facts, detectives working on the case received a number of calls from other police forces across the country. They had all worked on cases where people had either attempted to, or had actually taken their lives after receiving similar anonymous letters. They also heard from others who had received the letters and approached the police in anticipation of being blackmailed.
Jaskowiak had an explanation. For the past eight years, every month, he had dispatched 50 similar envelopes, containing the same message, to random people all over the states. Every envelope was personally addressed. At first he had simply taken random names and addresses from phone books. More recently, he had searched for names and addresses randomly on-line, through social media and other sites. He did not know any of the people to whom he sent the message. He made no request for money or favours, and so argued that no crime had taken place. For the charge of blackmail to stick, there must be a threat of menaces, or a request of some sort made. His only motive for acting in the way he had, was to receive a psychological thrill as he anticipated how the missives would be received and acted upon at their destination.
At his trial, he stated "We all have some guilty little secret. Something which we would not want others to know. For some of us, it is something relatively trivial. For others, they would be mortified if they were found out. People cheating on their husbands or wives. People cheating on their employers, their taxes, their country". Later in his testimony, he continued: "I did us all a favour. How many people, as a direct result of receiving one of my 'Conscience Prompters' stopped stealing from work, stopped cheating on their partners, stopped beating their kids? Fear of being caught, fear of being found out, that is what motivates people. It's the only motivator". "All I did, was plant a seed".
In a dramatic turn of events late this afternoon, following extensive legal advice, for technical reasons, the trial was halted, the jury were dismissed and all charges were dropped. Mr Jaskowiak is expected to make a full statement tomorrow, Friday. The controversy surrounding this case looks likely to be around for a very long time to come
Thursday, August 22, 2013
His vision was to provide protection for those crops, plants and flowers which are susceptible to slug attacks leading to decimation and loss. This was to be achieved without the use of chemicals or poisons and without the wholesale destruction of the gastropod molluscs. On the contrary, the slug was about to become the farmers' friend and his work would have led to slugs becoming welcome in every garden in the land.
The team successfully bred further batches. The next step was to try and cross breed the super slugs with common slugs in a way that retained the new traits so that these could be passed on through future generations and spread geographically. Finally, early in 2013 they were able to demonstrate that they had achieved this aim and were able to produce super slug/common slug offspring which retained the genetic propensity intended, and to do so consistently. They were ready to publish their results to the world. In May 2013, a three day conference was organised to disseminate the findings to experts in the field prior to wider publication. A press conference was due to take place two weeks after the conference for this purpose.
However, whilst Dr. Carr was attending the conference in Leeds, some 20 miles away, his elderly mother, Mavis, who was staying with him temporarily whilst her flat was decorated, decided that she would help about the place by doing some weeding in his absence. Searching for gardening tools, she entered the part of the converted barn serving as the research facility. As she moved further into the area, she observed row upon row of trays filled with plants which were obviously part of her son's research (she wasn't really sure exactly what his work encompassed). However, to her horror, she also noticed that they had been overrun by a super-abundance of black, slimy slugs. Thinking that she ought to try and save the plants before they were eaten by the infestation, she took the next bus to Mytholmroyd, a small village some four miles away, and purchased two very large containers of slug pellets.
When Dr. Carr returned from Leeds, his mother informed him, with pride, what she had encountered in the research facility, but told him not to worry, most of the plants were still alive and that she was sure she had managed to kill each and every slug. The reality was that all of his breeding stock had been wiped out and all that he was left with were his research papers and the knowledge that he had achieved his goal, even if he was not going to be able to replicate it, because all his subjects were dead. The project had cost more than £2.5million over its lifetime. It is thought that the research has since been taken over by another expert in the field, Jean Pilkington, although a wall of secrecy prevents this being made public.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
For the first three months, the Harrisons' were very happy with their panels. They could see, from a meter provided by the installers, that the panels were producing the four kilowatts of energy promised by the company. However, when readings were taken in July, one of the sunniest months of the year, they demonstrated that the panels were producing hardly any electricity at all.
Carl Harrison called the installers and asked them to look at the system. The Solar Panel company were completely baffled. They spent a whole day carrying out tests on the transformers, the converters, all of the internal and external wiring and the meters. They could not find any faults. A representative of the manufacturers of the equipment was flown over from Germany, at great expense, to try and get to the bottom of the problem. Thousands of panels were being produced every day and exported all over the world, so a potential problem with panels, or the related equipment, had the potential to cost the firm millions. Again, no solution could be found.
A date was fixed for the panels to be removed and taken back to the manufacturers for more detailed testing in laboratory conditions. However, in the early hours of the morning one day in late July, Carl Harrison, who was having difficulty sleeping, was disturbed by a noise from outside of the house. As he went to investigate, he was about to do what several teams of workmen, boffins and scientists were unable to do - discover the cause of the solar hardware's inability to produce electricity as they were designed to do.
He found his neighbour, Jack Donnelly perched on the top of a pair of step-ladders, in his slippers and dressing gown, smearing sun cream on the panels with the aid of a soft mop. The aim was clear. The factor 50 sun cream "protected" the panels from the rays of the sun. The same rays which produced the electricity for which the panels had been acquired. Because the product was "Non-greasy", it was impossible to spot the coat of protection or know that it was there. This was the second time the neighbour had "topped up" the coat.
The two men had been involved in neighbour disputes for the previous five years, starting with an argument over a Leylandii hedge grown by Mr. Donnelly, which blocked out light from Mr. Harrison's garden. Mr. Donnelly had been ordered to trim, or remove the hedge by a Court Order. The two men had had several arguments since, culminating in the present action.
Mr. Donnelly was found guilty of criminal damage on Friday 31st May and is awaiting sentencing, subject to reports from previous related convictions.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Contrary to popular belief, Sailing By is performed live daily by a 24 piece orchestra and this has been the case since 1963 following an agreement between the BBC and the Musicians Union which successfully campaigned to "Keep Music Live" within the Corporation. Although the agreement has come under fire several times over the years in times of austerity, it has survived many changes of management and the different regimes which have been in place in the last half century. Staunch Radio Four listeners have also played a role in keeping the music live, once (in 1982) circulating and submitting a petition which attracted over 80,000 signatures of disgruntled "Sailing By" fans when the BBC announced that it wanted to start using a pre-recorded version.
Colin was 25 years old when he was first contracted to play the piece in 1963 with the newly formed orchestra. "It's been like a second family to me ever since. There have been lots of comings and goings. People have died, retired, left to have families, or just moved on to other things. I am the only surviving member of the original orchestra". Colin has been blessed with very good health, although he has performed over the years with: a broken ankle; raging tooth ache (twice); following minor operations and after the birth of his twins in 1972.
He has made other sacrifices too, which includes never having taken a holiday outside of travelling distance of the BBC studios where the daily performance takes place. In 1969 his new bride watched from the gallery whilst her groom played his part in the piece before they departed to celebrate their 24 hour honeymoon.
Sailing By was written by Ronald Binge in 1963. In 2008, a researcher from the BBC calculated that the whole of Sailing By is only heard approximately 25% of the time as the live performance is faded in and out dependant on the finishing time of the preceding programme, which does not always run to time. Jarvis Cocker chose Sailing By as one of his Desert Island Discs in April 2005.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
In the show, broadcast in August 2004, Terry had to choose between four options. The host, Chris Tarrant, sought the answer to the question "Which is the longest river in the world?" The options presented were:
- A The Nile
- B The Yangtze
- C The Amazon
- D The Po
Terry prevaricated and gave his reasoning for choosing the Amazon after much thought. His answer was rejected, as the prevailing knowledge at the time was that the Nile deserved this distinction. As a result, he feels that he not only lost £250,000 directly, but that he also missed the opportunity to go for the ultimate quiz show prize of £1million.
There were other consequences for Terry: "This lack of knowledge on behalf of Celador also led to the death of my brother-in-law, who was bludgeoned to death following an argument in a South Manchester pub the day the quiz was aired"."I will have to live with the consequences of that until the day I die.", said Terry. Terry also blames the show for the break up of his fourth marriage and the death of his dog Mr. Dahl, named after the famous children's author.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Professer Tim Hatton, who was the lead researcher on the project, said today that he was not surprised by the results!!!! "Anyone who has taken anything more than a cursory glance at the web cannot fail to notice that it is littered with surplus and totally redundant re-enforcement!!!!" "The exclamation mark is slowly losing its ability to mark out a title or passage as special or worthy of extra attention!!! As a result, we are entering an era where the only way to clearly emphasise the importance of a phrase or block of speech or make it stand out is to raise the stakes by adding more and more marks!!!!!!"
Over 4,000 blogs were examined, in addition to the 8,000 web-sites tested earlier in the year!!!!!
Friday, October 27, 2006
Structural engineers, called in to attempt to discover the reason for the Tower's recent behaviour have made a startling find. Working with experts from the University of Warwick, they have discovered that downward movement of the Tower can almost certainly be put down to fat kids and their families using the facilities. "The Tower was built at a time when the average weight of the population was about two thirds of its current average." said Mr Eddie Ryan, Chief Engineer. "The weight of thousands of visitors at a time being present in the Tower is just one of the factors taken into consideration in the design". "However the current weight of visitors is adding extra strain to the foundations and to supports for the structure".
One of the strategies being actively considered in order to save the Tower for future generations, is a ban on obese patrons. Another option, is to price tickets to the attraction on a sliding scale dependant on the weight of the individual buying the tickets. "This would mean installing scales adjacent to ticket booths, linked to our central computer, which would do the calculation, and we wouldn't anticipate much disruption once installation was complete and customers had got used to the idea" said a company spokesperson.
A local Councillor, Gordon Purdy, has used the news to call for a ban on the sale of chips within three miles of the sea front. "I'm sure that our visitors would much rather be offered a healthier fayre, such as salads and fresh fruit". "If we are to keep the Tower intact, we must stop feeding our guests so many saturated fats and carbohydrates - and have you seen how much salt they use - that can't be good for them".
The tower is currently 158 m (518 ft 9 in) tall. It was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It cost £42,000 to construct, and it first opened to the public on 14 May 1894.
The patient, a Mr. A. Blair, currently lives in Westminster, London. Although he was planning to move home shortly, the news that he had been chosen for the operation convinced him to put these plans on hold. Mr. Blair has been very specific about the type of donor he would like to provide his new face. Black hair, bushy eyebrows, large nose and large ears would be ideal. Mr. Blair says he even has a particular person in mind. Although donations would usually be made posthumously, Mr. Blair is convinced this would not be necessary in this case. "The person I am thinking of is two faced anyway, so I'm sure he can spare one" said Mr. Blair.
An artists impression of the potential donor.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
It is understood that Madonna has purchased a small hotel in Bayswater to house her new "family" and engaged an "Ethnic interior designer" to transform the building with a £1.5million facelift so that they feel at home in their new surroundings.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The island will house both high and low security prisoners. Three quarters of the island will effectively be an open prison with prisoners free to come and go and hold down jobs just as long as they stay on the island. "This will be the modern day equivalent to sending convicts to Australia and many convicts may choose to settle here once their tarrif has been spent" Prison Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, said today. "Although this is a very controversial proposal, I'm sure with time, it will be seen as a very imaginitive solution to an almost intractable problem".
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
After a few weeks of study, and following instructions in both a written form and on media such as DVD and computer software, readers can carry out procedures which require a Local Anaesthetic such as in-growing toenails, setting broken limbs and the removal of bullets and other foreign objects from the body. Having gained confidence, the student can then progress on to more difficult surgery which requires a General Anaesthetic such as appendix removal or some minor heart, lung and kidney work.
The publication, which comes in monthly parts, is accompanied by all the instruments needed to build a library of tools to enable the purchaser to carry out years of home surgery. Issue one comes with a scalpel for making incisions; issue two with a clamp and cotton wads and so on.
Publisher Max Bretton is convinced he has found a whole new DIY market which will attract a very large number of subscribers in a short space of time. "The home surgery market could be worth billions of dollars". "Given the current cost of some operations in hospitals and clinics and the amount which could be saved by the enterprising amateur surgeon performing surgery in their own neighbourhood, take up could be huge".
His predictions are proving to be well-founded. The kits started to go on sale at 9.00am on Monday 25th September and all branches of Wall-Mart were completely sold out by 11.00am nationwide. Other stores reported similar business. He has since promised that further supplies of the first edition were being flown in from Chicago for distribution and that the manufacturers who were producing the stainless steel instruments were working round the clock to meet the new orders.
Although the audio track is completely unusable because of the background noise in the busy area, a transcript produced by a consultant, skilled in the techniques of lip-reading, after hours of analysis, confirms Cherie Blair's version of events. In addition to the words attributed to her by her friends, which contradict those of the journalist who broke the story, she has also confirmed to have called Brown "The ultimate banker" and said that he is "Full of wit". The consultant, a Mr. Mandelson, insists that because he is a totally independent and disinterested witness, the transcript he has produced tells the true story and vindicates the Prime Minister's wife completely.
Monday, September 04, 2006
The man who was passionate about wildlife and who constantly put his life on the line for his art, has finally met his match and succumbed to an attack from one of the cast. Pete Wilson, the man who trained animal extras for the show for the last twelve years announced that he is "devastated". In addition to the shock of the loss of Steve, Pete said "I am upset that thousands of crocodiles, alligators and deadly snakes will never work again. Some may end up being put down. Only a small percentage would be able to survive being released into the wild after years of being trained not to attack. Some of these guys have been with us since the beginning. All they know is how to act as if they are fierce without really hurting anybody. They are all big softies when you get right down to it. They would not last two minutes in the real world". Some of the animals will end up in zoos across Australia, but homes are sought for most of the others. "They are very good with children" Pete says, "and most would make good family pets. They just need the space to be able to spread out".
Asked if he blamed himself for Steve's death, Pete is cautious. "The stingray which caused Steve Irwin's death was not trained by me, but by one of my assistants whilst I was on holiday in France. I had warned Steve that I could not guarantee that the creature had been trained fully and understood the rules".
Monday, August 28, 2006
Now the technology company, Indofax Computer Hardware, has managed to break through the 50% barrier and produce computers which work more than half of the time. Managing Director, Peter Mullone, is delighted with the increase in performance. "My twelve year old son changed the design. I don't know what he did, but it seems to be working". "Complaints are down from between 3,000 and 4,000 a week to just 2,700 on average".
Encouraged by their recent success, the company are now working on designs for a printer which will work more than 10% of the time and which uses printer ink cartridges which will cost less than twice the price of the actual printer.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
New rules governing the characteristics of planets indicate that "Any body which has sufficient gravitational pull to form the shape of a sphere, can be classified as a planet".
Following receipt of the above definition, a Parliamentary Committee has been formed to determine whether or not the Deputy Prime Minister can be classified as a planet given that he seems to meet all the essential criteria. The remit of the cross-party committee is either to classify the DPM as a planet using the definition above, or to accept the recommendation of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has always claimed that Mr. Prescott is "A complete and utter Star".
The Chair of the committee, Alistair Burt M.P., announced that, although he did not want to anticipate or forecast the findings of the committee, "Most of the ingredients seem to be in place". "He is definitely spherical in shape". In addition, he is full of gas, overheats from time to time and is inhospitable in the extreme, in common with many planets". Following a period of consultation, a Green Paper is due in the Autumn.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The study was commissioned when it was noticed that even mediocre sports men and women were turning in greatly increased performances after following a diet plan which included a daily intake of rhubarb.
Rhubarb ( from the Latin eubarbarum, rhabarbarum) is made from the fleshy leaf-stalks of a Chinese and Tibetan plant of the genus Rheum. It is produced in very large quantities in the area around Leeds in Northern England, known as the Rhubarb Triangle, and shipped to supermarkets and grocery stores around the country. It is also exported to the country's European neighbours.
Local people claim to have been aware of its properties for decades. One Leeds resident told us "This study is only telling us what we Northerners have known for years". "Some of our best athletes, footballers, and cricketers are from the North and have been brought up on rhubarb". Some Northern sports clubs have even gone so far as to try to devise a test to detect rhubarb in the bloodstream in a bid to make competition fairer, particularly at times when rhubarb is out of season and only available to those sportspeople who can afford to have it imported. At these times, it is bought and sold on the black market and changes hands for huge amounts of cash.
Its beneficial effects have been shown to be somewhat dissipated when partnered, as it often is, with custard, but enhanced by the inclusion of sugar, which is just as well as it makes the tart fruit more palatable and increases energy as a by-product.
Local producers are expecting acute shortages of rhubarb in the shops and supermarkets later this Summer and into Autumn following publication of the findings coupled with the fact that the long hot Summer has resulted in a poor crop this year.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
- 23rd July - 16.32hrs Message left for the equerry of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh - "This is Elizabeth. Please tell Phillip that I have left his dinner in the microwave oven. I shall be dining at the Queens Head this evening. Remind him that we are opening a new hospital or hospice or borstal or something tomorrow in Yorkshire and I shall expect him to be on his best behaviour. (Please hide the bottles). Leave the front door on the latch. I don't know what time I will be back, but it will be very, very, late. Tell Phillip not to wait up. Oh, and leave a note for the milkman - we will need two extra pints in the morning, Camilla will be joining us for breakfast..." (The next section of the tape has been censored for legal reasons).
- 24th July - 10.17hrs Message left for footman. "That grinning buffoon who lives not un-adjacent to Whitehall will be visiting this afternoon for his weekly audience. Get out the cheap cups and saucers and let the dogs out. Keep him waiting in the drawing room for about 20 minutes before you let him in to see me. I'll teach him to try and upstage me with his 'special relationships'. And Gerald, plain biscuits."
- 25th July - 22.37hrs Message from the owner of Harrods (This message censored for legal reasons and in the interests of good taste).
- 26th July - 02.15hrs Message from the owner of Harrods (This message censored for legal reasons and in the interests of good taste).
- 27th July - 21.06hrs Message for Prince Harry from unknown source. " The merchandise will be in the usual place at the usual time. Be careful, we have changed our suppliers and you may find this batch unusually strong".
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Over the pond in America, Wendle Speers, of Kentucky is equally impressed by the efficaciousness of the wonder supplement. "My mother has been eating raw fish for over 50 years and thanks to the health giving properties of the Omega 3 contained in the oily fish, she is now over 120 years old. Although my sister and I have not been able to travel to Texas to see her for the last 30 years, she writes to me every week from the $4000 a month retirement home where she has lived since 1976. Her writing, if anything, looks like the writing of a 40 year old (further proof of her sound condition) and the owner of the home insists she is in the very best of health when we ring him at the end of every financial year. The only drawback is that because she is so active, she always tends to be out when we call and so the staff say she cannot come to the phone".
Next week: How Omega 3 helped Italy win the Soccer World Cup in Germany earlier this year.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The missing "u" will be returned to words like Neighourhood and colour. From now on, celebrities will be the Centre of attention and not as previously in the Center. Programmes will replace the old American spelling programs and many other words will be transformed forever.. Economists have calculated that the extra letters needed for the new spelling format will add 6% to the cost of newspapers and books and that nationally the project will cost the Country over $800 million when the cost of changing stationery and up-dating text books and forms is taken into consideration. The new spelling will initially be introduded on a voluntary basis, but after the first five years, fines will be levied on anyone producing publications or public signage using the out-dated spelling regime.
Some resistance is expected at first, but officials are confident that once the first cohort of children who will be taught using the new spelling systems have reached High School, people will begin to accept that a change was sensible and be fully supportive of the project.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
American President George Bush was equally candid: "We messed up; I was badly advised." "The fact that I am still in office is something of a miracle for which I daily pray and give thanks to the Lord". "I feel like the luckiest man alive".
Both men have agreed that, given their appalling lack of judgement, the only honorable way to proceed is to offer to resign. Consequently, later this week on Wednesday 9th August at 19.00hrs GMT both men will tender their resignations: Prime Minister Tony Blair to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the second; President George Bush to Congress. Interim arrangements for the governance of both countries will be announced in a joint broadcast arranged for Tuesday 8th August, again at 1900hrs GMT.