One of the most bizarre news items this week has been the revelation that a police marksman is being investigated for planting song titles into his evidence at the inquest into the death of Mark Saunders. Saunders was shot dead by firearms officers following a five-hour armed standoff at his flat in Chelsea, west London. Last month a jury at Westminster crown court ruled that the barrister, who was an alcoholic and armed with a 12-bore shotgun during the siege, had been killed lawfully.
Apparently, peppering your speech with song titles is a growing craze. A game played by actors and sports stars to liven up interviews. And by the police to take the boredom out of long days giving evidence. What made this policeman’s evidence the more remarkable was the number and nature of the song titles he introduced into evidence.
During his one-hour stint in the witness box, he slipped in titles by Donna Summer, Chris de Burgh, George Michael, Journey, Buzzcocks, Duran Duran, XTC, As Tall As Lions, Cold Play, Membranes, and Robin Beck. All without raising suspicion – until later, when one of his colleagues (who’d probably lost money on the contest) informed senior officers.
The most astounding song title he got get away with was “F*ck my Old Boots,” by Membrane. A ten pointer if ever I heard one. But how do you slip a line like that into evidence?
Here’s how, from the inquest transcript:
“I switched the light on, he turned towards me and I thought, ‘F*ck my old boots, I’ve got a gun trained on me’.”
The police marksman is now facing a possible two-year prison sentence for contempt of court.
Yesterday, Sergeant Pepper, a Met Police spokesman, said, “Sitting in the dock of the Bailey is not the place for saying somethin’ stupid.”
Dr. Eleanor Rigby, a dedicated follower of Fash Wan, the Korean psychologist, believes that some people may have no choice in the matter. She’s written a paper on the condition, which she calls the MacArthur Park Syndrome.
“It’s not unusual,” she said. “For sufferers to talk in song titles, time after time, without even knowing it. Song lyrics too. They just can’t help it.”
But not everyone supports Dr. Rigby’s assertions. Arnold Layne, chair of psychology at Oslo University, is AdamAnt that no one in Norway would ever dream of inserting song titles into their every day speech. “No,” he smiled. “No Norwegian would.”
To prevent this happening in the future, an alteration to the court oath has been proposed. All witnesses will now be asked to swear that they will ‘Tell the truth, the whole truth and not insert any song titles.’
Any witness who answers, ‘I do-do-do’ or ‘I do, Ron Ron’ will be immediately arrested.
Chris Dolley is a paperback writer, lost in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
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