Most Stupid Criminals
As crime writers we work really hard to make our baddies (I was recently taken to task for gender-biased generalization by referring to the antagonists in my books as “bad guys”) realistic. Generally speaking, they are not maniacal geniuses with a penchant for hollowed-out-volcano living, classic G-Plan furniture and fluffy white cats.
However, neither are they in the running for the Darwin Awards for gross stupidity. Of course, the Darwin Awards are primarily given to people who have removed themselves permanently from the gene pool in the most idiotic and spectacular way. What I’m interested in here are those individuals with no talent for crime, yet who insist on committing it. The very ones, in fact, we would struggle to put into a book for fear of the inevitable cry: “Surely that would never happen!”
Much like the people who stripped off on a sacred mountain in Malaysia recently, American couple Alex Rust and Vanessa Palm may not have realised what they did was a crime. But then they posted pictures on Facebook of them eating Iguana in the Bahamas. When they did so they quickly discovered such a practice is illegal there, and ended up in jail.
Fugitive Maxi Sopo was found after Friending someone from the Department of Justice, that he thought was also into the Cancun Club scene. Then he told him where he lived. Whoopsie!
In May, Paul Robert Benson, a 24-year-old from Lurgan, stole groceries from his local supermarket. He might have got away without being identified, if he hadn’t decided to wear a Manchester United top with 'Benson 22' written on the back. The judge sentencing him to 12 months’ probation said that he might as well have had a neon sign on his back.
In March 1989 in South Carolina, Michael Anderson Godwin was a lucky murderer whose death sentence had been commuted to life in prison. Ironically, he was sitting on the metal toilet in his cell and attempting to fix the TV set when he bit down on a live wire and electrocuted himself.
Always a good idea, if you’re going to carry out a successful robbery is to line up a good getaway vehicle. A gang of thieves from Colombia dismissed a car or a motorcycle in favour of Xavi, a 10-year-old donkey. They stole Xavi from his owner. This happened 12 hours before the main robbery, so they had plenty of time to look for a car (or really anything but a donkey), but they decided to stick to the donkey plan. The three criminals successfully robbed a convenience store, stealing food and rum. Then they loaded their goods onto the donkey and prepared to make their escape, but Xavi decided not to cooperate. Up until this point, police were not even aware that a robbery had taken place, but Xavi started making so much noise that he attracted the attention of some nearby officers. The robbers fled on foot, leaving behind Xavi—along with, of course, all of the stolen goods loaded onto him.
One of the keys to a successful burglary is to find the right target. A really perfect house would be full of valuables with no people inside. The next best thing would probably be a home where the residents are sleeping. Now, on the opposite side of the spectrum, try to imagine what would make the worst target. How about a house full of police officers? That’s what Darren Kimpton of Abington, Northampton chose. The home he selected had already been burgled earlier that night. The owner had called the police, and officers were on the scene investigating the previous burglary when Kimpton broke in. He tried to make a run for it but was captured after a brief struggle. That wasn’t Kimpton’s first unsuccessful burglary attempt of the day. He’d previously tried to break into a nearby house but failed to do so. He did, however, manage to break some glass, cut himself, and leave blood at the scene, so cops easily linked the crime to him.
In October 2013, a man from Perth tried to rob a corner shop, and was foiled by his trousers. He took the till, and tried to run away with it, but his trousers were so loose they kept falling down. In the end he was forced to drop the till so he could hang onto his trousers. In the confusion he also dropped his knife and a pair of gloves, and the police used a sniffer dog to track him down. He was jailed for three and a half years.
Any spectacularly stupid and unsuccessful crimes that you’ve come across recently?
This week’s Word of the Week is hamartia, which refers to a protagonist’s fundamental flaw or error which leads to a reversal of fortune from good to bad.