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Least Competent Criminals 

A weekly roundup of international news oddities

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Least Competent Criminals
Convicted drug smuggler Mike Gielen, 24, hired a helicopter at Deurne airport near Antwerp, Belgium, on Sept. 25, then hijacked the aircraft in mid-flight and forced the pilot to fly to Berkendaal women's prison south of Brussels to free his wife, Kristel Appelt, 27, who is being held there on suspicion of murdering an ex-boyfriend, The Guardian reported. As inmates cheered and waved below, the pilot circled the prison yard, trying unsuccessfully to land, while Gielen put his head out of the chopper to vomit five times, before giving up and flying off. Authorities arrested Gielen and several accomplices within 24 hours when they discovered he had used his real name to hire the helicopter. "It seems the whole thing has been staged quite amateurishly," remarked Tom van Overbeke, Gielen's attorney.

Wide World of Sports
Hillsborough County (Florida) Sheriff's deputies responding to reports of a domestic violence situation on Sept. 23 arrived at the apartment of Devon Garnett, 26, to find Garnett and two friends, fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning, watching Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. Neighbors had become alarmed after hearing shouts of "Shoot! Shoot!" and "I dare you to shoot!" just before 8:30 that evening, reported the Associated Press. The deputies "thought there were guns in the house," said Garnett, who told them, "Nope, we're just screaming for Steven Stamkos."

Recurring Themes
Voters in the village of Deveselu, Romania, reelected popular Mayor Ion Aliman to a third term in a landslide victory on Sept. 27 despite the fact that Aliman had died of COVID-19 10 days before the election. The Associated Press reported that word of the mayor's passing had spread fast among the village's 3,000 residents, but his name still appeared on the ballots, and many villagers used the vote as an opportunity to honor Aliman, who would have celebrated his 57th birthday on election day. After the results were revealed, many villagers went to his grave to pay respects and light candles, saying, "We will make you proud" and "This is your victory."

Compelling Explanation
After throwing a Bible that struck a Marion County (Florida) Sheriff's deputy in the face, Robert Otis Hoskins, 39, of Summerfield, told officers that God had directed him to break into his neighbors' home and free their young daughter, according to authorities. WKMG-TV reports police were responding to reports of a burglary on Sept. 22 when they encountered Hoskins, who emerged from the house next door wearing nothing but briefs and yelling something like, "I condemn you!" before throwing the Bible. Officers tased him and took him into custody; Hoskins' wife told deputies he "does have a drug problem," according to the arrest report, and the alleged victim said about $50 worth of clothing had been stolen. Hoskins was booked on multiple charges.

Latest Human Rights
A High Court judge in Liverpool, England, has rejected Cheryl Pile's attempt to sue the Liverpool Police for violating her rights in April 2017 when four female officers changed her out of the clothes she had vomited on, reports the BBC. Calling the officers' actions "an act of decency," the judge noted that Pile, who later paid a fine for being drunk and disorderly, was "too insensible with drink to have much idea of either where she was or what she was doing there," and would otherwise have been left "to marinade overnight in her own bodily fluids."

Bad Behavior
CNN reports a 32-year-old unnamed Irishman was charged with vandalism after being caught on Sept. 21 carving his first and last initials into a pillar on the first floor of the Colosseum in Rome. The structure, which has stood for two millennia, is a World Heritage Site, and Italian law calls for a hefty fine or prison sentence for damaging a historical and artistic landmark. Archaeologist Federica Rinaldi, who is responsible for the Colosseum, suggested it would be better to "take a selfie" than to carve into the amphitheater's walls.

Annuls of Technology
• Taro Kono, Japan's new minister for administrative reform, is wasting no time in starting his crusade to cut down on bureaucratic red tape, reports The Japan Times, and among his first targets is the fax machine, which is still in use in more than 95% of businesses in Japan. "I don't think there are many administrative procedures that actually need printing out paper and faxing," Kono said on Sept. 25. A day after being appointed to his new job, Kono created a red-tape hotline on his website, inviting public input, that had to be shut down the next day after receiving more than 4,000 responses.

• Keith Bebonis knows a secret about the Chicago Police Department, reported the Chicago Sun-Times on Sept. 25: They still use typewriters. Bebonis knows because he repairs them when the officers "abuse" them. "Police officers, in general, are very heavy typists," said Bebonis, 46, who carries on the business his dad started in the late 1960s, Bebon Office Machines and Supplies. He contracts every year to repair 40 to 50 IBM Wheelwriters—early word-processing machines that can store a few pages' worth of data. "I don't want it to seem like I'm saying they're taking their frustrations out on the typewriter," Bebonis said. "But they're just not very sensitive with these machines."

It's Good to Have a Hobby
Calling himself "Britain's dullest man," Kevin Beresford, 68, of Redditch, is the founder of the Roundabout Appreciation Society and has traveled all over the country for the past 17 years, searching for the best traffic circles, which he memorializes in calendars with photos of his favorites. His hobby began when he ran a printing company that created calendars for clients every year, he told BirminghamLive, and they jokingly created a roundabout calendar. Since then, this self-described "Lord of the Rings" has expanded his interests to include phone boxes of Wales and Birmingham's No. 11 Outer Circle bus route. His latest focus has been on car parks. "I started the Car Park Appreciation Society 10 years ago, but nobody has joined," he said. "It's a bit sad."

Police Report
Johnathan Lee Rossmoine, 36, of Louisiana, was charged with multiple sex crimes on Sept. 27 after deputies of the Hernando County (Florida) Sheriff's Office arrested him at the Spring Hill home of a teenager in whose bedroom Rossmaine had been living for a month, according to authorities. The Associated Press reports the two met online two years ago, deputies said, and Rossmoine told them he had traveled to Florida several times since then. The teen told officers Rossmoine had been living in the bedroom since Aug. 19, and hid in the closet when the teen's parents were home.

Animal Capers
Five African gray parrots adopted in August by Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom were on display to the public only 20 minutes before the park started getting complaints that the birds were using obscenities with guests, reported LincolnshireLive. When the birds first came to Lincolnshire, they were quarantined together, where it seems they taught each other some "fowl" language. "The more they swear, the more you usually laugh, which then triggers them to swear again," explained park CEO Steve Nichols. The birds have been placed in an offshore enclosure where Nichols hoped other birds would teach them some manners; when released, they'll go to separate areas so they can't encourage each other.

Send your weird news items to WeirdNewsTips@amuniversal.com.

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