Crimes and the undead - a ghost made me do it!

A skull and Law booksCourt cases featuring accounts of the paranormal have proven popular fodder for journalists, especially when the headline can feature some sort of genuinely frightening pun such as ‘Scary end for ghost’ Over the past twenty years, the press has reported tales of ghosts connected to all manner of offences. Ghosts have been blamed for encouraging people to commit a crime. There are instances of criminals pretending to be ghosts to intimidate victims and claims for compensation when lives have been disrupted by unruly entities. This post highlights some of the stories that appeared in the press, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

There is the case of a burglar who blamed his break-in on a ghost after he was arrested for breaking into a family home in Lincolnshire and helping himself to whisky and cigars. John Griffin, 60, said the spook, called Jennifer, told him to meet her at the farmhouse in Stainton by Langworth, Lincs. He was found "confused and rambling" on a bed by the owner who called 999. Homeless Griffin, who had alcohol and mental problems, admitted burglary and got a three-year rehabilitation order. 

In 1999, Perth Sheriff Court heard the case of Annie Downey, who claimed that the shock of seeing the ghost of her dead son Robert had caused her car to mount a verge, plough into a wall, and land upside down in a field near Loch Gelly, Fife. The defendant claimed she had tried to kill herself after she had a vision of her son, who appeared to beckon her. She eventually admitted to drink-driving, banned for 15 months and was fined 500 pounds.

In both these cases, Ghosts have been blamed for leading the person astray, but in another case from Scotland, a defendant blamed the ghost for the Crime. After his arrest for an outbreak of foul swearing in a garden, an 18-year-old youth blamed the outburst on a ghost. When charged, he is reported to have claimed: "It wisnae me, it was the pirate." Defence lawyer Andrew Kennedy said: "My client assures me he had taken neither drugs nor drink. In fact, he was in a state of agitation because he claims he had just seen a ghost." McGair, from Glasgow, admitted committing a breach of the peace. The sentence was deferred, but as far as I know, nothing more was heard from the pirate.

Defendants have also blamed the fear of ghosts as a reason for committing a crime. In 2009 a single mother was taken to court over her children's truancy, blaming their absence from class on poltergeists.  The 29-year-old claimed ''paranormal activity" meant she was repeatedly unable to take her eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son to school. She claimed that her council-owned home in Swindon, Wiltshire, was overrun with ghosts that kept her children awake at night and disturbed her morning routine. Swindon Magistrates' Court heard that she even hired priests and mediums to exorcise the property, but she later admitted the offences. Sambreen Arif, defending, said she had raised the paranormal activities with the school and was hoping to move. He added: "She was trying to make her children go to school, but she accepts responsibility."

Was this just an excuse on the part of the lady, or did she really believe that ghosts preventing her from taking her children to School? Certainly, she had taken steps to resolve the problem, informing the school, trying to move and consulting a priest? She admitted the offences but was there really a paranormal influence on the case? Are people really experiencing something supernatural? Did the wife of a Gurka at Sandhurst Military Academy who slashed her husband's throat while he was sleeping really believe he was a ghost at the time of the attempted murder? Reading Crown Court heard an account of how Khayendra Pariyar, 43, woke in bed to find blood gushing from a wound, and his wife and mother of his three children Nainakala Pariyar later admitted stabbing him with a knife kept under the pillow to ward off evil spirits she feared were attacking her but denied trying to murder him.

Although blaming a ghost may leave a fulcrum of doubt in the Jury’s mind pretending to be a ghost is a crime that is almost guaranteed to bring with it a verdict of guilty. In Northern Italy, a woman was jailed for pretending to be a ghost to scare the castle owner. She banged doors, slammed furniture around and made mysterious noises in a bid to make the owner believe the place was haunted until she was caught on CCTV cameras - and was jailed for four months. In France, a mayor who pretended to be a poltergeist by smashing vases and lights to scare churchgoers was ordered to see a psychiatrist.

Ghosts were also used with the intent to gain access to an inheritance. John McKenna pretended to be the ghost of his dead father and made eerie wailing noises down the telephone to his stepmother in an attempt to terrify her and gain access to money left in his father's Will. The widow, Freda McKenna, 62, then had a call impersonating the voice of her late husband, saying: "It's Louis here. When are you going to carry out my wishes?" Magistrates heard that there was a bitter family dispute after Louis McKenna died 18 months ago. His widow received the "lion's share" of his £60,000 estate.

Mr Martin said Mrs McKenna received a number of telephone calls at her home in Buckley, Clwyd. He said: "In one of the calls, she could hear a ghostly wailing sound in the background. She recognised it as the voice of her stepson, and the calls were traced to his mobile phone." Mrs McKenna told the court: "I was very, very upset. My husband had only died about four months earlier, and I was still in shock." McKenna was found guilty of making nuisance calls, given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs.

Ghosts, it would seem, can provide a convenient excuse for misdemeanours, but as the evidence suggests, they are unlikely to lead to a reprieve in the eyes of the law.


Popular posts from this blog

The Girl who fell to Earth

Tiny Tales of Terror: Rockpool

Tiny Tales of Terror: The High Chair