Magazine

Cuts Through Bones’ Alaric Hunt is convicted killer in jail for murdering student

When judges of a competition for debut crime novels leafed through the pages of Cuts Through Bone they were impressed with the tale’s authenticity.  Unlikely star: the winner of the debut crime fiction competition turned out to be convicted murderer Alaric Hunt (left), pictured here in 2013, and his novel Cuts Through Bone But when the Private Eye Writers of America panel decided to award their US$10,000 prize to its unknown author, Alaric Hunt, they did not realise they were reading the work of a convicted killer.  An interested publisher rang the Southern California number Hunt had submitted with his manuscript and got through to his cousin, Jade Reed, who had posted his novel to the competition’s organisers. ‘He’s not available. He’s in an institution,’ said Ms Reed.  ‘Like a prison?’ asked Toni Kirkpatrick, an editor at Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. ‘Yes.’ ‘Will he be out soon?’ came the reply.   Ms Reed paused: ‘Well, he’s there indefinitely.’ Hunt, 44, has lived more than half his life behind bars. He last saw the outside world when he was 19. In 1988 he was convicted of killing a 23-year-old student, Joyce Austin, in Clemson, South Carolina.   He is now in a maximum-security facility 180 miles away in the small town of Bishopville. Ms Austin died of smoke inhalation from a fire started by Hunt’s older brother, Jason. The brothers planned to disctract the emergency services while they robbed a jewellery shop nearby. Jason wanted to go to music school in Southern California and needed the money to do so.   Six weeks later the police arrested Alaric and Jason for Joyce’s murder, and for robbery, conspiracy and several counts of arson. The spoils of their theft turned out to be women’s rings worth only US$200 in total. The brothers were sentenced to life with no parole for at least 30 years. Alaric Hunt, who after finishing at secondary school was found to have an IQ of 137, has immersed himself in literature while inside.    Every day he works in the prison library, where he has discovered authors such as Ernest Hemingway, the Greek and the Roman philosophers and the science fiction masters who wowed him as a boy and inspired him to write his own stories. It was also in the prison library that he saw a competition advertised – the contest sponsored by Minotaur, an imprint of St Martin’s Press. The prize money caught his eye – a US$10,000 (£6,000) advance and a guaranteed publishing contract for the book – three years ago...

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Two drunk Russians cut off own ears for a bet

Two drunk Russian men each cut off an ear after taking part in an arm-wrestling match in a remote Siberian town. The men were suffering from wounds normally associated with Vincent Van Gogh Photo: AP The contestants had been celebrating Orthodox Christmas on January 7 when they agreed to the forfeit if they lost the match. But when they failed to determine a winner, they decided to call it a draw. In a sportsmanlike gesture both agreed to severe their ears – one completely, the other partially. Hospital staff alerted the police when the two patients admitted themselves in the Gurev district of the Kemerovo region, 1,800 miles east of Moscow, it was reported by the Daily Telegraph. Their wounds were likened that to painter Vincent Van Gogh who cut off his ear during a bout of depression. Police are currently trying to establish whether self-mutilation is actually a crime before pursuing case, it was reported by The Daily Telegraph. After interviewing both men, officers said in a statement: ‘According to the agreed rules of the drunken contest, the loser had to cut off his ear.’ After losing the first round, one of the men successfully challenged the result then went on to win the replay. But the winner of the first round insisted he had won, so they both called it a draw. It is not known whether surgeons were able to re-attach the men’s ears. Agencies

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Family’s $4m dream mansion that took them three years to build burns down in dramatic blaze

A sprawling $4 million mansion built by an Ohio family has been gutted after a fire broke out on Friday afternoon. Gutted: The fire spread quickly through the two-storey home, making it too dangerous for firefighters to go in Homeowner Maria Decker, who had only added the finishing touches to her family’s dream home last year, was on vacation when the fire broke out. Plumes of smoke and flames as high as 30ft could be seen as the fire ripped through the 22-room stone-built mansion. About 70 firefighters were called in to tackle the blaze, but the house was quickly engulfed, making it too dangerous for the crews to go inside. It took Mrs Decker and her husband Jeff three years to build the house, which had vaulted ceilings, stone arches and a turret. Mr Decker had gone out for lunch when the fire started. His 44-year-old wife was on vacation in Florida, and their sons were at college and school. ‘They’re devastated at this point in time. What they’ve worked for and the beautiful, big house they built is no longer standing the way it was,’ Fire Captain Clarence Smith told WLWT. Mrs Decker’s 20-year-old son Chase, left a message on Facebook telling friends they had lost everything in the fire, but that the family’s dogs had managed to survive. In a post written at 4pm, he said: ‘You will soon see on the news that our home has burned down and there is nothing left of our possessions.’ He added: ‘Thankfully everyone is safe, including our dogs.’ Because the two-storey home was set back from the road, in five acres of land, and didn’t have a sprinkler system, the firefighters struggled to control it. A fire hydrant that was on the property didn’t have a large enough supply of water to tackle the flames, WCPO reported. The sprawling five-bedroom home, which had an elevator, flag pole and outside pool, was built in 2006, although Mrs Decker had put photos of it nearing completion last year. As well as being the family home of Mrs Decker and her sons Chase and Austin, the house was also the site of J.R. Decker Builders Inc. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Could LSD cut crime? Psychedelic drugs prevent criminals from re-offending, claims study

Psychedelic drugs could help to keep ex-offenders out of prison, new research suggests. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, collected data about 25,622 people under community supervision between 2002 and 2007 to find that people who used hallucinogenic drugs were less likely to be arrested again U.S. scientists have found that drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms could be used to help reform criminals under community correction supervision. It has previously been thought that LSD could be used to treat alcohol addiction, but the new research is the first in 40 years to suggest it could be used to stop criminals from re-offending. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, collected data about 25,622 people under community supervision between 2002 and 2007. All study participants were in the Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) programme, for people with a history of drug abuse, including alcohol addiction, The Raw Story reported. The researchers found that criminals diagnosed with a hallucinogen use disorder were less likely to fail the TASC programme, appear in court and be arrested and imprisoned, compared to those who did not have a history of taking the drugs. Just one per cent of people on the programme were diagnosed with a hallucinogen disorder, while heavy users of cocaine, cannabis and alcohol were the most common. ‘Our results provide a notable exception to the robust positive link between substance use and criminal behaviour,’ the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. ‘They add to both the older and emerging body of data indicating beneficial effects of hallucinogen interventions and run counter to the legal classification as well as popular perception of hallucinogens as categorically harmful substances with no therapeutic potential,’ they added. The scientists believe that offenders may be especially likely to benefit from LSD treatment as many people become criminals as a result of drug-seeking behaviour and impulsive conduct, often caused by compulsive drug use. The study took factors such as race, employment, age, history of drug abuse and crimes, as well as gender and education into account. However, the researchers warned that the findings of the study should not be seen to advocate recreational use of psychedelic drugs. ‘Nevertheless, they demonstrate that, in a real-world, substance-related intervention setting, hallucinogen use is associated with a lower probability of poor outcome,’ they wrote. They believe the research should be the start of a continued investigation into the use of psychedelic drugs to treat criminals. @MailOnline

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Woman accused her ex-boyfriend of rape ‘in a bid to cover up shame of threesome’

A woman claimed she had been raped by her ex-boyfriend in a bid to cover up a drunken threesome with two men she met in a pub, it was alleged. A court heard Lisa Yapp accused her ex-boyfriend of raping her to cover up the shame of having a threesome Lisa Yapp, 24, showed the men naked photographs of herself then went to one of their homes where they had sex in the kitchen, a court heard. She ‘high-fived’ the men as she left afterwards. But Yapp later turned up at a friend’s house in tears saying she had been raped. She claimed she had been attacked in an alleyway by her former partner Gavin Hockey, jurors heard. Police began a major investigation after Yapp told officers the attacker had ‘sounded and felt’ like him. But Mr Hockey had been 30 miles away at the time and was seen on CCTV on a night out with friends. Yapp was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Prosecutor Andrew Wilkins told Worcester Crown Court: ‘Why she lied we might never know, it might be because she felt guilty. ‘It might be that she wanted to get back at her former boyfriend.’  The court heard Yapp got talking to friends Matthew Stevens and Terry Lippett in the Goodrest Tavern in Worcester on August 1, 2011. Mr Stevens told the court that after the talk turned to issues of a sexual nature, Yapp showed them naked photographs and the three went to his home. There, she showed them more photographs before stripping off and telling them she had taken part in orgies. Mr Stevens told the trial he had sex with Yapp in the kitchen while Mr Lippett groped her. ‘I was a bit shocked,’ he told the jury. ‘Afterwards I thought, “I can’t believe what just happened”. I was a bit embarrassed to be honest.’ Yapp claimed she had been raped in an alley near her home in Ronkswood, Worcester. She told police: ‘I knew someone was walking behind me and I started walking a bit faster. ‘I felt his fist hit the back of my head and he pushed my back down. He grabbed hold of my hair and with his other hand he pulled my trousers down.’ She said she had screamed and tried to fight back and claimed her attacker shouted, ‘I told you I’d get you for it.’ Yapp told police she believed the attack was revenge because she had previously made allegations of rape against Mr Hockey which were subsequently dropped. But a medical examination found no sign that she had been attacked and evidence from CCTV and witnesses showed she had left the pub with two men in the opposite direction to the alley, the court heard. Yapp later claimed to police that she suffered from blackouts but still maintained she had been raped. She denies perverting the course of justice. The trial continues.

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Online rush for M&S armchairs worth £700 after they are advertised at just 50p each

Browsing the Marks and Spencer website, Stuart Lever came across what looked like the bargain of the century – a plush reclining armchair for 50p. Bargain: Marks & Spencer mistakenly advertised this £700 reclining chair for 50p on their website The deal was so good – including free delivery and assembly – that the former Tory councillor decided to buy seven for a mere £3.50, and donate them to his local hospital. And he wasn’t the only one who spotted the bargain, with other eagle-eyed shoppers deluging the site with orders. One even tried to buy seven of the High Back Richmond recliner chairs costing a grand total of £3.50, rather than £4,900. But it was all too good to be true. A technical error meant the chair should have had a price tag of £700, and M&S has now cancelled all orders and offered refunds. Writing to customers, the retailer said: ‘For a short period of time on our website, our Richmond Highback Recliner Chair was incorrectly priced at 50p. ‘We hope you can see this was an obvious pricing error on our part and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.’ Mr Lever, 45, who was a councillor in Bolton, said: ‘I was very disappointed to hear that Marks and Spencer wouldn’t be going through with the order – as far as I’m concerned they should honour the deal without any question. ‘They are a big company and hey should take the mistake on the chin and pay out, they have already confirmed that they received our order. ‘If everyone kicked up a fuss, you never know they might end up changing their minds. ‘I had contacted the hospital about possibly giving the chairs to the maternity unit, but obviously that won’t be happening now.’ A Bolton Council trading standards spokesman said: ‘In cases where there has been a clear mistake the seller is able to reject or cancel the order as it was not a genuine contract.’ Eventually bosses at the high street chain realised their mistake and cancelled all orders and offered refunds. In a letter to customers they said: ‘We are aware that, for a short period of time on our website yesterday, our Richmond Highback Recliner Chair was incorrectly priced at 50p. ‘During this time an order was placed for the chair on your account and we’re sorry to let you know that this order will not be processed further. ‘We know that this will be disappointing for you, however, we hope you can see this was an obvious pricing error on our part and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. ‘You will receive further emails from us today to notify you that your order has not been progressed and a refund processed. If your order included any additional items, apart from the chair, we’re afraid that you will have to place a new order for those items. ‘Once again, we do apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience caused by this.’ Initially on its website M&S proudly trumpeted the Richmond as being ‘supremely comfortable and supportive with the split headroll lumbar back cushion. ‘The combination of comfort with the beautiful proportions and classic lines will make this a real future favourite.’ It added: ‘Free, eco-friendly home delivery. Our crews will unpack, assemble and position the item.’ But today the chair was nowhere to be seen on the website – although other items in the same range were being offered for sale. A Marks & Spencer spokesman said the pricing mistake was down a ‘technical error’ which was corrected as soon as it was spotted. He said the chairs would not be sold at 50p and a full refund would be given. A statement said: ‘We have contacted customers and apologised for any inconvenience caused.’ @MailOnline

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Woman sues solicitors because they ‘did not explain that finalising her divorce would terminate her marriage’

A British woman has attempted to sue her former lawyers for professional negligence after they allegedly failed to properly explain to her that getting a divorce would end her marriage. The woman claims lawyers failed to advise that finalising divorce proceedings would officially end her marriage (posed) She claimed that, alongside a number of other allegations, they failed to advise that finalising divorce proceedings would officially end her marriage. Roman Catholic Jane Mulcahy argued that the lawyers should have clearly explained that a divorce would terminate her marriage. She claimed lawyers failed to take into account her faith and should have recommended judicial separation – a step away from full divorce – as an alternative course of action, the Independent reported. Her case was rejected by the court. The curious case follows another bizarre divorce proceeding – a woman who is splitting from her husband over peas. Just one week after getting married, a woman in Kuwait has filed for divorce after discovering her husband prefers to use bread, rather than a fork, to eat peas. Traumatised by the ‘shocking sight’, she said she could no longer live with him, owing to his lack of etiquette. The case of the ‘shocking’ peas, reported in the daily Al Qabas today, is not the only bizarre reason for wanting a divorce in Kuwait. One woman wanted a divorce because her husband insisted on squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle and not the end. ‘We are always arguing… He is so obstinate,’ she said. Another woman divorced her husband on their wedding day because the groom had not made the costly arrangements that she had asked for. Read more: Woman claims lawyers should have told her divorce would end her marriage

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