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Home > World

Psychos and monkeys

15 June 2005

On April 25, Gregory Despres hitchhiked his way to the US-Canadian border crossing in Calais, Maine. Despres was born in Canada, but is a naturalised American citizen.

Also, importantly, he wasn't at the time wanted by American police. Therefore, taking these two facts into consideration, and despite the fact that he was carrying homemade sword, an axe, a knife, knuckledusters and a chainsaw that appeared to have recently been used to cut off someone's head, there was nothing US customs agents could do to detain him or turn him away. The following day the corpses of Despres' neighbours in New Brunswick were discovered. The woman had been stabbed to death; the man had been beheaded. Police suspicion eventually fell on Gregory Despres.

Bill Anthony is spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection. In defending the decision of customs officials to allow passage to what to even the woolliest, most overly forgiving eye was obviously a stark raving psychopath, he said: 'Nobody asked us to detain him. Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up.... We are governed by laws and regulations, and he did not violate any regulations.' On one hand, he may have a point. But, while there is always the option - when in doubt - to PHONE THE FUCKING POLICE, that hand is about as valid as Jeremy Beadle's.

Anthony admitted that it 'sounds stupid' that a psychotic-looking man wielding a bloody chainsaw could not be detained, but he added: 'Our people don't have a crime lab up there. They can't look at a chain saw and decide if it's blood or rust or red paint.' Jeez, he's right. What a quandary. Oh, wait, there is an alternative: PHONE THE FUCKING POLICE! YOUR PEOPLE ARE DOLTS!

But no. They didn't phone the police. What they did instead was to confiscate Despres' weapons and take his fingerprints. Or at least copies of them. Then they sent him on his way. This week he is awaiting extradition proceedings in a prison cell in Massachusetts and his lawyer Michael Andrews has questioned whether he is mentally fit to co-operate with his defence. Well, dur.

Of course it is rather ironic that this should be allowed to happen at a time when anti-terrorist measures have made border controls tighter than ever before. A more cynical observer might suggest that it doesn't really matter now many laws you have, if you insist on giving uniforms to monkeys, mistakes will continue to be made. A less cynical observer might suggest that the laws
we have are clearly insufficient to guard against the myriad threats posed by 21st century terror and madness, and that we need to keep making more and more laws until finally there is absolutely nothing whatsoever to fear. Or indeed do, because by that stage no-one will be allowed to leave the house. No-one of course, except all the monkeys in uniforms patrolling the streets outside.

One interesting question: Would Despres have been allowed into America if, as well as enough weapons to fuck up a large and expensive nursery, he'd also had a beard and a turban?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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