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The Most Over-Enthusiastic Armed Response In March 1998, police squad cars roared into Rolvenden with sirens wailing and blue lights flashing. In a faultless demonstration of rapid response they powered manfully into this tranquil Kentish village after a gun was seen being fired from a cottage window. More than thirty armed officers surrounded the cottage and the village was sealed off for two hours as police waited for the suspect to emerge. Marksmen trained automatic rifles on the building and a negotiator crouched behind a car shouting through a loudhailer: ‘We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands in the air.’ Inside, eighty-six-year-old Violet Hook, who was hard of hearing, made herself a pot of tea and relaxed in her kitchen chair, oblivious to the drama. Eventually she heard one of the calls and came out, still carrying the cap gun she used to scare rooks from her roof and demanding to know what all the fuss was about. Eric Lovell, a friend and neighbour of Mrs Hook, said: ‘There were police everywhere pointing their guns at Vi’s house. I tried to tell them it was a cap gun, but they ordered me back inside for my own safety.’ When the police screamed at Mrs Hook to throw down her gun, she replied: ‘I won’t. I don’t even know you. And besides I’m going out and I am busy getting ready.’

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The Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures by Stephen Pile © Stephen Pile, 2011 Published by Faber and Faber, £12.99, out now in hardback and ebook. @FaberBooks Faber.co.uk


The Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures sampler 2