We all love to mock Bond villains for their hilarious ineptitude at killing the hero. The ‘genius’ Dr No has a tarantula placed in Bond’s bed — though as it happens, tarantula bites do not kill humans except via anaphylaxis; he tries to have Bond run off the road, irradiated, and boiled alive in a nuclear cooling tank. Time and again, Bond is in the clutches of Smersh or Spectre or that chap with three nipples, and time and again they pass up the obvious bullet to the head in favour of crowd-pleasing stunts involving sharks, poison–tipped shoes, alligators, and men with giant metal teeth.
Such things would never happen in the real world, we think. Even a halfwit criminal would know to crush a cunning adversary like Bond in the simplest, quickest way possible.
Or would they?
One client of mine, whom I shall call Blofeld, decided to murder his wife.
I do not wish to advise readers as to the best methods for such a crime, but they tend to the prosaic: poison, strangulation, bludgeoning, etc.
Blofeld decided to finish off his missus by firing a homemade, 4ft-long rocket into her car as she drove through a wooded copse on her way home from work.
After painstakingly building his weapon in the shed, he placed it on a custom-built launch frame and angled it towards the road. To ensure it was fired at precisely the correct moment, he positioned himself on the other side of the road, facing the rocket, with a remote control gizmo in hand. Then he lay in wait.
A few minutes later, his wife’s car drew into sight. The moment it was level with Blofeld he pushed the button. Instantly, there was a flash and a roar as the rocket flew towards its target.
It would have been the perfect murder, too, had it not been for one key flaw: his wife’s car was 50 yards up the road by the time the rocket reached the desired point.
Worse, the rocket flew on and smashed into the tree behind which Blofeld was hiding, and exploded with an enormous bang.
The resultant fireball engulfed him, setting fire to his hair and beard, and he was still bandaged up like a mummy when the judge gave him 20 years.
You might assume he was the most ambitious (i.e. stupid) criminal I’ve ever represented, but he doesn’t come close.
My favourite was a master counterfeiter who bought a smelting kit and created a rubber mould to make pound coins (though coins plural is to credit him with an efficiency he did not possess: he could make only one at a time).
Painstakingly, he melted and poured his metal, and when each coin had set and cooled, he took a pot of gold paint and carefully painted it. They looked terrible, but they did just about fool fruit machines and parking meters.
The trouble was, each one took him an hour to make. In court, the judge, clearly perplexed, asked him why he bothered.
‘You’re only earning a sixth of the minimum wage,’ he said. ‘Why not just get a job?’
‘I prefer working for myself,’ said the counterfeiter. ‘That way I get to choose my own hours.’
The judge was merciful.
‘Ordinarily, counterfeiting is a serious crime which merits a long spell in prison,’ he said. ‘But I’m going to pass a sentence on you that I think properly reflects the risk to society from your criminal genius. You are conditionally discharged for two years. Off you go.’
And off my client went, with a huge grin on his face.
He’d been at court for two hours, and it was only 11 o’clock: if he got his skates on, and worked until six o’clock that evening, he could make enough dodgy money to cover his morning’s car parking.
Gary Bell is a criminal barrister and the author of a memoir, Animal QC.