The one that got away

Here’s Sunday’s column. Hope you enjoy.



I just read this story in the news about Joseba Sarrionandia. A writer who was recently awarded a top Spanish literary award for a series of essays he wrote. The award is a big one, sponsored by the government, and he’s set to win 15 500 quid. Which, for a writer, I can tell you, is a lot of squids.

But there’s just one little snag. Our mate Joseba, the Spanish writer, actually escaped from a Spanish prison back in 1985 where he was serving a twenty two year sentence for belonging to a militant separist group, which the government claimed was a terrorist organisation.
Joseba, then.
Legend has it that he hid inside the huge speakers belonging to a band that was performing at the prison at the time, and he was simply wheeled out after the concert, loaded into their band wagon and he hasn’t been seen or heard from since. He may still be touring with the band for all we know.

Now the authorities are saying that if he wants to claim his prize he has to come forward and ‘regularise his legal situation’ before they’re willing to hand over the moolah. So somewhere one of those giant cardboard cheques made out to Joseba in the amount of £15,500 sits gathering dust. Jeez Joseba if this is your life story so far, I doubt you’ll ever run out of material to write about.

One has to wonder if this is an authentic award that he’s won, or simply an elaborate ploy by the government (who cunningly sponsors the award) to bring a criminal to justice over twenty years after his escape?

Imagine the dilemma our friend the writer is having. Does he remain hidden behind that rock wearing a pair of those fake nose and moustache glasses disguise thingies for the rest of his life?

Or does he hand himself in, take the prize and the money and the glory and serve out the remainder of his sentence as a superstar, while he writes his memoirs, which will no doubt sell for millions?

His story has the makings of a great movie, starring say Matt Damon or Leo DeCaprio as a young Sarrionandia escaping from prison. And Robert De Niro as fifty three year old Joseba, today, torn and struggling with his decision.

Personally I think this has to be the smartest government ever. Other governments could learn a thing or two from them. This is what we should all be doing in an effort to capture every single person at large on our most wanted lists.

Finding Osama ben Laden would have been a cinch. Forget all those years and millions of dollars spent sniffing around musty caves in the Middle East. They should have just announced that Osama had won a Nobel Prize, or offered him a place on Dancing with the Stars. Nobody’s ever been known to turn that down. Then when he rocked up at the studio on day one of his rehearsals in his unitard, big beard and sweatband, they could have just nabbed him.

Take the FBI’s ten most wanted list. I bet we could lure in at least five of them before word of our plan got out in terrorist and murderer circles.

Throw it out there that one of them has won the lottery, let it slip to another that his great aunt died and left him a substantial inheritance, and all the baddies are sure to come crawling out of the woodwork. And if that doesn’t work, they could just track down an ex-girlfriend and ask her. She’s bound to know what happened to the one that got away.

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