Shotguns are a girl's best friend

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As a star of the red carpet of some 10 years standing, Liz Hurley has made a tidy living out of donning dazzling ball gowns and sparkling diamonds.

So it may come as a surprise to many that Hurley has revealed she recently declined the offer of a set of sparklers, opting instead for a brand new pair of shooters.

"For my last birthday I was offered jewellery or shotguns; I chose the guns," she says proudly.

The guns, I'm told, are a beautiful pair of Spanish 12 bores. But although Hurley's comments, which were made in the latest edition of Spear's Ultra magazine, are an admirable two-fingered salute to the PC brigade, animal rights activists are unlikely to be losing too much sleep over her marksmanship.

Hurley admitted to one newspaper she couldn't hit a barn door sideways.

Trouble in utopia

When Prince Charles laid the first stones to Poundbury, his so-called model village in Dorset, he had hoped it would become a shining beacon of rural development.

Sadly, 13 years since its inception, it is not immune to the usual blights of small-town petty crime. Last month, The Independent reported cases of reckless vandalism, after some houses were pelted with eggs and tomatoes by neighbouring yobs.

Now, more reports have emerged that have sent curtains twitching, which claim a drug dealer has been sighted operating in the area.

While Clarence House won't comment on crime issues in the area, one local says: "It's been a bit like an episode of Midsomer Murders, everyone's quite taken aback."

Helmets on!

More tales from those far off pavilions. After yesterday's progress report on the all parliamentary cricket team's tour Down Under, news of another English side spending their Christmas enjoying the thwack of leather on willow.

Radio 3 head honcho Roger Wright is leading his local church side on a tour of India, where he aims to raise money for The Leprosy Mission International.

His 22-man band should expect stiff opposition. They're scheduled to face a side led by the former Indian captain Nawab "Tiger" Pataudi.

"He's got a few stars in his address book, so we've decided to pack helmets," Wright tells me. "We haven't used them before so we feel a bit like the Jamaican bobsled team."

Phishy goings-on in Westminster

Now the fake sheik's neatly pressed jalabia has been confined to the rubbish dump, MPs face a more sophisticated hoaxster. Parliamentary e-mails have fallen victim to the practice commonly referred to as "phishing".

A fraudulent message is doing the rounds purporting to be from HM Revenue & Customs. Recipients are informed they are due a tax rebate and are asked to hand over bank details in which to make out the refund.

Although a note has been sent warning of the scam, some members fear it may have come too late.

"Let's face it, some of us have fallen for dumber schemes in the past," says one.