Martians like a bet, predictably enough

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The Independent Online
Yesterday I brought you part of the current trial in which Drew Webster, accused of shoplifting in Croydon, pleads not guilty on the grounds that he was on the planet Mars at the time, at a party. More of this trail- blazing case today.

Counsel: You have already told the court that you work as a Hugh Grant look-alike ...

Webster: That is correct.

Counsel: On July 17th last year, a man closely resembling Hugh Grant was arrested in Dixons of Croydon with a Sony CD Player under his coat.

Webster: Perhaps it was Hugh Grant.

Counsel: I think not. He was in California at the time.

Webster: He was closer to Croydon than I was, in that case. I was on Mars, don't forget.

Counsel: Do you seriously ask the court to believe that an actor of Hugh Grant's standing would sink to petty crime?

Webster: He has done it once. He would do it again.

Judge: When you say that Hugh Grant has previously been involved in petty crime, are you referring to ... ?

Counsel: Yes, m'lud.

Judge: I see. Right, carry on.

Counsel: Now, Mr Webster, this party you were at on Mars. Could you describe it?

Webster: It was just an ordinary sort of Martian party.

Counsel: For the benefit of those of us who have never attended a Martian party, could you elaborate a little?

Webster: Well, it was okay to start with, but then the drink ran out and the neighbours began to complain about the noise, so most people went home but a few of us younger ones slipped down the corner for a quick Venusian.

Counsel: A quick Venusian?

Webster: Yes. A meal at the local Venusian restaurant. Venusian restaurants stay open later than most do on Mars, and the service is quick.

Counsel: What's the food like?

Webster: Not bad, if you like spicy cooking.

Counsel: And then?

Webster: And then I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I was home in bed in Croydon.

Counsel: It is possible - just possible - that there may be a germ of truth in this story. It is also possible that you have been watching too many X Files.

Webster: I have never seen the programme.

Counsel: Never?

Webster: Never. The night it is on, I usually go to Mars.

Counsel: Is there any evidence you could offer to support your highly unlikely story about a trip to Mars?

Webster: I would like to call a witness.

Counsel: Who would that be?

Webster: A Martian called Tin-Tack, who was with me at the party and would testify that I was there, too.

Counsel: Call Tin-Tack! Cries off-stage of "Call Tin-Tack!" There is a long pause. Nothing happens. No sign of him, I'm afraid, Mr Webster.

Webster: On the contrary, sir. He is here.

Counsel: I see nothing.

Webster: That is because Martians make themselves invisible and inaudible to those they do not trust. But I can see him perfectly clearly, and hear him, too.

Counsel: Then perhaps you would care to ask your Martian friend whether he will testify to your alibi.

Webster: Certainly. Tin-Tack, was I or was I not at the party with you on the afternoon of July 17th last year, Earth time? Another long pause

Judge: What does he say?

Webster: It's a bit embarrassing, m'lud.

Judge: I don't care. What does your Martian friend say?

Webster: He said: "Never mind about the party - have you put the money on yet?"

Judge: What on earth does that mean?

Webster: My Lord, you must realise that the Martians have the gift of foretelling the future. For this reason, they have no gambling or betting on Mars. There is no point in wagering on the future when you already know the future. They already know, for instance, the result of the next British election.

Judge: Not a lot of use to them, is it?

Webster: Not a lot on Mars, m'lud. But on Earth, where you can bet on such things ...

Judge: Ah! I think I see now.

Webster: Exactly. Tin-Tack and his friends gave me a lot of money to bring back to Earth and place at the bookmaker's on the result of the next election.

Judge: Hmm. And have you placed the bet yet?

Webster: Not yet. It is difficult to change Martian money, for a start. For another thing, it may be difficult to persuade the bookie to accept their forecast as a realistic bet.

Judge: Why? What do they think will happen at the next election?

Webster: My lips are sealed, m'lud.

Judge: Not in my court they aren't. Court adjourned! Mr Webster, come to my room and write down on a bit of the paper the result of the next election, and then we will phone my bookmaker ...

More of this unusual case some other time, perhaps.

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