As half of Portsmouth and Hampshire Police know, I have been pranked and bullied extensively for more than six years, anonymously. This included the use of a particular type of electronic communication, software like Metasploit and Meterpreter as well as of faked e-mails and phone calls.
The pranks? Sometimes I realise that something was a prank, hours or days or even months later. Other times, I see it instantly. Occasionally, my intuition tells me to stay away from whatever it is. Pranks are like desk chairs or exercise equipment that you can’t put together. They seem an utter waste of time and resources, and they don’t make sense to anyone who is not British. What’s the point of, for example, having me arrange a geology Q&A session for a school in Canada or send a small art reproduction to a firm in London, other than that it wastes my time and money?
So I ignore them as much as I can. Pranks.
(Sometimes that means proceeding as if there is no prank going on, even when it looks like there is. At other times, it means that I walk away.)
As more and more facts surrounding the case of Mr Hilton seemed to stop adding up, the likelihood that it was yet another elaborate prank by the people of Portsmouth and surroundings increased exponentially.
To start with, increasingly more facts about the person who contacted me about the case in the first place didn’t add up.
Secondly, I spoke with someone from Lancashire who not only contradicted a crucial element of the case as I knew it but also contradicted herself. I strongly suspect that my phone call to her was electronically rerouted to someone in or near Portsmouth who either put on an accent or used voice distortion software, such as Screaming Bee MorphVOX. (This has happened before, several times. How did they know I was going to call that person? Ah, but that is easy and that too has happened before.)
Then I received an e-mail that was clearly mocking me and the campaign. That’s when I made the decision to withdraw the petition. Previously, I had also spoken and e-mailed with police, a law firm and court staff, and there did seem to be a Mr Hilton and a court case against him, but I had no way of verifying whether any of the information exchanges I had were spoofed or not.
Having had so many years of experience with living in Portsmouth, I concluded that I had fallen for yet another extremely elaborate hoax. Clearly, too many talented people in and around Portsmouth have nothing better to do than cook up and carry out elaborate hoaxes to trip up people like me. Sending me on wild goose chases is something they particularly enjoy.
I hasten to add that none of this is typical for Portsmouth. This kind of stuff is all about what it means to be British. It is all quintessentially British.
To anyone dealing with similar experiences I have the following advice. Sometimes you have to be like water and sometimes you have to be like a rock. None of that is easy, but it is easier for some.