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The Odd Truth, Nov. 18, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum.

Is The Wedding Still On?

MILFORD, Conn. - That's one of the unanswered questions in the case of a man who police say staged a break-in at his own home so he could sell his fiancee's engagement ring.

George Rich, 43, was charged Tuesday with falsely reporting an incident and providing a false statement. He was released on a written promise to appear in Superior Court on Dec. 7.

Police said Rich made the couple's home look like a burglar had broken in and stolen jewelry, including the gold engagement ring with diamonds. Court documents show Rich pawned the items for $5,000 at the Hock It To Me shop.

On Sept. 21, Rich called police to report that burglars ransacked his home and stole a gold cocktail ring and the engagement ring, both valued at $2,500. He also said a gold chain was missing.

Detectives became suspicious when they noticed Rich's name in a weekly update on pawnshop activity. Records from Hock It To Me showed that Rich pledged a gold chain and two gold rings - including the engagement ring - at the business on Sept. 14.

Rich later admitted the scheme to detectives, police said.

China Hosts Toilet Summit

BEIJING - The WTO is co-sponsoring a meeting in Beijing, and there's not a protester in sight. That's because it's not the World Trade Organization, it's the World Toilet Organization.

Really.

Founder Jack Sim says good toilets are a basic human right.

Hundreds of scholars, toilet designers and environmentalists from 19 countries have dropped in on the three-day Toilet Summit. They're talking technology, lavatory management and the link between toilets and tourism.

As frequent travelers know, a good toilet can be an oasis, so to speak, if you get the trots while globetrotting.

China has a reputation for awful public toilets. But Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympics, has spent $29 million building or renovating 750 public restrooms.

The conference high point will be a tour of those facilities.

The Gentleman Bandit

VICTORIA, British Columbia - A bank robber who was so polite he thanked a teller for his loot has pleaded guilty to five offenses.

Christopher Colin Osguthorpe, 30, pleaded guilty Wednesday in British Columbia Supreme Court to two counts of robbery, one count of using an imitation handgun in a crime and one count of wearing a mask while committing an offense.

He abandoned his defense after Justice Randall Wong ruled that prosecutors could introduce a confession and other statements Osguthorpe made in police custody after the April 2003 robberies.

Earlier in the trial, most of the prosecution witnesses - customers and a bank employee - emphasized the robber's good manners.

When Osguthorpe thanked a teller as she handed over the money, he was so pleasant that she responded, "You're welcome," one witness said.

Osguthorpe also met another witness after one of the stickups and expressed concern for the tellers, saying he hoped they hadn't been overly traumatized.

Beer For Baby Jesus

ADELAIDE, Australia - An Australian brewing company is offering six cases of beer to anyone who returns a statue of the baby Jesus stolen from a nativity scene earlier this week, brewery officials said Thursday.

The South Australian Brewing Company offered the reward after thieves swiped the statue from the company's traditional nativity display earlier this week.

Managing Director Mark Powell said security footage showed a man scaling a fence and lifting the baby Jesus from his manger.

"We are very concerned about the well-being of baby Jesus and we are calling for his swift and safe return," Powell said.

A reward of six cases of beer would be given to anyone who returns the statue, he said.

"That said, you would have thought that the incentive of a guaranteed exit through the right door after purgatory would be enough of an incentive in itself," Powell said.

Clergy: No Damned Christmas

CAMBRIDGE, England - A clergyman has criticized a city's decision to ask an aging punk band to switch on its annual civic display of Christmas lights.

The Damned, the Rev. Stephen Leeke said Wednesday, do not really encapsulate the spirit of the season.

"I do not think they are the best people to be switching on the Christmas lights," said Leeke, vicar of St. Martin's Church in Cambridge, 50 miles north of London. "I think perhaps it would be more appropriate for them to switch them off.

"It just seems to me to be a bit of a culture clash in launching the city's Christmas celebrations with a group who really haven't been renowned with looking at the positive side of life and Christian principles," he added.

The band, which sprang from London's mid-70s punk scene and released songs including "Problem Child," "Smash It Up" and "Suicide," is due to switch on the historic university town's seasonal decorations on Sunday.

Lead singer Captain Sensible, who had a solo hit in 1982 with the cheery Rogers and Hammerstein song "Happy Talk," defended the band, saying The Damned represented the true spirit of Christmas.

"It's a time to behave disgracefully and slob out in front of the TV," he told Independent Radio News. "The Damned are particularly good at that sort of thing and the church stuff just gets in the way."

'It Wasn't Me, It Was My Other Personality'

FREEHOLD, N.J. - Nira Nevins said only one of her many personalities robbed a Shrewsbury bank, but they're all going to jail.

The 55-year-old woman maintains that an alternate, childlike personality came over her the day she robbed the bank.

"I am so ashamed of our actions," she told Superior Court Judge Edward M. Neafsey on Tuesday.

The judge ordered Nevins to serve 18 years in prison for kidnapping the bank's head teller and forcing her to drive from the scene. He also imposed a concurrent 13-year prison term for the armed robbery of the bank in 2002.

Nevins must serve 15 years and three months before becoming eligible for parole.

A jury convicted her in August following a trial that included the appearance of "Jimmy," the child personality Nevins said robbed the bank of just more than $5,000.

Nevins' attorney, Paul Edinger, had argued she suffered from dissociative identity disorder, formerly called multiple personality disorder, and should be acquitted by reason of insanity.

She testified that she had considered suicide the morning of March 20, 2002. The next thing she recalled was being in a police car after the robbery.

But Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Jacquelynn Seely portrayed Nevins as a manipulative, intelligent woman who planned the robbery to pay off $124,000 in debts.

Jurors rejected Nevins' defense, saying afterward they believed Jimmy's emergence was faked.

Polly Want A Vacuum?

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - This bird didn't sing, but it gave away an alleged thief anyway.

A mayoral candidate in upstate New York who's known for walking around town with a parrot on his shoulder has been charged with felony burglary. He's accused of stealing an acquaintance's Dirt Devil vacuum. Its owner found a telltale green feather nearby.

Michael Sullivan has been arrested and released on 500 dollars' bail.

Lake Placid's mayoral election will be held in March. Sullivan and two other candidates are vying for the job.