Ribtickler

"Hey you! You with the megaphone… you're dead … I mean it, you're fucking dead   I'll get you, you bastard.”

We heard the angry whine and grinned.

"Shall we use that on the 10 o'clock news?" joked the reporter, we smiled at each other, cynically, of, course we didn't use it.

We'd been sitting on the rooftop, on and off, since the siege had begun. It was the typical hostage-siege drama, gunmen/hostage-takers/whoever, storming some embassy for no obvious reason, making incomprehensible demands.

The police keeping a low profile, doing the business - except for that pillock with the megaphone.

Oh yes, the pillock with the megaphone. Approximately five seconds after he started using it everyone, us, the other T.V. crews and press, even his colleagues, hostages, and most of all the gunmen, had cringed, and then become increasingly irritated by him.

I’m sure everyone secretly echoed the gunman's emotional outburst, some even desperately hoped that the loud mouth might get shot. He became for all of us the total focal point of the siege.

Apart from his nauseous voice and delivery, the main interest in him was why he should be using a megaphone. It was well known that police and gunmen had a phone link, so why was he needed?

About the third day of the siege, the amateur press psychologists, after long drunken discussions, came to the tentative conclusion that 'Mega Mouth' had been put in by police experts to redirect the gunmen's hostility away from the hostages to focus it on to him.

The theory postulated that he would eventually so infuriate the gunmen that in a fit of blind hate they would rush out of the building to silence him and be mown down by the 'blue beret' marksmen.

If indeed this was the police plan, it seemed to be working remarkably well. Each gunman, and one in particular, had sworn to do 'Mega Mouth' some horrible and permanent damage too awful to describe in a family newspaper.

Otherwise the siege was boringly uneventful. We perched on our rooftop, dutifully filing our crass daily reports: "Day (something) … siege continues …   four or five hostage takers … heavily armed … explosives … police maintain a low profile whilst negotiations continue … hostages so far unharmed - no sign of the S.A.S."

On the seventh day it ended.

We knew by noon that something was occurring, as the police hurtled and bustled about. We, in the press, caught the excitement and waited impatiently for a good story to leap out of (or into) the embassy.

After the mid-day burst of police activity there was a long and tedious four-hour period of peculiar stillness.

We were beginning relax and think that nothing would happen when the silence was shattered by a 'Mega Mouth' assault on the embassy, a mind searing blast that seemed to send one of the gunmen over the edge, for a full half hour he screamed incoherently in reply.

Two hours later the hostages were released.

They came out one by one, marshalled by 'Mega Mouth'. It was horrible, almost unbearable, to hear that grating voice going on and on and on...

When all the hostages were out, the police visibly tensed, popeyed marksmen strained on their triggers.

One gunman came out, hands above his head holding a machine pistol, which, once he was fully out in the open, he tossed slowly and deliberately away from himself. Two, three, four others followed.

As each came out and threw his gun away, two policemen came and with swift nervous efficiency hustled him away, and all the time 'Mega Mouth' prattled on.

There was a pause before the last gunman appeared. He seemed different, more agitated, more defiant as he threw his gun away. 'Mega Mouth" walked quickly towards him.

"You didn't kill me then?" he said loudly, just before the explosion.

Most of this you will no doubt be aware of all this.

You will also have read how the gunman had wired himself up with explosives and how a flying rib had killed ‘Mega Mouth’ instantly.

Indeed you may even have seen and heard the incident on our Ten o'clock news bulletin.

But what you didn't see or hear were the silent cheers and invisible celebrations that filled the square milliseconds after the explosion.

 

 

P. Blackburn 1980