The best tabloid stories of 2018

It must be true...

Tory Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg was sent a stern letter from The Beano in April, accusing him of copying the “trademarked imagery” of one of its best known characters: Walter the Softy. The “cease and desist” letter claimed that Rees-Mogg (pictured, left) had “stolen” everything from Walter’s glasses and hair parting to his vintage apparel and appreciation of classical music. “A swift response would be appreciated,” the letter read, “to avoid getting Teacher involved.”

A Romanian court ruled that a 63-year-old man was dead, even though he had appeared in front of the judge himself to offer evidence to the contrary. Constantin Reliu moved to Turkey to find work in 1992, and lost touch with his family. This year, he finally returned home, only to find that his wife had registered him dead two years earlier. He tried to have the death certificate annulled, but the court ruled that he had appealed too late. So he is officially dead, and as the ruling was final, he will have to stay dead. “I have no income, and because I am listed dead I can’t do aything,” he complained.

An American televangelist appealed this year for help to fund the purchase of a $54m private jet. Louisiana-based minister Jesse Duplantis had already gone through three planes, “burning them up for the Lord Jesus Christ”; and now God wanted him to have a new one. In fact, he’d even specified the model: a Dassault Falcon 7X. “The Lord said, ‘Jesse, do you want to come up where I am at?’” Duplantis, 69, explained in a video to his congregation. “And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I want you to believe in me for a Falcon 7X.’” If the Lord Jesus Christ were physically on the planet today, the minister added, “He wouldn’t be riding on a donkey.”

A Chinese woman who bought a Tibetan mastiff puppy in a market in 2016 was shocked to find how much her new pet ate; she was surprised when it started to walk on two legs; and frankly alarmed when it didn’t stop growing. Finally, she realised the family dog was actually a bear. The animal is now living at a wildlife centre, where it has been identified as an endangered Asiatic Black Bear. “I am a little scared of bears,” said its former owner, Su Yun, who lives in a village in Yunnan province.

A firefighter climbed onto the roof of a house in north London to rescue a parrot that had been stranded there for three days, only to be told to “f*** off”. Jessie the Macaw’s owner had advised the rescuer to tell the bird “I love you”, to win it over. At first, it reciprocated, but then the relationship turned sour as Jessie launched a foul-mouthed tirade. The bird eventually returned home “of her own accord”.

An airline passenger in the US was denied entry onto a flight after she tried to take an “emotional support” peacock on board. United Airlines said that although it does make provision for passengers with companion animals, it drew the line at “non-household birds” (as well as hedgehogs, spiders and reptiles).

A Sheffield man who sculpted his privet hedge into the shape of a reclining woman has professed himself “disgusted” that drunken people are stopping outside his house and pretending to have sex with it. Keith Tyssen (pictured), a silversmith, says he has been woken dozens of times by rowdy passsers-by, male and female, “interfering” with his creation, which he calls Gloria. “I don’t want them to behave like that with my privet lady,” he said.

A Russian woman punched her Pin into a credit card terminal in a café in Switzerland, not realising that, in fact, she was being asked to enter a tip. As a result, Olesja Schemjakowa paid 7,709 Swiss francs – £5,695 – for a cup of cofffee and a slice of cake. The credit card company refused to reverse the payment, as it had not been fraudulent; the café owner later promised to repay her, but filed for bankruptcy before the money was returned. “It’s just not fair,” said Ms Schemjakowa.

A Belgian politician was blocked from campaigning under his own name on Facebook, on the grounds that it is “offensive and inappropriate”. Luc Anus, 26, a socialist running in municipal elections in Lobbes, near Charleroi, was forced to change his name on the site to “Anu”. Anus said he had learnt to live with the mockery. “I can deal with it,” he said, though he thought “weaker” people might have “a hard time” coping. In 2012, another Belgian socialist, Jean-Claude Prick, also attracted wide attention.

Huge crowds gathered in the village of Harpur, in India’s Bihar state, this year to watch a holy man pull a car along with his penis. The man, known only as Penis Baba, can be seen in a video fiddling under his robes and apparently attaching a tow rope to his private parts, before staggering backwards and seeming to pull the heavy vehicle some 100ft. Baba, who reportedly left the village as a child to practise penance, remarked: “It is not art. It is the power of God – the power of devotion.”

A Brazilian football fan is so devoted to his team, he has had its jersey tattooed onto his body. To cover his torso in the Flamengo’s colours took a tattoo artist 90 hours, in 32 sessions spread over a year. “People ask me if I find it strange, that I am always wearing a Flamengo’s shirt,” said José Mauricio dos Anjos. “But to me, it’s normal.”

With his upper-class English background and in-depth knowledge of the Royal Family, Thomas J. Mace-Archer-Mills was a natural choice for overseas news channels looking for an expert to comment on the Royal wedding in June. There was just one problem: Mace-Archer-Mills is not English. After the wedding, he admitted that he is an Italian American from upstate New York, whose real name is Tommy Muscatello Jr. But as he explained to The Wall Street Journal, he has “identified” as English since childhood. He adopted an upper-classs English accent after appearing in a school production of Oliver! and later moved to England, where he founded the British Monarchist Society.