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Is this the greatest ever email hoax?

The tale of Claire Swire, swallowing and the new boy at Norton Rose

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Updated Email is an amazing medium - people can communicate with hundreds of others with enormous speed and information can be disseminated faster, across more of the planet than ever before. Amazing. However, it can also be abused - and if you're a smart lawyer, to great effect.

We have to admit, we were taken in at first when we received an email charting the conversation between one Bradley Chait and one Claire Swire. The email has been fired around the Internet and we reckon at least one million people have read it by now.

The saga starts with a group email of a smutty joke:

"A guy walks into a sperm donor bank wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. He goes up to the nurse and demands her to open the sperm bank vault. She says: 'But sir, its just a sperm bank!' 'I don't care, open it now!' he orders. So she opens the door to the vault and inside are all the sperm samples. The guy says: 'Take one of those sperm samples and drink it!' She looks at him: 'BUT, they are sperm samples?' 'DO IT!' So the nurse sucks it back. 'That one there, drink that one as well', so the nurse drinks that one as well. Finally, after 4 samples the man takes off his ski mask and says: 'See honey - its not that hard.'"

A person on the list, one Bradley Chait, forwards the gag onto Claire with the message "cute".

Claire replies, touch in cheek: "Lucky I swallow, so that wont be happening to me!"

Bradley comes back to her: "Not ALL the time I hope (or so you would have me believe)"

Claire then makes the remark that was to turn her into a legendary figure: "I hadn't swallowed for years but yours was yum and very good for me too! Apparently it's very good conditioner for your hair too... getting a funny picture in my head, giggling out loud and now having to explain to Dave what's so funny!"

This was all supposedly a personal communication, but then Bradley - logically following man's intrinsic necessity to boast, forwards it - with the entire history - to six of his mates, with the message: "now THAT'S a nice compliment from a lass, isn't it?"

This is then emailed from one of the Bradley's "mates" to 14 others with the catchline "beggars belief. I feel honour bound to circulate this". We can't be sure how much further the email is hoax and how much real forwarding from people to their friends. But nevertheless, before you knew it, the email was popping up all over the place and a worldwide hunt for Claire had begun.

We were a tiny bit suspicious that only Bradley's email address had appeared in the bottom half of the email and decided to call the law firm that Bradley works for - Norton Rose in the City of London - to see what we could find out. Even the receptionist knew what was going on. Does a Claire Swire work there? We asked. "We've been hearing quite a lot about Claire today," she told us. "But as yet we have no idea or recollection of who she is." Does Bradley Chait work there? "Yes." Can you put us through to him?

And so Bradley answers the phone. "Is that Bradley Chait?" "Could be, why?" We tell him we're from The Reg and ask him about the email. Wearily, he tells us: "It's a hoax. A very good one though, I have to admit." Does he know who set him up? "No. But then I wouldn't put it past any of the boys here - I've just started, you see."

And there you have it - possible the greatest ever new-boy practical joke, using the modern medium of email. Bradley has been completely inundated with emails - god only knows what most of them said. It was possibly the need to delete them all that led to him making his excuses and hanging up.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to ask him if he actually knew a Claire Swire and the search seems to be going on, but it seems possible that the prankster that set up Bradley also thought he'd have a go at Claire while there. Jilted lover? Practical-joke making friend? Who knows?

But it is one more example of the caveat: never believe anything you read of the Net. Except The Reg, of course ®

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