He Fought The Law (and the law won)

A Cautionary Tale

As you may have gathered from the subtitle, this is going to be a rather different post from my usual type, whatever that is. It is, however, one of the more important subjects about which I have written, so I hope you read it. I should warn you that it is a topic which I wish had never come anywhere near my blog, as it is so horrible, but I feel strongly that I need to write and share this.

I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion my ambivalent relationship with social media, particularly Twitter. Whilst I acknowledge how helpful this was in drawing me back into the world from the depths of my depression period five years ago, I have used it much less of late. One of the reasons for this is that I am very wary of who might really be talking on there. Most are, happily, upfront in saying who they are and their tweets reflect that. But others aren’t. Some, but not all of these, hide behind an avatar which isn’t a picture of themselves. Others Photoshop themselves into an idealised image of what they would like to look like – or, in the sadder cases, what they believe they actually do look like. These are often hiding someone whose purpose in being there is to conceal a real life existence to which they would rather not admit – even to themselves – and/or to use Twitter as a vehicle to abuse others with a degree of impunity. Of course I accept that many have perfectly legitimate reasons to use avatars, privacy being the most genuine of these. Sadly, others use them for less noble reasons.

At the time he closed his account last year @fiatpanda had, I think, around 10k Twitter followers. They must have been big fans of his regular outpourings of vitriol and his obsessive use of the ‘c’ word, which I never use even to myself, so I’m not about to start now. And in his case ‘c’ doesn’t stand for ‘car’ or ‘cuddly.’ He is one of those wannabes who cling to the coat tails of Z-list ‘celebrities’ in the hope that he can achieve their level of ‘fame,’ despite being an IT technician with no other appreciable talents. Frankly, though, the thought that he has the skills to hack into computer systems terrifies me. He never used his real picture and instead used a nice little panda to go with his chosen fake name. Here he is:

Oh, wait, why is there blood dripping from his hands? I’ll tell you why. In real life, @fiatpanda is actually a man by the name of Simon Guerrero. This is what he really looks like:

Fairly unremarkable, though to my eyes there’s a hint of malevolence about his appearance, a bit of a cross between Hitler and the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

My interest in him is that he was, for a year, one of the many ex-boyfriends/casual sexual partners of the ex-wife of a friend of mine. She was also very active on Twitter. She closed her previous account, with around with 13k followers, most of whom would no doubt be horrified and surprised to find out what she is really like, and how they have been fooled by the façade she presents. But she returned a couple of months ago, and was slowly building follower levels. However, her new account disappeared when she realised that Guerrero’s number was up. I called her out a few weeks ago, and was met with her usual victim act, plus random abuse from some of her followers, who have clearly fallen for her false persona and lies. I could go on at great length about her use of Parental Alienation (PAS or, on Twitter, #PAS) to deprive my friend of access to his daughter, and how she has systematically wrecked her children’s upbringing, but that is not my objective with this piece. The temptation to expose this woman is great but I’m not going to say any more about her. For now. The point of this piece is to reveal Guerrero for the piece of human detritus that he is.

If you Google his name you will find references to this, from 2008:

What a nice man, you might think. But times have moved on and he has revealed his true nature. Last month, Guerrero was found guilty at Swindon Crown Court on 8 charges of child pornography, 5 of which were listed as Category A, the most serious type. Just to be clear, Category A covers ‘penetrative sexual activity and sexual activity with an animal or sadism,’ to quote the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines. The case was originally due for trial in March 2016, but was delayed twice while further evidence was gathered. This included liaison with the FBI, whose radar he had landed upon due to his activity on the dark web. I understand that some of the images and films which caused Guerrero to be charged involved very young children and animals: there can be nothing more sick, perverted and evil than that. Now that the pre-sentencing reports have finally been completed he was sentenced on Thursday to 21 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to go on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years, and to surrender all of his computing devices. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, and his defence throughout the trial was to profess ignorance about how this stuff came to be on his computers, apparently unknown to an IT expert like him. The jury rightly saw through this and Guerrero only changed his tune on this at the sentencing hearing, at which he apologised to the judge. I wasn’t there, but I know someone who was, and there is some doubt about the truth of what he told the judge when he was trying to avoid a prison sentence – there may yet be more of this story to come.

As an example of the way he presented himself on Twitter, I have found this summary of the various profile descriptions he has used over the years:

A general touch of arrogance runs through those, which is just so typical of him. I’ve been told that he started the account, with the same avatar and @fiatpanda name, some six or seven years ago, purporting to be James May, from the BBC Top Gear programme. He was outed as a fake account, but I guess that’s one way of driving up your follower numbers.

Guerrero is also a self-published author, with one ‘book’ to his name. To save you the trouble, here’s a screenshot of it from Amazon:

Your first reaction may be that 99p is a trifle expensive for an 8 page story by an unknown author. Mine too, but look more deeply. If you go beyond all those 5 star reviews which he no doubt managed to persuade his friends to leave, you’ll see that this is a story for children. It takes a very weird and perverted mind to write something for an audience who constitute his preferred target of abuse.

I once ‘enjoyed’ a little of his Twitter abuse. I had said a couple of things which made it clear that I supported my friend in his ongoing battle against his ex-wife, who was at that time Guerrero’s ‘love interest.’ Clearly, he believed all of her abhorrent lies about my friend, and turned on several of us for supporting her ex-husband. By his standards, this was mild – he only called me ‘a very stupid man,’ rather than his preferred mode of abusive terminology (c*** if you had forgotten). It pales into insignificance alongside the horrible abuse he gave my friend on Twitter, which might have destroyed a lesser man. And all because his brain was in his todger, rather than his head.

This evil man now has a criminal record as the vilest of sex offenders, which I would imagine will make it difficult for him to find work in future: would you trust him to work on your computer network? I know I wouldn’t! I also hope that his ex-girlfriend, my friend’s ex-wife, is next in line to be charged. I find it impossible to believe that she knew nothing of what he was doing, much of which took place while they were in a relationship and he was with her and her daughters. She tweeted often at that time about her youngest daughter running around the house naked – it doesn’t bear thinking about really, does it? If so, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on her too, if and when her time comes. Wishful thinking, maybe, but I live in hope. In the meantime, I hope she can live with herself knowing that she was the sex toy of a despicable man who may well have been preying on her younger children.

As I said at the outset, whilst you will no doubt have picked up the strength of my antipathy towards this man, this is meant to be a cautionary tale. Are you always sure who you’re dealing with on social media? Thankfully, most aren’t like Guerrero, but please take care. As I said earlier, my usage of Twitter is greatly reduced from my first couple of years there, and I prefer to keep my online social interactions within Facebook, which is more easily controlled. Several of you have become Facebook friends, and I value this. Equally, quite a few of you are with me on Twitter and Instagram too, which is fun. But lurking in the bigger, wider world are people you wouldn’t want to know, hiding behind the façade of respectability that online personae can give you. That is why I felt so strongly that I had to write this piece: sadly, there are probably many more like Guerrero lurking out there. Be alert.

A brief footnote: you’ll probably have realised that I’ve shortened the story quite a lot for this post. If you’d like to know more – from someone directly on the receiving end of Guerrero’s abuse – you can read my friend’s post here. Or, if you are on Twitter, search for the #SimonLGuerrero hashtag – there’s a lot there! Beware, it isn’t pleasant but, then again, neither is Guerrero.

And a final apology: I’ve thought long and hard before posting this piece, as I know it runs the risk of offending and upsetting my regular friends and readers. I apologise if it does, but I hope you can agree that the importance of the subject outweighs this risk.

Writing, For More Than Fun

Last week, I wrote about why I write and what I and, I imagine, other bloggers aim to get out of doing this. The post generated a fair degree of interest, and has today been featured in the Blogging and Tech section of the Post-40 Bloggers website. I guess I must have said a few things that others recognised! The responses and subsequent conversations have got me thinking about my longstanding ambitions to do more with my writing. Blogging is great, don’t get me wrong, but being told that you write well – by someone who knows what they are talking about – is a huge encouragement to take it to the next level, to take some tentative bigger steps. For some time I have had an idea for something I want to do, and have been thinking about it much more in the last week.

Thank you!

Thank you!

In that previous post I mentioned the undeniable buzz that I get from seeing my words on screen, and from knowing that anyone in the world with internet access could potentially see them too. I’m sufficiently grounded not to get carried away with this, but I do want to see if I have it in me to publish something. When I retired, my boss – a man I respect and admire hugely – gave me a personal present in addition to the general gifts that I received. It was a beautiful fountain pen, and he told me it was ‘for your first book signing!’ I’d worked for him for nearly 10 years, and he knew me well! I’m not going to give any details of my plan just yet, largely because I’ll look a complete idiot if it comes to nothing, but I have already started work on what I hope will be a piece of published work. And I’m hoping that it will be my first, rather than only, piece.

What I have in mind is very much a vanity project, and I know that it is likely to be appreciated more by me than by any potential readers. But I have a slowly burning desire to see if I can actually do it and hopefully find a wider audience. The traditional route into publishing was always to find a publishing company prepared to invest in bringing your work to life in a physical book, which would then be available in bookshops, supermarkets, charity shops, remainders bins etc. The huge growth in electronic publishing over the past 10-15 years has made it much easier to get work into ‘print,’ though I imagine a great many ‘books’ never see the light of day now as tangible copies. Looking through the websites which offer these, it is obvious that the absence of a publisher’s critical, commercial eye has lowered the bar considerably. Any old rubbish can now be self-published, so why not my rubbish too? Joking aside, there are also a huge number of authors who can now publish excellent work that they might have previously been unable to do, though, and I’m a firm believer in the freedom of writers to be enabled to offer their work as widely as possible.

Knowing absolutely nothing about the process I thought it best to do a little research. I’m nowhere near completing my masterpiece, but I wanted to know what I was letting myself in for. The two formats I know best are Kindle and iBooks, so I started with them. Well, that was the plan. I ventured onto Amazon’s website and started to work my way through the copious pages of advice on how to get my writing onto every Kindle in the world. To say there’s a lot of it would be an understatement! The first potential stumbling block was that I would have to choose a price and royalty rate. But I’m not sufficiently deluded to think that anyone would ever want to pay to read anything I’ve written, so the two royalty options of 35% and 70% would amount to the same thing for me: nothing. I couldn’t see how the system coped with that, so I gave up for now and didn’t even bother looking at the corresponding Apple pages. Words like ‘cart’ and ‘horse’ were looming in my brain, anyway.

Looking ahead, I have a huge task ahead of me to get my work into a state that I regard as fit to publish. But at least when I’ve done that I can just sit back and wait for the readership figures to explode, can’t I? Er, possibly not! I follow and am followed by a number of authors on Twitter, and now have a growing band of Facebook friends who are authors. The majority of these only publish electronically, and it has been an eye-opening experience for me to see how hard they have to work to promote their books. Electronic publishing may make it easier to get your work out there, but you lose the visible, tangible route to sales in shops and need to find other promotional routes. Working on tiny budgets, paid-for advertising is usually a no-no, so how do they do it? Is this something I really want to commit myself to? I guess the big difference is that I am doing this for fun and to satisfy my ego and ambitions. Plenty of others are doing this to earn a living, with the ever-present threat of having to get a ‘real’ job if the writing doesn’t work. Clearly, the use of social media plays an important part in marketing e-published books: it is, after all, complementary. If you are aiming to sell your work online, market it online in whatever way is available to you! We’ve all seen the ‘sponsored links’ on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al, and virtual ‘word of mouth’ can be very advantageous. And you can try other ways too. One of my Facebook friends has recently added a YouTube video to the marketing armoury for her latest book. I think this is stunning in its use of images, music and the spoken word:

And the book is very good too!

Do I want to do this? I’m probably many months away from the time for it, but it’s an exciting prospect. Why not feed my vanity as much as I can, although I doubt I’d ever get myself onto YouTube! I’ll revisit this post as a reminder to us both if I ever get there. Wish me luck!