A telephone company is being sued in the civil courts for causing the death of an elderly man when his call to customer services was answered immediately by a human being.
According to a relative of the deceased, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of recrimination, the unfortunate subscriber was calling the helpline to ask why his telephone bill was in excess of £300,000.
"He was prepared for a lengthy wait," said the relative, "same as everyone else. We found him on the floor next to his telephone with a tartan travel rug over his shoulders, a hot water bottle, an unopened packet of Werther's Originals close by and a cold mug of Ovaltine on a place-mat on the telephone table. It was horrible. The doctor said he'd died of a massive heart attack.
"He was a nice old gentleman, well loved and respected by everyone who knew him, and he wouldn't have harmed a soul. The response he got from the helpline people was thoughtless and cruel."
A representative of Grabbit, Runn & Hyde, the law firm acting for the bereaved family, explained: "The deceased had evidently had some difficulty using his new telephone apparatus and had accidentally switched on his answering service before making the fatal call, so leaving a recording of the unfortunate incident. That's how we know what happened."
A spokesperson for the telecommunications provider said: "For press enquiries, hit 8."
[Dictated by Arthur and posted in his absence]