ST year-end round-up: 9 headlines that sounded like fake news but were in fact real

From Voldemort's letters to a woman stuck while trying to retrieve her own poo, there were headlines in 2017 that sounded incredulous - but were in fact very real. PHOTOS: JETLI.COM, LIAM SMITH/GOFUNDME.COM, SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK/9NEWS, WARNER BROS

SINGAPORE - The rise of fake news was a real concern in 2017.

Fighting the spread of misinformation was a focus of governments and news organisations around the world.

However, there were headlines that sounded incredulous - but were in fact very real.

We look at nine of them:

1. Police advise Yishun residents not to respond to harassment letters from 'Lord Voldemort'

This headline has all the elements of a gripping movie plot.

In August, the police advised the public not to respond to harassment letters signed off by a "Lord Voldermort".

A picture still from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes. In August, residents in Yishun received threatening letters signed off as "Lord Voldemort". PHOTO: WARNER BROS

The letter writer asked residents there to tell one of them to pay a debt he owed or face harassment.

Lord Voldemort is a reference to the villain in author J. K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter novels.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said the police stepped up patrols, and asked residents to take photos and videos of suspicious characters and submit them to the police.

A 35-year-old man was arrested a month later for attempted extortion.

2. 'Britain's biggest family' welcomes kid No. 20 - this should be the last

The Radfords, who have been dubbed "Britain's biggest family". PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/THERADFORDFAMILY

In September, a British family made the news as they welcomed their 20th child.

The 42-year-old mother Sue Radford gave birth to a boy who weighed about 3.8kg.

She and her husband said the boy would be their last child and said they were happy to finish on a nice, even number.

However, this is nothing compared with the Guinness World Record for "most prolific mother": A Russian woman, Mrs Vassilyeva, is said to have had 69 children in the 18th century.

3.Jet Li congratulates Halimah Yacob on her presidency, says 'flattered' and 'honoured' she's a fan

Jet Li was one of those who congratulated President Halimah Yacob for her presidency. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM JETLI.COM

President Halimah Yacob received congratulations from many for her presidency.

But one may not have expected that Chinese movie star Jet Li, who became a Singapore citizen in 2009, would be among the list.

Li posted a message on his website congratulating her, saying he was flattered and honoured that she was a fan of his.

He was referring to a Her World article, taken from an old report published in ST in 2006. She had said then that her favourite movie was Li's Fearless.

4. British woman trapped upside-down in window while trying to retrieve her own poo

Firefighters rescuing a woman who was trapped upside-down in a window while trying to retrieve her own poo. PHOTOS: LIAM SMITH/GOFUNDME.COM

This headline is a roller-coaster ride from start to finish.

A British man's Tinder date ended up more than awkward after the woman got stuck in a window while trying to retrieve her poo.

She had panicked when it would not flush down the toilet in the man's shared house in Bristol, and tried to throw it out into the garden.

Instead, it was stuck between two windows which would not open, and she got trapped while trying to retrieve it.

She was eventually freed by the fire department, and her date, a university student, managed to raise fees to fund repairs.

The pair had a second date after.

5. Policeman accused of illegally parking to buy prata was responding to public nuisance case: Police

A photo of a police car parked next to a parking enforcement camera was posted on Facebook. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CINOROM ELICEBMI

In an age of smartphones and social media, it is easy to point fingers online.

In September, a policeman was accused of illegally parking at River Valley to buy prata.

Photos and videos of the said act, captured near Spize restaurant, were posted by a Facebook user "Cinorom Elicebmi".

A woman who saw the post shared it to the Singapore Police Force's Facebook page.

The police responded and confirmed with ST that the officer was attending to a case of public nuisance. They also urged the public "not to spread unsubstantiated information".

6. Road marking at Nicoll Highway becomes butt of jokes

A road marking along Sims Way, reading "Nicoll U'pass" drew laughter from netizens for its resemblance to the words "up ass". PHOTO: THE MONITOR SG FACEBOOK

This is the kind of story that is nothing without the photo.

A road marking along Sims Way read "NICOLL U'PASS", much to the mirth of netizens who pointed out its resemblance to the words "up ass".

When ST went there, the markings had been painted over to read "Nicoll H'way" instead.

7. I could die here, dam: Aussie trapped in dam for 2 hours with only his nose above water

An Australian man was trapped in a dam on his property with just his nose above water. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK/9NEWS

An Australian man was trapped in a dam in New South Wales when the excavator he was working on slipped down an embankment and pinned him from below the waist.

He kept his nose above water for about two hours by thinking about his family.

The 45-year-old father of two had a great sense of humour, telling reporters after being rescued that he thought to himself: "I could die here, dam."

8. Adults urged not to use kids' playground slides

A 24-year-old woman and her adult sister suffered injuries after being thrown out of one of the 23m-long, 9m-tall slides at Admiralty Park. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

It seems obvious that adults should not use playground slides meant for children.

However, there is more to this story - a 24-year-old woman had reportedly injured her head, shoulders and calf after being thrown out of a steep slide at Admiralty Park.

Her adult sister was also bruised from her turn on the slide, which was 23m long and 9m tall.

The park had reopened in October after a two-year facelift, to much fanfare online.

After Shin Min Daily News reported about the injuries, the National Parks Board issued advice saying adults should not be on slides meant for kids.

9. SMU accidentally offers condom discounts to students

An e-mail offered Singapore Management University undergraduates an exclusive 10 per cent discount on condoms, from online condom store Happy Mail. PHOTO: SMU BIZCOM

An oversight led to an e-mail for condom discounts being sent to Singapore Management University (SMU) students in September.

The e-mail, which was sent out by the SMU Students' Association (SMUSA), offered a 10 per cent discount on Okamoto and Durex condoms from an online condom store.

SMU explained that SMUSA's business development arm Bizcom occasionally receives requests from vendors and merchants to send e-mails to undergraduates for a fee.

A newer member of Bizcom had not carefully read SMU's rules prohibiting the dissemination of mailers by some companies such as those that sell alcohol, tobacco and condoms.

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