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Farmer still holds UK hostage record.

The Hackney siege came close to becoming the longest in recent British history, as it ended yesterday.

Deranged farmer John James was holed up for 17 days with a rusty shotgun in a derelict cottage near Weston-under-Redcastle, a village in rural Shropshire, in 1968.

His hostage, a woman, brought it to an end when she threw his gun out of a window as he slept - allowing the police and army to move in.

But this was not before he had knocked out an army tank which had ventured too close.

It was a huge humiliation for the military commander at the scene.

He had sought refuge after being challenged by the police over the illegal possession of a firearm - and successfully held his besiegers at bay for more than two weeks.

Reporters covering the event lived in an array of colourful tents, ran two football teams and produced a daily newspaper.

Afterwards, an Arthur Daleytype reporter on the scene arranged for a commemorative tie to be produced. It bore the figure 17 and the icon of a red castle.

In one of Britain's other longest sieges, hostage-taker Steven Wood, aged 39, held two women captive in a house during a 14day stand-off in Hull during June, 1995.

The hostages were his former girlfriend and her 20-year-old daughter.

He eventually walked out and surrendered after releasing both hostages and no one was hurt.

Possibly the longest house siege in the British Isles took place in 1975 in Monasterevin, County Kildare, Ireland, when two IRA terrorists, Eddie Gallagher and Marian Coyle, were trapped for 35 days with a businessman as a hostage.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest siege in history was the siege of Azotus - now Ashdod in modern Israel - which, according to Herodotus, was besieged by the Egyptians for 29 years in the 7th Century BC.

It also lists the 444-day siege of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979-81 as the longest embassy siege.

The deadliest siege in history was the 880-day siege of Leningrad, which ended on January 27, 1944, and cost an estimated 1.5 million of the lives of its defenders and citizens.

The Guinness Book of Records has no domestic siege records.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 11, 2003
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