A word of warning.

Your questions on medical and security issues
Terence H

A word of warning.

Post by Terence H » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:10 am

Just returned from a month in Tobago yesterday.
We have a holiday home near Carnbee, it is not a villa, does not have a pool , it is a normal house.

Halfway through our stay we were sitting on the porch at 8pm having a drink and watching the bats, my wife and our nephew and myself.
Three masked men with cutlesses jumped over our bannister and proceeded to drag us inside while holding a cutless at each of our necks.
We were then subjected to 2 hours of brutal terror, with threats and beatings.
May I say that we are not rich, we do not flash money or jewellery, we are ordinary working people.
The bandits would not believe we had so little money in the house and repeatedly questioned us as to where our money was.
The threats that were made were of the most obnoxious, disgusting type.
They tied us up, legs and arms,and we were gagged.
My wife is disabled with arthritis, you can imagine how much pain this caused.
We had one bank card which they took.
They then tried to take the car with our nephew to a bank machine, leaving the two of us guarded by one bandit while they tried our pin.
Luckily the car would not start.
They left on foot.
They got a few dollars, our mobiles and our bank card which we immediatly cancelled.

Because of family connections we have been visiting T and T for thirty years, over the last ten years we have been lucky enough to visit Tobago twice a year.
The house has lights outside and is fenced.

We phoned the police (the call goes to Trinidad first), they were with us in approx 15 minutes, having called us back as the address given to them by trinidad was wrong.
They took our information asked if we required hospital which we declined.
They returned the next night to check us and ask more questions.
I dont really have a problem with the police response although a promised report never materialised.

Apparently people are being targetted as they eat dinner outside, or relax on their porches, especially during the hours of 7-9pm.

We were lucky, we are alive, our physical injuries were minor. We lost very little.



During our stays in Tobago we have made many friends, we know this incident does not represent the Tobago people.
We value the friendship of our neighbours and friends , and have at times been astounded at kindnesses that have been shown to us.
Nevertheless there are a tiny but active minority who will carry out attacks like this.

Be careful.

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Post by Steve Wooler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:32 am

Hello Terence

How terrible! You have my deepest sympathies.

Your report came as a bitter dissapointment. Things have been so quiet this year and it was only recently that I was sent some unofficial figures which showed that things had improved from the worrying situation a couple of years ago. I guess it would be unrealistic not to expect some incidents - after all, wherever there are people, there will be despicable rogues trying to take adantage of the situation.

Thank heavens that none of you appear to have been injured in the incident - although I'm sure that the mental trauma seems almost as bad and will understandably shatter your faith in Tobago. Thank heavens that these incidents are so rare now.
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Post by Steve Pitts » Sat Sep 29, 2007 7:17 pm

Hi Terence

I'm sure all the forum members would wish to join me in saying how sad we are to hear that you have been caught up in such a traumatic experience.

Despite, as Steve says, these attacks being rare, they are none-the-less a salutary reminder to us all to be aware of the potential dangers.

We were considering giving Tobago a miss next year. This may have made our minds up.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Steve
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Carole Ward

Post by Carole Ward » Sun Sep 30, 2007 8:58 am

Hi Terence

I was flabbergasted to read your report, how awful I can't even begin to imagine going through such a thing you must all have been so petrified. I hope you are all OK and the mental trauma is not affecting your lives too badly. I assume your nephew was not bound so managed to free you after they fled?

I have just booked a holiday to Tobago in January and I must admit I did ponder a little after reading the bad reports of crime, but decided to go ahead. This now makes me wonder if I should have gone with my gut feeling, which was one of concern for incidents like this.

I wish you and your family all the best with trying to put this terrible incident to the back of your minds and get on with normal life, although I can imagine how difficult this must be.

Carole :(

Mel M

Post by Mel M » Sun Sep 30, 2007 5:54 pm

So, so sorry to hear such a horrible thing has happened to you and your family.
It has made me really, really sad.
I don't know what to say as I feel gutted for you.
I hope you and your wife and nephew are on the way to some sort of recovery.... my thoughts are with you.
Mel x

Terence H

Post by Terence H » Mon Oct 01, 2007 12:27 pm

Many thanks for everyones kind words and best wishes.

We are fine now.

We shall be reviewing the situation concerning future holidays there!!

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Post by Carol Townsend » Mon Oct 01, 2007 6:34 pm

Hello Terence,
Like everyone here I wish you all well after your ordeal, and hope that you can close the door on the whole experience. Why do these people have to be so vicious?
I admire your fortitude in staying for the rest of your holiday and not getting the first plane home. I'm not sure I could have done the same.
Best wishes to you all
Carol

K. Boone

A word of warning

Post by K. Boone » Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:40 am

I have not seen this incident reported in the Tobago News online, unless I am missing the article somehow. Given allegations that the Tobago media often downplay crime reports in the interest of not disrupting tourism, I am interested in the perspectives of others more on the scene than I....thanks.

Tariq Asmi

Re: A word of warning.

Post by Tariq Asmi » Fri Nov 09, 2007 8:14 pm

I am very sorry, oh so very sorry to read this posting.
I have wondered and been hesitant about make the following posting, but given the request made K Boone (and this being the first time visiting your site in some time...anyway, here I go). And please remember this is just one person's story...

We have been to Tobago five times (still a bit of a newbie I guess) over the last four years. We usually stay for two weeks. We have always stayed in beautiful Castara at Blue Mango (a very magical place for those who like the style). We have three times brought friends with us. Other friends have gone there on our recommendation. We have always travelled about the island freely and without worry. We have made friends in Castara.
However (and don't you just hate "howevers"), when we were last there in April of this year, a couple who had just arrived, were robbed by three men brandishing cutlusses. The women managed to lock herself in a room and started screaming and the robbers fled. They couple left the next morning.

I did not hear about this until near the end of our stay. My friend in Castara had not told me earlier out of fear of making me anxious. I did not tell my wife nor the couple with us (why have us all worry) until after we left. Needless to say, my last three nights were not peacful sleeps. News of the robbery (and having read about other incidents on this site prior to this last visit) made me anxious. The slightest unusual noise at night made me jump. My friend from Castara told me that Castarans knew who did it but no one would go to the police. I did not read about the incident in Tobago News upon my return Canada.

I love Castara. I can think of no other place I'd rather spend my sun vacation. But alas, we will not be returning. I cannot imagine staying in Castara and locking ourselves up so tight that we cannot feel the breeze, hear the waves or when getting up at night (too many beers) not be awestruck by the sight of the night sky.

Steve (and others), I've read your postings and understand the stats you use about Tobago not being any more risky than say, the UK or perhaps Canada. However, the rates you use are based on the entire population of these countries. I wonder if you were to calculate rates for Tobago using the number of tourists robbed/violently robbed and used only the number of tourists as the denominator whether the rates would be similar to the UK or North American rates. I think not. And it appears that tourists are being targeted more and more.

I do not want to fear monger. And I apologize to all Tobagonians, but I no longer feel safe there (unless I guess I was sealed up in a lock tight unit that would make me feel like I was anywhere but Tobago) and unfortunately cannot see returning until I am confident that efforts to reduce crime are truly having an impact. I understand, though I have no first had experience, that larger resorts are still fine. A friend of mine who goes to the large resorts is will be going back in Feb. But I fear that outside these resorts (and for us, large generic-"could find anywhere is the Caribbean"-resorts do not make Tobago) I would worry at night. Oh if I could just worry only about bats flying into the cottage.

My heart aches as I write this. I use to visit your site daily in anticipation of my next visit (would visit your site even the day after we returned from a trip). But now I must avoid it because it makes my heart ache all the more.

Steve thanks for such a great website. I do hope things get better in terms of crime and security. The good memories of Tobago (and there were many) still keep us warm.

Be well,
Tariq. :cry:

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Re: A word of warning.

Post by Brian Taylor » Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:19 am

hello all
as a castarian I have to say a word or two.

I don't want to deny or play down the incident that took place in april BUT to get the facts straight:
nobody KNOWS who was part of the robbery, people only assume and suspect...(if those friends of yours new, maybe they should have reported something...).
the police can only arrest anybody if they find stolen items in the suspects houses, they need proof!
the guests unfortunately did not even make a report, so how should the police get active in the matter?

Everybody was devastated to hear about what happened in our otherwise so peaceful and safe village, but believe you me: since then every villager is alert and people look out for each other. the concerned guesthouse owners informed everybody else to improve the neighborhood watch. apparently the thiefs got the message: don't mess with castara! nothing ever happened again...

for the statistics, it is not right to say that robberies only happen to tourists and that you have to see the figures in a whole different light. not in castara but for example in old grange a local taxi drivers house was robbed a few weeks back... very unfortunate but as the sattistics say these things happen all over the world and much more often than in tobago!

as for your expectation to read about it in the news paper: the police was not even involved, so how could the media... not everything that happens finally ends up in the news. there was no secrecy about it...

we do hope that the improvements in the police units that already took place will even go further in the future and the crime situation on the whole island will get better noticalby.
we also hope that a single incident will not worry people who want to enjoy safe holidays here in castara.
this is a village where single women walk the streets in the night without fear (right gisela?) and we will do everything nessecary to keep it that way!!!

speaking for many castarians
yours
Alibaba
Stephanie & Brian "Alibaba" Taylor
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K. Boone

Re: A word of warning.

Post by K. Boone » Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:17 am

Thank you, Tariq, for this heartfelt post. I myself stayed in Castara this past summer. I like to think I am neither naive nor unduly wary when I travel, but I like to travel with my eyes open too. It worries me if the media cannot be relied upon to report incidents such as these. With every respect to the wonderfully helpful and entertaining informants I've encountered on this site, it worries me if incidents such as you describe somehow get lost in the "don't worry-safer than you are at home-welcome to paradise" ethos of mytobago. It's an ethos in which I tend to believe and upon which I have based my own travel decisions, but there's a "happy talk" aspect that's starting to bother me here. I.e., why doesn't the Tobago News report certain obviously newsworthy violent crime stories - assuming the seemingly trustworthy posters to this site are telling accurate stories and those stories were reported to the authorities? What do the mytobago "regulars" - resident Tobagonians and regular visitors - disclose about these issues?

I have found Tobago an enchanting place, a place where I can chill in non-glitzy accommodation, snorkel right off a beach whenever I want, eat real food, share it with whatever lizard or stray dog passes my way, drink immoderate amounts of rum - well, you regulars all know how it is. All I want is enough information to make intelligent safety decisions about specific destinations, accommodations, where and how I carry myself, etc. I don't by any means expect "guaranteed" safety, but I do appreciate accurate information, and I'm not sure I'm getting it these days..... And if the only place I could eventually feel safe in Tobago were some gated AI place in the south end, I'm pretty sure I'd just have to stay home. Perhaps the saddest part of your post, Tariq.

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Re: A word of warning.

Post by Steve Wooler » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:35 am

This is a no-win situation from an editorial point of view. I either risk unnecessarily scaring people, or get accused of hiding the facts.

I received detailed information about this incident two days after it occurred. Tariq’s account is inaccurate. The facts, as reported to me and confirmed by other sources, were that there was no physical violence or verbal threats. Having said that, it was clearly frightening and I in no way diminish the stress caused to those involved. The woman did not lock herself in a room – she screamed to alert her husband, who was asleep in the adjacent bedroom. The two young men (yes two, not three – one with a stick, one with a cutlass) immediately ran off. This opportunistic incident would have been avoided had the occupants locked the door to the cottage apartment - a basic security precation, particularly after dark or late into the evening, as in this case.

This was such an unusual incident in Castara that the owners felt it important to spread the word and to warn other Castara hospitality managers and local community so that everyone could be on the look-out. I provided them with email addresses for virtually every accommodation property and tourism-related business along the upper Caribbean coast. Half a dozen property owners promptly sent me copies of the letter, knowing I like to be kept informed of security incidents in particular.

Without in any way diminishing the gravity of the incident, is it honestly the sort of thing that readers expect to see reported in the national newspaper? I have little time for the editor of Tobago Today, but I take my hat off to his apparent honesty and desire to counter attempts by the THA (local government) to sweep anything and everything under the carpet. However, the fact that this incident didn’t get reported did not surprise me in the least. It might be a ‘big’ incident in a little fishing village like Castara, but within the scope of even tiny Tobago, it was a non-incident.

So, should I have posted news of it here? Should I have scared the pants off people who would suffer considerable financial loss should they now cancel booked holidays? Should I put others through the worry and concern that Tariq suffered – unless I have a damned good reason? NO! Categorically NO! If you want that sort of site, then frankly please go elsewhere.

I know for a fact that Tariq’s post will have resulted in at least half a dozen accommodation cancellations in Castara and double that number in the island. It may well have tipped the balance on God knows how many people who were considering a holiday in Castara or Tobago. That is the effect of publishing these sort of stories on the Internet. I will NOT be party to scare-mongering. What you will get here is balanced discussion of the facts. Believe you me, if the risks on Tobago were greater than anywhere else, then I would be the first to disappear elsewhere and this site would simply cease to exist. This site is not driven by or for commercial reasons. It exists while I have faith in Tobago as a holiday destination worth recommending.

If I was trying to conceal these facts, why are posts about security incidents allowed to appear on these pages? Why aren’t they immediately deleted? Why do I have a forum dedicated to the subject, rather than hiding it away in the General Questions forum?

I have a very simply policy that dictates whether I report something I hear from my many contacts on the island, and how I respond to posts like Tariq’s. Am I prepared to tell my beloved wife, Jill, about the matter? Do I think it would worry her? Would I be prepared to let Jill stay at the place/property concerned? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then clearly my responsibility is to share that information with our readers.

Am I going to let an unthinking tourist who forgot the most basic security precautions spoil my next visit to Castara? You bet not!
Steve Wooler
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Re: A word of warning.

Post by Tony G » Sat Nov 10, 2007 12:39 pm

Steve, I take my hat off to you. Exactly the right response. This incident, even had we known about at the time, would not have caused Janette and I to cancel our planned stay in Castara.

Tony


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Re: A word of warning.

Post by Lisa Keith » Sat Nov 10, 2007 12:47 pm

Just to add (and endorse!) what Steve has said... I live on Tobago, and - whether you believe me or not - this forum is where I get most of my news! Tariq's posting was the first I'd heard of this issue, and whilst very worrying, you DO have to subscribe to the fact that any account, by the time it's been told by three or four different persons, may not entirely be the original story!

I agree that the forum should give a non-biased account, and that it should tell the good with the bad, but, do you know every single crime that goes on in your town / county / state? And when you DO hear reports, how often does it turn out not to be exactly as you heard it?? Do you then carry on telling the world and then look like a scaremonger when it turns out that the person you'd heard had been mugged, beaten and battered, turned out to have actually fallen down a drain after too many Rum Punches?!

Yes, things happen. Tobago is NOT paradise. If it were, everyone would live here, and then it wouldn't be paradise anyway! It is what it is. It's a beautiful Caribbean island where, for the very large part, your neighbour will watch your back, whether visitor or resident, and you don't have to constantly live in fear! There is crime... of course there is! At the end of the day, people are people no matter where in the world you live!

To assume that everyone on Tobago knows about this and is keeping it from our visitors is completely wrong. Likewise to assume that no harm could possibly befall you here is completely wrong. And yes, I'm biased... I live here! My husband and I moved from a quiet small town in England and dragged my young daughter here... and then added another to our brood! My family are my LIFE. If I thought they were in any more danger here than they were back in the UK, I'd move back in a heartbeat! However, I do not. Please God it remains that way!


Lisa.

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Re: A word of warning.

Post by David Watkins » Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:25 pm

I totally endorse that which Steve and Lisa said.Do you see in the Sun ,Mirror or other rags,of the fact that there was robbery at the bar of The Maiden Arms in Greater Middle Wallop on Sea?
No
If it was such a crime,two questions instantly arise,first there are two policemen who live in the village,were they informed by the victims,second,if not why didn't they make any attempt to get in touch with the authorities?
I have always felt safe on Island and paricularly in Castara.These people claim that their "friends" new who the perpetrators were----if that were so local justice at the very least would have bee meeted out.
David ,looking forward to being in Tobago where I can have a good time knowing that i will be cared for
Cheers :D

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A word of warning.

Post by Bob White » Sat Nov 10, 2007 5:52 pm

Totally endorse Steve's comments too.

Steve knows that our family regularly visit the island and we hear plenty of news from locals on a frequent basis. If we had to take more than the usual 'sensible' precautions that we take in the UK, we would immediately sell up in Tobago and find a piece of paradise somewhere else.

Steve will give you the honest facts and picture as it is.

K. Boone

Re: A word of warning.

Post by K. Boone » Sat Nov 10, 2007 9:01 pm

I do want to clarify that it was never my intention to suggest that important security information is deliberately withheld by anyone associated with this forum. Indeed I have found the level of candor rare and commendable especially on the part of business owners who literally stand to lose by discussing incidents that might be off-putting to potential visitors. I sincerely regret if anyone took my comments otherwise. Let me remind us of one thing, however: this thread began not with Tariq's post but with Terrence H.'s quite horrific account. I live in a metro area of 1.5 million people, where crime against persons is much more a fact of life than in Tobago, and I can assure you that a protracted terrorizing home invasion duly reported to the police such as Terrence describes would definitely have made the news. Such news and that of lesser crimes has certainly appeared before in the Tobago News. Hence my initial query about the objectivity of the Tobago press. There were no responses to that post until Tariq's over a month later, which did lead me to speculate not about cover-ups but more about whether the understandably strong wish of residents and holidaymakers to believe in the relative safety of this beloved island can lead us to discount issues we'd just rather not consider, that's all. (The tone of some of the response to Tariq's account arguably reflect this very natural tendency.) By the way, I'd happily go to Castara again tomorrow. This discussion doesn't put me off in the least. On the contrary, it's the prospect of unreported news I would prefer to know that I find scarier. I do agree with Steve: it is a no-win situation, and a weighty responsibility, deciding what should and should not be passed along. I am as opposed to fear-mongering as anyone else and I respect the difficulty of such decision-making.

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Re: A word of warning.

Post by Steve Wooler » Sun Nov 11, 2007 12:38 pm

Hi K

No problem - but even if you weren't thinking/meaning it, believe you me, there are those reading this who would have thought it, never fear.

I am totally satisfied about the impartiality and independence of Earl Manmohan, the editor of Tobago News. To my knowledge he has never hesitated to publish articles and reports that put the THA and national government under pressure. I don't know whether he is a good honest journalist (sorry, if that's a contradiction in terms) or just anti-government (lets be generous and say he's anti-politician, like me), but when it doesn't appear in Tobago News, I know it is simply because Earl hasn't heard about it.

Any herein lies the problem. The Tobago News isn't a British (or North American?) tabloid who pay big bucks for stories. The Tobagonian culture is not one of doing absolutely anything to get your name in the papers or on TV. People on Tobago don't immediately think "I must phone the newspaper and TV".

I was brought up in a small-island environment, very much like Tobago. I understand the way it works. I love the island as a holiday destination, but wouldn't even entertain the thought of living there permanently. I don’t mean to be offensive to the ex-pat community on Tobago, but so many of them just sit round the bars drinking the day away and going over and over the same stories and incidents which become more exaggerated with every telling. Those who loath that sort of culture largely or totally keep to themselves – and hear nothing and know remarkably little about the island. You simply wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get to the truth or how many people who live on Tobago know less about the island than regular readers of this forum. That may surprise many, but I assure you - its true.

And then we turn to the visitors. Some of the reports and stories I hear defy belief. People naturally only see things from their own perspective, but when you examine the facts (once you can get them) it is just mind-boggling how people can go on holiday and leave their brains at home. Leaving aside the stupid, you have the con artists. Those who either create a situation or exaggerate it to make the most of compensation claims. Some of these idiots even have the nerve to contact me trying to get my support by providing “expert testimony” in support of their claims. I don’t intentionally set out to be offensive, but life is too short to be other than true to yourself and believe you me, these people get short thrift.

The point is that life on Tobago is a different world. Things work and happen VERY differently there. Yes, I totally endorse the fact that the T&T government (both local and national) will do anything and everything to present the island in the best light. But given that the USA and UK are run by the biggest bunch of liars in the world, who are we to criticise the Tobago government? 50 years of visiting Tobago satisfies me that the real difficulty is establishing the genuine facts and stopping the outflow of exaggerated information, not the reverse. The locals are too busy trying to make a living to be concerned about the larger picture, but gossiping is the biggest entertainment for a large percentage of the very substantial ex-pat community. The 25,000+ emails in my Outlook folders, collected over the last five years, is ample evidence of this. I cherish and welcome this – it is the very thing that makes this site possible and makes it work.

I appreciate that my words and language are strong, but that's an expression of how I feel about this subject and how frustrated I become when people not personally involved in situations post highly-damaging inaccurate reports. I am NOT suggesting that Tobago doesn't have a crime problem. IT DOES. But, we need to keep that problem in perspective and consider it in comparison to other holiday destinations around the world. If stupid tourists would just take more water with their rum punches and engage their brain, the crime rate would be halved overnight.

So, what is the truth? Well, we could spend the rest of our lives arguing that. The most important thing that owning and running a substantial business taught me was that you were lucky if there are only two sides to a story. One person’s truth is another person’s lie. I don't know the real truth any more than any other living person. However, what I can say with total certainty is that thanks to our thousands of readers and hundreds of active contributors – not to mention the countless Tobago residents and visitors whose name you will never see on the forum but who keep me informed – this websites and forum presents the most balanced, open and honest picture of Tobago available – anywhere, in any medium.
Steve Wooler
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Terence H

Re: A word of warning.

Post by Terence H » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:10 pm

hi to everyone.

What the incident has meant to us.


As stated myself and my family have been visiting Trinidad and Tobago (T and T)for 30 years.
Over the last ten years this has mainly been Tobago.
We have close family on the islands.
My wife and children are citizens of T and T.
We are lucky to have built a home in Tobago before the prices of land and materials skyrocketed.
My plan was to spend most of the year in Tobago and give something back to the community.
I worked many years in the NHS and would have offered myself for voluntary work at the new hospital(if it ever gets built!)
This will no longer happen.
We were going to introduce our grandchildren to the island next year (after all what a place to learn about the world and other cultures) .
This will no longer happen.

Our children will no longer visit.
The house we love is therefore not going to be used.
I will not be responsible for taking friends and relations there anymore.
There is no point of having an empty home.
Therefore we are selling up (any offers!!!!)
So the bad people have won, but if nobody is going to use the house then there is no point in keeping it.

We may return, to see family, but will stay in a secure hotel.

We were sober when the incident happened.
I informed Earl at Tobago News of the incident, by e.mail, when we returned to England ,I received no reply.
The police success rate at finding those responsible for such incidents is ,as far as I know ,poor.
I am still awaiting a promised police report. I wont hold my breath.
We have not claimed on any insurance or sought any compensation for the attack, our injuries were minor and our losses small.
Thats not the point, its the terrifying nature of the attack and the brutal manner of those responsible
that concerned us.
If such an incident took place in our home in England , it would make the local paper.

Our nearest neighbour has suffered three times from walk in thefts.
A neighbour half a mile away has had three incidents , during one of which ,the lady of the house was cut.

In my opinion crime is becoming much worse in Tobago, and initiatives to remedy this have failed.
This is just my opinion based on my visits and talking to our neighbours and friends there.

I have no agenda here other than to say be careful during your visits , especially at night.

best regards
Terence

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Re: A word of warning.

Post by Steve Wooler » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:57 pm

Hi Terence

Please be assured that my comments above were not directed at your specific case, of which I have no knowledge.
Steve Wooler
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