Author assaulted at signing

Court snatch of Sandra Botham (wearing floral jacket) at Sunderland Magistrates.
Court snatch of Sandra Botham (wearing floral jacket) at Sunderland Magistrates.

A pensioner threw ink into a best-selling author’s face after holding a 28-year vendetta over a paragraph in one of her books.

Sandra Botham told Wire in the Blood writer Val McDermid, from Alnmouth, ‘I will see you in hell’ and branded her a ‘fat liar’ as a magistrates’ court case into the attack erupted in chaos.

Botham, who stormed out of the trial, was convicted, in her absence, of common assault on the author during a book signing at Sunderland University.

She had objected to a paragraph written by Ms McDermid in her 1985 book A Suitable Job for a Woman, which Botham claims was critical of herself and her family.

In revenge, she dressed in disguise, with a blonde wig and hat and, on December 6 last year, threw ink into Ms McDermid’s mouth during the signing session.

At Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, Botham, representing herself, told the bench to ‘get stuffed’ when they refused to allow her to read paragraphs from the book.

She then launched a string of obscenities against the writer, who stood shocked in the witness box.

Ms McDermid, 58, told the court she had been lecturing at the university, about how she became a crime writer and promoting her latest novel, Vanishing Point, and she was aware of a woman who appeared to be in disguise.

She said: “After the lecture, I was giving a book signing and noticed she was at the end of the queue.

“When she got to the front, she produced a dog-eared copy of A Suitable Job for a Woman which was a non-fiction book I wrote dealing with private eyes in the UK and USA.

“She asked me to dedicate it to ‘Michelin Man Sa’” and I did, even though I had no idea what that was a reference to.

“She then produced a book that looked like an old Top of the Pops annual and opened it at a page with a picture of Jimmy Savile on it.

“She asked me to sign that too. She was quite insistent. I wasn’t keen, but I get asked to sign all sorts of things so thought it would be easier just to do it.”

It was then that Botham pulled a container of ink from her pocket, and threw it across the author, ruining her clothes.

Ms McDermid added: “She then said to me something like ‘you are my female equivalent of Jimmy Savile’ before walking off, out the building.”

Cross-examining, Ms Botham stood up and said: “Hello Val, we meet again.

“The whole basis of this case depends on what this author has written about me and my family.”

But when told to direct questions at Ms McDermid rather than just reading from her books, Botham told magistrates she was ‘closing the case’and instead would take it ‘to the highest court in the land’.

Warned by chairman of the Bench John Bolam that she was doing herself ‘no favours’, Botham attempted to confront Ms McDermid, before shouting ‘I’ll see you in hell’ and storming out.

Ms McDermid was later escorted to her car by police. Magistrates found Botham guilty of common assault and adjourned the case for sentencing.