Is Britain in the grip of a cannibal zombie plague? Are dangerous new street drugs behind a wave of murderous attacks? Or is a reality TV cookery series to blame for a recent outbreak of cannibalism? “Look, I didn’t have any choice, I knew that if I was to have any chance of beating that little git from the council estate, I was going to have to serve up something pretty unusual as my main course. None of the usual beef, pork, poultry or fish dishes were going to cut it – it had to be something their taste buds had never experienced before,” declares Judy Parsnolly, winner of the recent Staines-based series of Channel Four’s Come Dine With Me. “I’d never have used that tramp’s leg if I’d known that it would result in some of my guests turning into ravenous fiends with an insatiable taste for human flesh.” Parsnolly’s episode of the series – in which a group of attention-seeking social inadequates attend meals at each other’s houses, awarding points for each dinner, until a winner is declared – is being blamed by the popular press for a series of apparently unmotivated attacks in which the victims have had parts of their anatomy eaten. As well as leaving the country reeling in terror, the assaults have also left the tabloid press speculating wildly as to the motivation behind them. “They’ve come completely out of the blue – none of the assailants who have been caught seemed to have anything in common, or could give any explanation for their actions – other than they suddenly found themselves in the grip of a craving for human flesh,” explains Sam Krimp, chief crime reporter for the Daily Norks. “According to eyewitnesses, the attackers leaped on their victims like wild animals, snarling, growling and tearing at the victims’ flesh with their teeth! It’s like something out of one of those Italian zombie flesh eater movies!”

Indeed, initially newspaper headlines claimed that the dead were rising from their graves to feast on the living, resulting in a spate graveyard desecrations. “It started with fresh graves being dug up, the corpses dowsed in petrol and set on fire,” recalls Krimp, “and culminated with an entire graveyard being dug up in Dartford. Grave stones were smashed and human remains left scattered all over the place. Frankly, it was worse than the cannibalism attacks.” However, with fears of mass panic rising, the authorities were forced to call a press conference, where the still-living status of the cannibals was emphasised. “I must admit that at first we suspected an establishment cover up,” Krimp says. “Obviously, there’s no way the free press could go along with such a thing. Not only that, but the zombie angle was a real circulation booster. But then they brought out one of the captured cannibals and let us poke him with sticks and stuff – there was no doubt that he was definitely breathing and could feel pain. Plus, there was no sign of decomposition – even when we pulled really hard, none of his limbs came off like they do in the movies.” Once it became clear that the cannibalistic assailants were definitely alive, press speculation shifted, instead blaming drug use for the attacks. “There were all sorts of rumours about batches of cannabis impregnated with chemicals produced in secret US military labs – allegedly it was deliberately contaminated by the CIA,” the reporter says. “The drug angle always plays well to middle England, especially if it involves stuff that’s easily available – they love nothing better than hearing that smoking pot or taking legal highs like ‘bath salts’ will turn hippies and teenagers into ravening flesh eaters! That’s the sort of thing which could knock thousands off of the value of their houses if it happens in their street!”

With tests on the captive cannibals showing negative for any drugs, legal or otherwise, the investigation took a bizarre new turn with the arrest of another cannibal. “He grabbed some poor bugger off of a station platform in Bournemouth, dragged them into a waiting room and started devouring their face,” Krimp says. “But the really interesting thing was that before he started eating his victim, he applied seasoning! Footage from the station’s CCTV clearly shows him pulling a salt shaker and pepper grinder from his pocket!” Even stranger, once the cannibal had finished consuming his victim’s face, apparently as an appetiser, he moved on to their left leg, dressing it with mayonnaise and arranging it on a bed of fresh lettuce and radish, before taking a bite. “His preparations slowed him down sufficiently that the police were able to catch him in the act – he’d barely taken a second bite from that leg when they burst in and dragged him off,” an excited Krimp recalls. “He was screaming that he still had two more courses, including dessert to go – they found a tin of that spray on cream and some tinned fruit in one of his pockets!” There was a further twist when the cannibal was recognised by a police officer as thirty-two year old Gerry Grippwall, who had recently appeared in Channel Four’s Come Dine With Me.

“That’s when it all started to make sense – they checked which episodes Grippwall had been in and who else was in them and realised that five of the cannibals they had in captivity had been at that dinner at Judy Parsnolly’s house,” Krimp declares. “Naturally, the cops arrested her a leaned on her until she coughed to having served up human flesh to her guests!” According to the journalist, some of the guests had found the main course so delicious they subsequently found themselves driven to sample it again. “Apparently Grippwall himself admitted to police that only a few days after the dinner party he found himself in the grip of an uncontrollable urge to crack open his neighbour’s skull and fry up his brain,” Krimp claims. “Thankfully, he managed to resist that time, but only a few days later found himself consuming a complete stranger’s genitals in a Bracknell park!” Parsnolly, whilst herself apparently unaffected by the cannibal urge, was arrested on suspicion of murder. “She denies point blank that she killed anyone – she maintains that the tramp was already dead when she found him behind the bins at the local shopping centre,” Krimp says. “She’s been released on bail, after tests on the rest of the tramp’s body – which they found in her freezer – proved inconclusive as to the cause of death. Mind you, Channel Four have made her give her winner’s certificate back, so some justice has been done.”

Although the press seem satisfied that the TV series is to blame – universally condemning it on their front pages – much of the UK’s scientific community remain sceptical. “Even if some of these people had unwittingly consumed human flesh, that still doesn’t explain why people who didn’t attend the dinner party went on cannibal rampages. For that matter, why didn’t all of the guests turn into cannibalistic monsters?” muses top forensic expert Professor Leo Stunkson. “It just doesn’t make any sense, quite apart from the fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that eating human flesh is addictive, that is.” Indeed, many in the medical profession suspect that the spate of so-called cannibal attacks has more to do with cuts in mental health care resulting in greater numbers of mentally ill patients being treated through ‘car in the community’ not receiving proper care or medication. Krimp, not surprisingly, disagrees with Stunkson’s diagnosis. “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have seen Cannibal Apocalypse – it’s perfectly credible that some of those guests were infected with a ‘cannibal virus’ from eating the tramp’s leg, whilst others had a natural immunity. Obviously, they passed it on to other people they bit, but didn’t consume,” opines the journalist. “Of course, I’m not ruling out the mental health hypothesis completely, but the fact is that Come Dine On Me makes a better headline!”