Police have raided the Maidenhead home of notorious prankster and practical joker Neville Cockster following a tip-off from the Malaysian authorities that the forty-eight year old salesman was behind the disappearance of flight MH370. According to witnesses of the dawn raid, the police seemed particularly interested in Cockster’s garage. “As if he could hide a Boeing 777 in there,” neighbour Arthur Frinkstone told the Maidenhead Free Advertiser. “It’s so full of junk that he can’t even get his bloody Nissan in there – it’s always parked out on the drive.” Frinkstone described to the local newspaper how what appeared to be hundreds of police officers, many of them armed, had swarmed over his quiet suburban cul-de-sac at first light, surrounding Cockster’s house before kicking in the door and dragging the occupants out. “They dragged him and his family out in handcuffs and with blankets over their heads and slung them in the back of a van, before they literally started tearing the house apart!” he claimed. “They can’t have found anything, as they all left empty-handed later in the afternoon!” Frinkstone and other neighbours have expressed bemusement at the arrest of Cockster and his family – currently believed to be being held at Belmarsh high security prison – in connection with the missing airliner. “It’s all a bit out of Nev’s league,” mused Frinkstone. “I mean, his stock in trade was lame April Fool gags and whoopee cushions. I’m not sure he’d have the resources to make a whole plane and over two hundred passengers disappear. Besides, even if it was a joke, it isn’t very funny, is it? Look at all the trauma it is causing the families of the missing crew and passengers.”

However, other acquaintances of the prankster have recalled how his jokes could often have a cruel edge, as well as being incredibly elaborate. “I remember the time the bastard convinced his own wife that her mother had suffered a massive heart attack and was seriously ill in hospital,” James Diggler, who played on the same pub darts team as Cockster, told the local press. “He’d got some bloke he knew from amateur dramatics to pose as a hospital doctor on the phone – he told Nev’s wife her mother was so ill she should consider organ donation – then organised a fake room at the hospital where, disguised as his own mother-in-law, he was lying in a bed attached to all these tubes and monitors, surrounded by fake nurses and medics! His poor wife was distraught, nearly hysterical, when Nev jumped up and shouted ‘April Fool!’. When she protested that it was June, he just said, ‘Yeah, but if I’d done it on April first you’d have guessed’! I’m amazed she didn’t divorce him!” Cockster was propelled to national fame when, in 2010, he successfully posed as a member of David Cameron’s new cabinet, appearing in an official group photograph and attending several cabinet meetings at Downing Street. “It was easy,” he told newspapers after his deception had been revealed. “All I had to do was wear a pinstripe suit, speak in a strangulated upper class accent and affect an air of superiority and entitlement in order to walk past the guards into Downing Street.”

Diggler suspects that one reason for the police interest in Cockster over flight MH370 could be the sudden influx of illegal Chinese workers into the area. “Over the past couple of weeks the police have raided several Chinese restaurants and dry cleaning businesses, finding large numbers of illegals working at them – apparently they were being kept in virtual slavery,” he confided to the Maidenhead Free Advertiser. “I know from my own recent experience at one of the restaurants that a lot of the new waiters and waitresses seemed very confused and kept asking if they were in Beijing and when they could go home. The authorities obviously thought that Nev had somehow diverted the airliner to Berkshire, kidnapped the mainly Chinese passengers and sold them into slavery with local businesses.” Diggler has also speculated that Cockster could even have planted the missing plane’s black box in the Southern Indian Ocean so as to throw the authorities off of his trail. “It’s notable that they seem to have detected the transponder signal from the flight recorder, yet still haven’t found any wreckage,” he told the paper. “And Nev did vanish for a few days last week, before the signal was detected. I know his wife said he was in East Anglia on business, but he could just as easily have gone to Australia, hired a plane, flown over the ocean and dumped the black box.”

The idea that the disappearance of flight MH370’s could be down to a Home Counties prankster has been met with incredulity in professional conspiracy circles. “It’s just ludicrous,” Stan Oblestoke, editor of Conspiracy for Men magazine told The Sleaze. “There’s no way one person could have organised that sort of thing. Not only that, but there’s just no point to it – conspiracies always have a purpose.” Indeed, the latest issue of the magazine sets out what it claims to be the definitive solution to the mystery of flight MH370: that it was abducted by Nazis from the South Pole. “Everyone knows that toward the end of World War Two thousands of top Nazis sailed South to Antarctica in U-boats, where they were able to enter the hollow Earth via the hole at the South Pole,” Oblestoke opined. “It’s surely obvious from the course change made by the airliner that it was being diverted to the Antarctic. Clearly, it didn’t crash, but was instead flown through the Antarctic hole to a landing strip inside the Earth, where it can’t be detected.” According to the conspiracy theorist, the Fourth Reich established within the hollow interior of the Earth took the plane in order to abduct the Chinese semi-conductor experts who were amongst the passengers. “They’re obviously developing some new weapons technology which requires their knowledge,” he told us. “It’s only a matter of time before they emerge to conquer the outer Earth.”

Rival conspiracy theorist Abe Thandel, of Conspiracy Today, also dismisses the allegations that the disappearance of flight MH370 is nothing more than a practical joke, arguing that it is a classic diversionary tactic on the part of the authorities in order to obscure the truth. “As long as people are searching this Cockster guy’s garage and garden shed for the airliner, then their attention is diverted from the lack of progress in the search on the other side of the world,” he told The Sleaze. “The fact is that they’ll never find any floating debris because it didn’t come down in the ocean.” Thandel’s theory is that the plane fell victim to a bizarre cargo cult on a remote uncharted island in the Southern Indian ocean, which diverted the aircraft to its makeshift runway with fake navigational signals. “They’ve been at it for decades – they’re like the wreckers of old, except that it is aircraft rather than ships they lure to their doom,” he explained. “During World War Two, there were reports – later suppressed – from air crews who had gone off course and claimed to have seen an island with am airstrip and even to have picked up radio signals from the island. Luckily, none of them landed there as when they flew low they saw that it wasn’t a real landing strip, just a black painted section of sand!” Back in Maidenhead, there is a growing belief that the whole raid on Cockster’s house could, in fact, have been part of an elaborate hoax on the prankster’s part, after reports emerged that the tip off received by police had come from an anonymous call since traced to a pay phone at the jokester’s local pub, rather than having come from the Malaysian embassy. Thames Valley police have so far refused to comment.