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Teen signs for neighbor's online package, gets arrested

A UK diplomat's son is arrested after a delivery driver asks him to sign a package thought to have been bought on the Web. It allegedly contained a deadly toxin called Abrin.

How do you know what your neighbor's bought online? Cambridge Consultants/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk

These days, we seem to be buying more and more things online. Which means more deliveries come to our doors, sometimes at odd hours.

When we're out, there's an expectation that a neighbor might sign for it. We'd do it for them, after all.

On occasion, this can get us into trouble. It did for one teenager in the UK, who signed for a delivery on his neighbor's behalf and promptly got arrested.

As the Telegraph reports it, 19-year-old James Sutcliffe had no idea what was inside the package.

The police thought they did, however. So they arrested him under counter-terrorism legislation. The package, you see, is alleged to have contained a toxin called Abrin.

This had allegedly been bought on the Web and been shipped from the US.

Why did the police believe that Sutcliffe, whose father is UK diplomat, had something to do with this? Well, they claim they were acting on information they'd received about the package. They also claim he'd been evasive when asked about it.

It may be that when police question you firmly and dig up your garden (as seems to have happened in this case) you might come off as evasive, because you're nervous.

The package was never recovered and the neighbors to whom the package was addressed were reportedly also innocent of any wrongdoing. Perhaps the delivery had simply been sent to the wrong address.

The case does, though, present a wider and slightly chilling question: how well do you know your neighbors?

How do you know what they might be ordering online and what you might unwittingly sign for? In these days of surveillance and paranoia, being a friend can lead to unfriendly consequences.

In James Sutcliffe's case, he was released without being charged.

But what about those folks at number 88? Don't they seem a little shifty to you? Why does the husband sit in his car in the driveway for hours at night? Who are those people who visit them -- always in black Town Cars?

And what's this FedEx you're being asked to sign for on their behalf?

It says it's from But you're not supposed to look, are you? That wouldn't be neighborly.