BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Business
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Market Data 
Economy 
Companies 
E-Commerce 
Your Money 
Business Basics 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Friday, 23 March, 2001, 19:08 GMT
Murder e-mail no laughing matter
Spoof e-mail claimed a woman had been murdered
The hoax message circulated worldwide
A hoax e-mail that claimed a law firm employee had been murdered has left lawyers red-faced.

The spoof internal message about a secretary at the London firm Herbert Smith's Hong Kong office named the woman's replacements in an alarmingly callous manner.

No-one was more surprised than the victim of the spoof e-mail Natalie Francisco, a night secretary, who was alive and well.


No-one likes to read about their own murder

Secretary Natalie Francisco

The message, apparently signed by a personnel executive, was forwarded to law firms and contacts worldwide.

The professional journal Legal Week was bombarded with copies.

Ms Francisco told the Daily Mail: "No-one likes to read about their own murder.

'Deeply upset'

"I was deeply upset by what happened and still can't believe this message was sent."


This is something we take very seriously and it has reinforced our need to review our e-mail policy

Herbert Smith spokesman

One response to the e-mail stated: "No-one is irreplaceable."

A spokesman for the law firm told BBC News Online that an internal inquiry had been carried out but there would be no suspensions or dismissals.

He said: "This was an unfortunate hoax. This is something we take very seriously and it has reinforced our need to review our e-mail policy.

"We have reiterated to staff the need to think and be responsible."

A trainee solicitor in Hong Kong is accused of being the author of the e-mail and a trainee in London is alleged to have helped forward it outside the firm.

Both are accused of bringing the firm's good name into disrepute.

It is being reported that up to three other trainees helped with the hoax but the firm would not confirm how many staff were involved.

Herbert Smith was founded in 1882 and is one of the UK's top firms in corporate finance and commercial concerns.

This is the latest in a number of examples of e-mails landing employees in hot water.

Smutty e-mail

In December five employees at a different London law firm who forwarded a revealing e-mail were disciplined.

Norton Rose offices
In December staff at Norton Rose were involved in an e-mail row
The five at the firm Norton Rose forwarded copies of a smutty e-mail sent by Claire Swire to her boyfriend, Bradley Chait.

Within hours it had spread from Norton Rose to other prestigious London law firms before making its way across the world as far as New Zealand.

Firms such as mobile phone giant Orange have previously sacked people for misusing internet access at work.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

15 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Press send to censor
25 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Watching while you surf
12 Dec 00 | UK
When rude is too crude
03 May 00 | UK
E-mail: Our right to write?
Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories