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Did weekly’s ‘Beckham to Palace’ tale fool readers?

A South London weekly was counting the web hits earlier today after exclusively revealing that superstar David Beckham was set to join Crystal Palace.

But the Croydon Guardian’s ‘scoop’ was only one of many spoof news stories to hit the headlines today as the local press got into the April 1 spirit.

The ‘story’ speculated that Victoria and David could soon be going house-hunting in areas such as Wimbledon, Bromley, Croydon, Sutton, Elmbridge, Kingston or Wandsworth – “but probably not Bexley.”

It even quoted “a source not close to the Beckhams at all” as saying that David was “a London boy at heart and is probably desperate to come back.”

Not to be outdone, sister paper the Sutton Guardian got in on the act with ‘the world’s first online scratch and sniff picture.’

Readers who failed to notice the sweet odour of apples, lemons and pineapples wafting across the page were invited to click here – only to be informed they had been had.

Meanwhile North Yorkshire weekly the Harrogate Advertiser devoted a whole page to April Fool spoof stories.

They included news that a bronze statue of ex-Wimbledon footballer John Scales – “Harrogate’s seventh or eighth favourite son” – was set to be erected, that the town was to be immortalised in a new BBC crime drama called Mallard, starring Kenneth Branagh, and a plan to create a local zoo was on the rocks after the organisers spent the entire £850,000 budget on a single panda.

The Advertiser led the page with a story headlined “Kebab plan for Royal Hall,”, suggesting the spa town’s historic venue could soon house a drive-through fast food restaurant.

Fictional councillor Tim Barker was furious about the idea, saying: “They did a similar thing in Doncaster and it made the whole place smell of meat.”

A panda also cropped up in the Newham Recorder’s tale about a loveable giant called Wal-zhi is on its way to take centre-stage at next year’s Olympics.

The four-year old male has apparently been given to Newham Council by leaders in Beijing as a gesture of goodwill and may play a role in the opening ceremony.

Fellow Archant title the Norwich Evening News reported that the city had been granted independence from the rest of the country.

It said the city council plans to put its new powers to good use by rebuilding the medieval city walls, and charging visitors from Suffolk a £50 departure tax, doubled to £100 if they are wearing an Ipswich Town shirt or scarf.

Further north, Newcastle daily The Journal reported on the invention of a treadle-powered computer as firms try to reduce their carbon footprint.

And as the skies dawned grey over the Humber Estuary, some Hull Daily Mail readers were unsure as to the provenance of the paper’s weather forecast, predicting that Hull would be the ‘hotspot of the UK’ today with 20 degree-plus temperatures.

On the nationals, the royal wedding provided the inspiration for two of the biggest April Fool spoofs, with the Daily Mail using a lookalike to ‘reveal’ Kate Middleton shopping for baby clothes and enjoying a crafty fag during her hen-do.

And by launching a ‘rolling blog’ on the nuptials with 29 days to go, The Guardian satirised not just the wedding but the entire Twitter/liveblogging culture – much as its epic 1990 effort The Guardian on Sunday lampooned the then trend for starting up Sunday editions of daily titles.

Among other things, the blog ‘revealed’ that the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been granted the front three rows of seating in Westminster Abbey on April 29 as a result of a deal brokered by Prince Andrew.

An accompanying leader article promised that the newspaper “will be recalling correspondents from some less newsworthy parts of the globe, such as north Africa and south-east Asia, so they can focus on palace matters instead.”