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When Stafford court rejected cheque written on dancer's belly

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: April 07, 2014

Sandrina, the belly dancer.

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MAGISTRATES at Stafford had seen some sights in their years on the bench but the one caused by a motorist enraged at paying a parking fine was the most bizarre yet.

Before them stood a driver who was related to the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and with him stood a 31-year-old woman baring her belly . . . but with good reason.

Twenty five-year-old Julian Caruso - his grandfather was a cousin of the tenor - was reluctant to pay his £10 parking fine but did so in a most dramatic way.

His young woman accomplice had all the allure of an Eastern belly dancer but her tummy was inscribed with a facsimile of a bank cheque complete with the amount of £10 and signed by Mr Caruso.

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Magistrates clerk William Walton barked his refusal to accept this unlikely cheque by telling the defendant: “Paying by cheque means it becomes my property until it is cashed. There's no means of collecting this money."

The defendant admitted defeat and paid his fine in cash explaining that his unusual method of payment was a means of protesting about the crazy parking system in Stafford.

It all happened in November 1982 and the incident attracted headlines in newspapers throughout the world exposing the belly dancer - known as Sandrina - to global publicity.

Sandrina (real name Sandra Audley), it must be explained, lived with her policeman husband Alan at a cottage in Seighford and had the black hair, mysterious eyes and statuesque build of character from the pages of The Arabian Nights.

Just a year earlier, she had explained to the Newsletter how she became involved in the exotic world of belly dancing - six years before she hit the headlines with Mr Caruso's cheque ploy.

While living in Birmingham, she began to learn to dance with a group of girls who had been involved in dancing since they were children and she eventually joined a dance troupe in a Sutton Coldfield club.

One night, she was spotted by an agent who suggested that belly dancing would be her forte so she discussed the unlikely idea with her husband and the two of them began to study the dance.

Local libraries had little to offer but records from America and a book about belly dancing explained some of the steps and techniques - and Sandrina was on the road as an entertainment artiste.

Soon she was dancing in clubs and restaurants and accepted dates in Malta Germany and Tunisia . . . the last place was a holiday destination where her hotel manager allowed her to put on a show.

Security guards at the hotel could hardly believe an Englishwoman had taken up the dance genre beloved of their own womenfolk but they were impressed and gave her flowers.

Back home, Sandrina continued to have the support of a husband - a police dog handling instructor - and teenaged son Stephen, a pupil at Graham Balfour School.

She said of her husband: “I don't think I could have gone on without him. He does not mind men watching me; he knows I'll go back to him afterwards. He is very proud of me."

Her displays usually started with the famous Dance of the Seven Veils, with two male volunteers from the audience dressing in Arab headgear as she went through the motions of being a latter-day Salome.

The dancing allowed her to develop her acting skills and by 1981, she had accepted minor roles in Angels, Nanny and Crossroads though even then, she was expecting to retire from the scene within three years.

This week, Julian Caruso, son of a former Italian prisoner of war, explained that he had known Sandrina from the time when he attended school in Seighford and later engaged her in a nightclub he ran.

Annoyed by the parking fine, he enlisted the help of Newsletter cartoonist Dave Follows in inscribing her midriff with a “cheque”.

He recalled how batteries of TV cameras and reporters gathered outside the magistrates’ court when his “tummy money” was rejected.

These days, he's based in Burslem and works as a hypnotist and clairvoyant . . . why, you may ask, didn't he foresee that magistrates would not accept a cheque written on the belly of a young woman, however beautiful?

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