Hoax call leads to helicopter search

PUBLISHED: 10:58 07 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 31 May 2010

A PRANKSTER from Saffron Walden who wasted hours of police time and thousands of pounds worth of resources after dialling 999 on Sunday has received an £80 fine. A police helicopter, eight officers and two dog units from Braintree and Chelmsford were ca

A PRANKSTER from Saffron Walden who wasted hours of police time and thousands of pounds worth of resources after dialling 999 on Sunday has received an £80 fine.

A police helicopter, eight officers and two dog units from Braintree and Chelmsford were called in when the 20-year-old man rang the emergency services at 2am. He said he had been attacked near the Swan Meadow car park and needed an ambulance.

Following a thorough search and investigation, the hoaxer was caught 10 hours later after police traced the mobile telephone he used to ring for the ambulance.

Sgt Paul Glasgow, of Saffron Walden Police, said: "The control centre received a call from a man saying he'd been hit, that he couldn't move and that he needed an ambulance to be sent to the pond at Swan Meadow.

"A few more calls were received where the man didn't say anything and so there were very serious concerns for his safety, especially with the poor weather conditions that evening."

He said fortunately for the man it turned out to be just an "elaborate hoax" but it could have had serious implications if the police had been called to a real emergency at the same time and could not have attended.

Sgt Glasgow added: "We were still under the illusion that the man could have been at the bottom of the pond or lying on the golf course until around midday, when we successfully traced him via his mobile phone.

"He had gone to great lengths to sound authentic and the control room operator said he sounded faint and very badly injured.

Initial enquiries led police to a radio mast close to the Friends' School and they carried out a check on the premises between 3.30am and 4am. The man was traced via a mobile phone to a house in Saffron Walden.

A Friends' School spokesman said: "We'd like to thank the police for being sensitive and not waking up or frightening the children who were asleep at the time."

The helicopter, which hovered over the town centre for about two hours and employed spotlights and thermo-imaging technology to find the man, was stood down along with the officers from Braintree and Chelmsford at 4am.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "The total cost of the operation will run into thousands of pounds.

"It would have been time consuming and a costly process to have charged the man, who had been drinking. It was considered a fixed penalty notice was an efficient, effective and appropriate way to deal with the man."

- Due to the hoax, police were delayed in attending a three-man fight in Horn Brook at about 2am.

A 25-year-old man was cautioned and an ambulance attended the scene. Fortunately no-one was injured.

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