Hoax call branded as 'theft'

A HOAX call that led to Exmouth s Lifeboat and a Coastguard helicopter being scrambled for a pointless search, has been branded as blatant theft of tax payers money and charitable donations.

A HOAX call that led to Exmouth's Lifeboat and a Coastguard helicopter being scrambled for a 'pointless' search, has been branded as blatant theft of tax payers money and charitable donations.

Brixham Coastguard on Sunday morning received what appeared to be a genuine request for help from someone dialling 999 from a mobile phone.

The caller, a 'Simon James' described that he had been fishing and had seen two men go swimming from a beach at Starcross.

The caller said he had lost sight of both but had heard lots of splashing by a buoy and was now greatly concerned for their safety.


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Teams from Exmouth and Teignmouth were called out and Nick Ratcliff, Watch Officer at Brixham Coastguard said:

"The caller used a mobile phone and to all intents and purposes this call was the real thing. Coastguard Rescue Teams from Exmouth and Teignmouth were called out, our Coastguard Rescue Helicopter was scrambled from Portland and the RNLI lifeboat was requested from to launch from Exmouth.

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"A major search took place up stream and near the Powderham Castle area. A broadcast mayday signal was made into the area."

Later the caller then rang back to say that the two 'missing' individuals had come out of the water near, as he described, 'lock gates', and it was at this point that the Coastguard grew suspicious of the veracity of the first call.

Numerous efforts to get back to the first informant via the mobile phone were not successful and after investigation with the network provider it was discovered that the 'pay as you go' phone had only ever made two calls since its purchase a few days earlier - the two emergency calls to the Coastguard.

Nick Ratcliff added: "As an emergency Service we are appalled and disgusted at this character's activities. Using charitable and taxpayer's money for pointless searching is nothing short of blatant theft.

"We also now have a digital recording of this individual's voice and we will be liaising with the Police in an effort to track him down. Fortunately there was no other marine emergency during this 'search' but if there had been, and then valuable rescue units may have been delayed in attending anything further afield. We hope to have a release the recording of the man's voice to the media early next week to allow members of the public help us to identify this person."

If anyone has further information on these calls then information can be passed in the strictest confidence to; (01803) 882704.

Ends

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