Police fear student did not know of free 999 call

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The Independent Online

A student who went missing five days ago after sending a text message saying "help me" may have been unaware she could ring 999, police believe.

A student who went missing five days ago after sending a text message saying "help me" may have been unaware she could ring 999, police believe.

Sally Geeson, 22, disappeared shortly after leaving a New Year's Eve party at a pub in Cambridge. The last known communications from her were three text messages that said she was getting a lift and that she needed help.

Police, friends and relatives of the forensic science student at Anglia Polytechnic University, in Cambridge, have become increasingly alarmed at her disappearance.

The officer heading the inquiry said yesterday that Miss Geeson, whose mobile phone had run out of credit, may not have realised that she could have called 999 for free.

The student sent the text messages - which still worked despite the lack of credit on the phone - at about 1am. One, to a flatmate, said: "No one waited for me I've got into a car with someone please call me x."

The second, sent two minutes later to a different friend, said: "Please help me x." The third, to the same friend, said: "Hi Em, it's me, I'm lost".

The phone went dead about eight hours later.

Detective Superintendent Garry Swain said: "She could have dialled 999, but she didn't.

"Had she pressed the 9 button, it would have registered with us and, even if she had not spoken, an emergency operator would have called her back. That didn't happen because she didn't dial.

"I don't know what Sally was thinking or why she sent the text. Her phone was out of credit for calls, but it did allow her to send text messages.

"But nevertheless, she could have dialled 999. Whether she would have realised that, I don't know. Of course, it's a possibility that she didn't realise that."

He added: "It is the text messages that make this an unusual case. People go missing all the time for all sorts of reasons. But this is the first case I've come across where a text message asking for help has been sent in this fashion."

The police are investigating whether Miss Geeson got a lift from an illegal minicab, or possibly a stranger. Detectives yesterday appealed to taxi drivers in Cambridge to contact them if they had any information about the disappearance.

"We do have information to say there were a number of illegal minicab drivers working in Cambridge on New Year's Eve," said Det Supt Swain.

"It is possible the car she is referring to is an illegal minicab."

Meanwhile, Julie Geeson, the twin sister of the missing woman, said the pair last spoke several days before the disappearance.

She said: "We are very close. It is just gut-wrenching. I still feel sick. No one has any idea and so far there are no leads."

Miss Geeson's mother, Sue, a 46-year-old educational consultant from Southend, Essex, said: "This is not like Sally. She does not stay out of reach like this and we are desperately worried.

"We have considered the possibility she was given some kind of drug or that she was spiked. But she sent a number of happy new year messages to us and her friends on New Year's Eve and then sent these two text messages.

"That would tend to suggest that she was well enough to be able to text, therefore not under the influence of any drug."

The only possible sighting of Miss Geeson has been a witness who claims to have seen a woman matching her description on the 14.45 Norwich to Sheringham train on 2 January.

The police are checking closed circuit television footage around Cambridge and on stations between Norwich and Sheringham in an attempt to find pictures of Ms Geeson.