Police hunt hoaxer after 'sick' calls to families

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The Independent Online
A FEMALE hoaxer has telephoned more than 40 families since last Friday claiming that their relatives are seriously ill in hospital, often with amputated limbs.

The woman, who sounds young and has no distinguishable accent, has been calling the families in the early hours of the morning to give graphic descriptions of the injuries their relatives have supposedly suffered. In some cases she has known the Christian name of the relative she claims has been hurt.

In others, she has asked the persons answering the phone if they have a certain relative. If they reply that they have, she tells them the relative has been admitted to the casualty unit at George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

As a result of her calls, accident and emergency staff have been faced with a stream of distressed families who have driven to the hospital in the middle of the night to see the 'injured' relatives. The hospital has set up a helpline and is offering counselling.

Ann Heape, 52, of Chapel End, Nuneaton, received a hoax call at 2.45am on Sunday from a woman who claimed to be calling from the George Eliot hospital. She asked if Mrs Heape had a son and asked his name. The woman then told her: 'I'm sorry to have to tell you that your son has been hit by a car and his legs are so badly crushed they will have to be amputated.'

Mrs Heape said the caller then claimed more information was coming through and that her son would need only one leg amputated. She rang a friend who worked at the hospital who told her it was a hoax. When Mrs Heape telephoned her son, Malcolm, he told her he was fine.

'It's so sick,' Mrs Heape said. 'When she said he had been injured, I had this ringing in my ears and I started to feel faint. If it had been someone with a heart complaint a shock like that could have killed them.'

Detective Inspector Martin Crabb, of Nuneaton police station, who is heading the search for the hoax caller, is attempting to discover if there is a connection between the families who have been contacted in the Nuneaton and Coventry areas, or if they are being chosen at random.

He said the woman had claimed every category of relation had been injured - children, parents, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts, with injuries resulting from car crashes, a fight, or a heart attack. She most frequently contends their legs have been amputated. 'She is describing in graphic detail the injuries in whatever scenario she has chosen. But she always mentions this hospital. That is the one constant,' Det Insp Crabb said yesterday.

'It is hard to think of anything worse than being rung in the middle of the night to be told that a member of your family is in the accident and emergency unit. That's sick.'

Police are advising anyone who receives such a call not to give out any personal information; contact the hospital's advice line on 0203 865175, then call the police.

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