A 999 call which sparked a huge police search for a three-year-old girl in Leeds has been exposed as an elaborate hoax.
West Yorkshire Police launched a huge hunt today after what they thought was a call from a mystery three year-old claiming her mother was unconscious on the kitchen floor of her Leeds home on Monday.
But, after a day of door-to-door searches and a nationwide social networking campaign, police discovered this afternoon that the call was a hoax, understood to have been orchestrated by two 10 year-old girls from Bridlington.
Officers say they are currently liaising with the girls’ parents to decide what action to take.
The alarm was raised yesterday when the hoaxer told the operator she was a three-year-old girl and her mother had fallen.
The caller said she was locked in the house and could only give a handful of details about where she was.
After failing to trace the call, which was from a mobile, officers decided on a publicity drive to try to find the girl, who said she was called Ellie.
West Yorkshire Police were the victims of one of the most notorious hoaxes in British criminal history when the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry was derailed by a mystery caller dubbed Wearside Jack more than 30 years ago.
Years later he turned out to be an alcoholic Sunderland man called John Humble, who was jailed for eight years.
Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Griffin said: “We are pleased that our investigation has shown that we don’t have a vulnerable little girl out there with her mum collapsed beside her, although it is obviously incredibly frustrating that this has turned out to be a hoax.
“We are very grateful to the public and the media for all the support they have given us in appealing for information over this incident. We treated the call as genuine on the basis of what was said that could be established in the initial stages of the investigation.
“Our priority is always to help the public and protect life, as was our overriding focus in this investigation.
“This incident again highlights how misuse of the 999 system can cause significant unnecessary work for the emergency services who have limited resources to deal with genuine calls for help from members of the public.
“We hope it will help to remind people of the serious consequences of misusing the 999 system.”