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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 09:25 GMT
One caller behind lifeboat hoaxes
RNLI Mersey class all weather lifeboat
A lifeboat was sent in gale conditions to the latest hoax call
A series of hoax calls which are risking the lives of lifeboat crews could be the work of one man, according to coastguards.

The latest call saw the Llandudno lifeboat battle through gale-force winds and high waves looking for a non-existent fishing boat on Saturday night.

It is thought to be at least the fourth time the man, believed to be in his 30s or 40s and using a VHF radio, has called in the last six weeks.

Coastguards say that the caller is using maritime knowledge to endanger lives of both lifeboat teams and the public, and have vowed to catch him.

Carl Hilton, Holyhead Coastguard Watch Manager, said they were confident it was the same person making all the calls.

"We have played the tapes back - it is the same accent and this guy has a marine knowledge," he said.

They could be diverted to this non-existent incident when there could be a genuine incident going on somewhere else
Carl Hilton, Holyhead Coastguard

"His radio procedures are very good which is convincing.

"He seems to be targetting the same area north of Llandudno and Rhyl.

"We will catch this man eventually. Repeated offenders do make mistakes eventually and this guy will be caught sooner or later."

Mr Hilton added that the hoaxes could mean crews are not able to deal with real emergencies.

"They could be diverted to this non-existent incident when there could be a genuine incident going on somewhere else."

He also said that the time of the last call - on a Saturday night before Christmas made the situation worse for the crews, who were "very very annoyed" by the hoaxes.

"They do not mind going out to genuine incidents no matter what time of day or night, but it is very annoying for them."

The bogus calls received by coastguards are similar to those made to the other emergency services in north Wales - who have collectively more than 2,600 bogus callouts in the past 12 months.

Hoaxers prosecuted

On Saturday night Holyhead coastguard received a 999 call from someone alleging a 32ft fishing boat called Caprice had engine problems and was floating in a dangerous position off the coast of Conwy.

Keith Charlton was a member of the six man crew sent out on the hoax emergency call..

He said all of the crew's lives were put at risk by the hoax.

A spokesman for North Wales Police said they would "rigorously prosecute" hoaxers and work in with British Telecom and CCTV operators to identify them.

On 8 December, a mayday call said a crewman was injured on a fishing vessel Brecon off Prestatyn, the day after another call reported that the Santa Monica had engine failure off Great Orme.

On 20 November, a mayday from a boat claiming to be called Blue Phoenix said it was stranded two miles off Rhyl.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Coastguard hoax
This is the voice of the man police want to stop making hoax calls



SEE ALSO:
Hoax call sends lifeboat into gale
22 Dec 03  |  North East Wales
Police release hoax fire tapes
25 Nov 02  |  Wales
'Lives at risk' by 999 abuse
20 Dec 03  |  Oxfordshire


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