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False claim officer awaits fate

PUBLISHED: 20:00 22 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:36 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK police today said it would not comment on whether an officer, who sparked a full-scale police investigation after falsely claiming he had been shot at, would face criminal proceedings.

SUFFOLK police today said it would not comment on whether an officer, who sparked a full-scale police investigation after falsely claiming he had been shot at, would face criminal proceedings.

The Pc is now suspended from duty after admitting he made up a story that he had been fired at by a masked man with a sawn-off shotgun.

Police launched a major inquiry after the 31-year-old officer, who had been at duty at Eye police station, reported the attack in a remote country lane in Stradbroke on March 12.

But eight days after the alleged incident – in which the cop claimed a passenger in a white car had jumped from the vehicle, pulled his top balaclava-style over his face and fired at him – the officer retracted his story.

The police constable, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, is currently suspended from duty while internal disciplinary proceedings are considered. Police have not named the officer at the centre of the scandal.

Asked whether the cop could face criminal charges, police spokeswoman Anna Woolnough said today: "This matter is now subject to internal investigation and consequently I am unable to make any further comment."

The hunt for the fictitious masked gunman is believed to have cost Suffolk Constabulary thousands of pounds as officers quizzed Stradbroke residents for information and set up village checkpoints a week after the alleged attack, staffed by more than a dozen officers.

The force's press office launched a series of media appeals for public help in finding the gunman and villagers spoke about their concerns following the incident. One farmer told how his family was scared to leave their home for fear of an armed attacker on the loose.

The saga began when the constable went to Stradbroke to investigate an anonymous telephone call that three men in a white car were acting suspiciously in the village. He claimed he drove up behind a white car on the B1117 just outside Stradbroke and followed it after the driver failed to stop when he flashed his blue light.

According to the account the cop gave to his superiors, the car turned down a narrow lane and after about a mile it stopped and the front passenger got out.

The constable alleged the man had pulled down a balaclava mask over his face and pointed a sawn-off shotgun in his direction.

The officer claimed he had dived back into his own vehicle just before the weapon was fired and that he had then tried in vain to pursue the car which had sped off into the night without its lights.

As a result of the alleged incident other officers and the Suffolk force helicopter were quickly sent to the area. The next day a scenes-of-crime team combed the immediate vicinity for shotgun pellets and other clues.

Police have declined to discuss the number of staff hours which had been spent on the case and the cost of the investigation but it believed to have cost thousands.

A statement said: "Suffolk police regret any concern caused to local residents by the publicity generated as a result of this allegation but hope people feel reassured, knowing this incident did not occur."

The statement also apologised for any distress or inconvenience caused and thanked both the media for publishing appeals and those members of the public who telephoned police with information.


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