MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — A 32-year-old man in northwest England was fined Saturday after he told his girlfriend he had been kidnapped, prompting an extensive police investigation that involved house searches and the arrest of a suspect until the man was found partying at a house, police said.
The incident began at around 6:30 p.m. on Friday when a woman near Manchester called her boyfriend and was told by the person who answered the phone that her boyfriend would not be allowed home until he had paid a 50 pound ($82) debt. A short time later she received a text message saying he would be home shortly, but when she spoke to her boyfriend again, he said he was being held against his will.
The woman then called police, prompting an extensive investigation to find and rescue the 'kidnapping victim.' A Greater Manchester police spokesperson said officers went through phone records, carried out house-to-house inquiries, and checked surveillance footage in the area where he was last seen.
One man was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping after officers searched a number of homes during the course of the investigation. The suspect then told investigators that the whole situation had been a "ruse" so that the woman's boyfriend could stay out and drink. At another location, officers were told that the 'victim' was at a house in Bolton, a town near the city of Manchester.
Police arrived at the house at about 1:20 a.m. on Saturday and located the man, who admitted that the whole kidnapping story had been a deception. He was arrested and later given a fixed penalty notice for wasting police time. The man arrested on suspicion of kidnapping was released without charge.
"The man's girlfriend was absolutely beside herself with worry and genuinely concerned that he would come to harm," said Detective Inspector Jo Clawson of Greater Manchester Police. "Rightfully, based on what she knew at the time, the matter was reported to police. Considerable resources and time then went into finding this man, who it transpires made the entire thing up so he could stay out and party."
It was not known for how much the fake kidnapping victim was fined, nor could police say how much it cost to investigate the incident, though officials said more than a dozen police officers were involved in the investigation. The man's identity was not disclosed because he had not been charged with a crime.
Clawson added: "This is without doubt one of the most foolish and irresponsible incidents I have been involved in. Significant resources were taken off the front line on a Friday night, which is without exception, one of the busiest times of the week. He is fortunate not to have been charged, but to put together a file of evidence and put him through the court system would incur even more cost to the taxpayer."
Police said that while the man was only fined, the matter would be recorded as a criminal conviction on his record.