Child abduction hoax sparked major manhunt

POLICE launched a huge manhunt in Netherfield following reports that a child had been abducted - only to find out it was a hoax.

Two children made an emergency call to Sussex Police at 6.30pm on Tuesday evening to report that a young boy had been snatched and dragged into woodland at Darvel Down.

Around 24 police officers from Battle, Rye, Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne, along with the dog and firearms units, launched a large-scale search of the woods, behind the Darvel Down estate.

The police helicopter was also scrambled to the scene.

A large number of PCSOs carried out extensive house-to-house enquiries on the estate.

After more than an hour of searching, the two children finally admitted to police they had made the incident up.

Sergeant Paul Masterson, of Battle Police, said the hoax call had diverted vital resources and had cost the Force “thousands and thousands” of pounds at a time when Sussex Police is striving to make savings of £52 million by 2015.

Sgt Masterson said: “We would like a message to go out to parents and children that it was a total and utter waste of police time and could have been avoided if it was admitted straight away.

“If anyone is thinking of doing anything as stupid as this, police will take action.

“We want to make it clear this will not be tolerated.”

The two children who made the call are of primary school age and their parents have been spoken to by police.

Further action could be taken over the hoax.

Sgt Masterson said Sussex Police takes such reports very seriously.

He said: “When any incident like this is reported, we will put our full weight behind it until we hear otherwise.”

Officers were finally stood down from the scene at 9pm.