Woman posed as police officer and started shopping centre bomb hoax as part of prank
PUBLISHED: 16:58 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:58 22 May 2019
A woman who posed as a police officer and sparked a major incident by calling in a phony bomb threat as a prank has been handed a suspended prison sentence.
Sarah Mills, 35, of Commodore Road, Oulton Broad, appeared in court on Wednesday morning charged with her role in the prank which saw several Great Yarmouth shop premises evacuated and an area of town cordoned off.
Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court heard that, on February 6 last year, Spencer's Sports Bar on Regent Road received a phone call at around 8pm from an unnamed female who identified herself as a member of Norfolk Constabulary.
According to bar manager Keaton Kerridge, the woman told him a bomb had been placed at Market Gates shopping centre and provided a police reference number before ending the call.
Moments later Mr Kerridge received a second call from the woman, instructing him to "get on the floor" and tell everybody in the bar to do the same.
He subsequently told his customers to get on the floor but, after hearing "sniggering" in the bar, he began to suspect the calls may have been a prank.
Mr Kerridge nevertheless contacted police on 101 at around 8.20pm and asked for clarification over whether the original calls had been genuine.
Police told him they had not originated from a Norfolk Constabulary member of staff and he was advised to evacuate the bar.
Several officers - including all those based in the Great Yarmouth area - were deployed, alongside the fire and ambulance services.
The McDonald's and KFC restaurants next door to the bar were evacuated and the area was sealed off while an extensive search for suspicious packages took place.
By around 10.30pm, police were satisfied the initial calls had been a hoax and they were later traced back to a phone belonging to Miss Mills.
She pleaded guilty to communicating information which she knew or believed to be false, with the intention of inducing the false belief that a bomb was present.
Miss Mills was spared jail due to her 10-month prison sentence being suspended for 18 months.
She was, however, ordered to pay £300 in compensation to Spencer's Sports Bar for lost trade, £1,136 to Norfolk police and £186 for the cost of tracing the hoax calls.