An aspiring model whose false claims of having been kidnapped and murdered prompted a massive police operation escaped a prison sentence yesterday.
Rebecca Campion, 20, sent her mother texts that persuaded her she had been abducted by a gang and was being held for a ransom.
One text told her mother: "You get the police". Another said: "She is dead." Merseyside police regarded the situation as so serious that they diverted detectives from every other murder investigation in the area.
They called in the force helicopter to scour the coastline near Campion's home in Bootle and arrested the "missing" woman's boyfriend on suspicion of kidnap.
Police had spent ?25,000 on the operation before Campion walked back into her home on Jan 27 - three days after she had sent her mother, Veronica, the first message.
Campion admitted wasting police time at an earlier hearing. Yesterday magistrates in Liverpool gave her a six-month sentence but suspended it for 18 months. She was ordered to pay ?65 costs.
The court heard that she had been sending the texts at a time she was staying with her present boyfriend, David Ball. Mike Healey, defending, told the court that Campion made up the claims because she wanted her ex-boyfriend to believe she had disappeared. She alleged that he had beaten her up, subjected her to degrading abuse and made threats to her and her family. His client now felt "extremely remorseful" and wanted to apologise to the police.
Mr Healy said: "This was not attention-seeking. It was a cry for help as an extension of previous overdose attempts.
"Rebecca is remorseful and apologises to the police for her actions. Further assessment is needed but there could be a trace of a personality disorder."
Passing sentence, the chairman of the bench, Andrew Robertson, told Campion: "It has to be said that the offences were a huge waste of resources, manpower and money. If you breach this you will be likely to go to prison for a considerable time."
Campion, who is unemployed, is still with Mr Ball. She left the court without comment. After the case Chief Supt Peter Currie, head of Merseyside's crime operations unit, said: "This case demonstrates how much police time and money can be wasted by false alarms."