Brandon dog walker sparks search at Little Ouse River

A woman who waded into a freezing river to rescue her two dogs which became stranded on the ice was oblivious to a three-hour search triggered by her actions.

Fran Phillips, 65, was out walking her two Jack Russells when the pair bounded off across the frozen Little Ouse River in Brandon.

As their owner grabbed them, unbenownst to her, the distinctive hat she was wearing came loose and floated along the water.

Unhurt but wet and cold, Mrs Phillips headed home to dry off but minutes later a member of the public spotted footprints, a hole in the ice and the hat lying nearby.

Jumping to a natural conclusion, he called the emergency services, and police, fire crews in a dinghy and paramedics, together with the RAF helicopter, spent around three hours searching the river, fearful somebody had fallen into the water.


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Fran Phillips, 65, a full-time carer from Glebe Road, Weeting, said she had no idea what had happened until she opened her local paper days later.

'I went into the river to rescue my two little dogs which fell in,' she said. 'Nobody was about and I didn't realise I'd lost my hat.

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'I was right near the lock and had hold of the fencing. The more the dogs paddled the more they were going in - I had to reach out as far as I could and the water was deeper than I thought.'

Mrs Phillips' two Jack Russell dogs, Charlie, one, and Maxy, seven months, had run across the ice and fallen into the water at about 3pm on Sunday.

She believes her hat must have been lost in the commotion and drifted downstream to a stretch of water behind the town's sports centre, on Church Road, where it was later found. 'I was worried but I didn't think twice about going in there - something came over me,' she said. 'They were trying to swim and the ice kept breaking in front of them.

'I was cold and wet through and that must have been when my hat came off. I didn't know anything about a police search. I've spoken to the police but I feel so guilty causing that search when I was absolutely fine.'

The search, which began at about 3,20pm, was called off late in the day on Sunday.

A spokesman for Suffolk Police said: 'When we receive a report of this nature we must be satisfied that everything possible is done to ensure that anyone who may be in trouble is located as quickly as possible.

'Together with fire, ambulance and the RAF Search and Rescue helicopter a thorough search of the area was made, but nobody was found. A decision was made to stand down the search when no further information was received to corroborate that anyone was missing or unaccounted for.

'A number of officers were involved in the search and I'm sure they will all be glad to have their minds put at ease.'

A similar rescue sparked interest in Essex earlier this month when Malcolm Jarvis from Bradfield was caught on camera crawling across the River Stour, in Dedham, in just his pants to rescue Jack Russell Bentley.

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