Murphy's a sniff ahead in mobiles search

He is a two-year old rescue dog with a mind of his own and the attention span of a goldfish - but right now he is the most sought after hound in the country.

He is a two-year old rescue dog with a mind of his own and the attention span of a goldfish - but right now he is the most sought after hound in the country.

Murphy the springer spaniel was destined to become a gundog until his trainer decided he was too independently-minded to cut the mustard. Left abandoned by his owners, he looked set for an uncertain future.

But the combination of his boundless energy, nose for detail and complete inability to become bored has made him the perfect candidate for his new role as Britain's first mobile phone sniffer dog.

Trained at Norwich Prison, he plays a vital role in policing East Anglia's jails. By sniffing out handsets smuggled through security he can help maintain order behind bars, even thwarting escape attempts.

All he asks for in reward is the chance to play with his ball each time he detects new contraband.

Governor James Shanley said: "Murphy is playing a very important role and we are lucky to have him. Prisons have systems in place to maintain security but if inmates get hold of mobile phones those systems can break down completely.

Most Read

"Prisoners can use mobiles for a whole range of purposes from trying to orchestrate an escape to harassing witnesses in the outside world.

"Nowadays mobiles come in all shapes and sizes meaning visitors can secrete them in body cavities. Traditionally this caused problems with both detection and retrieval but Murphy provides us with a key weapon against this."

Mel Barker, the region's lead dog trainer who is based at Norwich, trained Murphy up from raw recruit to tough crime-fighter. Having just passed his licensing exams, he will now be used as the prototype for an army of dogs across the country.

"Everything has its own unique scent footprint and you can train a dog to sniff out any item," said Mr Barker who is more used to training animals to uncover drugs.

Murphy's duties range from patrolling corridors to monitoring visitor sessions and standing guard at prison gates.

Mr Shanley said only a small number of smuggled mobiles are discovered each year but Murphy has found two in the last month.

Mr Barker added: "Murphy can distinguish between toy phones and even mobiles that have been broken up into component parts.

"He is perfect for the job. He is headstrong, never gets tired and has a very short memory so every time he goes into a room he gets excited because it's like a new experience. He is also very intelligent and a quick learner.

"When he was left at a rescue centre in Ipswich they approached us saying he could be perfect for our purposes. We're delighted with the progress he has made."

Within the next month two more dogs are due to arrive at Norwich to begin training. One will be permanently based in the city while the other will join Murphy roaming the region. More will then be introduced nationwide.

One thing is certain: this particular canine is failing to live up to his name and defying Murphy's Law - everything that could possibly go right for him seems to be doing so.