Runaway Norwich dog sparks helicopter search

A runaway dog sparked a helicopter search when he escaped from his Christmas lodgings – and forced a Norwich couple to cancel their festive break in Miami.

Melissa Burgan and Terry Page, from Thorpe Hamlet, were already in the United States to spend the holiday with Melissa's family when they heard their five-year-old black Labrador, Jasper, had gone missing.

The dog ran away from the Horsham St Faith home of the couple's friend who had been looking after him – and their other dog, a one-year-old black labrador named Toby – on December 17 while they were away.

The dog had been seen in and around Norwich International Airport, and Bristow helicopter service even allowed one of their helicopters to be used in the search at one point.

But it was not found until last Friday, thanks to the efforts of staff at the airport – in particular, operations manager Keith Farrow, 39 – that he was eventually found.

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Mr Farrow, spurred on by the determination of his 11-year-old daughter Macey, searched several times with his wife, Jane, also 39, to find the dog.

They travelled from their home in Worstead, near North Walsham, to search for Jasper.

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Owner Miss Burgan could not have been more appreciative.

She said: 'I really want the airport to get some credit for all of this because they have been absolutely brilliant with us.

'The airport is obviously a secure place so you can't just go in there and start looking.

'Jasper must have got in through a rabbit hole under a fence or something that he managed to wriggle under.

'But Keith in particular even came in on days off and came back at night to help look for Jasper. He and his family are real unsung heroes.'

Mr Farrow was keen to point out that at no time was Jasper close to runways or in danger of causing problems to airport services.

The missing pet was hidden in thick thorns and bramble bushes, meaning that he was spotted several times but could not be caught.

Mr Farrow was delighted to see a happy ending to the story.

He said: 'I said to Melissa that it would be a fairytale ending and he would turn up on Christmas Eve, but Jasper obviously didn't read the script and turned up a day early.

'It was really Macey who inspired us though. She was up until one in the morning one night because she wanted to find him so badly. She was a little star.'

Mr Farrow added a word of thanks to Mark Walton, a technical services engineer at the airport, who eventually caught Jasper after being careful not to spook the dog when he had nearly been caught in a trap set for him.

Mr Walton's calm thinking to quietly reset the trap led to Jasper finally being caught and returned to his grateful owners, just in time for Christmas.

Did something inspirational happen to you this Christmas? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or

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