Londoners spark manhunt after breaking lockdown to go for a walk in Norfolk

Coastguard operation

A huge rescue operation was launched for a London couple who visited Winterton 'for a walk' at the weekend - Credit: HM Coastguard Winterton

A full-scale search and rescue operation was launched after a London couple travelling to Winterton for a walk left their car unattended for more than four hours.

The couple were fined by police and their actions were branded 'indefensible' by a local councillor, after search and rescue teams tackled conditions they claimed were among the worst they have ever faced.

Police were called at 3.30pm on Saturday, February 6, by the coastguard over concerns about the welfare of a woman.

The woman was seen arriving and parking her car in the area by coast watch volunteers.

After more than four hours had passed and she had failed to return, volunteers raised the alarm.

Caister Lifeboat

A full-scale operation was launched by three coastguard teams over the weekend after a London couple were reported missing - Credit: Caister Independent Lifeboat

Caister Lifeboat

A full-scale operation was launched by three coastguard teams over the weekend after a London couple were reported missing - Credit: Caister Independent Lifeboat

Officers attended the scene and assisted the search, which was carried out in conjunction with three coastguard teams - Bacton, Winterton and Gorleston.

They were joined by Caister Lifeboat and a search and rescue helicopter. The helicopter was later stood down before reaching the scene.

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The woman and her partner were found safe and well at about 4.45pm as they returned to their car.

Norfolk Constabulary said: "It was established the couple had travelled from London earlier in the day and both were given a fixed penalty notices for breaching lockdown rules."

The team was paged this afternoon along with HM Coastguard Gorleston & HM Coastguard Bacton to reports of a missing...

Posted by HM Coastguard Winterton on Saturday, 6 February 2021

Paul Garrod, chairman of Caister independent lifeboat, said:  “We were paged at 4.20pm on Saturday, launched with six crew members.

"Once we got to Winterton, we had to start a shoreline search. There were 20 ft rolling waves.

"It’s the worst I’ve seen in 20-odd years, because we were so close into shore. It was horrendous."

Winterton Coastguard issued a warning on its Facebook post after the event, asking people to take "extreme care when visiting the coast over the next few days".

James Bensly, councillor for Yarmouth's East Flegg Ward, said he was "absolutely exhausted" by people continuously breaking the rules.

"Anyone getting in a car right now should hear alarm bells ringing," he said.

"To put our already over-stretched emergency services at risk like that is indefensible.

"I know people need to get out and about and stretch their legs. I do understand that. But these actions by this London couple cannot be justified." 

He added: "It probably costs about three grand to run a search and rescue helicopter for an hour.

"I want to see the laws changed on this. Anyone who needlessly uses up vital resources like that should have to foot the bill themselves."

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