RED NOSE DAY FIASCO: Norwich fundraiser sparks off police manhunt

fundraiser collecting charitable donations for Red Nose Day in the eastern British city of Norwich got more than he bargained for when he inadvertently set off a six hour long police manhunt, reports the Eastern Daily Press.

The man, who was not identified in the Eastern Daily Press news report, took it upon himself to dress up as a British soldier, complete with camouflaged uniform and carrying around what appeared to be a rifle. He was videotaped walking around the streets of Norwich nonchalantly with the realistic toy gun, causing worried locals to call the police, who responded immediately. Police forces across the UK are already being placed on high alert due to fears of terrorism, and there were concerns that the fundraiser might have been a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist.

Norfolk county police reported receiving three calls from the public about a ‘young man believed to be carrying a firearm’ according to the Eastern Daily Press report. The calls came in at around 8.30 am local time. Armed officers and a helicopter were immediately called out to Norwich’s city centre in search for the mysterious ‘gunman’ and scoured the streets for around six hours before eventually tracking him down at around 2:00 pm. Marked police vehicles were also stationed around the city’s market, Bank Plain and Colegate areas, as well as later at the University College of the Arts, and the Territorial Army base.

The unfortunate fundraiser was described by the newspaper as feeling “embarrassed and apologetic” when police finally tracked him down. Officers gave him a stern warning for putting his life in danger by wearing the military attire and also confiscated his imitation ‘rifle’, which he had painted to look more lifelike.

Chief Inspector Chris Spinks, leading the operation, said: “He had dressed up for fundraising or charity but members of the public were concerned for their safety.

Public safety is paramount and we take all reports of firearms seriously.”

A taxi driver passing along Barrack Street saw the man walking around with his gun and began filming. In the forty-second video, the man is strolling down a busy main road. As the cabbie drives closer to the fundraiser, his rifle is seen by his side, while dressed in full combat gear and rucksack. He appears to be indistinguishable from an actual soldier. He was reported in a local news video as heading along Barrack Street in the direction of Norwich’s Puppet Theatre.

The driver, who shot the footage with his mobile phone, told local media: “I saw a man in the full combat clothing carrying a rifle in his right hand. I wasn’t sure if it was an imitation but I thought it was a bit strange.

Dale Buck, a resident from Norwich’s Spixworth area, saw him close to the Whitefriars district around that time too. He said: “I was turning into the car park when I saw him. He was in full UK military clothes with a helmet, bag and he was carrying a rifle.

The rifle was swinging by his side so I knew he wasn’t a genuine soldier.”

The man was let off with a warning and allowed to go on his way, with no charges being brought against him. The unlucky fundraiser is not the first resident of the town to get into trouble with the law for wearing controversial fancy dress. Weeks earlier, a local teenager who was spotted walking around town armed with a machete turned out to be a film student making a horror movie. The machete turned out to be a plastic one splattered with fake blood, which was only discovered after an armed police operation swooped on the student while he was acting out a scene on the Mousehold Heath.

Red Nose Day is a charitable initiative by the Comic Relief charity that takes place every March and was launched in 1988. People are encouraged to wear red plastic noses and take part in fun events at school and work to raise money for charities in the UK and in Africa.

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“Red Nose Day fundraiser ‘embarrassed’ for sparking six-hour manhunt in Norwich” – Rosa McMahon, Eastern Daily Press/Archant Community Media Ltd (14 March 2015)
“Red Nose Day” – Comic Relief
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