Hiker who sparked HK$170,000 search admits lying to police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am

A 21-year-old woman falsely reported to police that she had become lost on Lamma Island, triggering a costly three-day search-and-rescue operation.

Yeung Pui-ka pleaded guilty at Eastern Court to wasting police resources with the search, involving 592 man hours, helicopters and fire engines at a cost of HK$170,396.88.

Yeung told the court that she had been scared by dogs and exaggerated her predicament so that police would respond quickly. When she saw the scale of the operation, she fled to the mainland.

The court heard that on November 23, Yeung used her mobile phone to call So Kwu Wan police station on Lamma and report that she was lost on a hillside. A police officer advised her to stay where she was, and she promised to do so.

A team of officers was then sent to look for Yeung but could not find her. When police tried to call her back, her phone had been switched off.

Concerned for Yeung's safety, police stepped up the operation, calling in the Fire Service Department, Civil Aid Service and Government Flying Service. Police obtained Yeung's phone records and eventually located her father, who said they were on the mainland.

Yeung said that she had lost her mobile phone, but later admitted calling police. She exaggerated her predicament 'for fun' to make police respond to her call quickly.

However, she fled when she saw the scale of the search-and-rescue operation, and went to the mainland with her father, without informing the police that she was safe.

She later told police that she regretted her actions.

Yeung, a dental assistant who completed secondary school in New Zealand, told the court that she could afford only HK$5,000 compensation.

Acting principal magistrate Amanda Woodcock said: 'You saw helicopters hovering around and you probably knew that many police officers were deployed, but you didn't shout and went to the mainland to visit a friend.'

Woodcock said she was considering a prison sentence and remanded Yeung in custody, adjourning sentencing to March 10.