Hannah Foster experienced the horrific experience of being abducted, brutally raped, and murdered in 2003. Hannah, along with her friends from Southampton, went out for a night out on 13th March 2003 and was abducted by an Asian man named Maninder Singh Kohli the next day. The next day, she died by brutal rape and murder. A ditch was discovered in which she was buried. Investigator reports state that she frantically tried to connect to 999 while being bundled into the back of a delivery vehicle. After hearing the voice clip played before the jury, it was revealed that Hannah used the “Silent Solutions” system to communicate with the police. However, she had trouble understanding the instructions, so the call was diverted to Scotland Yard. After attempting to contact her but not receiving a response, the call was disconnected. If only the operators had realized the seriousness of Hannah’s call and help could have been provided in time, she might have survived.
BT Calls 999 or 112 (the European emergency services for all European countries) 30 million times a year. Usually, people call these numbers if they need emergency services like police, fire, or ambulance. Numerous millions of calls, however, do not follow this pattern, and when a number is called, no one answers. Hannah suffered the same fate. In the vast majority of cases, these calls result from customer misdialing, according to the code of practice. It is also acknowledged that a genuine caller may not have been able to speak. In addition, a substantial number of accidents involving 999/112 are caused by mobile phones.
As the number of silent calls in 999 has increased, the Metropolitan Police introduced a nationwide system called “Silent Solutions” in 2001. Police operators in the UK asked a series of questions during a call in order to get a response. A “negligible chance” of a genuine call is thought to exist when only general noise can be heard, and no speech can be heard either. A call can be terminated then. The code of practice states that where the operator does not receive a response but there are background voices, a police emergency authority request cannot be made.
If the caller requires assistance in situations such as these, an automated police voice response system at the Metropolitan Police’s Central Communication Command will ask the caller to press five twice. A police connection is established immediately if the 5-5 key is pressed. A call can also be connected directly to an emergency authority control room if suspicious noises are heard and the operator can override these procedures. During the subsequent investigation, only after the audio of Hannah’s 999 calls had been expertly enhanced, could the voice of her abductor be captured and their conversation recalled.
The silent call is a common occurrence today. Silent Solutions has received more than 40 million such calls since its establishment in 2001- an average of 5.5 million each year. Many of these are unintended 999 calls. About 47.500 silent calls were received by Silent Solutions during the past four years during which callers selected ’55’, indicating they required emergency assistance; this means less than 0.9% of Silent Solutions’ silent calls are intentional.
Hannah’s tragic case is not unique. Glasgow was the scene of a horrific crime in 2005 when Farah Noor Adams was raped and murdered. When she became aware of her eventual killer stalking her, she made a number of silent phone calls. When she didn’t answer them, operators ended the calls. The emergency alert device, which can save a life in a critical situation, has been around for 15 years since Hannah Foster was killed.
With the advancement of technology on the internet, we can now locate exactly where a distressed person is located. The Doctor Alert team is specially trained to deal with silent call incidents with prudence and agility after the Hannah Foster case. As a result of no response from the end-user, the National Rescue Team had to be contacted. The team arrived at the location and had to break open the door in order to see what was going on. It may be that there are silent alarms, but we are paying attention to them with utmost importance in order to ensure another innocent cry for help doesn’t go unheard, like with Hannah Foster.