WHEN 65-year-old Fran Phillips jumped into the icy Little Ouse to rescue her two Jack Russells, she did not even notice that her hat had fallen off.
Little did she know that the hat would spark a manhunt that involved an RAF Sea King – a helicopter with a £5,000 callout cost.
It was only when she stumbled on a photo of her hat in a local newspaper a few days later that she realised the extent of the situation.
“Straight away I realised it was my hat. I just couldn’t believe it had caused all that fuss – a £5,000 search for a £2 hat,” she said.
Mrs Phillips, a grandmother from Glebe Road, in Weeting, was out walking her three Jack Russells in Brandon on February 11 when the youngest two ran on to the frozen river surface.
As the ice broke beneath their feet, Mrs Phillips jumped in to pull them out without thinking.
She said: “I just grabbed the railing and stepped in but when I did my feet slipped off the bank.
“I managed to reach down and pull them out though, and the hat must have come off in the commotion.”
Despite being left cold and wet, Mrs Phillips drove home with the dogs.
It was then that a member of the public spotted footprints leading to a hole in the ice and the hat lying next to it.
After a 999 call was made, a three-hour search involving police and fire services and the Sea King was put into action.
But Mrs Phillips was oblivious to the frantic hunt.
“I thought no more about it and I remember seeing the helicopter and even then I just thought it was another prisoner on the loose or something.
“I’d really like to thank the passer-by who made the call and find out who they are,” she said.
Having called police at the first opportunity Mrs Phillips was told she would be reunited with the hat at the next opportunity.