United Kingdom

Man with foot fetish made 1,200 nuisance calls to the NHS helpline while posing as an elderly woman

A nuisance caller with a 'sexual foot fetish' bombarded a free NHS advice line with more than a thousand calls in two years, often pretending to be an elderly woman.

Richard William Cove, 45, from Worthing, West Sussex, pleaded guilty to making malicious communications and told police he had been making the calls 'for his own enjoyment'.

Worthing Magistrates' Court heard that NHS 111 received more than 1,200 nuisance calls between April 2019 and April 2021, which cost the taxpayer over £20,000.

After he was arrested, Cove told police he had been 'indulging' in a sexual foot fetish during 'most of the calls'.

Richard Cove, 45, from Worthing, West Sussex, bombarded a free NHS advice line with more than 1,200 calls in two years. On one call, he told the handler he was 'suffering from very sweaty, smelly feet'

In recordings released by the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), Cove can be heard during one call telling the handler his name is 'Sarah Cheeseman' and that he is 'suffering from very sweaty, smelly feet'.

On another call, the 45-year-old affects his voice to sound like an elderly woman, and tells the call handler he is being interrupted by his daughter, and then later by his husband 'who is trying to get me out of bed'. On that occasion, Cove said he had slipped and twisted his knee two days previous.

Later on the same call, he tells the NHS 111 handler her voice 'sounds familiar' adding: 'You're a very pleasant lady to talk to. They (the other call handlers) are not all (like that).'

On a third call, he says his name is 'Paulo Duveoo', and that he has a bite on the side of the foot, before telling the handler that he has 'bare feet'.

Cove's nuisance calls started in April 2019 when NHS 111 received a complaint from a member of the public who reported that he kept receiving calls from clinicians from the service despite never contacting it.

Worthing Magistrates' Court (pictured) heard that NHS 111 received more than 1,200 nuisance calls from Cove between April 2019 and April 2021, which cost the taxpayer over £20,000

NHS 111 staff investigated and established that a nuisance caller had been calling the free advice line and providing 'false personal details and false medical ailments', many of which resulted in return calls from clinicians and in some cases ambulances being dispatched.

Sussex Police said the 1,263 calls in two years involved the nuisance caller providing 'false personal details, false telephone numbers and false ailments'.

The NHS found these calls cost the taxpayer a total of £21,869.21. 

Police said all the calls had a common theme of either the caller providing one of the same small numbers of addresses, or the caller changing his voice to sound like an elderly woman and talking about 'her own height and feet then going on to ask the NHS 111 call taker about their feet'.

PC David Quayle, of Sussex Police, said they identified Cove via his phone number and arrested him at his home where he had been making the calls using his landline.

PC Quayle added: 'He admitted making all the calls and that they were all for his own enjoyment. He said he had a sexual foot fetish which he indulged during most of the calls.'

After pleading guilty to one charge of making malicious communications, Cove was given a 16-week prison sentence suspended for 24 months at Worthing.

He was also required to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and to pay £2,000 compensation to the NHS.

After the sentencing, David Davis, SECAmb’s Head of Integrated Governance, said: 'Just one false or malicious call puts lives at risk and diverts our resources and attention from patients in genuine need of emergency care.

'The impact of this individual's actions should not be underestimated.

'The nature of the calls also caused unnecessary distress to our staff who continually work tirelessly to get people the assistance they require.

'We would like to thank our police colleagues and everyone involved in ensuring Mr Cove was held responsible for his actions.'

NHS 111 is a free NHS telephone and online service for the public to get advice in non-emergency medical situations.

The service, provided by South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust in Sussex, is funded by the taxpayer and phone calls from the public are triaged by call takers supported by a variety of clinicians.

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