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It must have been in the late `70s when I was engaged on `Panda` patrol from the Uppingham Rd station that I was sent to the Towers psychiatric hospital to take a missing from home report re a patient who had left the hospital without permission and hadn't returned;.

I took the report, detailing Tom's description, clothing and likely haunts - of which there were really none, other than the pub. He particularly fancied a pint, or seven.

Having obtained as much detail as I could to enable myself and my colleagues to begin the long task of trying to find Tom, I jumped into my Panda car to head for the police station to start the search. I circulated his description to other officers and set out to search for him in the area

I left the station and jumped back in my Panda car - heading back towards the hospital to check the area for Tom. About 200yards from the hospital - there he was - staggering along the pavement towards The Towers, obviously after a good night at the pub. I checked his appearance against the description I had been given - age, clothing, physical attributes - they matched perfectly.

I pulled the car up alongside him, wound down the passengers window and said `hi! are you Tom?`. He agreed that he was and I said I would give him a lift home. I called up the Control room to tell them of my success, and to ask them to contact the Towers, so staff could open the `night door` - usually locked to return Tom to where he belonged.

When we arrived a member of staff was standing outside the door ready to greet the runaway. As I opened the door and Tom got out he gazed around in some bewilderment. He shouted `What have you brought me here for? - do you think I'm some f***ing nutter?`

The staff member from the hospital took one look at him, said `Thats not Tom` and went back into the hospital shaking his head sadly as he closed, and locked the door behind him - leaving "Tom" and I in the car park. He was still ranting and raving, most concerned that I apparently thought that he was suffering from a psychiatric illness, but I finally managed to calm him down, find out who he was and where he lived and take him home.

When I reached the station I did a check on the false Tom and found that he was frequently very violent when drunk. He had previous convictions for causing grievious bodily harm, assaulting police officers - and had even served a prison sentence for murder.

All in a nights work. I believe that the real Tom wandered back into trhe hospital after the towels went up at the pub he had been visiting, and began a good nights sleep.

I began the paperwork.

Les Smith Leicestershire

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