'Baby in sea' ferry jump woman appears in court charged with wasting police time
A woman who sparked a massive rescue operation after she falsely claimed her newborn baby had fallen into the sea from a ferry has appeared in court charged with wasting police time.
Tracey Dawn Burns was plucked to safety from the sea at Belfast Harbour after she "threw herself" from the Stena Line ferry in May last year.
She told rescue workers that her nine-day-old baby was still in the water and a major search was immediately launched involving lifeboats, a rescue helicopter from the Republic, the PSNI helicopter, fast rescue crafts from two ferries, tugs and a pilot boat.
Rescue workers desperately searched the water for 10 hours over the course of two days for the child.
The PSNI then called the search off, and stated it believed there had not been a baby in the woman's care.
Burns (38), from Plantation Way in Newtownabbey, appeared before Newtownards Magistrates Court yesterday charged with causing "wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making a false report or statement giving rise to apprehension for the safety of a person".
She stood in the main body of the courtroom, not in the dock, for her brief appearance.
A defence solicitor told the court that this was "an awkward case" where "a lady threw herself from a ferry". He said the case may be dealt with by a caution and asked for an adjournment to obtain Burns' medical notes from her GP.
The district judge agreed to adjourn the case to June, but warned that the medical notes will have to be provided by then.
When told she was free to go, Burns smiled at her solicitor and immediately lit up a cigarette as she left the court building.
Burns, who is also known as Dawn McCann, was on an evening sailing of the Stena Line Superfast ferry coming from Cairnryan in Scotland on May 9, 2012, when she jumped overboard as it sailed into Belfast Harbour.
The alarm was raised by a shocked passenger and Stena Line staff immediately stopped the vessel and radioed for help from a passing pilot boat.
Burns was rescued about 15 minutes later and was rushed to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital suffering from hypothermia.
After she claimed her baby had fallen into the water with her, rescue workers from the PSNI, Coastguard, the RNLI and a fleet of volunteer fishermen scoured the area near the Victoria Channel where the incident happened.
Eighteen hours after the alert, Coastguard watch officer Jude McNeice said there was now no chance of finding the child alive.
Later that evening, Burns was arrested by police after it became apparent that the child did not exist.