British Columbia

British police thank Canadian cop after Surrey U.K., Surrey B.C. mix-up

After a distressed B.C. woman mistakenly contacted Surrey U.K. police for help a Toronto constable, who happened to be in the call centre at the time, helped the force get Surrey RCMP officers to the woman.
Antoinette Rowe is a constable with the Toronto Police Service. She is pictured in a video from 2015 when she returned from a United Nations Police deployment in Haiti. (Toronto Police Service)

British police are thanking a Canadian police officer for her help in a mix-up between police in Surrey U.K. and Surrey B.C.

On Christmas Day, 2018, Surrey Police in England were contacted by a woman having suicidal thoughts in Surrey B.C. through their Facebook page.

The 23-year-old thought she had contacted Surrey RCMP, not police in the U.K.

"We get a number of messages from people who have mixed up Surrey, England with Surrey, Canada," said Ellie Benson, a contact centre operator in a release from Surrey Police. Surrey's county town, Guildford, is about an hour's drive from London.

Surrey Police headquarters in Guilford are located about an hour's drive from London. (Google Maps)

The British call-taker kept talking to the woman in distress while she asked for help from a Toronto Police Service constable, who happened to be in the call centre, serving under the RCMP on attachment to the U.K. force.

Antoinette Rowe grew up in South East England and lived there until she was 17.

Rowe happened to be visiting a childhood friend, who worked at the Surrey Police's call centre, and was present, observing operations the day the call came in from Surrey B.C.

Connecting to Canada

The Canadian helped by making calls to her force in Toronto, then to the Vancouver Police Department, which then helped get officers from Surrey RCMP to the woman in distress. The officers took the woman to hospital.

"It was a great Christmas coincidence and I'm delighted that it had a positive ending," said Benson in the release.

Meanwhile Rowe was deferential about her role in the call.

"Quite honestly, my part was very small in comparison to what Ellie did," said Rowe in the Surrey Police release. "She recognized this could not end well, and kept an open dialogue with the young lady."

The assistant chief constable with Surrey Police said that incident showed how police are willing to help no matter the situation.

"This just goes to show that where saving a life is concerned borders and time zones don't matter and we will do what we can to help our friends in blue around the world," said Nev Kemp.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the B.C. Crisis Centre Distress Line number at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433.