South Shore woman devastated by news of brother's death - only to find him alive and well three hours later

A South Shore woman was left heartbroken – for three hours – after claiming bumbling cops mistakenly said her brother was dead before admitting to a case of mistaken identity.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 7:00 am
Zoe's brother James with her son, six-year-old Kian

Zoe Lee, 31, was left mourning her younger brother James, who has special needs and lives in assisted living accommodation, after she got a phone call from her former sister-in-law on Sunday morning telling her police officers had come knocking to tell her her sibling had died.

“My brother lives in care, he has learning disabilities and because I hadn’t heard from him in the last few days I thought it was him. It was a whirlwind,” she said.

“I couldn’t piece together what might have happened to him. I had spoken to him a week before and he seemed fine. But because he’s away from the family right now, and we haven’t been able to visit him because of Covid-19, everything was crossing my mind. I didn’t know if someone had attacked him or if he’d ended his own life. You can imagine the crazy thoughts that were going through my mind.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Zoe, a teaching assistant and a mum of one, passed on her phone number and was told police would get in touch with her.

But three hours passed and she said she received no word of what may have happened to James, 29.

After calling police stations in Blackpool and Lancashire and being sent straight to voicemail each time, she finally managed to get hold of an officer who informed her there had been a mistake.

She said she was told they were looking for a different woman with the same name, and that the Zoe Lee they were looking for had since been tracked down.

She said: “I waited for three hours, crying. I didn’t want to call my family until I knew more.

“Three hours passed and I hadn’t heard anything, so I contacted the police officer directly and he was quite abrupt and rude with me. He said basically there had been a mix-up.

“I was gobsmacked. I told them I’d been sat there grieving for three hours. I don’t think they were even going to bother getting back to me. He was in a hurry to hang up on me.

“I spend the whole day in shock. My mind was in turmoil

“They offered me no explanation at all. Personally I think it’s quite disgusting, the way they dealt with it.

“The officer I spoke to told me they had spoken to the woman they were looking for, which in my mind suggests that they weren’t interested in getting back in touch with me. I’m quite angry about it.

“It sounds like the sort of mistake that would happen thirty years ago. Surely with the resources and technology they have got today a mistake like that should be quite hard to make.

“I feel really let down by police. I was very distressed and they didn’t seem to care at all. They just wanted to get rid of me.”

She added that she is currently in the process of making a formal complaint.

Zoe’s former sister in law, 27-year-old Chloe Blackham, said police arrived at Zoe’s ex-husband’s Warton home on Sunday morning with the tragic news.

She was asked to get in touch with Zoe, but was told not to inform her about what police wanted to talk to her about.

She said: “I was ringing her and my mum was ringing her. We were all trying to get through to her as soon as possible. They told us not to tell her what they wanted to talk to her about but I thought she had the right to know so I told her.

“Obviously we were all concerned for Zoe’s welfare. I felt awful telling her her brother had passed away and it left me feeling very emotional, and of course Zoe was very upset.

“James is such a lovely lad which is why it was so heartbreaking. My kids look at him like he’s their uncle.

“The whole experience has left me feeling very upset and awkward around Zoe because I was the one who told her.

“As for the police, I won’t go into what I think of them. How they can mess up this badly I don’t know.”

Lancashire Police refused to comment.