A phantom social worker seems to have been stalking the streets of Bury during April 2007, sparking a wave of localised panic. A young mother (who remained unnamed) told the local press how a bogus social worker tricked her way into her home on two occasions and examined her 5 week old daughter.
The woman was described as having 'piercing blue eyes' and carried an genuine-looking identity card with the Bury Council and NHS logos, as well as a photograph.
The woman claimed that she was following up complaints against a number of mothers and carried out physical inspections before one of the mums contacted social services and was told that the woman - calling herself "Emma" - was an impostor.
The anonymous witness gave a reporter from the Bury Times a more detailed account of one visit in particular:
"She was young, smartly dressed, tanned, wore a wedding ring and appeared genuine. She knew I had a baby girl. I asked what the complaint was about but she refused to tell me. The woman asked to see where my daughter slept and asked all sorts of questions about me, my partner and the baby. She then asked if she could examine my daughter. She didn't undress her but checked her arms, legs and stomach. She was very professional.She said the complaint was probably bogus but she would have to return in seven days. If it wasn't for my mum and grandmother becoming suspicious about the visit when I told them about it, and then finding out that she was bogus, then I would have let her back into my house if she returned. God knows what could have happened."
An hour later, events took an even more bizarre twist when a man claiming to be a "fire marshall" knocked on the door saying that the estate might have to be evacuated due a large fire. The woman phoned friends who had heard nothing of the incident. The woman was convinced that the two visits were connected and that the two mysterious visitors were working in tandem. She told reporters that a friend had had a visit from the same bogus social worker four days previously and that residents on the estate were "terrified."
A spokesman for social services said:
"Our social care team received a report that a visit had taken place by a someone purporting to be a social worker. Having checked our records this worker was not known to us nor had we received a referral to suggest that a visit was needed or requested. We advised the lady reporting the incident to inform the police immediately.Following a visit from the police, the lady phoned once again to check that it had not been a caller from the authority as it had been suggested that our records may not be up to date. We once again checked thoroughly and advised the caller that this person was not a genuine employee. The social care division contacted the police to advise them that their records were up to date and that this may in fact be a bogus caller.The council strongly advises anybody that is visited by a caller purporting to be a social worker to check their ID extremely carefully, ask for the reason for the visit and if they have any concerns to telephone the council to verify the identity of the caller before they let them into their home."