A drunken Bradford teenager wasted thousands of pounds of public money and police time after making a hoax 999 call which sparked a major river hunt – all because he wanted a lift home.

Five police units, including a search dog team, and six fire crews from across the region, scrambled to the rescue after Matthew Hornby phoned the emergency services claiming his friend had jumped over a fence leading down a steep bank to the River Wharfe in Ilkley.

They spent almost two hours in freezing and dark conditions scouring the area around Wheatley Lane in a search which cost the taxpayer nearly £3,500, Bingley Magistrates Court heard yesterday.

Two teams of paramedics and West Yorkshire Fire Service’s specialist water rescue unit were also called to the river after Hornby had made the call at 4.10am on Thursday, February 5.

Prosecutor Alan Davies also revealed Hornby, 19, of Sherborne Road, Great Horton, had earlier caused £300 of damage to the door of an outside toilet at nearby Wheatley Grange Farm, Ilkley, after no-one answered when he banged on the farmhouse door.

He was shouting that “he was lost” but the householder did not open the door, the court heard.

Mr Davies said Hornby did not know he had caused the damage and had later insisted ‘Danny’ was still missing because he “was in a drunken state” at the time.

Hornby later admitted criminal damage and wasting police time because he “wanted a lift home.”

Mr Davies said: “He had had a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Jack Daniels (whiskey) on his own, it seems. He didn’t know what he was doing, he just wanted a lift home.

“There has been a substantial waste of police time and significant costs.”

The court heard that Hornby had previously been homeless and has convictions for criminal damage and breaching a community service order. He had been on licence for the breach at the time of the hoax river search, which cost a total of £3,449.

Solicitor Erica Topham, for Hornby, said: “This is rather a worrying case right from the word go. It seems that Hornby had walked from Shipley with his friend, Danny Burton, and he said Danny jumped over the fence. I don’t think at any time that he said Danny was in the river. The police have presumed that.”

She said Hornby “didn’t have a clue” whether he had damaged the toilet door and suggested that someone else may have been with the defendant at the time.

However, she admitted that her client could not remember anything of the night.

Chairman of the magistrates, Marilyn Bryan, adjourned the case for reports to be compiled.

He was granted unconditional bail to appear before the bench on May 5.