Twitter is new emergency service

IT'S best known as a source of malicious gossip about footballers. But now Twitter has a new role - as the fourth emergency service.

A Glasgow civil servant has helped save a woman's life after she sent a suicidal tweet on the social networking site.

Jamie McIntyre, 32, raised the alarm after he spotted a tweet from a young woman saying that she was taking "the coward's way out".

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Although the woman was a stranger who lived several hundred miles away, McIntyre dialled 999 and, using a Google maps link on his iPhone, was able to give them a location for the woman's residence. She was later taken to hospital.

"When I saw the tweet it made me worry, so I sent a message to the person to ask if they were OK and got no response," said McIntyre.

"I retweeted the message asking if anyone who followed me who knew the person could get in touch with them, but unfortunately no one did. I decided there was nothing to be done but to call the police."

McIntyre, who had only got his iPhone the week before and joined Twitter two months ago, initially worried that the tweet was a joke.

"Because I didn't know the person, part of me worried it could be a prank I wasn't in on and I was acting like a busybody, but I'd rather be a busybody that doesn't get a joke than risk someone hurting themselves."

The woman's residence was in the Thames Valley area and McIntyre was then put in touch with local police in her area.

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said: "Following the call, investigations were carried out and it came to light after speaking to family members of the person who made the tweet that they weren't in the Thames Valley area at the time, but were believed to be in Crewe. Thames Valley then liaised with Crewe, who carried out an area search."

The woman was later taken to hospital and is now believed to have made a recovery.

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Dr Arthur Cassidy, a social psychologist at the Belfast Institute, said such incidents were becoming increasingly common. "Because of the sophistication of social networking now it has very much become part of our thinking in terms of communication.

"We have become socialised into a cyberworld that is part of our personal identity.

"A lot of people feel it's the 'cool' thing to do, to share things on Facebook or Twitter.

"They take pride in the fact that 'I'm telling everybody about this'. And that can extend even to 'I'm going to end my life'."

Said McIntyre: "I'm just glad it was a message on Twitter and not a note left on a desk.

"It was a message that went out to a lot of people and luckily I was one of them and was able to get the police involved."