Man quizzed over hoax e-mails sent to relatives

A MAN is being questioned by police in connection with hoax e-mails sent to friends and relatives of people missing after the Asian tsunami, telling them their loved ones were dead.

The e-mails, purporting to be from the "Foreign Office Bureau" in Thailand, were sent to people who placed appeals for information on Sky News’s website.

A man of 40 was initially arrested in Lincolnshire on Hogmanay. Computer equipment was seized and the man was released on bail pending further inquiries.

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Scotland Yard said the man had been re-arrested at about 11pm on Saturday night. He was taken to a central London police station yesterday morning for further questioning and was still in custody last night.

Police have said they are treating the matter as a "very serious crime".

A spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police Service would like to reassure the public that these messages are hoaxes. The British government would not use e-mail to convey news of the death of a loved one.

"Police are treating this as a very serious crime, and a full investigation has been launched."

Sky News said it informed the police as soon as it was alerted to the fact that a hoaxer had been e-mailing people who had posted messages on its website. It was "actively co-operating" with officers.

A statement from the station went on: "Prior to the hoax, Sky News warned users about possible abuse and has since reinforced this message. Sky is disgusted at the abuse of this messageboard, designed for friends and relatives caught up in the tsunami disaster."

Police said anyone looking for up-to-date information about friends, relatives and loved ones should call the Foreign Office emergency number, 020 7008 0000.