Sarah – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – had fled her home that she shared with her partner and their baby daughter after he became violent last year.
Call handler Alex Borthwick was the first voice Sarah heard after she phoned police during the ‘terrifying ordeal’ as he and his fellow colleagues tried to direct officers towards her unknown location.
Sarah said: “In my head I was hoping it was just a bad dream but making that 999 call made it real. It was horrific; time stood still and those 20 minutes felt like hours.
“I was chaotic from start to finish that night and it was only because of Alex and his empathy, compassion and humanness that I made it through.”
While on the phone to police, Sarah’s partner managed to block her car and smash his way into it.
She added: “He could see my phone screen and was shouting at me to see if I was on the phone but in the panic, my banking app appeared while I the call was ongoing and thankfully Alex remained silent so he didn’t give me away.
“It was that split second decision by Alex that was a turning point for me – I was scared he would have killed me if he’d realised I was on the phone to the police.”
Sarah managed to drive off as officers advanced, as Alex questioned her more to pinpoint her location before instructing Sarah to flash her lights so officers could identify her car and minutes later she was with a police constable.
Sarah said: “It was just sheer relief seeing that officer. I remember winding down the window and handing her the phone then just putting my hands on the steering wheel and breaking down, thinking ‘Thank God’. “There is no way to describe that relief.”
Sarah’s partner was arrested at the scene and charged with threats to kill, coercive and controlling behaviour, assault and dangerous driving, but denied all the offences apart from child neglect and was going to put Sarah through a two-week trial until he heard the call recording and changed his plea.
He was later sentenced to a suspended two-year prison sentence, fined and made subject to a lifetime restraining order for both Sarah and their child.
After receiving support from the charity Harbour, Sarah visited police headquarters this week to thank Alex in person.
Alex, who has been a call handler for nearly five years and now a mentor, said he had listened to similar calls in his training but nothing could have prepared him for Sarah’s call.
He said: “Instinct just kicked in and I knew I had to trust my training and just do everything I could to get officers to her and keep her on the phone for as long as possible.
“We don’t often get to find out what happens to victims when they hang up and this was a case that has stayed with me so it’s great to know we could safeguard Sarah and help her get her life back.”