Rescuers in the Peak District were left scouring the moors for a walker who had called the emergency services - only to discover that she’d driven home hours before.
The woman had called police at around 2pm on Thursday to say that she was in trouble, launching a rescue operation.
Five police forces, five mountain rescue teams and a group of search dogs spent five hours attempting to locate the woman, whose identity is unknown.
She was then spotted on CCTV driving home, having not informed the authorities that she was safe - leaving them battling heavy rain and treacherous conditions.
Steve Cullabine, from Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team, told the Times he did not know why the woman had failed to tell the authorities she no longer needed rescuing.
“Obviously we’ve got lots of bodies up on the moors in darkness and torrential rain so if as soon as she had got signal, she had stopped and let us know, we would have taken everyone off straight away,” he said.
“But as it went on, they were kept up there longer than they needed to be.”
Rescuers have since spoken to the woman but have not been able to ascertain exactly what happened.
Mr Cullabine said he did not think her intentions had been malicious and that she was likely to have endured a “traumatic experience” and was “probably not thinking straight”.
“We don’t like to see people getting negative comments made as at some point the lady will see them and will probably feel terrible,” he said.
There was widespread criticism of her actions after the voluntary team posted on Facebook about the mission.
“What a truly selfish person that was,” one response, while another added: “I hope the police utilise their power to prosecute for wasting police time.” A third commented: “I’d send her a bill.”
The rescue had been scaled up after a technical error meant authorities couldn’t place her phone signal. Instead it was tracked to multiple locations in the Peak District.