Sailor returns - to £250 phone bill
A Royal Navy sailor returned home from saving the lives of civilians in Libya to threats of action from bailiffs over an unpaid mobile bill after a mistake by her phone company.
Able Seaman Jessica Brown was on HMS Cumberland as it docked in Devonport, Plymouth, on Saturday. But when she got home there were piles of letters from T-Mobile saying that she had outstanding bills totalling £250, covering the ship's six-and-a-half-month deployment.
She said she supplied the firm with documents proving that she was going abroad before the ship sailed last September and arranged to have her contract frozen. "I went into T-Mobile and they refused to help me, they said I had to pay the money. I was very angry," she said. T-Mobile has apologised.
Ms Brown said while the ship was en route to the Persian Gulf, she had even copied her Naval identity documents and payslip as further evidence of her service for the operator.
She went into her local store this week and waved a local newspaper with her picture on the front, she said, but staff still claimed they did not have enough proof she was out of the country on active service, refusing to reopen her phone account until the bill was paid.
"We got back to Plymouth and I went home and there were all these letters," said the 23-year-old servicewoman, who is originally from Darlington, County Durham.
"I had four days with my family planned, doing things we wanted to do. Instead I was trying to sort this out with T-Mobile."
HMS Cumberland, which will now be decommissioned, helped rescue hundreds of British and foreign civilians caught up in the increasingly bitter conflict in the North African country as rebels battle to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
During three emergency visits to the port city of Benghazi, the ship evacuated 454 people, including 129 British citizens, to Malta. It also helped support the UN arms embargo covering Libya.
A T-Mobile spokesman said: "We're really sorry and have apologised to Jessica. Although our staff were following our processes for good reason, this could have been handled differently. We're currently reviewing our procedures to ensure our staff are appropriately equipped and supported to deal with this kind of situation in the future."