A NUISANCE caller disguised his voice and called the NHS more than 1,200 times to talk about his smelly, sweaty feet.

Richard Cove, 45, put lives at risk while indulging his foot fetish by ringing 111 to ask operators about their feet - 1,263 times.

Cove, who used fake names including Michael Foot, was well known across the NHS 111 service as "the foot fetish caller".

Following a two year investigation, he was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Prosecutor Natalie Roepke told magistrates in Worthing: "He was asking the call handlers about their feet and height and telling them about his feet.

"He admitted a sexual foot fetish which he indulges during the calls.

"He said he is aroused by feet and especially aroused by the thought of the call handlers feet," she said.

He disguised his voice, pretending to be an elderly woman while quizzing call handlers about their feet.

He made nuisance calls during a period lasting more than two years, starting in April 2019.

Police and the NHS spent months trying to trace him and estimated the cost to the service at £21,869.20.

The Argus: Richard Cove (centre) Richard Cove (centre)

Unsuspecting members of the public were also phoned at all hours of the day and night after Cove gave out fake phone numbers and addresses.

Ambulances were even sent to homes in the South East, London and the North West.

Firefighters smashed their way into one home after Cove gave false information, causing £250 damage.

David Davis, from the ambulance service said it was unacceptable for his colleagues to be used for sexual gratification.

"We worked with police to identify the offender who was known as 'the foot fetish caller'.

"1,263 calls were identified, but we can't tell how many other calls went to other providers.

"Cove placed patients and callers at risk for his desires," he said.

Cove asked call handlers for personal information as well as chatting about his feet and their feet.

"This was depraved exploitation of them and their good natures," Mr Davis said.

The investigation started after a member of the public complained about being contacted out of the blue by the NHS about false medical ailments invented by Cove.

Cove admitted indulging his foot fetish but denied masturbating while making the calls.

Cove, who runs an eBay selling business from home, said: "What I did was very silly.

"It started with genuine calls.

"I made it clear I wasn't getting off on the calls.

"I made up phone numbers and addresses.

"I never requested any ambulances.

"I did have a pain in my shoulder, so maybe they thought I was having a heart attack, I don't know."

Cove will join a sex offenders treatment programme and will have to 200 hours unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation days.

He will also have to pay £2,000 compensation to the NHS - this includes £250 to cover the cost of a replacement front door.

Chair Andrew White said the impact Cove had was colossal and put innocent people at risk.

"The amount you've cost the NHS is extremely large in man hours and resources," he said.