POLICE launched a major hunt involving a helicopter, armed officers and a dog unit for a man brandishing a weapon in the dark – only to find it was a gardener holding a rake.

Stephen Hogan had been working late in his back garden with friend Wayne Dodd when police swooped on their home in Stanpit, Christchurch.

They had earlier received a 999 call from a member of staff at a nursing home two doors down who reported seeing a man holding what appeared to be a weapon.

After making their way through the home, the two policemen found Mr Dodd, 43, holding up a rake from where he had been helping to landscape an area of Mr Hogan's garden under an external light.

The episode follows an incident earlier this month, when tree surgeons working in a back garden in Poole were raided by armed officers after the sound of a nail gun was mistaken for live ammunition.

Mr Hogan, a 55-year-old plumber, had bought a heavy roller to help with the garden project on Friday and he, his son Sean, 23, and Mr Dodd helped to put it together.

Mr Hogan said: "All of a sudden there was a lot of commotion coming from out the front.

"My wife Alison looked outside and saw about five police cars and armed police officers and dogs. We could hear the police helicopter above us.

"Then two policemen approached the front door.

"The said there was someone with a weapon in the area. They asked to come into the back garden and asked if someone was out there because their ‘eyes in the sky’, as they called them, had seen someone.

"They came in and found Wayne with the rake and then left.”

Mr Dodd said: "I was rolling an old part of the garden and saw the helicopter was up. By the time the two policemen came, I was raking over the ground and then they just left."

Mr Hogan said: "We were more bemused than anything.

"It is reassuring that the police checked it out so thoroughly but in the end they did all that just to see what was going on in our garden.

"It didn't help that after leaving our house the police just packed up and left without telling the neighbours it was a false alarm.”

A spokesman for Dorset police said: "At 11.41pm on Friday, we had a report of someone with a weapon but it turned out to be someone who was doing some late night gardening using a rake.

"It was a misinterpretation of what the caller had seen."