An Israeli woman has claimed she mistakenly threw out a mattress with $1m inside it, setting off a frantic search through tonnes of rubbish at a number of landfill sites.

The woman said that she bought her elderly mother a new mattress as a surprise present on Monday and threw out the old one.

The next day, she said, she remembered that she had hidden her life savings inside the old mattress.

'I woke up in the morning screaming, when it hit me what happened,' said the Tel Aviv woman, who asked not to be identified.

She went to look for the mattress, but it had already been hauled away by rubbish collectors.

Searches at three different landfill sites turned up nothing.

She said the money was in US dollars and Israeli shekels. She refused to say how she acquired such a large sum. 'It was all my money in the world,' she said.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he was not familiar with the case and no report had been filed.

Shaul Yogev, the rubbish dump manager, said as soon as the woman called he told his staff to search for the mattress, but added that a homeless person could have picked it up.

'Probably someone took it and he has no idea that he is sleeping on a large sum, he could have slept in a five-star hotel instead of sleeping where he is now,' said Mr Yogev.

The woman said the money had been stashed in a mattress because she had had 'traumatic experiences with banks' in the past.