LiveBlog: Suspicious package sent to Armed Forces Recruitment Office in Oxford

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The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

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Summary

  • Suspicious package sent to Oxford's Armed Forces' Recruitment Office
  • One of four sent across the country today
  • Follow three others this week
  • St Giles' cordoned off
  • Army Bomb Disposal Unit has arrived

6:42pm

Suspected explosive devices sent to armed forces recruitment offices bear "hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism", a Number 10 spokeswoman has said.
One of the suspicious packages was stamped with a Republic of Ireland postmark but no specific group has claimed responsibility for the attack, sources told the Press Association.
Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee to discuss the suspicious parcels, which sources said were "crude" in design but "could have caused injury to others".
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "Seven suspect packages have been identified as containing small, crude, but potentially viable devices bearing the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism.
"These have now been safely dealt with by the police and bomb disposal units.
"Guidance has been issued to staff at all military establishments and Royal Mail asking them to be extra vigilant and to look out for any suspect packages and the screening procedures for mail to armed forces careers offices is being reviewed.
"The national threat level remains under constant review."
Four parcels were discovered at army careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury and the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough today, counter-terrorism police officers said.
One package was found in Aldershot, Hampshire, yesterday, while two packets were found on Tuesday at the armed forces careers office in Reading, Berkshire, and the Army and RAF careers office in Chatham, Kent, the South East Counter Terrorism Unit (Sectu) said.
Ministry of Defence bomb disposal units were called, although this is routine with any suspect package.

6:40pm

One of the suspect explosive devices sent to an armed forces recruitment office this week had a Republic of Ireland postmark, sources have told the Press Association.

6:34pm

4:47pm

Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee to discuss the suspicious parcels, which sources said were "crude" in design but "could have caused injury to others".

4:08pm

That is probably the close of useful updates. Remember to get tomorrow's Oxford Mail for full coverage of today's scare.

3:47pm

Oxford police commander Christian Bunt has said: “The cordons have now been lifted in the city centre and I would like thank the public for their patience while we made sure that the area was safe and the device posed no threat to the public.

“This was a necessary precaution and that they have nothing to worry about. There will be additional patrols in the area over the next few days to help reassure residents.”

3:32pm

Military staff are being allowed back through the cordon to go back to their office.

3:29pm

The South East Counter Terrorism Unit has said the suspicious packages recovered today were unlikely to cause much damage or injury.

The packages - including the one from Oxford - are being sent away for forensic analysis.

Det Supt Stan Gilmour of SECTU said: “Even if the contents are determined to be a viable device they pose a very low level threat and are unlikely to cause significant harm or damage.

“When a suspect package is reported we have a routine response which means we may need to evacuate the area if necessary until we can be sure it poses no threat to the public.

“Whilst this can cause concern and disruption for local communities, it is a necessary precaution until we know what we are dealing with.”

Suspicious packages were sent to Armed Forces' recruitment offices in Oxford, Brighton, Slough and Canterbury today. They followed similar packages sent to offies in Reading, Chatham and Aldershot.

Advice has been sent to the Royal Mail and to the MOD to ensure staff remain vigilant and contact police if they have any concerns about packages, Mr Gilmour said.

3:03pm

The bomb disposal squad has just left.

3:03pm

Scenes of Crime officers are currently working inside the recruitment office

2:57pm

2:51pm

For catch-up, our earlier interview with an eye witness to the start of the bomb scare:

2:50pm

Police and military staff expected to be at St Giles for about half an hour longer. The Royal Bank of Scotland has just re-opened.

2:44pm

Police and miltary staff are still outside the recruitment office.

2:42pm

2:31pm

Det Ch Insp Andy Bird, from Oxford police, said: “When a suspect package is reported we have a routine response which means we may need to evacuate the area if necessary until we can be sure it poses no threat to the public.

“The cordon currently in the centre of Oxford is precautionary and will remain in place until the package can be examined by the appropriate authorities.

“The contents of other similar packages received at Army Careers Offices over the last few days are still being examined but it is clear that even if they do turn out to be a viable device they are extremely low level and unlikely to cause any significant harm or damage.”

2:29pm

The official police cordon is now from the Royal Bank of Scotland to just past the recruitment office.

2:26pm

Traffic is now being allowed back into St Giles. Pedestrians are not allowed to walk near to the sealed off recruitment office.

2:24pm

Cars are not being allowed into St Giles from Beaumont Street or from Banbury Road but there is pedestrian access.

2:21pm

The tape at the St Giles end has now come down but military staff still seem to be active at the scene.

2:19pm

Police officers consider the situation a "low-level threat" but "viable", sources said.

2:18pm

The fire engines are now departing however the cordon at the Eagle & Child end is still up.

2:17pm

Looks like the drama is coming to an end. Officers are taking down the cordon tape at the Woodstock Road end.

2:15pm

Thames Valley Police has said suspected packages sent to Armed Forces' recuitment offices in Oxford, Slough, Brighton and Canterbury do not pose a serious threat.

Spokeswoman Francine Rodrigues said: “They are being considered as a very low level threat.”

2:13pm

The robot has gone back into the bomb disposal squad's van.

2:08pm

It looks like the bomb disposal robot has been activated.

2:06pm

Queensmere Shopping Centre in Slough, one of the places evacuated due to these bomb scares, has re-opened to staff.

2:04pm

Passer by Hilary Allinson, 73, said: "We were curious but had no idea what was happening.

"Very little shocks us nowadays."

2:00pm

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price has said: “I condemn the actions of people who are endangering ordinary people’s lives.
“Whatever their motivations, their targets are, it is going to hit people who are not involved in the activity they are trying to target.
“It is the hurting of these people that is so unacceptable.”

2:00pm

1:56pm

1:55pm

Mike Davey, the catering manager at St Benet's Hall, said: "We were asked to evacuate for safety reasons while serving lunch. We just dropped everything and got out."

1:54pm

1:50pm

1:47pm

1:46pm

1:39pm

1:34pm

Listen to an eye witness describe how events unfolded this morning:

1:31pm

A couple of pictures submitted from an eye witness

The Oxford Times:

The Oxford Times:

1:29pm

1:27pm

The Ashmolean has not been evacuated.

1:24pm

An ambulance has just arrived on scene.

1:16pm

1:14pm

From the Press Association:

Counter-terrorism police are investigating reports of suspect packages being found at army careers offices.
Packages have been found at Oxford, Slough and Brighton, while similar packages were found yesterday in Aldershot, Reading and Chatham, the south east counter terrorism Unit said.
Ministry of Defence bomb disposal units have been called, although this is routine with any suspect package.
Detective Superintendent Stan Gilmour, of the south east counter terrorism unit, said: "Because suspicious packages were found at various locations yesterday, notes were sent out to all the army careers offices, as well as the Post Office, asking staff to be extra vigilant and look out for any suspect packages."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We can confirm that we are aware of security incidents ongoing in Oxford, Slough and Brighton involving armed forces careers offices.
"The relevant police authorities are investigating with military EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) teams in support and any further inquiries should be directed to the police.
"Security advice has been reiterated to our personnel."
Queensmere Shopping Centre, in Slough, was evacuated, a spokesman for the centre confirmed, while St Giles in Oxford was closed.
It is understood a suspicious package was also reported at the army careers office in St Peters Street, in Canterbury, Kent.
Officers have set up a police cordon and shoppers are being told to avoid the area, the Kentish Gazette reported.

1:14pm

Canterbury High Street in Kent has also been cordoned off. There is a an Armed Forces recruitment office there.

1:13pm

The current status is that there is a cordon between the Lamb & Flag and the Eagle & Child and that is preventing pedestrians walking down. There is a second cordon at Beaumont St end preventing traffic driving north up St Giles.

1:10pm

For those who want to keep track of what is happening in Brighton, our sister paper the Argus is also running a blog

1:06pm

All of St Giles has been evacuated with police tape at the Ashmolean.

1:03pm

It appears the eastern side of St Giles are being evacuated. A second fire engine has just arrived.

1:02pm

A cordon has been put across Banbury Road, shutting off access into the city centre from north Oxford.

1:01pm

The Banbury Road spur of St Giles is now shut. Traffic is building up towards Beaumont St and cars are being told to turn around in the Oxford direction.

12:58pm

St Benet's Hall looks like it is being evacuated.

12:57pm

The Oxford Times:

A serviceman at the scene. We are not showing bomb disposal squad faces at the request of the military.

12:55pm

The cordon has been extended as far as the Oxford Oratory.

12:54pm

12:53pm

Oxford University’s Ertegun House on St Giles has been evacuated.

12:53pm

The cordon is being extended down Woodstock Road. The second Taylors' cafe is being evacuated, as is Maison Blanc and Brown's, as well as the Chinese restaurant and other shops in the area.

12:51pm

12:46pm

Someone from the bomb squad has just emerged from the office and is talking to firefighters and police officers.

12:44pm

The Oxford Times:

Military personnel at the scene

12:43pm

The Oxford Times:

A PCSO at the scene

12:37pm

12:36pm

Staff from Taylors' Deli have told us they were told to evacuate the shop an hour ago

12:35pm

12:31pm

12:31pm

The Oxford Times:

Onlookers in St Giles

12:30pm

12:30pm

Firefighters have just arrived on the scene in Oxford

12:28pm

The Oxford Times: Bomb scare closes Brighton city centre after 'suspicious package' discovered (Pic: @Paul_Gunn_/Twitter)

This is the story from our colleagues at the Brighton Argus:

Brighton city centre has been closed due to a bomb scare.

A suspicious package was discovered this morning in Queens Road with police quickly sealing off the area.

Some buildings nearby have also been evacuated.

Police say the roads will be closed will be several hours while the incident is being dealt with.

The army has been called in to examine the package and are believed to be travelling from Aldershot.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "At 10.40am today we were alerted to a suspicous package in Queens Road, Brighton.


"Queen's Road was sealed off between North Road and North Street, and neighbouring streets were also closed, including Spring Gardens, Kew Street, Zion Gardens, Windsor Street, Titchbourne Street and Church Street.

"People are advised to avoid the area."

Nick Powell is one of those who has had to evacuate his building in Queens Road.

He said: "Every business in the street has been evacuated. There are about ten police cars and three fire trucks."

12:25pm

12:25pm

Members of the bomb disposal squad have just gone into the Armed Forces' Recruitment Office.

12:24pm

The Oxford Times:

The bomb disposal unit's robot has been unloaded

12:23pm

Chris Benton, of the Pedal and Pour coffee stall in Little Clarendon Street, said an University of Oxford security guard had told him of the scare.

He said the street had been sealed off and people were being turned away.

He said: “They look like they have reacted very quickly.”

12:23pm

12:22pm

12:19pm

A statement from the South East Counter Terrorism Unit:

The South East Counter Terrorism Unit is currently investigating reports of a number of suspect packages found at Army Careers offices today.

The contents of the package are being assessed and MOD Bomb Disposal Units have been called, as is routine with any suspect package.

The packages were found at Army Careers offices in St Giles, Oxford, Queensmere Shopping Centre, Slough, and Queens Road, Brighton.

Suspect packages were found at a number of Army Careers offices yesterday in Aldershot, Reading and Chatham.

Det Supt Stan Gilmour of the South East Counter Terrorism Unit said: “Because suspicious packages were found at various locations yesterday notes were sent out to all the Army Careers offices as well as the Post Office asking staff to be extra vigilant and look out for any suspect packages.”

12:18pm

Update on the number of offices targeted is now six. Three today - Oxford, Slough adn Brighton - and three previously - Reading, Aldershot and Chatham.

12:15pm

The Oxford Times:

The robot being unloaded

12:13pm

12:13pm

12:12pm

The bomb squad from the Royal Logistic Corps has just arrived and has parked outside Taylors Deli. Personnel are now deploying.

12:11pm

The bomb squad is currently setting up its robot 

12:09pm

12:08pm

The story so far:

A SUSPICIOUS package has been sent to the Oxford Army recruitment office today, one of three across the country.

Police have shut St Giles and the bomb squad is on the way following the delivery of the package this morning.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman has confirmed to the Oxford Mail that there have also been suspicious packages sent to recruitment offices in Brighton and Slough today. Two days ago there was a suspicious package sent to a recruitment office in Reading and there was also a similar alert in Chatham in Kent.

The spokesman said: "We are aware of incidents currently ongoing in Oxford, Brighton and Slough Armed Forces careers offices.

"These are being investigated by civilian police with military support."

Officers have cordoned off an area around the Army recruitment office.

A police car is blocking the road for traffic heading away from the city centre and an officer on the scene said the other sdie of the road is about to be closed as well.

The cordon runs from 41 St Giles to Little Clarendon Street.

Military personnel are also at the scene, as well as eight police officers.

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