Counting the cost of Bristol's bomb scare
Bristol shops are counting the cost of a bomb alert in Broadmead which saw thousands of shoppers and staff evacuated from the city centre yesterday.
The bomb squad were called in to the centre of Bristol on Monday – one of the busiest shopping days of the year – to deal with the package outside Currys.
The Bristol Post understands a CCTV operator spotted the aluminium attache case under a bench in The Podium and alerted police.
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It is thought it was left by a shopper by mistake, sparking a full-scale alert.
An army bomb squad arrived shortly before 1.30pm and immediately widened the cordon to include Penn Street and Horsefair. A hi-tech bomb disposal robot was dispatched to examine and destroy the suspect package, which is understood to have been empty.
Avon and Somerset police spokeswoman Claire Stanley said: “Shoppers were urged to stay away from Broadmead. A cordon was put in place on all four entrances into Broadmead as a precaution following the discovery of a suspect package.
“Police set up a 100-metre cordon and everyone was moved away. Some shops had to be evacuated.”
Shoppers gasped when the blast from the controlled explosion rang out around Broadmead at 1.50pm before the cordon was lifted at 2.40pm, once the area had been declared safe. About 65 shops, already struggling in difficult economic conditions, were forced to close their doors for more than three hours during the busiest part of the day, when they would normally have been packed with shoppers looking for bargains in the sales.
Broadmead manager John Hirst said: “The cordon closed off all of the pedestrian zone in Broadmead. We took advice from the experts and acted accordingly. We have to be guided by them. The day was a write-off in terms of the number of sales, which is annoying in the current economic climate, but we have to put the public safety of shoppers and staff before anything else.”
Mobile phone shop Phones 4U was one of those within the cordoned-off area. Manager Paul Reynolds said: “We have not taken any money at all in the last three hours, which will mean we won’t hit our targets and the staff won’t get their commission.”
Luke Sartain, 20, who works at Phones 4U, said: “I was working then all of a sudden police were there with tape telling people to get out the way. A couple of shoppers were pushed away from the area where the case was. It was like something out of Spooks with these unmarked BMWs driving up the road. Police told us it could be anything between one and 16 hours before we got back in.”
While most of the Mall Bristol indoor precinct remained open, two stores close to the suspect package, Boots and The Entertainer, were both told to close by police. Boots worker Tom Coombs said they were told to evacuate over the shop’s public address system.
Keith Sawyer, a 56-year-old electrician from Knowle West, said: “I came to Broadmead for the sales but couldn’t get in. I completely understand why Broadmead was cordoned off. If doing that saves someone’s life, it’s worth it.”
Jamie Cornish, 21, from Hengrove, said: “I was planning to go to Abbey to sort out my finances but couldn’t get there.”
Margaret and Terry Jones, 65 and 70, who live in St George, were forced to abandon their shopping trip. Margaret said: “We’ll have to get a bus from Old Market because we can’t get around to the bus stops at Debenhams. It doesn’t bother us too much but we feel sorry for the retailers because they need the money.”