Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Burka-clad white man' is arrested after police detonate suspect package in Watford

  • Hertfordshire police were called to town's main shopping area after 11am
  • They received report that a suspicious item was found outside Travelodge
  • Man wearing full-length niqab was allegedly carrying children's rucksacks 
  • Police confirmed it had destroyed a suspicious package this afternoon 
A 'burka-clad white man' has been arrested after police detonated a suspect package in Watford town centre.

Officers were called to a street close to the Hertfordshire town's main shopping area just after 11am today following reports a suspicious item had been found outside a Travelodge hotel. 

The man is believed to have been carrying two rucksacks - one branded with children's TV character Peppa Pig - although it is not known whether these were were the ones destroyed. 

A man wearing a niqab is escorted by a police officer after being arrested in connection with an incident in Watford town centre, following the detonation of a suspicious package

Images of the man began to circulate on social media, showing him in full-length, Islamic-style black robes with a niqab covering his face, as he was confronted by police in nearby Clarendon Road.

Army bomb disposal experts and a bomb disposal robot were called to the scene as the area was evacuated.

People were asked to avoid the centre of the town and many sought refuge in a nearby church while cordons still remain in place on Market Street and Watford High Street.

Hertfordshire Constabulary said the device had been 'safely destroyed' by bomb disposal experts this afternoon and confirmed a man had been arrested in connection with the incident.

The suspect was carrying Peppa Pig and Ladybird children's rucksacks filled with books when he was handcuffed by officers. 

Officers had earlier appealed for a dog walker - who was walking through Watford town centre at the time - to come forward. She has since been identified.

Road closures remain in place in the town and residents have been asked to avoid the town centre until further notice.  

Watford residents have taken to social media to express their concerns about the incident as it continues to develop.

A number of Twitter users have also pointed out this is the second bomb scare in Watford in the last five years.

In June 2011, a 23-year-old man was arrested by armed police after a three-hour siege at a Co-op bank in Market Street, in the town.  

Iorah Jane wrote: 'Don't go to Watford today, big bomb scare, the bombs been controlled exploded by bomb experts still not safe , 2 mins from me. Scared man.'

Another said: 'Literally the whole of Watford has been cut off and there's no cars anywhere it's like a weird version of a ghost town.'

Herfordshire Police said in a statement: 'A suspicious device found in Watford town centre has been safely destroyed following a controlled explosion by bomb-disposal experts based with the army.

'Experts remain at the scene making further assessments and follow-up enquiries. 

This work is likely to continue for some while and as a precaution, cordons and road closures in Market Street and the High Street will remain in place. The ring road has also been closed to traffic.

'Public safety is at the forefront of the police operation and we would ask people to avoid the centre of Watford until further notice. 

'As part of the ongoing investigation, a man has been arrested in connection with the incident and is being taken into police custody.'

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