- Frenchman allegedly approached an easyJet check-in desk carrying gun
- Witnesses said armed police officers shouted 'get down, get down'
- Passengers evacuated from terminal as bomb disposal experts rushed in
There was chaos at Gatwick Airport this morning after a Frenchman allegedly approached an easyJet check-in desk with a gun.
Hundreds of passengers were evacuated amid claims a man had fled and threw the firearm into a rubbish bin at the North Terminal following a disagreement with staff.
Armed police detained a man and were said to have shouted 'get down, get down' to travellers who were desperately trying to work out what was going on.
Staff were forced to close the busy terminal for six hours as bomb disposal experts carried out a small controlled explosion.
There was chaos at Gatwick Airport today after a Frenchman allegedly approached a check-in desk with a gun.
This image by an eyewitness shows the bomb disposal squad at Gatwick North Terminal
Passengers at Gatwick pictured in the rain as security staff moved them away from the terminal building
The evacuation comes in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris that have left 129 dead
Jerome Chauris, 41, from Vendome, France, was later charged with possession of an air rifle and a knife and is due to appear in court on Monday.
Armed police already on patrol at the terminal were alerted to the Frenchman's 'suspicious' behaviour after he was challenged at the check-in desk around 9.30am.
Sussex Police said: 'Jerome Chauris, 41, unemployed and of no fixed address, but from Vendome, France, has been charged with possessing a dangerous article (an air rifle weapon) in any part of an aerodrome (Aviation Security Act 1982) and possessing a knife blade/sharp pointed article (a lock knife) in a public place (Criminal Justice Act 1988).'
Senior officers from Sussex Police were called to the airport's police station and were understood to have convened a 'Silver' control meeting to discuss the security breach.
A 100-metre cordon was then erected and bomb squad officers were called to the scene to examine the weapon that had been discarded inside it.
As a precaution they carried out a small controlled explosion, it was said.
A police officers stands in front of an area of Gatwick Airport's North Terminal, which had been cordoned off
Police, fire and security officials gathered outside Gatwick's North Terminal as the drama unfolded
Police said they were called at around 9.30am on Saturday morning following 'suspicious actions by a man who discarded an item at the airport'
A bomb disposal squad was called to Gatwick Airport to deal with a 'suspicious article'
Detective Superintendent Nick May said earlier today: 'The man is being interviewed as we try to determine the circumstances of the incident, but at this time it is too early to say what his intentions, if any, were.
'However, given the events in Paris on Friday evening, there is heightened awareness around any such incident and it is best that we treat the matter in all seriousness.
'We are aware that there is concern about what has happened in France, but the general threat level remains the same and people should be aware as usual of anyone acting suspiciously and report any concerns immediately.'
Sussex police added in a statement: 'Personal items and what appears to be a firearm were recovered and have been removed for forensic examination. However, the viability of the weapon has yet to be established.'
They also stressed that the Frenchman was 'landside' at the airport and had not checked in or passed through any passport or security checks.
Five Gatwick staff members pictured outside the North Terminal as passengers wait in a nearby hotel
Armed police already on patrol at the terminal were alerted to the Frenchman's 'suspicious' behaviour after he was challenged at the check-in desk around 9.30am
Eyewitness Tim Unwin, a geography lecturer at the University of London, tweeted earlier that the terminal was in a 'shutdown situation'.
It is understood that passengers were moved to Jubilee House near the North Terminal before being transferred to a Sofitel hotel.
However, there were complaints about conditions.
Mr Unwin added: 'Very cramped in Sofitel - passengers are now beginning to get frustrated - would like to be given some information.'
Passengers due to land at the North Terminal arrived at the South Terminal during the evacuation. The North Terminal was re-opened at around 4pm, around six hours after the lockdown began.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: 'Following a full and thorough search by the police, we are now able to re-open our North Terminal to passengers. Passengers should check with their airlines for information about their journey.
'Our priority is always the safety and welfare of our passengers and extra Gatwick staff are on hand to assist those who have experienced significant disruption to their journey today.
'We are working with our airlines to return North Terminal to usual operations. South Terminal is operating as normal.'
Sussex Police told MailOnline earlier: 'We are dealing with an incident involving a suspicious article and have evacuated the North Terminal as a precaution'
It comes just hours after 129 people were killed in a series of terror attacks that caused carnage across Paris.
France was placed in lockdown after at least eight militants, all wearing suicide vests, brought unprecedented violence to the streets of the capital in the bloodiest attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Francois Hollande accused ISIS of orchestrating the worst attacks in France for more than 70 years, declaring it an 'act of war' and vowing to 'mercilessly' strike back.
Police are also hunting accomplices amid fears of further attacks, with the arrest of a 51-year-old man in Germany last week after firearms were discovered in his car now being linked to the atrocities, according to media reports.
Police have announced additional security at ports and big events in the UK in light of the attacks.