HUNDREDS of people had to be evacuated on Wednesday afternoon after a bomb hoax at Bletchley’s Brunel Centre.
Shoppers were alerted to the potential danger around 1pm and by 1.20pm police had arrived amid reports that a suspicious package had been left in the middle of the centre.
There were also reports of a similar package left outside the nearby Sainsbury’s store shortly afterwards.
Shopping centre manager, Paul Cokayne, said: “We experienced what appeared to be a planned bomb hoax at our Brunel Shopping Centre in Bletchley. Two suspicious objects were found and reported to me by an on-site shop worker shortly after 1pm.
“Police were contacted immediately, and arrived on scene shortly afterwards. On inspection of the circumstances the police gave the order to clear the area.”
Officers raced to the scene and the centre was evacuated and sealed off with army bomb disposal experts also called in. The emergency teams confirmed the bags were safe at around 3.15pm and the area was re-opened.
Mr Cokayne said: “Approximately 500 members of the public were evacuated from the shopping centre by myself, my supervisor, caretaker and security guard, and asked to make their way to an area approximately 300 yards from the building to ensure their safety. The entire building was emptied within five minutes of the order being given to evacuate.
“The situation was then clarified by the police and bomb disposal experts, and the centre reopened at 3pm. I’d like to thank the police and authorities. I’d also like to thank my members of staff for how well they dealt with the evacuation. They could not have executed it in a more professional manner.”
Two men, aged 20 and 24 respectively, have now been arrested on suspicion of placing or dispatching articles to cause a bomb hoax.
Detective Inspector Kelly Glister, investigating, said: “We are taking this incident extremely seriously. It caused a considerable amount of disruption and businesses lost earnings while the area was closed off.
“We have reviewed the CCTV of the area and have arrested two suspects who are currently in custody and being interviewed by detectives.”
Superintendent Nikki Ross, Milton Keynes LPA Commander, said: “We have established protocols and procedures which have to be followed in the event of a suspicious package being found in a shopping centre.
“As a result, a considerable amount of police resources were called upon to deal with this hoax and anyone who thinks about carrying one out can expect to be dealt with robustly.
“However, I was extremely pleased by the way in which all the emergency services involved in the incident worked efficiently and quickly together to ensure everyone in Bletchley remained safe.”