Tyne & Wear

Newcastle Jobcentre hostages 'fake bomb' suspect arrested

PA Image copyright PA
Image caption Officers were on the scene within nine minutes

Staff at a Jobcentre in Newcastle were released unharmed after being held by a man armed with a knife who was wearing a fake explosive device.

The 28-year-old entered the Clifford Street building at about 08:00 BST and held several members of staff hostage.

He surrendered to armed officers at 11:15 and was arrested for threats to kill. He remains in custody.

Northumbria Police said they had "very real concerns" the man could have caused serious harm.

The force said officers responded within nine minutes.

False stabbing reports

They quickly shut down roads, closed the nearby Byker Metro Station, evacuated nearby buildings including the student accommodation and began negotiating with the suspect.

A spokesman said the incident was not terror-related and the man was known to Jobcentre staff.

An explosive device reportedly strapped to the man's chest was later found to be fake.

Bomb disposal experts swept the building and searches of the building and of other properties in the area were carried out.

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Media captionThe suspect was led away from the scene in his underwear by police

Officers said it had been suggested on social media and by members of the public at the scene that some people had been stabbed, but the force said that was "not the case".

At about 10:20 police tweeted the hostages had been released and later confirmed the staff had been freed at about 08:30, half an hour after the incident began.

Assistant Ch Con Darren Best said: "In recent weeks we have heard many positive stories about the police and how quickly they have responded to some of the atrocities we have witnessed in London and Manchester.

"When we first received the call there were very real concerns that this individual could have caused serious harm and to be on the scene in a matter of minutes is a fantastic response.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bomb disposal teams were called to the scene

"It must have been particularly traumatising for those staff members who were kept inside the premises.

"Our specialist negotiators engaged with the man very early on and their efforts are one of the main reasons that this incident was brought to a safe conclusion and that nobody was injured."

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services (PCS), which represents most Jobcentre staff, said: "We are pleased to confirm that police were quick to respond, all staff are confirmed as safe and have been evacuated, but the Jobcentre remains closed as a precaution.

"Department of Work and Pensions management and our officials are with the members to support them and no injuries have been reported."

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