Beds, Herts & Bucks

St Albans man held over wartime firearms find

Part of the haul found in St Albans Image copyright Hertfordshire Police
Image caption Police said the Army was establishing the safety of the items but currently there was no danger to the public

A large haul of World War One and Two hand grenades, rifles, mortar shells, guns and ammunition has been found in a house in Hertfordshire.

Bomb disposal teams were called to the scene and nearby homes evacuated after police found the cache of weapons at the home in Windmill Avenue, St Albans.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing items from a former prisoner of war camp.

Officers expect to be at the property "for some time".

The Army bomb disposal unit removed items from a property, where the man was arrested.

He is suspected of taking "heritage artefacts" and wartime munitions from protected sites including one in Batford, Harpenden.

Image copyright Hertfordshire Police
Image caption Officers found "a museum for World War One and World War Two relics" in the garage at the address

Det Sgt Pete Frost said officers found "a museum for World War One and World War Two relics" in the garage at the address.

A police spokesman said the Army was establishing the safety of the items but currently there was no danger to the public.

Hertfordshire Police said it was "alleged that the arrested man obtained these artefacts through illegal metal detecting, which is a heritage crime.

"It is a criminal offence to retrieve artefacts from the ground through using a metal detector if the land is a protected site or without permission of the landowner."

Ch Insp Ken Townsend, of Hertfordshire Police, said: "This seizure is on an unprecedented scale and it will be a long process.

"It is an extremely large collection. Although the items seized today are potentially dangerous, there is no danger to members of the public. We have all the necessary experts in place to deal safely with the items recovered."

He said controlled detonations were taking place.

'Very organised'

Windmill Avenue has been closed to vehicles from the junction with Chiltern Road and four homes either side of the property have been evacuated as a safety precaution.

One of the residents, Linda, who did not want to give her surname, said she had been told to "pack up and be prepared to stay [away] overnight".

"They were very organised and .... very reassuring," she said.

Image copyright Warwick Haycock
Image caption Residents in the Marshalswick area of St Albans were told about the investigation
Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Officers cordoned off the property

According to the Harpenden History website, the No. 95 camp in Batford opened in May 1943 for Italian prisoners and accommodated about 600 men.

The Italians were moved out in November 1944 and it became a prisoner of war working camp housing German servicemen with 750 prisoners.

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption The Army bomb disposal unit removed items from a property, where the man was arrested

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