Man detained over M25 Dartford Crossing hoax bomb

Tolls cleared at Dartford Crossing
Image caption The toll booths at the Dartford Crossing were cleared of vehicles

A man arrested in connection with a hoax bomb that led to the closure of the M25 Dartford Crossing has been detained under the Mental Health Act.

The 27-year-old from Bournemouth is alleged to have made bomb threats.

A cylindrical device with wires was found on a Dover-bound coach after a man got off just after it had gone through the toll booths on Friday.

The stretch of motorway between Kent and Essex was closed for more than seven hours.

A man raised suspicions after he ran from the scene to a rough area nearby, and was detained by security personnel at a distribution depot.

The suspect was arrested at 16:15 BST on suspicion of making a bomb hoax.

Kent Police said the man made threats about a device on the coach.

Bomb disposal

Nine-mile tailbacks stretched through Kent on the anti-clockwise M25 and in Essex on the clockwise stretch as thousands of motorists were held up in the traffic chaos.

The coach was evacuated, along with the immediate surrounding area, and a bomb disposal robot was used to examine the device.

Occupants of the coach were taken to a nearby rest centre and interviewed by police.

Another coach was stopped by police on the A20 at Dover at 18:00 BST and evacuated after the arrested man made further threats that there was a bomb on another vehicle.

The A20 was closed and those on board the coach taken to a rest centre while the investigation was under way.

The road reopened about 22:45 BST and the Dartford Crossing about 23:45 BST.

The occupants of both coaches, which were travelling from Bournemouth in Dorset to Poland, were later allowed to continue their journeys.

Eyewitness Graeme Brouder, 36, from Twickenham in south-west London, said he saw a man shouting and running alongside vehicles on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and trying to get into cars.

"He was running around, he was trying to get in everybody's cars," he said.

Image caption Traffic was stuck on the QEII bridge, part of the Dartford Crossing, for several hours

Lorry driver Phil Lynch, who was stuck on the M25, said that traffic management by the police and Highways Agency was "non-existent" and the area was gridlocked.

But Assistant Chief Constable Rob Price said it was a very challenging situation.

"Our main priority was to ensure the safety of the public, our officers and our partners at the scene," he said.

"We had received threats of a very serious nature that required regional and national co-ordination and declared this as a critical incident.

"Obviously a lot of people were caught up in long delays but this could not be avoided."

The knock-on effects of the Dartford bridge and tunnel closures were felt in London, with severe delays in East Ham, Beckton, Bow, Woolwich, at the Blackwall Tunnel and all approaches to the M25.

The A11, A12 and A13 also experienced heavy traffic.

The A282 Dartford to Thurrock crossing over the River Thames, which consists of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and two tunnels, is used by 140,000 vehicles a day.

Traffic heading south into Kent uses the bridge, while northbound vehicles travelling to Essex use the tunnels, with the M25 linking up either side.

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