French man held as suspected firearm found at Gatwick Airport

Passengers being evacuated from the north terminal at Gatwick Airport.
Image caption Passengers were evacuated from the landside area of the North Terminal at about 09:30 GMT

A man from France has been arrested after what appears to have been a firearm was found at Gatwick Airport.

The 41-year-old, from Vendome, was detained after he discarded an item in a bin at the North Terminal.

The terminal was then evacuated on the landside, before passport control, as a precautionary measure at 09:30 GMT.

Explosive ordnance disposal units investigated the item and carried out a small controlled explosion. The North Terminal was closed for six hours.

Sussex Police said "personal items and what appears to be a firearm" were recovered and removed for forensic examination.

A spokesman said the authenticity of the suspected weapon had yet to be established.

Image copyright @TimUnwin
Image caption A bomb disposal unit was called to the airport

The arrested man is being questioned on suspicion of firearms offences.

He was landside at the airport and had not checked in or passed through any passport or security checks, police said.

Det Supt Nick May said: "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."

Image copyright @TimUnwin
Image caption Some passengers were moved to the Sofitel London Gatwick Airport hotel after the terminal was evacuated

Passengers and staff were taken to local hotels and were allowed to return to the airport from about 15:30 GMT.

Roads immediately around the terminal were also closed but reopened at the same time as the terminal.

Despite the reopening of the terminal, Gatwick Airport advised passengers to contact airlines for information regarding their flights.

It said extra staff were on hand to assist those who had experienced significant disruption to their journey.

A spokesman said: "Our airlines are now looking at what capacity they have to accommodate people who missed flights earlier in the day."

"Passenger welfare is out absolute priority," he added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Passengers and staff were taken to local hotels and were allowed to return to the airport from about 15:30 GMT
Image copyright PA
Image caption Gatwick Airport said the terminal was reopened following a full and thorough search by police
Image copyright PA
Image caption Extra staff are on duty at Gatwick to assist delayed passengers

During the security alert, passengers due to arrive into the North Terminal arrived into the South Terminal.

Tim Unwin, one of those passengers evacuated from the terminal, tweeted that they were taken to the Sofitel London Gatwick Airport hotel.

He said the hotel area was "very cramped" and "passengers were beginning to get frustrated" and were "tired and hungry".

Mr Unwin, a geography professor at the University of London, later said there were long queues at the Easyjet desks, and armed police were patrolling the terminal.

Image copyright @TimUnwin
Image caption There were long queues after the terminal reopened

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