Police defend delay in reaching hoax bomb
The PSNI has defended the service after politicians and members of the community expressed anger over the time it took police to arrive at the scene last night of a potential bomb. According to witnesses living in the vicinity of the hijacked taxi, it took the police a staggering 1 hour 45 minutes to come to the scene. The hijacked taxi contained what is now known as a hoax device but there was widespread anger after it emerged that residents had to block the road with their own cars and divert traffic away from the suspicious device until police arrived on scene.
The PSNI revealed today that they did not attend the scene immediately for safety reasons because of the ‘severe’ threat posed by dissident republicans. They were contacted at approximately 9:30pm last night but an evacuation of over 20 houses in the area only started after 10:30pm. Evacuees were sheltered in Newry Sports Centre for several hours before being housed in a hotel on the outskirts of the city.
Local SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley described chaotic scenes and how one woman in her pyjamas diverted traffic away from the hoax bomb and he said that several people also drove past the hijacked taxi. Speaking today Mr Bradley stated, “People in the area felt frustrated. They informed the police and they felt the police could have been there much quicker than they were. I understand that the police have to take precautions for their officers, but I am also concerned for the safety of the general public. Thankfully it was a hoax, but had it been a viable device, members of the public were driving past it and the area was not sealed for an hour and 20 minutes.”
The PSNI however, said they began investigating the incident immediately and had ‘worked as quickly as possible, planning and assessing, in order to ensure the safety of the community and the officers responding’. Area Commander Chief Inspector Anthony McNally said: “We, in Newry, are committed to investigating this security alert but we have an over-riding responsibility to protect and preserve life, and that includes the lives of the community and the lives of our own officers. For this reason, some situations may have to be dealt with cautiously due to the significant threat from a small number of people who have shown their determination to kill police officers.”
McNally commended the vigilance and action of the Martins Lane residents in the aftermath of the hijacked taxi being vacated on their doorsteps. He described them as having displayed a great ‘community spirit in dealing with this incident’.
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