Saturday, May 12, 2012
Two men arrested on terrorism charges in Cheltenham
BOMB disposal experts carried out four controlled explosions in Cheltenham this morning as two men were arrested on terrorism charges.
Shortly before 11.30 police warned Up Hatherley residents that a "controlled disruption' was due to take place.
Police cordon at Buttermere Close
ITV correspondent Ken Goodwin tweeted that there had been four controlled explosions
"The bangs were like loud gunshots rather that a huge blast. The first was the loudest and interestingly it made my camera shake slightly," he tweeted.
Anti-terrorism officers today joined the investigation into explosive substances found in Cheltenham.
Two men arrested in Cheltenham have both been further arrested on suspicion of the commission, instigation or preparation of a terrorist act (contrary to the Terrorism Act 2000) police said today.
This relates to examination of the items found in a garage in Buttermere Close in the Up Hatherley area of Cheltenham.
The South East Counter Terrorism Unit has assumed responsibility for the ongoing investigation but will continue to work closely with Gloucestershire Police.
The 52-year-old man and 31-year-old-man are both from Cheltenham. They remain in police custody at this time.
In excess of 100 homes remain evacuated in Cheltenham this morning while searches of a garage in Buttermere Close continue.
Assistant Chief Constable for Gloucestershire Constabulary, Richard Berry, said: “We cannot thank the community enough for their continued support and patience during what is a thorough and methodical investigation.
“When I visited the rest centres yesterday I was hugely grateful for the gracious response we received from the community at what is a very difficult time for them. The feeling of community spirit in the centres and the messages of support on social media sites has been overwhelming and we are not underestimating the immensely positive impact this is having on everyone involved.
“I have also been incredibly impressed with the work our partner agencies and the volunteers have been carrying out to make this time as comfortable as possible for all of those evacuated. I would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone for responding so efficiently and with such care.
“It’s really important to us that we keep the residents as informed as possible and we encourage them to follow along regular updates online and through the media.
“At the moment we unfortunately are not able to say when we will be able to lift the cordon. It remains in place for the public’s safety and we have seen that it is justified by the results of the search thus far. However we will endeavour to return the area to normality as soon as practicable when we can ensure there is no risk of harm to local residents.”
A rest centre is in place at St Margaret’s Hall for those needing supporting support
Care staff from NHS Gloucestershire are on duty in the rest centre, and are providing information and advice on medication and health concerns.
Those people not at the rest centres, who may be staying with friends or relatives, who require urgent advice regarding medication should call the out of hours medical service on 08454 220 220.
Chief Executive of Cheltenham Borough Council, Andrew North, said: “The joint working with Gloucestershire Police and other agencies has been fantastic.
“We understand how distressing this may be for a number of Cheltenham residents but people should be reassured that we will get things back to normality as soon as possible.”
15 residents spent the evening at St Margaret’s Hall in Coniston Road and 13 vulnerable people, along with a pet dog, were rehoused for the evening by Cheltenham Borough Council.
No one came along to the Leisure@Cheltenham rest centre, which was closed at 1.45am.
Assistant Chief Constable Berry said last night: “We sincerely apologise to all of those affected by today’s events. We know these are difficult circumstances but we ask for their patience and support.
“This is a painstaking and methodical process in which everyone's safety is absolutely paramount. For this reason the specialist searches that are being carried out cannot be rushed.
“Unfortunately this means that we are now almost certain we won’t be able to clear the cordon this evening to allow people back into their homes.”
Bomb disposal teams from the Royal Logistic Corps were in both Up Hatherley and Hester's Way alongside the searching police officers, ambulance crews and firefighters.
Mechanic Dave Cumberbatch works at the Alma Road Garage opposite the area cordoned off around Buttermere Close.
The 21-year-old from Lansdown said: "Not a lot happens around here and people are all a bit shocked. It certainly sounds very serious.
"I imagine the residents are very worried as it really does not happen around here and there are a lot of older people in the area."
Grandmother Sandie Williams from nearby Dinas Road was concerned. She said: "This really is a quiet area and we have not really been told anything. We are just half a mile from GCHQ so you do worry and they have to investigate it properly."
Superintendent Neil Mantle said the cordon was a precaution while they investigate the items found in the Up Hatherley garage. He did not confirm what the items were, but said they were materials which "could be used as part of explosives".
Mr Mantle said: "We want to ensure the area is 100 per cent safe before people can re-enter their homes.
"We know this is frustrating but the safety of Cheltenham residents is paramount in all the work we do."
Ian Boucker, who lives nearby, said he heard the sirens at around 9.30am. He said: "I have been afraid and I hope they bring to justice anyone who may have put others' lives at risks."
Louis Roberts from Winderemere Road said: "I only wanted to pop down to the chemist, but I was advised not to go anywhere."