UPDATE: The suspect package which had caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of supporters at Old Trafford was a fake bomb planted by a security company as part of a prior training exercise.
The extremely realistic device was destroyed in a controlled explosion by bomb disposal experts drafted in from the army, after the abandonment of yesterday’s final game of the season against Bournemouth.
Calls for a full inquiry into how such a drastic mistake could have been made have been led by Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd.
“It is outrageous this situation arose, and a full inquiry is required to urgently find out how this happened, why it happened and who will be held accountable,” said Lloyd.
“This fiasco caused massive inconvenience to supporters who had come from far and wide to watch the match, wasted the time of huge numbers of police officers and the army’s bomb squad, and unnecessarily put people in danger, as evacuating tens of thousands of people from a football stadium is not without risk.”
The suspect package comprised a mobile phone attached to a pipe and was described as an “incredibly lifelike explosive device” by police.
Inquiries will now begin into how the fake bomb came to be left in the grounds, although Man Utd fans will likely wonder whether a City-supporting contractor might be behind the ‘oversight.’
A CONTROLLED explosion has been carried out by bomb disposal experts at Old Trafford, after Manchester United’s final game of the season was abandoned with the discovery of a suspect package, forcing the evacuation of thousands of supporters.
The match against Bournemouth was cancelled after a 45 minute delay when a routine search discovered an unidentified package in the north-west quadrant. Commanding police officers and club executives then decided to abandon the game just 20 minutes before the 3pm kick-off.
Anti-terrorism experts were called in and the bomb disposal team initiated the controlled explosion at 4.30pm, after deciding it was the safest course of action.
Whether the suspect package contained explosives or not remains to be seen, and supporters were in a largely jovial mood as the evacuation began without a hint of panic.
Indeed the key suspect in the eyes of many was not Daesh or radical Islamists, but rather more likely a Manchester City fan trying to thwart United’s ambitions of stealing fourth spot and a place in the Champions League on the season’s final day.
Though magnificently irresponsible such a deviant ploy may well have worked as City’s 1-1 draw at Swansea meant United will have to put 19 past Bournemouth when they finally meet to beat City into fifth.
Club officials meanwhile had no time for such speculation and described the incident as an “operation code red”.
Assistant chief constable John O’Hare said: “We don’t make these decisions lightly and we have done this today to ensure the safety of all those attending. I am thankful for everyone’s support and assistance and we will continue to provide updates on this matter as soon as they become available.”