Watford bank siege man 'had no viable bomb'

media captionExclusive footage: Ben Ando reports on the siege at the bank in Watford

A man arrested after a three-hour siege at a bank in Watford was not carrying a "viable" bomb, say police.

Officers were called to the Co-op bank in Market Street at 1020 BST.

The man, 23, was arrested by armed police after a stand-off which led to a large area of the town centre being sealed off.

At about 1345 BST Hertfordshire Police said officers had "successfully secured" the man's arrest. They said it was not a viable explosive device.

Det Supt Michael Hanlon said: "We would like to reassure the public that there is no suggestion at all that this was linked in any way to terrorist activity."

Firearms experts

Earlier, police had said "an explosive device of some kind - as yet we don't know what this is - has been removed from this individual".

Ch Insp Mike Pryce, of Hertfordshire Police, told a press conference that army bomb disposal experts had been at the scene.

He thanked the public and media for their help during the siege.

media captionEyewitness Ron Miller: "I saw an army bomb squad arrive"

"The suspect has been arrested and will be taken to police custody for interview," he said.

The force said it had been supported by specialist firearms experts in the military in making the arrest.

Witnesses described police marksmen aiming their guns at the bank.

Earlier, Pat Sullivan, who works at a local damp-proofing firm, said police closed the main roads around the bank and the ring road, causing traffic to back up.

She said: "I've forced my way through the barriers to get in.

"There's so many people out there - the police, police cars, fire engines, press and, I guess, bomb disposal teams.

"There's groups of people out there just standing and waiting, the community is just wondering what's happening really. You can't walk out there because it's all cordoned off.

"The traffic's nose-to-tail because the police have closed most of the roads."

Hertfordshire Police said in a statement: "Safety of members of the public was paramount and a cordon was put in place and people were evacuated from nearby premises.

"There will be police activity in the town centre for a while to come. Understandably this caused concern within the community and we would like to thank members of the public for their co-operation in this matter."

Describing the scene earlier, the owner of a tailoring business in Market Street said he saw three police marksmen aiming their weapons at the bank.

He said: "There are three of them and they are about 30ft (10m) away from the bank on the opposite side of the road.

"There's a lot of police around, pulling people back from the bank, and a few helicopters flying overhead.

"People are saying that the man in the bank has got a bomb strapped to himself and, as far as we know, all the hostages have been set free.

Threats against staff

"A lady came out of the bank this morning and she was very distressed. I don't know if she was a staff member, I think she might have been a customer."

He said local people and business owners in the street had been told by police to stay indoors until the incident was resolved.

image captionArmed police surrounded the bank

As the siege developed, James Glisson, who was in a nearby mobile phone shop, said he saw "military-looking" officers and dogs at the scene.

Another eyewitness close to the scene told the BBC that police were using megaphones to speak to whoever was inside the bank.

Hertfordshire Police reported that officers were first called to reports of a man threatening to harm members of staff at the bank.

A few hours later police had said they had been "able to establish that this individual is on his own and no members of the public are at direct risk".

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