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UPDATE: Suspicious package found in Plymouth's Drake Circus mall was fire prevention device

By Jon_Bayley  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

By Claire Jones and Kenzie Grant, Herald reporters

  • This picture of shoppers waiting outside the mall was sent in by reader Samer Naouri

  • This photo of the main entrance was sent in by reader Ben Arthur

  • Picture sent in by reader Lloyd Tench

  • Inside the methodist church where mall staff were given tea and refreshments. Picture sent in by Joe Libby

  • Inside the methodist church where mall staff were given tea and refreshments. Picture sent in by Joe Libby

  • Inside the methodist church where mall staff were given tea and refreshments. Picture sent in by Joe Libby

  • Picture sent in by Joe Libby

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Police have revealed that a suspicious package which caused the evacuation of hundreds of shoppers was sparked by a fire prevention device.

Yesterday Drake Circus Shopping Centre had to be cleared after the package was found at BB's restaurant.

Police today said the item was in fact a device which is placed inside piping to prevent the spread of fire.

It is thought the item, which is shaped like a pillow, fell out of a pipe in the mall and was spotted by mall staff.

Both staff and shoppers were affected by the evacuation which left hundreds out in the cold for more than an hour.

Speaking to The Herald at the scene, shopper Patsy Dunton, from Kingsbridge, said she had come to Plymouth to go shopping for the day.

She said: “We were in Primark, the bell went off and we were told there was an incident. We’ve only come here for the day but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Maura Rivers, from Launceston, said she was stuck during the incident because her car was in the car park. “We had just got here, then we were asked to leave,” she said.

Simon Spalding, from Plympton, said he hadn’t even started shopping when the centre was evacuated. “I was hoping to go into Waterstones to start my Christmas shopping, but what can you do.”

An alarm system in Drake Circus alerted shoppers and staff to the incident and people were moved to two points at the Plymouth Methodist Central Hall and Bretonside Bus Station.

Wendy Haydon, from Wallis, said: “There was nothing we could do, we were all evacuated. It’s for the safety of the staff and customers.”

Sarah Jordan, from H&M, said: “It was a bit scary, we heard the bomb scare alarm going off and we were evacuated.”

Charlotte Smith, also from H&M, added: “It was a bit daunting.”

Royal Naval Bomb disposal teams examined the package and found it to be safe.

The fire service also attended the scare and a 50 metre cordon was put in place.

BB’s cafe is situated between the Lush cosmetic store and the River Island clothing store in Drake Circus Shopping Centre.

After staff and shoppers were evacuated, the Plymouth Methodist Central Hall opened its doors and offered hot drinks and snacks.

Minister Paul Smith said: “We saw they were evacuating so we thought we would open our doors. That’s what we’re here for. It was a bit like the war!”

A spokesperson from Drake Circus said: “We would like to thank everyone involved in the safe and speedy evacuation of the building and the subsequent reinstatement: we would also like to thank the general public for their cooperation.

“There is no more disruption at Drake Circus and the centre is fully open.”

Do you have pictures of the scene? Email them to jbayley@northcliffedigital.co.uk and we'll add them to the slideshow above.

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  • Brizolboy  |  November 02 2012, 1:15PM

    All an over reaction until it goes bang. Get real people!

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  • Millsey165  |  November 02 2012, 12:21PM

    @COOLBLUE- Why the f***are u ****gin people off and what they wear. People work damn hard and they dont need a designer label to prove it to losers like u! i suppose ur the high and mighty, how about ur get down off that pedalstall your own... theres names for people like you- ****IN CRETIN

    Rate   -2
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  • timplymouth  |  November 02 2012, 11:13AM

    Not even terrorists would bother coming to Plymouth when Exeter is so much more convenient.

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  • PL1Plym  |  November 02 2012, 10:30AM

    @londonexile1 I've not actually lived in the South Wes/UK for 2 years so sorry to hear about that!

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  • olddogbreath  |  November 02 2012, 9:50AM

    This story is about 3 days old now. Surely the Herald can move on. Here's some ideas ~ OfQual the agency concerning the English GCSE results has produced a report and the Council are thinking of taking the Government to court~report on this perhaps. The Industrial action at First~ where is that going. The 3p rise in fuel duty in January, how will that affect us down here and what Conservative MP's say about it.

    Rate   4
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  • londonexile1  |  November 01 2012, 12:47PM

    PL1Plym - I was agreeing with your comment up to the point when you lost all credibility by saying "sunny South West".

    Rate   2
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  • fazer58  |  November 01 2012, 10:11AM

    "I was hoping to go into Waterstones to start my Christmas shopping, but what can you do." Well you could just walk down the road to the other Waterstones branch in the city.You could also have gone to WH Smiths and of course The Works which is a great little shop.

    Rate   25
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  • bikerlad707  |  November 01 2012, 5:33AM

    sums it up in one , OVER THE TOP ONCE AGAIN .

    Rate   -23
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  • PL1Plym  |  November 01 2012, 12:03AM

    I've always found those that wear nothing but designer labels tend to be shallow and insecure. The ironic thing is that a lot of top end designer clothing is made in the same sweat shops/factories as your main high street names. A £40 t-shirt isn't necessarily going to be better quality than a £4 one just because it has a designer name on it. Plymouth is never going to be a hub for high end fashion, style, sophistication (all that open to interpretation!) The demographic of the city is the same as most poorer northern towns/cities. It just happens to be located in the sunny South West. The mall serves what most of the people want most of the time. If it didn't there wouldn't be as many people in it and using it. Plymouth always gets what it deserves!

    Rate   6
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  • CoolBlue  |  October 31 2012, 11:47PM

    Love the state of people and their clothing! You can tell everyone living there in South West are poor. Marc3981 states; "If you want expensive, Plymouths got plenty, if you want posh, Plymouths got plenty" House of Fraser isn't expensive darling, and to even think Plymouth has luxury branded items to purchase, you want to get out more. I also love how everyone in Plymouth has fake Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo goods too. Makes me laugh!

    Rate   -18
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