Crawley, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH and ‘SUNSHINE SU’ via Crawley News
Bomb disposal squads were called into the airport on Saturday to investigate an item left in a bin on the airport’s premises at the North Terminal. The terminal was shut down and evacuated and a controlled explosion was carried out on the item, later identified as a gun.
British airports are on high alert after the killing of around 130 people by three teams of gunmen armed with guns and explosive devices in the centre of Paris on Friday afternoon. Two or three bombs exploded near the Stade de France where a football friendly was taken. People were also massacred at a concert and while dining at a Cambodian restaurant and at local bars. Several of the gunmen are believed to have entered France via road from Belgium with contraband weapons possibly smuggled in from the Balkans.
Alongside the weapon at Gatwick, police also found personal items possibly linked to the French citizen, who is now in custody. Sussex Police said that the items were removed to be forensically examined and that the viability of the weapon, whether it was live or decommissioned, has not yet been established by their ballistics team.
The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the French national, a man whose details have not been given in the Crawley News report, has in fact two guns on his person. He was said to have walked up to a check in desk operated by budget airline EasyJet. This has not yet been confirmed officially though.
The report does identify the man as being of 41 years of age and originating from Vendôme, a small ton in central France, around 100 kilometres from Paris. He has been charged with firearms offences. Airport officials say the French citizen had not passed through any passport or security checks.
Detective Superintendent Nick May said: “The man is being interviewed as we try to determine the circumstances of the incident, but at this time it is too early to say what his intentions, if any, were.
“However, given the events in Paris on Friday evening, there is heightened awareness around any such incident and it is best that we treat the matter in all seriousness.
“We are aware that there is concern about what has happened in France, but the general threat level remains the same and people should be aware as usual of anyone acting suspiciously and report any concerns immediately.”
Police attended the incident at 9.30 am local time and the North Terminal was evacuated about an hour later, the Crawley News reports.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: “Following a full and thorough search by the Police, we are now able to re-open our North Terminal to passengers. Passengers should check with their airlines for information about their journey.
“Our priority is always the safety and welfare of our passengers and extra Gatwick staff are on hand to assist those who have experienced significant disruption to their journey today.
“We are working with our airlines to return North Terminal to usual operations. South Terminal is operating as normal.”