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French man quizzed over suspected gun amid Gatwick security alert

Published 14/11/2015

A police officer speaks with travellers at Gatwick Airport's North Terminal
A police officer speaks with travellers at Gatwick Airport's North Terminal
The suspected firearm was discovered at Gatwick Airport

A man from France is being quizzed by police after a suspected firearm was discovered at Gatwick Airport, sparking a major security alert.

Massive disruption was caused at the North Terminal following the incident at 9.30am when Sussex Police were alerted to the "suspicious actions" of the man, 41, from Vendome, in central France.

He was seen to discard an item in an airport bin in the "landside" area of the airport which precedes the security checks, according to police.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialist officers carried out a small controlled explosion and also recovered "what appears to be a firearm" which was removed for forensic examination.

A Sussex Police spokesman said that the "viability" of the weapon had not yet been established and the suspect was being questioned.

Passengers and staff were allowed to return to the terminal about six hours after the alert, which forced police to evacuate the site, although the South Terminal remained operational throughout.

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."

The police spokesman said: "Police were called at around 9.30am following suspicious actions by a man who discarded an item in a bin at the airport. Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialists were called to the airport to investigate the item and carried out a small controlled explosion.

"Personal items and what appears to be a firearm were recovered and have been removed for forensic examination. However, the viability of the weapon has yet to be established.

"A 41-year-old man from Vendome in France was arrested at the scene at the time of the report on suspicion of firearms offences. He was 'landside' at the airport and had not checked in or passed through any passport or security checks."

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. Our priority is always the safety and welfare of our passengers."

Passengers were evacuated from the North Terminal in the rain and taken to nearby hotels.

One passenger, Mari Reynolds tweeted: "At Gatwick North Terminal. We were yards away from armed police arresting man with 'gun in bag'. Mass evacuation. Lockdown in progress still."

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