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'Mistake entirely mine,' says security firm boss after Old Trafford bomb scare

Published 16/05/2016

Fire engines arrived at Old Trafford after the game between Manchester United and Bournemouth was abandoned
Fire engines arrived at Old Trafford after the game between Manchester United and Bournemouth was abandoned

The head of the firm which left a dummy bomb at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium said he took full responsibility for the blunder which led to thousands of people being evacuated from the ground.

Chris Reid, the managing director of Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd, said he took full responsibility for the fake explosive which sparked Sunday's security alert and forced the postponement of United's Premier League game against Bournemouth.

The dummy bomb, initially described by police as an "incredibly lifelike explosive device", was left behind after a training exercise last week.

Speaking outside his home in Biggin Hill, south east London, an emotional Mr Reid, a retired Scotland Yard police officer, said: "This mistake is entirely mine. I have to take full responsibility for leaving a training item behind on Wednesday."

Mr Reid said the device had been left on a hook behind a door of a men's toilet cubicle and "was not concealed in any other way".

He added: "I am absolutely devastated that a lapse in my working protocols has resulted in many people being disappointed, frightened and inconvenienced. Nothing I can say will rectify that."

Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd was hired by Deacons Canines to carry out practical training exercises at the stadium last week.

Mr Reid told reporters on Monday that after the exercise for five dog handlers he had checked a number of fake items into his bag, having previously recorded their position on a "trapping sheet".

He said: "Unfortunately an item that was placed in the male WC was not recovered, as I had a similar item that I had not used. I saw this and made the mistake in thinking that the item in the WC had been brought back when found by the attendees as had other items I had checked into the bag.

"This item concerned was a mock-up of a pipe bomb, it was approx eight inches long, brass fittings at each end, a length of black flexible lead and a mobile phone taped to the pipe with black tape.

"The item had a small white label on it which said: 'training aid if found contact ssms and my telephone number'."

He said he had been at home when events involved and watched it on television.

The evacuation of the Stretford End and Sir Alex Ferguson Stand began around 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off of 3pm after an announcement was made for security personnel to invoke "operation red code".

The device was discovered in toilets in the quadrant between the two stands.

Shortly after 3.15pm those remaining in the stadium were informed the game was off.

Army bomb disposal experts called in by officers carried out a controlled explosion on the device in the north-west quadrant of the ground at 4.30pm.

The game was called off after discussions between the Football Association, the Premier League and police and has been rearranged for Tuesday at 8pm, four days before United play Crystal Palace at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

Mr Reid added that he had been contacted by people today saying "please carry on" with his work.

Asked it if had been a "blunder", he said: "I wouldn't say blunder. It's very difficult to say that, it's easy to say that and people will say 'yes it was'.

"However, there was something found and they dealt with it in the way they should have done, whether it should have been found sooner is completely another issue.

"It would be obvious to say yes they should have found it. But I don't know - the rooms may have been locked after I left, without being checked, and why should they be?"

United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had earlier revealed that the device had been recorded as having been removed.

In a statement he said: "Following investigation, the device proved to have been left in error following the training of dog handlers by a sub-contractor.

"The contractor had signed the device as having been recovered along with the 13 other devices at the end of the exercise."

Manchester's police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd said that the Red Devils needed to be "up front" with answers about the "shambolic" security scare at Old Trafford.

Mr Lloyd, who is also the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the club's reputation and public safety had come under scrutiny after Sunday's evacuation.

He said it was "astonishing" that the dummy bomb was not found earlier and the alarm raised only 20 minutes before kick-off, with thousands of fans already in the ground.

Mr Lloyd, who has called for an inquiry, said United needed to provide some answers.

He said: "I think United have to come up front with all this because in the end it's their reputation, but it's also public safety and both those two really do matter.

"I think United have got to begin to put answers forward and I look forward to hearing what they have to say as soon as possible.

"'Fiasco' is the right word. It was shambolic.

"Of course, United are a huge organisation. It wasn't, I think, the fact they're the world's richest club - that they are.

"It was the fact that the security had missed something that in the end ought to have been found."

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