Downpatrick hoax bomb alert causes widespread disruption
Families were evacuated from their homes in Downpatrick following a bomb alert that turned out to be a cruel New Year's Eve hoax.
Police were called to investigate a suspicious object at a property in the Bishop's Brae area of the town.
Surrounding roads were closed and homes evacuated while the investigation was carried out, causing extensive traffic disruption throughout the town. SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie, who was present at the scene, said: "I want to condemn the disruption caused to families who had to be evacuated from their homes because of this hoax - and to express my support and solidarity with people affected."
The South Down MP urged anyone with information about the incident to contact the PSNI: "I hope that those responsible will be quickly apprehended, and I call on anyone with information about the incident to get in touch with the police and help with their investigation."
Sinn Fein councillor Liam Johnston, who lives in the Bishop's Brae area, slammed the people behind the hoax.
He said: "We had all hoped these kinds of incident were things of the past. No one should have to put up with this kind of thing in this day and age.
"No one should have to be evacuated from their home on New Year's Eve. The disruption to families and to business life was dreadful."
The traffic gridlock had affected people trying to reach the Downe Hospital for medical appointments, with some people having to make two or three-mile detours to reach their destinations, the councillor said.
Ammunition Technical Officers carried out a controlled explosion on the suspect device, and later declared it to be a hoax.
The object was removed for further forensic examination and all roads were reopened.