Belfast Telegraph

Our hearts were in our mouths: Shock as woman strolls past device moments before explosion

By Jonathan Bell

A resident of a Northern Ireland housing estate has said there was a sense of shock among its residents as they watched a woman stroll past a suspicious object just moments before a controlled explosion was carried out on it.

Police and the Army descended on the Glengalliagh Park area in Derry on Sunday afternoon after a suspicious object was reported. Around 20 homes were subsequently evacuated.

However, some residents refused to leave their homes and police advised them to stay indoors.

Police sources told the Belfast Telegraph the object looked like a black box with wires and a timer on the outside of it.

Army ammunition technical officers (ATO) dispatched a bomb disposal robot to carry out a controlled explosion. Moments before a controlled explosion was carried out, a woman emerged from her home and walked directly past the scene. Scores of people watched on in horror.

Sean Haslett captured the moment on video.

Read more: Watch: Woman walks past suspect device moments before explosion

"Our hearts were in our mouths," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

He was in his mother's home, just across from the green where the device was planted. Their house was the first row of homes not to have to be evacuated.

"We heard over the police radios 'hard cover' which I guessed meant they were about to blow up the object and the next thing we see is this woman walk out of her house and right past it and the Army robot. I don't think they could have stopped the explosion if they tried," said the 30-year-old health worker.

"There were police running toward her frantically waving their arms telling her to move."

Around 50 people had gathered around the police cordon as the investigations continued on determining what the device was. It was later determined to be an elaborate hoax.

"She just seemed oblivious to what was going on," said Sean.

"There were people laughing, but it was nervous laughter, not like it was funny. She was very lucky, had it been a real bomb then who knows."

Sean added: "This caused a lot of hassle yesterday, nobody was happy with it. But to see this woman walk across so close to it.... was shocking."

After the controlled explosion, the robot overturned on the grass verge and was left immobile for some time. A second robot had to be dispatched to finish dealing with the device.

Police reminded people of the importance of following officers' advice around security alerts.

"Security operations of this nature bring significant disruption to the community and present challenges to the PSNI as they attempt to minimise disruption whilst keeping the community safe from harm," said a PSNI spokeswoman.

"We attended the area following reports of a suspicious object and ATO were tasked. We called to a number of homes in Glengalliagh Park and advised residents to leave their homes. Some residents agreed to leave their homes however a number of residents declined and were advised to remain inside their homes and take appropriate precautions.

"A resident left their home and walked past the suspicious object while attempts were ongoing to make the object safe.

"We spoke to the resident immediately after and, although she was shaken, she was uninjured.

"Our investigation into the hoax device is ongoing and we would appeal to anyone with information to contact us on 101."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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