Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 19 News List

Security firm accepts blame after dummy bomb mishap

The Guardian

Security personnel stand outside Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on Sunday after the game between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth was abandoned due to a suspect package being found inside the stadium.

Photo: AP

The managing director of a security company that left behind a dummy bomb responsible for a terror alert at Old Trafford on Sunday has taken “full responsibility” for not removing the item following a training exercise.

Manchester United’s final Premier League game of the season against AFC Bournemouth was called off and the 75,000-seater stadium evacuated after the discovery of a suspect device that later turned out to have been left over from a training exercise four days earlier. The game was rescheduled for 8pm yesterday.

Christopher Reid, the managing director of Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd (SSMS), said he was “absolutely gutted” and that the mistake, which has cost Manchester United £3 million (US$4.35 million), was entirely his.

“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,” said Reid, who worked for the Metropolitan police service’s specialist search unit for 26 years before retiring in 2011. “A lot of people have called me today with a lot of support because they know how professional I am... I would like to say that it would be a waste of all my experience if I couldn’t continue [with my work].”

Reid said he led a practical search exercise at the stadium on Wednesday last week, which involved hiding a number of homemade dummy explosive devices. A mix-up led him to record a 20cm fake pipe bomb, which was left on a hook behind a cubicle door in the men’s toilets, as having been recovered at the end of the session.

The mocked-up bomb had a small white label reading “training aid. If found contact SSMS” followed by the company’s telephone number.

SSMS has previously done work for the Westfield shopping center in Stratford, east London, Twickenham Stadium, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Farnborough International Airshow.

Reid would not comment on why the mock bomb was not discovered by staff at Old Trafford for another four days, but said lessons would have to be learned.

“It’s very difficult for me to say while I’m here, watching it on the television,” he said. “The protocols that they have are the protocols that they have.”

Manchester United vice-chairman Ed Woodward said that once the device was recorded as recovered following the training session, the area was sealed. It was then missed during a routine match day test, a fact that Manchester United are investigating.

“That device could not have been detected by sniffer dogs on the routine match day search of the 100 Club [a hospitality suite], as it contained no explosives and was used in an exercise training handlers, not dogs,” Woodward said.

“We are conducting a detailed evaluation with the help of the police and will share our findings across the rest of the game,” he said.

“Valuable lessons will have been learned from yesterday’s events and it is important that those are shared with other stadium operators to ensure that the safety of the public remains the first duty of us all,” he added.

Old Trafford was evacuated 20 minutes before kick-off after the fake device was found in toilets in the north-west quadrant between the Sir Alex Ferguson stand and the Stretford end. Army bomb-disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion.

Detailed examination found that the package, which comprised brass fittings and a length of black pipe with a mobile phone taped to it, was not viable.

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