Shock at peo­ple’s re­sponse to ‘sus­pect bag’

Surrey Advertiser - - Front Page -

A SHOP­PER was left ‘dumb­struck’ af­ter passersby failed to no­tice a ‘sus­pect pack­age’ left unat­tended on a bench in the mid­dle of the High Street.

Dar­ren Thomas, from Clay­gate, was shop­ping in Cob­ham on Satur­day morn­ing, when he spot­ted the large, army print ruck­sack propped up against the bench.

Mr Thomas said: “I asked the peo­ple in the two shops op­po­site if they knew whose it was and how long it had been there and they were very non­cha­lant and not at all both­ered.

“I called 999 and spoke to an op­er­a­tor for Sur­rey Po­lice, who was very help­ful and im­me­di­ately dis­patched it as a pri­or­ity call, and stayed on the phone un­til a po­lice car ar­rived... 25 min­utes later.

“Given the re­sponse time, I re­ally hoped it wasn’t some­thing se­ri­ous.”

When the of­fi­cer even­tu­ally ar­rived on scene, Mr Thomas, who works as a se­cu­rity chauf­feur, called him over to where the ruck­sack was.

He said: “[The of­fi­cer] came over, looked around [the bag], leaned over it, then opened it! If I’d known he was go­ing to do that I’d have stayed be­hind the pil­lar box op­po­site.

“There ap­peared to be no wires pro­trud­ing or no noise com­ing from it, so it might not have been some­thing, but that’s not some­thing you know for def­i­nite.

“I am pos­i­tive that [re­sponse] would not have been the case if it were in Lon­don.”

Mr Thomas’ main cause for con­cern re­gard­ing the whole in­ci­dent was the re­sponse – or lack of it – from mem­bers of the pub­lic.

He said: “What shocked and an­gered me the most was the non­cha­lance of ev­ery­one else.

“About 200 peo­ple walked past, fam­i­lies with kids, they didn’t even no­tice it. They were com­pletely obliv­i­ous.

“One per­son dou­ble took on a bike, then rode off. The of­fi­cer on the phone said not one other call came in about the bag.

“We’re sup­posed to be on height­ened alert, and we’re al­ways told to call the po­lice if we see some­thing sus­pect, and not to touch them.

“The pub­lic are told to be vig­i­lant, though ev­ery­one just car­ried on about their busi­ness obliv­i­ous to the po­ten­tial threat.

“There’s cer­tain things we can do to pre­vent these sorts of in­ci­dents from hap­pen­ing.

“Ob­vi­ously I’m glad it turned out to be noth­ing, though what could have been a hor­rific at­tack would have been fa­cil­i­tated by an un­aware pub­lic. The of­fi­cer who ar­rived on the scene said I did the right thing.”

A post on Elm­bridge Po­lice’s Twit­ter ac­count read: “We re­ceived re­ports this morn­ing of a sus­pi­cious pack­age in Cob­ham High Street. This was an empty back­pack, now re­cov­ered as lost prop­erty.”

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