‘I’m to blame for Old Trafford fake bomb’

Fans leave the stands after a security announcement during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester
Fans leave the stands after a security announcement during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester

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 said 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.”

He said he had been at home when events evolved 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 will be played today at 8pm.