Brixton Bombing: `Someone looked at it and said: It's ticking'

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The Independent Online
Saturday 17 April

5.15pm: A new, dark blue `Head' sports holdall is discovered in a bus- stop near Electric Avenue in Brixton, south London. According to reports three youths take the bag but then discard it next to the Boots store in Electric Avenue.

The bag is noticed by traders, busy selling fruit and vegetables from the stalls. "What it was doing there, I don't know," said stall-holder Mark Murphy. "Someone said there was a bomb in there. I didn't look myself."

5.20pm: The bag is picked up by Gary Shilling, 15, who moves it from outside Boots and places it on a pallet next to the Iceland supermarket, at the junction of Electric Avenue and Brixton Road. Someone shouts at the teenager and he runs off. Word starts to circulate that the bag contains a bomb. No one really believes it. People take it in turns to have a look and give it a poke with their feet.

5.21pm: Stallholders watch in amazement as a "crackhead" opens the bag and takes out what appears to be a tupperware container, taped to a cardboard box with wires protruding - and then makes off with the bag.

"Everyone was saying to him, `There's a bomb in there, leave it alone,' but he just wanted the bag which was brand new," said stallholder Lee Walden.

"He picked out the bomb, which was a lunch box sitting on top of a cardboard box, put it on the pallets then walked off muttering about it being a nice new bag." Mr Murphy added: "Everyone was laughing. [They only became serious] when someone looked at it and said, `It's ticking'."

Soon someone calls the security guard from Iceland who examines the bomb and calls his manager Paul Mascall. It is understood Mr Mascall called the police, who time that call at 5.26pm: Mr Mascall was later injured in the blast and taken to King's College Hospital.

5.28pm: The first police officers arrive at the scene in two marked cars, and try to move shoppers and stallholders away.

5.30pm: While the officers are evacuating people the bomb explodes, sending nails and glass flying. "One officer said to me, `So where is it?'," said Mr Walden. "I pointed, then it went off as I was talking. It blew me off my feet. I got up and started running with hands over my ears."

5.35pm: More emergency services arrive, including 13 fire engines, 20 ambulances and a police helicopter. Rumours reach police of a second device at nearby Mothercare. It proves false.

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