Man threatens to blow up office building in London's West End

Armed police and negotiators in stand-off that brought centre of capital to a halt

Armed police and hostage negotiators were involved in a three-hour siege after a man threatened to blow up a central London office building yesterday.

Thousands of people had to be evacuated from one of central London's busiest shopping streets after a man, named by witnesses as Michael Green, walked into the office of the training firm Advantage carrying gas canisters and demanding his money back.

He was led away from the scene a little over three hours later, having given himself up to police. Witnesses told The Independent he had initially taken four men hostage before releasing them. It was claimed he was angry after failing an HGV test.

As the siege went on, armed police led people away from nearby buildings as police snipers patrolled the rooftops. Meanwhile, negotiators tried to talk to the man as computers and other office equipment were thrown out of a window.

According to an Advantage staff member Abby Baafi, 27, a man burst into the offices on Tottenham Court Road,central London, around noon and threatened to set off explosives. She said she escaped by telling him she was pregnant.

She told a reporter from the Huffington Post, which shares the building: "We were in the office and someone came in. [A staff member] asked him what his name was and he said it was Michael Green. I recognised him because he was one of our previous customers but he is not mentally stable. He turned up, strapped up with gasoline cylinders, and threatened to blow up the office. He said he doesn't care about his life. He doesn't care about anything; he is going to blow up everybody. I said I'm four months pregnant, so he let me go."

Joe Doyle, who was in a nearby building when the incident began, said: "I came out of the building and there were police cars arriving. Computers, screens, keyboards and chairs were being thrown from an upstairs window. After a few minutes, a sniper went into the building opposite and a team of armed police also went into the building. I saw four people coming out with their hands up around 20 minutes later."

Carla Buzasi, who works nearby, said a member of staff from the Advantage office escaped via a fire exit and warned other people in the building, prompting a large-scale evacuation. A man who travelled into central London to meet a friend in a Starbucks on the ground floor of the building next door said Mr Green was carrying four gas canisters when he entered the building.

The scare sparked a major alert, with Tube stations closed, businesses evacuated and one of the capital's busiest shopping streets shut. Metropolitan Police Commander Mak Chishty said the suspect arrested was a local man. He confirmed that no hostages were inside the building when the man left. The suspect remains in police custody.