Kempton Park evacuated in bomb scare

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The Independent Online

More than 20,000 racegoers were evacuated from Kempton Park course after a bomb threat from a dissident IRA breakaway group.

More than 20,000 racegoers were evacuated from Kempton Park course after a bomb threat from a dissident IRA breakaway group.

>See More Business won the prestigious King George VI Chase for the second time in three years before racing at Kempton Park was abandoned because of the security alert.

Minutes after the 5/2 favourite crossed the line in the £110,000 race for thoroughbred chasers, the packed stands at the course were evacuated.

A warning call was made to the BBC in Belfast by the Continuity IRA, although the codeword used was not a recognised one used by the group which was responsible for Ulster's worst single atrocity - the bomb in Omagh last year which killed 29 people

Sue Ellen, managing director of United Racecourses, said the security alert had been sparked by a call using a recognised code word.

"We received a message from the police just before the King George VI steeplechase and they told us they had received a call warning there was a car bomb at Kempton Park.

"We had to decide whether we thought this was real or whether it was a hoax but if there was a device it was not due to go off for a period of time.

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said: "We received a threatening call at 13.48pm.

"We conducted a number of inquiries and as a result the management took the decision to close the course."

"If we had been told it would be 10 or 15 minute before the device was due to go off we would have come to a different outcome.

"Weighing up all the circumstances we felt we had time to get people away in an orderly fashion with their cars."

It is not the first time that a big horse racing meeting has been abandoned in similar circumstances.

The world's most gruelling steeplechase, the Grand National, was postponed two days in March of 1997 and some 70,000 spectactors were evacuated from the Aintree racecouse after police received a coded alert that explosive devices had been planted in the stands.

An inspection of the course will be held at 7.45 am tomorrow before a decision is taken on reconvening today's meeting

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