Bowls pensioners trigger bomb scare

When pensioners Gerry Baker and Ray Rudrum started laying a path at Dereham St Nicholas Bowls Club yesterday neither could have dreamt they were about to spark off a town centre bomb scare.

When pensioners Gerry Baker and Ray Rudrum started laying a path at Dereham St Nicholas Bowls Club yesterday neither could have dreamt they were about to spark off a town centre bomb scare.

At 10.30am, the bowls club members had an uneventful day planned putting down slabs ahead of last night's bingo evening.

Two hours later, police had cordoned off a 200m zone around the green and evacuated about 100 members of staff from the adjacent Breckland Business Centre as Army bomb squad officers were called.

Market day in Dereham took the dramatic twist after groundsman

Mr Baker, 78, hit five rusty cylinders with his shovel about an inch beneath the surface.

Mr Rudrum, 77, said: "Gerry just came round the corner and said to me, 'I think I have found some bombs.' I told him 'This is not the time for silly little jokes'.

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"But after having a closer look we decided that the safest thing to do would be to go to the police station and they decided to call in the bomb squad.

"It could have been very dangerous -

I was worried about the club and we did have a very tense moment."

After examining the items, bomb squad officers established they were safe and said they were most likely fire extinguishers from a second world war plane.

Mr Rudrum said: "I've been a member for more than 30 years and this has got to be the first really exciting thing that has happened, although I'm glad it's all worked out and tonight's bingo can go ahead as planned."

Mr Baker said: "I'll get back to laying the path tomorrow but I'll be keeping an eye out this time!"

The Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal Unit took the cylinders away for disposal at its base in Colchester just before 2.15pm when the exclusion zone was lifted.

The business centre has a wide variety of tenants, including Norfolk social services, Connexions, Keepsafe, Dereham Learning Station, Dereham Area Partnership and various small businesses. The car park was cleared and police tape sealed off the site.

The High Street is near the bowls green, but was unaffected and no shops had to be closed.

Staff Sgt Shaun Temple, of the Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal Unit, said: "We probably get called to about five to six jobs a week where there is suspected older ordnance like this, but you never know what to expect - sometimes it's a bit of pipe or a fire extinguisher and sometimes its an unexploded aircraft bomb."

Police spokesman Beth Manning said officers would always recommend people to report finds which were suspicious so experts could be called in to check them out.