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'One of the weirdest Sundays': People return home after military grenades and chemicals discovery

PUBLISHED: 11:54 29 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:52 31 July 2019

Police officers at a cordon on Normanshurst Close in Lowestoft on Monday, July 29. PHOTO: Reece Hanson

Police officers at a cordon on Normanshurst Close in Lowestoft on Monday, July 29. PHOTO: Reece Hanson

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Shocked and scared residents continue to await answers after 60 homes were evacuated upon the discovery of military grenades and unidentified chemicals.

A reduced cordon remains in place on Normanshurst Close in Lowestoft on Monday, July 29. PHOTO: Reece HansonA reduced cordon remains in place on Normanshurst Close in Lowestoft on Monday, July 29. PHOTO: Reece Hanson

Acting on a pre-planned warrant shortly before 1pm on Sunday, July 28, emergency services rushed to a terraced home on Normanshurst Close, where a search uncovered "a quantity of unidentified chemicals and two military grenades inside," a spokesperson for Suffolk Police said.

Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers joined police and Suffolk Fire and Rescue teams at the scene.

A man in his 50s remains in police custody after being arrested at the scene on suspicion of possession of a firearm.

While police enquiries are continuing, many residents were able to return to their homes shortly before midnight.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "It was one of the weirdest Sundays I've ever had. A nice police officer knocked on the door and read from a script about how we needed to leave. They couldn't tell us why, just that we had to get out.

"It is my elderly neighbours I feel sorry for. One of them lost her husband just a few days ago, and then this happened and she wasn't allowed in her home. It was all just such a shock."

A grandmother, who had been evacuated overnight, said the day had been "frightening."

She said: "It was all a bit of a muchness really. My daughter was here visiting and she answered the door to the police. Her initial thought was that it was going to be for one of her children.

A bomb disposal van remains on Normanshurst Close in Lowestoft on Monday, July 29. PHOTO: Reece HansonA bomb disposal van remains on Normanshurst Close in Lowestoft on Monday, July 29. PHOTO: Reece Hanson

"They told her we had to get out the house as quickly as possible, so we grabbed whatever we could and had to assemble at the cordon, but none of us seemed to know what was going on. It was really frightening."

While some families were away from their homes during the search, many others were evacuated, initially beyond a 100 metre cordon, before being told they would not be allowed to return inside throughout the night.

An evacuation centre was established at Waterlane Leisure Centre, although others sought refuge at the Norman Warrior pub on Fir Lane, which also had dozens of homes evacuated.

Although the cordon was reduced shortly before midnight, many families had already made alternative arrangements and were already asleep when the update came.

The scene of the evacuation in Lowestoft. Photo: Mick HowesThe scene of the evacuation in Lowestoft. Photo: Mick Howes

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "They read this statement that they had found some items that caused concern, but they didn't tell us initially that we had to evacuate for 24 hours.

"We all congregated at the end of the road, but none of us really knew what was going on, then they said we couldn't go back and sent everyone to the leisure centre.

"I was thinking about how I was supposed to get to work. Luckily we had friends nearby so we turned it into a bit of a barbecue night with a bit of blitz spirit.

"When we were all asleep my mum found out we could go back, so she was here early this morning before work and we came later."

The scene of the evacuation in Lowestoft. Photo: Mick HowesThe scene of the evacuation in Lowestoft. Photo: Mick Howes

The cordon remained in place overnight on the property where the items were discovered, while residents in three neighbouring homes remained unable to return to their homes this morning.

A spokesperson for Suffolk Police said: "Steps were taken in the interests of public safety to establish the cordon and officers thank local residents for their patience and understanding during the course of the afternoon and evening."

Another resident, who also wished not to be named, said: "At first we thought the police had pulled over a driver, because there seemed to be four of their cars and vans around one car.

"Then they started looking around before they came knocking on everyone's door. We thought they must have been doing door-to-door enquiries to find out information, but they told us we had to leave.

The scene of the evacuation in Lowestoft. Photo: Mick HowesThe scene of the evacuation in Lowestoft. Photo: Mick Howes

"It was shocking really, and I was scared for my kids. You just don't expect to see so much police in your street."

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