Norwich street sealed off as father finds explosive shell in back garden

A Norwich street was sealed off and neighbours evacuated last night after a father-of-two discovered a highly explosive shell in his back garden.

Michael Beel was creating a sunken garden when he unearthed the early Second World War shell, and almost hit it with his spade.

Experts later revealed that it could have exploded had he hit the detonator.

The butcher, who works at nearby Morrisons, called the police soon after 4.15pm who cordoned off the road and told other residents to stay in their homes as they waited for the scene to be made safe.

A bomb disposal unit rushed from Colchester to deal with the incident at the semi-detached bungalow on Hercules Road.

The shell was carefully lifted into a van as nearby residents watched from a safe distance. A police convoy then escorted the bomb disposal unit and the shell to The Royal Norwich Golf Club, where staff had agreed to let the shell be destroyed in a controlled explosion on open expanse of the golf practice range.

Mr Beel, who was allowed to travel with the police to watch the explosion, said: 'I was trying to dig a sunken garden when suddenly this shell came out. I initially thought nothing of it. It wasn't until something started leaking out of the end that I thought I better ring somebody.'

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After police arrived on the scene Mr Beel retreated to his in-laws as officers dealt with the incident.

He added: 'I went with the police to see it detonated. I was not allowed to look directly at it, but it was really loud when it went off.'

Motor parts van driver Kim Leggett, who lives on Hercules Road, watched the drama unfold with her family.

The 43-year-old said: 'At first I just thought it was an accident when the police patrol car drove up here but then the police came round and told us to stay indoors.

'We don't see things like this happening around here very often. This is usually such a quiet neighbourhood - but it was exciting.'

Elsewhere in the street, people peered out from their windows or stepped out into their porches to see if they could catch a glimpse of the bomb being removed.

One lady living close to the house said 'we were all wondering what was going on. Then the police said there had been an incident. There wasn't really anything we could do but stay inside and hope it didn't not go off.'

The bomb disposal team arrived at the house at 5:30pm where they x-rayed the shell and secured it in a container before taking it to the Royal Norwich Golf club.

Captain Tom Agius of the 11 Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit said: 'The bomb was designed to explode by impact. If he had hit the end of it it could have been a different story.'

He confirmed that the shell was a highly-corroded Second World War explosive.

Captain Agius said that it was not safe to attempt to destroy it in the garden because of the proximity to people and homes and the police arranged for them to go to the golf course because it was a secure location for a controlled explosion.

Golf club services assistant Sue Heeles said: 'When the police called, I thought it was a late April Fool's joke but then I realised it was true and the police needed a big open space to detonate the shell, so the manager arranged for them to use the practice range.'