TERRIFIED workers have told how armed police stormed a shopping complex amid fears a woman was being held hostage.
Around 20 officers burst into Cameron Toll Shopping Centre and ordered the venue to be locked down before sweeping through each store in a well-drilled manhunt. It is claimed they were reacting to reports a woman was being held at knifepoint in a back storeroom inside one of the outlets.
Other witnesses spoke of reports a man had been prowling the shopping centre with a blade.
The drama unfolded at 3.30pm yesterday, leaving panicked shoppers stunned as police swarmed the building, blocked the exits and prevented anyone from leaving.
Forty minutes into the ordeal, some customers were allowed to make their way outside, but there were reports men were being searched as they left.
Within an hour, shops had reopened amid confusion about what sparked the police raid.
One shopworker, who asked not to be named, said: “The whole centre went into lockdown with police going from shop to shop searching every corridor and back storage area.
“We heard that a woman had phoned through to the shopping centre saying she was being held hostage in the back of one of the shops but didn’t say which one.
“It seems like it was a false alarm but shoppers were being kept inside and men were being searched by police as they were leaving the shopping centre.”
‘Tasers and guns’
Another employee gave a similar account. “We heard it was some sort of call about a woman in a shop being held hostage,” they said. “Loads of police came in with tasers and guns. No-one was allowed in or out for about 30 to 40 minutes. We saw people being allowed to leave later on but they were being searched first.”
Police said they found no evidence of criminal activity and have called for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh responded to the Cameron Toll Shopping Centre at around 3.30pm on Wednesday following a report that a female had been threatened with a weapon within a shop. As is standard procedure, armed response officers attended and a search of the centre was carried out. Stores were closed for a short time during these searches and customers assisted officers with their inquiries.
“No criminal activity was observed and no-one came forward to report being threatened. Inquiries are ongoing into the full circumstances surrounding this incident and anyone who can assist police is asked to come forward.
“Members of the public who were shopping within Cameron Toll are thanked for their assistance and co-operation.”
A spokesman for Cameron Toll Shopping Centre said: “We are working with police and helping with their inquiries.”
Tweets from the scene
Mark O’Neill: “HOSTAGE SITUATION IN CAMERON TOLL.”
StevenWrighty-Wright: “Apparently cameron toll has been locked in and there’s armed police heading in #scenes.”
Jade Crawford: “Just casual day with armed police running into Cameron toll and shutting it down.”
Alan Mc: “Armed police at cameron toll, no one allowed to enter or leave the centre.”
Megan: “Whole of Cameron toll is in “lock down” and nobody’s allowed to leave, no idea what’s happening”
Stephen Watson: “I’m clearly at the start of a horror film”
Martin Cunningham: “Police everywhere”