Controlled explosion after Leith flats evacuation

The controlled explosion of the suspect package on Leith Links. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The controlled explosion of the suspect package on Leith Links. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Stunned residents have told of their shock after their tower block was evacuated in a terror scare – which ended with army experts carrying out a controlled explosion

In a day of high drama, swarms of police descended on Persevere Court, Leith, to force stunned residents out of the block into safe muster points.

Those at neighbouring properties were told to stay away from their windows.

Army bomb disposal experts then carried out a controlled explosion on nearby Leith Links to destroy an unspecified substance that had been taken away from a flat. One witness described the bang “as loud as the One o’Clock Gun going off” as it was destroyed.

The Evening News understands the army team built an igloo-type structure out of sandbags to dampen the blast.

The incident comes exactly a week after a Muirhouse block was evacuated to allow bomb disposal crews to investigate the discovery of “suspicious items”.

Yesterday’s tense and fast-moving events unfolded at lighting pace, ending with the carefully weighed explosion at 6pm. Police later confirmed “material” was removed from a flat following a “search conducted as part of an ongoing operation”, but stressed that there is no risk to the public.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “As part of an ongoing Police Scotland investigation in Edinburgh, officers within the Capital have conducted a further search of a separate address in Persevere Court. During this search, a number of local residents were asked to leave their homes as a precaution and to allow police and partner agencies to conduct a search of the property.”

Residents of the normally quiet spot have spoken of their shock. One said: “The police and bomb disposal team first arrived here last Friday about the same time as the incident was happening in Muirhouse. The police have been there since then, with officers standing guard outside a flat on the seventh floor.

“Suddenly the bomb disposal were back again and we all got told we would have to evacuate the building. It’s disturbing, very worrying. ”

Another resident said: “The police are not telling us anything about what’s going on. It’s normally so quiet here.”

While James Geddes, 33, an unemployed chef, who lives on the ninth floor of Persevere Court, said: “I got home about 2pm to find the street closed off and police were not letting anyone inside. I could see people in white forensic suits on a landing.

“When I arrived there was only the bomb disposal unit and one police car. Then more and more police cars and ambulances kept arriving and the cordoned area got bigger and bigger.

“The police said we could be kept out our homes for hours. I was told they were looking at setting up a place to give food and drink to residents at the library on McDonald Road or in Ocean Terminal.”

Josie Balfour, 33, was with husband Kris Cruickshank and 22-month-old daughter Elowen when she noticed a “large police presence” and a build-up of traffic at Persevere Court.

She added: “It was an unusually large section of road to close off, particularly on a Friday afternoon when people are heading home. There was a significant delay.”

Police sealed off North Leith Mill, which leads to Persevere Court from Commercial Street, as well as parts of adjoining Cromwell Street. A cordon also blocked off North Junction Street from Portland Place, next to the entrance with the Ocean Terminal shopping centre, and Great Junction Street.

Several police cars were lined up on Commercial Street alongside a trio of ambulance services vehicles. Army bomb disposal experts were seen coming and going from the tower block clad in blast suits and helmets. Officers were also spotted carrying probes understood to be used to test for the presence of chemicals.

n A 61-year-old man has been charged under the Explosives Substances Act after a tower block in Fidra Court, Edinburgh, was evacuated.