Riot police ‘justified’ as church roof man escapes

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Police have defended the use of riot officers to search for a man who climbed on to a city church roof next door to a ­primary school.

Despite around 20 officers and a specialist fire and rescue height vehicle being scrambled to the scene at Lorne Street, police couldn’t trace the man.

Riot police exit the church. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

Riot police exit the church. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

Yesterday’s drama unfolded after a concerned member of the public alerted police to a man causing a disturbance on the roof of St Paul’s Church.

Officers arrived at around 6.15am and cordoned off the area before more than ten riot police armed with shields searched the building with torches.

But the incident was scaled down just before 11am, when it emerged that the man had evaded police.

Police said their response was “appropriate” due to the height of the building which sits in an area where many people live.

Police are are St Paul's Church. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

Police are are St Paul's Church. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

This echoed an incident in October, when riot teams and a helicopter were called to Cockburn Street to trace two men suspected of stealing a motorbike.

Last night a police spokeswoman said: “Where there is the potential for violence or other risks to police and the general public, specialist resources will be brought into manage and resolve ­situations using the minimum of force and for the safety of all involved.

“Our focus is always to keep people safe, and given the dynamic situation officers were presented with, the response was considered appropriate.”

Parents bringing their children to nearby Lorne Primary were shocked to find emergency services blocking the street.

The street has been locked down. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

The street has been locked down. Picture: Kaye Nicolson

The incident happened just days after an unrelated break-in at the school. Several laptops and a small amount of cash were stolen.

Head teacher Colin McLean said the school had gathered pupils in the hall yesterday before they resumed lessons.

Parents received text messages from the school office mid-morning to reassure them their children were safe. ­Jacqui Conrad, whose ten-year-old son Caleb is in primary six, said she felt sick at the thought of a police incident so close to the school.

The 50-year-old said: “I couldn’t get there quick enough. I wanted to make sure the children were OK. I think police should be reassuring parents.”

Lorne Street resident Sharon Henderson, 44, whose children Devin, ten, and Kera, six, attend the school, said: “An officer told me that there was somebody stealing slates off the roof. I thought that [kind of reaction] was quite extreme. It’s frightening because the school is right there.”

St Paul’s has not operated as a church for some time, however it is understood it has been used to store furniture in recent years.

The man’s motives for climbing on the roof remain unclear.