A MAN became locked in a near-three hour siege with riot police.

Paul Saunders barricaded himself and two dogs inside the flat in Hillside, Moulsecoomb, until officers broke down the door and arrested him yesterday afternoon.

Police said they had received threats to blow up the gas main during a domestic dispute.

Neighbours, including elderly residents, families and students, were evacuated from their homes for nearly three hours as two riot vans, three police cars and about 20 officers worked to resolve the situation.

Firefighters from Preston Circus were called to assist and engineers from Southern Gas Networks and UK Power Networks helped to cut off the gas supply.

Officers in riot helmets and shields took nearly ten minutes to knock down the PVC front door. After five minutes using an orange battering ram, officers resorted to a crow bar to force open the door.

Mr Saunders was escorted out of the house, flanked by officers, and into the back of a police van.

The dogs, known by neighbours as Cocoa and Elvis – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier - were unharmed and later reunited with a female occupant of the flat.

A neighbour said: “It was quite scary. You weren’t sure if you should believe it but then the police and gas people arrived. We had to wait out in the cold for some time but I’m glad it was all resolved safely.”

Another neighbour said: “I think it was overkill to have all these police here. If there had been a serious danger the whole street would have been cordoned off and completely evacuated.”

A police spokesman said: “Officers went to an address in Hillside at 12.20pm on Sunday after concern had been reported for the safety of a woman living there. The woman had left the address safely before police arrived and was attended to by paramedics. She did not go to hospital.

“Officers made contact with a 52-year old man, who was the only person then inside the address, to try and ensure that he remained safe, and to resolve the situation without any harm to anyone. He was making threats to cause damage and violence, including threats to cause a gas ignition.

“Residents temporarily left several immediately adjacent addresses at the request of police, purely as a precaution. The immediate area was secured and the precautions ensured there was no danger to the public.

“At 4pm officers forced entry into the address and arrested the man on suspicion of assault causing actual bodily harm. Nobody was injured during the arrest. The man is currently in custody for interview and further enquiries.”

Sgt Ned Edwards posted this picture of the door to the house after officers smashed their way in on Twitter this morning. 

He said:

 

 

Police brand siege a ‘minor incident’ and try to withhold details from press

EAST Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Sussex Police initially refused to provide The Argus with any details of the major ongoing incident.

Spokespeople at the fire control and force control rooms withheld basic details such as the location, saying they had been told not to give away any information by their superiors.

Despite an inspector being at the scene, a Sussex Police spokesman blamed their attendance on staff shortages, telling a reporter the incident was minor and “nothing for the press to worry about.”

Later that afternoon – after the arrest was made - the police released a statement in which inspector Rachel Glenton said: “This was a potentially serious incident which was safely and professionally resolved by our officers, working with the other emergency services. We were also grateful for the co-operation of the nearby residents whose lives were temporarily disrupted.”

A 20-year-old neighbour, and Brighton University student, was evacuated from her house with the rest of her flat mates.

She said: “I’m shocked the police initially were saying this wasn’t a major incident. It was a big deal. We were scared that our lives were in danger and the house could get blown up. We were evacuated from the house but the police wouldn’t tell us anything. We all had deadlines to meet and work to do but we had to go to a friend’s house for a while to be in safety.”