COMPONENTS of a ‘suspicious device’ were discovered by workers at a student halls of residence sparking a police alert and controlled explosion of the material.
Hundreds of University of Portsmouth students were evacuated from Catherine House, in Stanhope Road, when police and bomb disposal were called to the city centre site at 4.18pm on Thursday.
A 20-year-old, from East Sussex, was last night being questioned on suspicion of knowingly having in his possession or under his control an explosive substance under such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable suspicion under the Explosives Act 1883 after being arrested on Thursday.
No-one was injured and students were allowed back in after a six-hour wait.
Detectives from Fratton station were leading the investigation after bomb disposal experts took the seized the items and carried out a controlled explosion in nearby Victoria Park on Thursday.
A 22-year-old biology student, who lives in the block, said police had refused to say what was going on.
‘The fire alarm went off and I looked outside to see if it was a fake and there were loads of people outside and everyone was rushing out,’ he said.
‘The police were saying “make your way as far away from the area as possible”. ‘I saw the bomb disposal outside. It was crazy.’
Police released few details about the incident but a University of Portsmouth spokeswoman said it was working to ‘offer every support’ to police.
‘There is not believed to be any ongoing threat but the welfare and wellbeing of our students is our utmost priority and we are offering support to students who may have concerns,’ she said.
The News understands workers from the Student Housing Company discovered the materials in a bedroom and raised the alarm with police.
Michelle Miles, operations manager at Catherine House, said: ‘The diligence of our team brought this matter to the attention of the police and in light of this being an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further. Our focus at this time is on supporting those concerned by the incident be that residents, our neighbours or indeed parents.’
A first year accounting and finance student, who asked not to be named, said she returned to the block from Gunwharf Quays to find the building evacuated.
The 20-year-old said: ‘Police officers were talking to other students saying how there’s a bomb inside. That’s what I heard, that there was a bomb and the bomb disposal team was inside.’