Lock-in at school after gunman suicide bid

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HUNDREDS of pupils were locked in their classrooms yesterday after a man with a gun threatened to commit suicide in a house opposite their school in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh.

Schoolchildren and staff were told to lock themselves in and stay away from windows after the man was reported to have a firearm just yards from the gates of Queensferry High School.

Police cordoned off the street and ordered staff to lock all pupils in the school and to stay away from windows in case shots were fired. Armed police rushed to the quiet neighbourhood at around 2pm before arresting the man.

The two-hour standoff saw all pedestrians and traffic fenced off as police officers tried to talk the gunman into handing himself over. Parents turning up to collect their children from school were turned away by police officers at checkpoints surrounding a half-mile radius of the gunman's house.

A local resident described how he watched from his living room as rifle-wielding police officers emerged from a van outside his house.

The elderly man said: "This is so unusual for South Queensferry. I was just sitting and noticed a van pull up on the pavement. Next thing I knew there were police officers jumping out of the back with rifles and pointing them on the house across the road. I had no idea what was going on.

"It was quite scary to see policemen with rifles around the place but you can't be too careful around the school."

Andrew Cook, 47, whose 16-year-old daughter was at the school during the incident, said he was pleased the school had a lock system which meant the children were safe inside.

"My daughter called me from her mobile to tell me the police had arrived and that they were being kept inside. She sounded calm as were her peers because the teachers hadn't told them what was happening so nobody was worrying."

Councillor George Grubb, whose Queensferry ward covers the school, said: "I was very shocked when the police told me what had happened because it's not the kind of area you expect armed people. All the houses round the school are good so it is very upsetting to hear that this has happened."

"Any armed incident has to be deplored. The police response, however, was to be expected because of the damage he could have caused with the gun. It was far safer to keep the children inside the school. When you are dealing with a deranged man anything could happen and we all have the memories of Dunblane."

The incident echoed a similar stand-off just 24 hours earlier, which saw police officers use plastic bullets to shoot a man who was allegedly brandishing an air rifle in West Linton, Peebleshire.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "There were reports of a male in a house directly opposite the school carrying a gun. We advised staff to lock the school doors and to avoid going near windows. An armed response unit was called in as a standard procedure to a firearms incident."

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