RIOT police armed with sub-machine guns stormed a city flat following a four-hour stand-off which was sparked when a knife-wielding man in a hockey mask confronted gas workers.
Witnesses told how a battalion of officers – wielding weapons, shields and battering rams – laid siege to the property in Dumbiedykes after the man became “aggressive” when gas engineers attempted to switch his supply to a pre-pay meter.
Neighbours said the strong fumes could be detected in the area but police denied reports the man had turned his flat’s gas supply up “full blast”.
Cordons marked an exclusion zone around Viewcraig Gardens, and residents were prevented from entering their properties during the stand-off.
It is understood the hostile man rejected the advances of negotiators attempting to resolve the dispute and could be seen pacing around the flat.
The heavy police response was thought to have been ordered amid concerns about the man’s emotional stability.
One resident, who declined to be named, said: “There was a gas van parked outside the flat with some engineers milling around, then within minutes there was a huge police presence with armed officers and guys in riot gear gathering outside.
“There were at least a dozen police vehicles which seems a bit over the top for an argument with the gas board. You wouldn’t see this kind of response in Marchmont for not letting the gas men in.”
Kris Williamson, 25, was one of several neighbours who watched yesterday afternoon’s drama, which ended with the man being led away police,
He said: “I live just one block of flats away and when the van from Scottish Gas arrived I was looking out my window and got a really strong smell of gas. My brother went down to investigate and you could smell gas coming from his house.
“I was speaking to the gas men afterwards and they said they had turned off the supply at the mains because the guy had switched gas on at his flat full blast.
“He apparently wouldn’t let them in to switch his gas supply to a pre-pay meter and
barricaded himself in the house.”
A Scottish Gas spokeswoman said: “Scottish Gas can confirm that it visited a property at Dumbiedykes to force fit a prepayment meter under warrant. Prepayment meters are fitted as an alternative to disconnection which means the outstanding balance can be repaid interest free.
“The occupier was aware that this was happening.”
A police spokesman said: “At 12.50pm, Scottish Gas workers requested assistance after being refused entry to a property to which they had a warrant to turn off the gas supply.
“Police and negotiators were on the scene and trying bring this incident towards a peaceful resolution.”