Police appeal for information over Princes St Gardens ‘bomb’

ANTI-TERRORISM police are investigating after a suspicious package in Princes Street Gardens was found to be an “explosive device”.

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Officers guarding Princes St Gardens 6 weeks ago,

Officers guarding Princes St Gardens 6 weeks ago,

Scottish Government ministers are being kept updated after tests confirmed the contents of a shoebox left in a public shelter posed a danger.

Initially thought to be an “elaborate hoax” when found on January 11, police have now said the contraption had the “potential to cause injury.”

Detective Chief Inspector Kenny Armstrong said: “I’m hoping that this further public appeal will encourage people with information – no matter how small – to come forward.

“I’d like to hear from anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in the immediate vicinity of the Gardens or who has information as to who may be responsible.”

Investigations have found that the package could have caused harm. Picture Jon Savage

Investigations have found that the package could have caused harm. Picture Jon Savage

Who left the package and why remains a mystery but a terrorism expert said it was unlikely to be part of any organised or sophisticated attack on the city.

“This seems odd at every level,” said Dr Tim Wilson of St Andrews University. “It doesn’t seem designed to cause any mass casualties.

“If you wished to do that, why would you target a shelter in Princes Street Gardens and not, say, the Royal Mile?

“It does suggest low capability and amateur abilities – it might possibly be a dummy run that went wrong somehow. Surely you wouldn’t leave this on purpose for forensics to crawl all over?”

A park ranger found the box and immediately called police – triggering emergency protocols.

Army bomb disposal experts from Craigiehall were scrambled and carried out a controlled detonation on the package about three hours after the alarm was first raised.

A “Gold” meeting of senior commanders decided to extend the parameters of the investigation and call in specialist support to conduct a sweep of the area. Counter-terrorism police were also brought in.

A trawl of CCTV to identify who left the package proved unsuccessful.

Officers said at the time no note was left with the package and no phone call warning was made to emergency services.

Passers-by were in the grounds at the time, but no evacuation was carried out.

The package – understood to contain wires and a battery – is still undergoing further tests but police refused to give further details about its contents and capability.

An “extensive” investigation is ongoing and more than a dozen detectives were in the park yesterday speaking to passers-by.

Insurance worker Gavin Brown, 40, said: “I’m not sure what more the police could have done apart from closing off all of Princes Street as well. Safety has to be the top priority. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

Chief Inspector David Robertson urged people to “remain vigilant, be alert not alarmed, and to report anything suspicious to police.”

Anyone with information can contact officers via 101 quoting incident number 1204 of February 21 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com