University's 'suspicious package' scare - Students sent home for day but buildings back open

PUBLISHED: 16:30 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 00:06 07 March 2019

Students have been evacuated from the University of Essex in Colchester  Picture: ED BRERETON

Students have been evacuated from the University of Essex in Colchester Picture: ED BRERETON

Ed Brereton

A police cordon has been lifted at the University of Essex after a "suspicious package" caused the evacuation of the main campus building.

Staff and students were evacuated following the discovery of a suspect package.  Picture: ED BRERETONStaff and students were evacuated following the discovery of a suspect package. Picture: ED BRERETON

Students and staff were told to leave the building and an 100m cordon was put in place after the discovery of the package, to which police were called to at around 11.50am.

The cordon has since lifted, and staff at the university say all buildings are now back open.

Last night it was unclear whether the incident at the Essex university was linked to a similar alert at Glasgow University yesterday.

Several buildings at the University of Glasgow were evacuated and nearby roads closed after the discovery on Wednesday morning and a controlled explosion was carried out on a device being investigated by Police Scotland counter-terrorism officers.

Last night, the force confirmed teams from Scotland and the Metropolitan Police were working closely together to share any information or intelligence.

It comes after packages arrived at London’s Waterloo railway station and offices at Heathrow and London City airports on Tuesday.

Journalism student at the University of Essex Rebecca Russell described the “crazy” moment people were told about the scare.

“It’s crazy. It really crowded outside of the university,” she said.

“We first saw there was a scare on the police Facebook page but we didn’t hear anything from the university.

“We have been told not to go back to the university to try and help with the crowding.”

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I only arrived at 3 o’clock and I couldn’t get to my lecture, this is all insane.

He added: “Turning up and hearing a helicopter at university isn’t normal.

“We all got an email telling us all timetabled lectures were cancelled, but the university is still open, so me coming in is a waste of time now.”

Lexa Olivera-Smith, a Spanish lecturer at the university, tweeted: “A bit scary this afternoon, I had to leave campus without my bag, borrowing cash from colleague.

“Thank goodness everyone was safe, thanks to swift action from uni staff and police.”

During the incident, First Essex confirmed that it had diverted its buses away from the university.

Its social media team tweeted: “Due to the evacuation of @Uni_of_Essex #Colchester, services 97, 98, 61, 62 & 75 will divert around the University via Clingoe Hill.

“More information will follow as it becomes available.”

University accommodation is outside the perimeter of the cordon, and all students who live on campus were told to make their way back to their halls of residence.

The students’ union club night was also cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

Representatives for the university tweeted: “All buildings at our Colchester campus are now open.

“If you’ve already made your way home, we’ll see you back on campus tomorrow.

“If not, you should now be able to access your offices and your belongings.

“All teaching events remain cancelled for today.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Following reports of a suspicious package at the University of Essex, we responded accordingly and swiftly, prioritising the safety of staff, students and the wider public whilst we determined the nature of what we were dealing with.

“We carried out numerous enquiries with partner specialist agencies and investigative work to determine whether the package was indeed suspicious. Thankfully it was determined not to pose any risk to the public.”

• Stay with us for more information on this developing story.

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