WI group baffled by 'bomb on bus' claim

GOOD food, sightseeing and a cruise on Seine were high on the agenda when a Women's Institute group from Suffolk organised a special coach trip to France.

GOOD food, sightseeing and a cruise on Seine were high on the agenda when a Women's Institute group from Suffolk organised a special coach trip to France.

Being stopped by French police for allegedly carrying explosives most certainly wasn't.

The bizarre scenario unfolded as the group of women, some nearly 90 years old, attempted to leave France after their short break, in which they had also toured the Palace of Versailles.

As their coach pulled up in Calais, French police claimed they had detected a bomb on board.


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The baffled women, from the Suffolk West Federation of the WI, were then searched by sniffer dogs and refused entry on to the Channel Tunnel for almost an hour.

Speaking about the episode, executive member Jill Gooch described the incident as perturbing for members.

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She said: “When the police said they were searching for explosives, it was quite scary. We had just arrived at the tunnel expecting to get on when the French police came out and said they had detected an explosive device on the coach.

“After about ten minutes, they scanned the coach again and said they still detected a device.

“A few of us were joking about it at first and then we realised it might be serious. We did begin to get a little bit concerned although in our hearts we knew they wouldn't find anything.”

The members were said to be in high spirits after an enjoyable weekend in Paris last week to celebrate their 85th anniversary.

But the stunned women were then told the vehicle check at the Port of Calais had tested positive for an explosive substance.

Authorities probed the women's luggage before a German shepherd dog was let on board.

“Discussions were going with the police and then they got a German shepherd who was sniffing around outside the bus and then they brought him on board,” added Mrs Gooch.

“He sniffed around all the ladies but I think he was more interested in their sandwiches.”

Now the women are convinced they were victims of a French training exercise – although admitting the real reason for the disturbance would never be known.

“We couldn't understand why, if they thought there was a bomb on board, they didn't get us off the bus,” Mrs Gooch said.

“We now feel it was some kind of training exercise. We totally support having these tests for terrorism but we would have liked to have known about it.”

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