S TAFF at a South Belfast service station were left “panicked” after hoax pipe bombs were discovered on the premises.Police and British Army technical experts closed part of the Upper Lisburn Road last Wednesday during a hunt for suspicious objects, after it was claimed devices had been left on a garage forecourt in the area.
Two objects were subsequently spotted attached to a cage containing gas cylinders by a member of staff at the Star filling station close to Finaghy crossroads, and the business was shut down, leading to the loss of thousands of pounds worth of trade.
A spokesperson for the station, which also includes a busy convenience store, said staff were forced to comb the premises after the terrifying warning from police that a device was believed to be in the area.
Another alert also forced road closures in the nearby Queensway area of Dunmurry, however that was also found to be a hoax.
“The PSNI alerted us to what was going on early that afternoon, and we immediately began looking to see if we were the station targeted,” a spokesperson said. “A staff member searching the forecourt spotted something untoward, and so we immediately rang the police back, and they came and closed the road while they investigated.
“Other staff members were panicking over this, as this is not something we have experienced here before. We feel lucky that it turned out to be a hoax and nothing more serious, but it was still an unsettling experience.
“We also had to shut the store from about 1.50pm and weren’t able to reopen for business until around 7pm that evening. This means we lost a few thousand in turnover, which can seriously affect any business simply trying to provide a service to the public.”
Balmoral SDLP Councillor Claire Hannah condemned the alert, which cops eventually labelled an “elaborate hoax”.
“This incident caused fear and disruption in our community, and should be condemned from all quarters.”