Police have stormed a bowling alley in Nuneaton where a gunman took two members of staff hostage on Sunday, bringing the incident to an end.
Mehdi Afshar, the chief executive of MFA Bowl, said that the gunman had been arrested around three hours after the incident began. He praised the police’s response. “I have been told by our operations director that the police have stormed the building and the individual has been arrested,” he told the BBC. “A big thank you to the police who do a fantastic marvellous job. I am very relieved.”
Earlier, Warwickshire police’s Twitter account had warned people to stay away from the retail park in Nuneaton as reports of a hostage incident emerged.
A number of police cars were pictured on the scene. The West Midlands ambulance service said there had been no reported casualties.
An update posted later on the police force’s Facebook page told residents the incident was “unconnected to any terrorist activity”.
Afshar told Sky: “We understand that there is a gunman in the place and he is holding two of our staff as hostage.”
He said there had been no contact with the two members of staff, adding: “All our staff, the rest of our staff, are safe and they made sure that all the customers have left the premises so everybody is in safety, with the exception of the two people who we know are missing, and we assume that they are the two that are still inside the premises because the manageress has done the check but those two people are not accounted for.”
An eyewitness at the retail park, Liz, a 53-year-old school office manager who did not give her surname, told the Guardian: “The gunman appears to be pushing a hostage to the door with a gun to his head to collect paperwork from police negotiators who are trying to negotiate with them.
“We’d only been in Frankie & Benny’s [restaurant] five minutes when it kicked off and police told us to stay put. Within minutes we were surrounded.
“Armed police are on every corner and we’re all safe. It’s just not pleasant and someone might get hurt.”
Another eyewitness, 16-year-old student Eden James, said: “We just came to go to the cinema and were told we weren’t allowed in and that they were evacuating because someone’s got a shotgun in the bowling alley.
“The gunman has taken the manager and a boy hostage. The boy, who is tall, broad and is wearing a black T-shirt, keeps coming in and out to negotiate with the police [on behalf of the gunman]. But we’re not sure what his demands are because the police won’t let us close enough.
“There’s around 30 police cars, police dogs and a helicopter so it seems to be under control.
“The mood here is pretty cheerful because everyone who was in the car park has been given hospitality from Frankie and Benny’s.”
Sarah Fleming, a witness in a restaurant at the retail park, told Sky News reports of the incident had started to come through at about 3.30pm and she had been told the man was armed. “Police have advised us that there is a man with a shotgun and he does have hostages,” she said. “Everyone’s a little bit scared.”
Eyewitness accounts on the Coventry Telegraph website said a neighbouring soft play centre and cinema were on lockdown, with customers asked to stay inside. All roads into the area have been closed. Fleming said police were allowing some people parked in the part of the car park furthest from the bowling alley to leave.
Paul Edgington, a cinemagoer who said he was with two children, tweeted to the police: “I’m stuck in the cinema. Are we safe? How long are we expected to be locked down?”
West Midlands ambulance service said it had been called to the incident at 3.40pm. A spokesman said: “We currently have an ambulance, two paramedic officers, the hazardous area response team, and an emergency planning manager at the scene.”
The Warwickshire and Northamptonshire air ambulance was initially dispatched but has since left the scene.
The local MP, Marcus Jones, told Sky News it was an “extremely concerning situation”.