Panic pulsed through London’s bustling West End today as a man who claimed to have gas canisters strapped to his body stormed an office building on one of the city’s busiest roads, threatening to blow himself up.
The man, believed to be Michael Green, 50, was arrested after a three-hour standoff at Shropshire House on Tottenham Court Road, which began just after midday.
Computers, office equipment, and even a filing cabinet were photographed being thrown out of the upper floor windows.
The building is the office of a company called Advantage, which offers truck driving courses. The Independent reports police suggesting the suspect was thought to have a “grievance against the company;” according to The Evening Standard, he had failed his drivers’ test three times and wanted reimbursement.
Amid fears of a hostage situation, Tube stations were closed, the street cordoned off, and surrounding offices and shops were evacuated by police, including the headquarters of Huffington Post UK, which has been interviewing witnesses at the scene.
Abby Baafi, head of training at Advantage, the stricken company, told the news site that the attacker had held four people hostage:
“He just turned up, strapped up in gasoline, gasoline cylinders. Basically he threatened to blow up the offices. Says he doesn’t care about his life, doesn’t care about anything…He was specifically looking for me but I said ‘My name’s not Abby’ and he let me go.”
Other reports from witnesses:
Sarah O’Meara, a Huffington Post employee, said she had been alerted to evacuate by a woman shouting: “There is a guy with a bomb and he is threatening to blow himself up.”
Paul Smith, a University College London employee, told the Daily Mail:
“I looked the window and I saw people chucking computer screens, boxes and paper out of the window. Apparently this man was holding staff hostage and making them do this. I could see from their faces they didn’t look happy about it.”
Richard Webb, who works at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, described the scene: “I saw the SWAT team going in and four people coming out with their hands above their head.”
Some witnesses reported that as the suspect entered the office, he yelled: “I have nothing more to live for.”