Police evacuated thousands of Christmas shoppers from London’s busy Regent Street amid reports of a suspicious, abandoned taxi at lunch time today.
There were reports of a suspicious vehicle in the alert near Hamley’s toy shop
Police closing off Regent Street due to suspicious vehicle pic.twitter.com/ilc3HKRSyf
— Gareth Bebb (@GarethBebb) December 22, 2015
However, it emerged that the driver had parked his vehicle outside the popular store so that he could go shopping with his family
The Mail Online reports:
One witness, who watched the scene unfold from a building above, described how the driver was ‘told off’ by police as he made his way back to the vehicle laden with bags before driving away.
Dave Dale-Beasleigh, 54, a senior electrician who worked on the Regent Street Christmas light display, was walking on the opposite side of the road to Hamleys when he spotted a police officer looking at two cabs parked outside the toy shop.
When he was asked to move from the street, Mr Dale-Beasleigh went inside the nearby light control centre. It was from there he watched the moment the driver returned to the scene, moments after a police officer smashed the back window – apparently to get a better look of the back seat.
‘A minute later around the corner comes the cabbie with his wife and his young child with a load of shopping,’ he said. ‘And he was told off! He was pulled to the side and he was told off.
‘I assume he just told someone it was his cab and they let him through. It was another police officer who was speaking to him.’
Mr Dale-Beasleigh said that while the child appeared to be a young girl, it was difficult to be sure.
The officer stood talking to the driver as his colleagues started to wind down the situation.
Mr Dale-Beasleigh added: ‘The interview with the cab owner finished and he drove off, minus a back window.’
Mr Dale-Beasleigh also described how he was just feet away when he saw the first officer looking at the vehicles.
He said: ‘The officer was quite interested in the two cabs, they were sitting there for quite a while.
‘Next thing I know there is more police. About three cars and about four vans that I could see that were in sight.
‘Police officers started saying, “no you can’t walk down that way” and that they were blocking the road. A policewoman said “you can evacuate the area or go into one of the buildings”.’
Witnesses said some customers were told to stay inside shops and away from windows as specialists examined the car, which was parked at a taxi rank.
Mr Dale-Beasleigh, who lives in Canterbury, Kent, found himself outside the control centre for the Christmas lights and walked up so that he had a ‘bird’s eye view’ as the drama unfolded.
He said: ‘They had put up the tape. A police officer walked down towards Hamleys and said “out of the area, out of the area”. All the buildings were being evacuated.
‘And that was it, the street was empty.’
Early reports of the closure suggested the windows of the vehicles had been ‘shot out’. A photo also emerged showing what appeared to be bullet holes in the glass.
But Mr Dale-Beasleigh said he watched as an officer who was examining the car took out ‘a little tool’ from his pocket that he used to strike the back window, apparently to take a better look.
He said: ‘Basically he smashed that, the alarm of the cab went off. I couldn’t see what he was looking at but he looked in the back seat. He was there for a few minutes.’
Apparently satisfied with what he saw, Mr Dale-Beasleigh said the officer ‘gave a sign that everything was okay’. It was then the taxi driver walked back towards his vehicle.
The cordon remained in place for just under an hour, until it was removed shortly before 2pm. The Metropolitan Police have since declared the area safe and have reopened Regent Street.
The incident highlights the state of alert in place across Britain, more than a month after 130 people lost their lives in a wave of terror attacks across Paris.