A retired police officer has told of the moment he discovered an incendiary device in a shopping centre toilet cubicle.
As Preston city centre returned to business as usual yesterday, Glenn White explained how he found a device in the Fishergate Shopping Centre, sparking a major evacuation and a nine-hour lock-down on Thursday.
The 57-year-old called security, who dealt with the issue, before he became stuck in a lift for two hours, while everyone else was led from the building.
Glenn, who lives in Hoghton, had been in the centre with his wife Kay, running their Strictly Cupcakes pop-up stall.
He said: “We got there about 8.30am and started setting up.
“It got to about 8.55am and I said to Kay, ‘Before we start business I’ll go to the loo.’”
Glenn said, as he headed towards a cubicle, he could see “flickering”, and realised something was on fire.
He initially tried to put out the flames himself, before contacting a member of staff who extinguished the device.
He said: “That was it, as far as I was concerned. They extinguished it quickly; if they hadn’t it could have caused quite a bit of damage.
“At that stage, I said ‘I’m going to go back up and carry on setting the stall up’, because I just thought it was a prank.
“It was only later I realised there was something amiss.”
He added: “I’m just glad we managed to sort it fairly quickly.
Just before the alarm sounded for the building to be evacuated, Glenn became stuck in a service lift in the shopping centre, “just to round it off”.
He was carrying empty boxes down to the service yard but the lift got stuck on his way back up.
He said: “I was there for two hours.
“I heard the alarms going off and one of the members of staff came, he was talking through the shaft and said they had got hold of the lift people and they were about 45 minutes away.
“In the meantime the place was evacuated.”
He said he “wasn’t frightened”, but said: “Two hours later they got me out. I was more miffed by the fact I was stuck there and I was supposed to be working on the stall, but the centre didn’t open again.
“It was cold and I only had my shirt and jeans on, that was the only thing I was miffed about. It was just one of those days.”
The shopping centre went back to normal opening yesterday.
Lancashire police have arrested a man in connection with Thursday’s incident. He was taken into custody and was being held on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.
Speaking yesterday, Keith Mitchell, Fishergate Shopping Centre manager, said: “We’re now trading normally, thanks to a great team effort by everyone here at the Fishergate Shopping Centre.
“We’ve had a really busy day – people are delighted we’re back up and running and are once again enjoying our festive shopping experience.
“Everyone at the centre is looking forward to the rest of the Christmas period, which promises to be a fantastic time for us.
“Our staff have been tremendous and our customers have shown wonderful understanding and patience.
“There’s a great Christmas spirit in Preston and the way everyone has responded has underlined that. Our thanks again to everyone for the support they’ve shown.”