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Heavens above! Romford priest in bomb scare

PUBLISHED: 17:30 05 September 2011

Emergency crews outside the St Andrew's Church rectory in London Road, Romford

Emergency crews outside the St Andrew's Church rectory in London Road, Romford

A retiring priest was lucky not to go out with a bang after discovering a mysterious explosives package in his garage today

Father John-Francis, 65, of St Andrew’s Church in Romford, had been clearing out his garage when he uncovered the ominous black cylinder marked ‘explosive fuze’ just after 12pm.

The priest, who had been preparing to move house, was shocked to find the 8inch cylinder hidden under an old bench.

Careful not to touch the potentially-lethal package, Father John-Francis quickly called the police, sparking an operation involving dozens of officers, sniffer dogs, an army bomb disposal unit and paramedics and fire crews on standby.

The rectory in London Road and surrounding St Andrews Road and Eastbury Road were closed for just over an hour while experts worked on the package.

But the priest’s prayers were answered when it turned out the cylinder simply contained some old packaging.

Father John-Francis, who moved to the church ten years ago, told the Recorder: “It’s the last thing you expect to find when clearing out your garage.

“It was light but you don’t want to open up that sort of thing in case it goes ‘bang.’ You don’t want to blow up yourself and half of Romford. But then a part of me did wonder if it was empty.”

The priest, who is moving to south east London, said: “Half of the Romford force was there!

“The bomb disposal man said ‘step away sir.’ He lightly shook it and just opened it up.

Father John-Francis added: “It’s better to be safe than sorry. And the police did say they get the odd unexploded bomb and who wants to take the risk.

“It bought a bit of spice to west Romford on a dreary Monday afternoon.”

The priest, who retires later this month, said he was sorry to be leaving Romford and gave a big thank-you to all his parishioners.

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