Second Cambridge bomb hoax hits Clare College

Michael Yoganayagam, Associate News Editor 16 May 2012

All three sites of Clare College had to be evacuated this morning after a bomb scare similar to one which forced the evacuation of the New Museums site yesterday afternoon.

Clare College’s Old Court on Trinity Lane, Memorial Court on Queen’s Road, and Colony on Chesterton Lane were all evacuated at around 11am this morning, after the University Security Control Centre (USCC) received “email traffic indicating a security threat to both Clare College and Hughes Hall”. The USCC is part of the University’s Estate Management unit, providing “a 24 hour operation that monitors security across the estate”.

Security staff, assisted by the police and college porters, conducted a full security sweep of all sites, while students and staff in Old Court assembled in the picturesque Fellows’ Garden. Residents of Clare Colony were evacuated to Jesus Green, with some students bringing books with them for a few minutes of revision in the sun.

Students and staff were let back back into college from 11.15am, after it emerged the scare was indeed all a hoax. In an email to the College community from College Steward Mick Petty, he wrote: “Although similar threats against other colleges and universities had proved to be a hoax, we were rightly advised to treat the warning as a real threat.”

The incident comes after around 30 people had to be evacuated from the north half of the New Museums site at around 2pm yesterday afternoon, following reports of a possible bomb threat. The  buildings evacuated included the offices of the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), Varsity and The Cambridge Student, as well as the Godwin Laboratory of the Department of Earth Sciences and the University’s Photography and Illustration Service.

A police search found the threat to be a hoax, and academics and staff were able to return to work just before 3.30pm.

These hoaxes mimic similar bomb hoaxes at five other English universities last month. On Monday 23 April, the Universities of Durham, Bristol, Leicester, Essex and Sussex all received email threats regarding explosive devices. The email to Bristol read:  “Two small bombs are hidden in Wills and Durdham Halls. They will explode later today. Take this warning very, very seriously.” All these incidents turned out to be hoaxes, and police are investigating their source.

Later that same week, Cambridgeshire resident Robert Baker, 28, was sentenced to a two-year hospital supervision order with a suspended nine-month prison sentence, after leaving a fake bomb in a microwave in his office building on East Road, Cambridge, on 26 September last year. The scare led to a mass evacuation of the area, including of Anglia Ruskin University. The sinister-looking device is said to have been made out of a drinks bottle, copper piping and coins, with a timer glued to the microwave. There has been speculation regarding Baker’s mental health, as well as another line of enquiry suggesting his were the actions of a disgruntled employee.

Michael Yoganayagam, Associate News Editor