Suspect device called in by former war veteran

UPDATE: The suspect device left at the door of a Wilsonton Heights bottle shop that sparked a mass evacuation of the area was called in by a former soldier.

Now a delivery driver, the man is understood to have completed tours of Afghanistan with Australian armed forces and had experience in recognising incendiary devices from his combat years.

He and a worker from the Friendly Grocer spotted the yellow plastic container wrapped in duct tape on the ground between an ATM and the grocery store.

They alerted police to the device about 5.20am, sparking a mass evacuation and a lockdown of the area that lasted more than four hours.

Darling Downs Inspector Mike Curtin said police deemed the item "suspicious" on sight, triggering the mass evacuation.

A member of Explosive Ordnance Response Team (bomb squad) at the shopping centre at the centre of an incident in Hogg St, Wilsonton Heights which caused police to declare an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act after a suspicious device was found.
A member of Explosive Ordnance Response Team (bomb squad) at the shopping centre at the centre of an incident in Hogg St, Wilsonton Heights which caused police to declare an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act after a suspicious device was found. Kevin Farmer

A Brisbane-based bomb squad assessed the situation and had the scene secured by 9.45am.  

Criminal Investigation Branch detectives will review any CCTV footage from the business premises to determine where it came from and whether there were any malicious intentions behind it.

Insp. Curtin said it was too early to tell where investigations would lead but police made no apologies for the four-and-a-half hour lockdown.

"It's hard to say if it was maliciously made (and) we will look at that," Insp. Curtin said.

"We may find in due course that it may have something to do or (be) linked to a particular trade.

"But it was definitely suspicious in nature and its appearance, and we treated it accordingly."

The suspicious device that caused a lock down in Wilsonton Heights. Photo Win News
The suspicious device that caused a lock down in Wilsonton Heights. Photo Win News Win News

Police confirmed they had received no threatening phone calls or intelligence to suggest a bombing would occur.

"The device was definitely of an explosive type nature in its appearance," Insp. Curtin said.

"It consisted of a chamois container and a number of protruding elements from that, and it was duct taped up.

"(Specialist officers) have neutralised the device (and) declared it safe."

Insp. Curtin said it was concerning how long the device sat at the shopfront without it being reported to police, suggesting had it been an incendiary device the outcome could have been devastating.

He said early inquiries had determined the device had been left at the shop since Monday afternoon.

"We would like for people to contact us if we do see these things," he said.

"Other people may have seen these items and not considered them suspicious in nature and that's fine, but ... the Queensland Police Service would rather be safe than sorry."

Homes in the immediate vicinity of the shopping centre were evacuated, along with the Goodstart Child Care centre which backs onto the rear of the shops.

Darling Downs District Inspector Mike Curtin talks to media at the shopping centre at the centre of an incident in Hogg St, Wilsonton Heights which caused police to declare an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act after a suspicious device was found, Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle
Darling Downs District Inspector Mike Curtin talks to media at the shopping centre at the centre of an incident in Hogg St, Wilsonton Heights which caused police to declare an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act after a suspicious device was found, Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle Kevin Farmer

Insp. Curtin said police had handled the situation well and had kept the community's safety at the front of operations.

"It turned out to be a non-event, so to speak, but we must treat these things carefully and we must ensure the community safety is maintained," he said.

"This is just another example of where the utmost care was taken and precautions put in place."

11.30AM: Police are yet to determine if the suspicious device found outside a Wilsonton Heights shopping centre was made to cause fear in the community.

Darling Downs Police Inspector Mike Curtin said investigations were beginning to determine why the device was left at the scene, and where it came from.

He described the device as a chamois container with "a number of protruding elements" that was wrapped in duct tape and located at the front of a liquor store at the centre at the corner of Hogg and Tor Sts.

"So it was quite suspicious, the nature of the device, and we had to treat it so accordingly and as a result, we attended to have our specialist people arrive at the scene," he said.

"It is hard to say if it was maliciously made.

"We will look at that.

"We have made some inquiries and ascertained the device was there late yesterday afternoon and only reported to police early this morning."

Police incident Wilsonton Heights, Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle
Police incident Wilsonton Heights, Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle Kevin Farmer

He said the response from police and specialist officers was warranted due to the location and appearance of the device.

He said the Toowoomba Criminal Investigation Branch would take over investigations into what the item was and determine if it was an explosive device.

He said those investigations were in the early stages.

"We may find in due course that it may be something … linked to a particular trade," Insp. Curtin said.

"But it was definitely suspicious in nature in its appearance and we treated it accordingly."

Business owners have opened their stores at the busy centre.

10.30AM: Police say Wilsonton Heights is now secure after a Special Emergency Response Team arrived to inspect a suspicious device this morning.

Investigations found it was a neutral device.

Police took the precautionary measure to investigate because it "looked suspicious".

The suspicious device was a chamois container with things protruding out of it.

Specialist police attended the scene, declared the item non-suspicious and rendered the area safe around 9.45am.

Police say it warranted the swift reaction of the Special Emergency Response Team.

People in the area have since been able to return to their homes and businesses after they were evacuated as a precaution earlier this morning. Roads have also since reopened. 

The Special Emergency Response Team arrives to inspect a suspicious device.
The Special Emergency Response Team arrives to inspect a suspicious device. Kevin Farmer

Earlier this morning Toowoomba Police declared an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act.

That has since been revoked.

Toowoomba CIB will be carrying out further inquiries today.

EARLIER 9.42AM: A Special Emergency Response Team has arrived to deal with a suspicious package that shut down parts of Wilsonton Heights this morning.

Specialist police are currently attending the scene to assess the situation.

Residents in that area are being stopped from leaving or going to their houses.

Toowoomba police blocked off the area near Baillie Henderson Hospital.
Toowoomba police blocked off the area near Baillie Henderson Hospital. Andrew Backhouse

Baillie Henderson Hospital is still accessible but only from the Mort St entrance.

Wilsonton Heights Plaza has been cordoned off.

Police are stopping residents from going near the site.
Police are stopping residents from going near the site. Andrew Backhouse

Shops that are not accessible to the public include the Friendly Grocer, BWS, bakery and butcher. 

Toowoomba Police declared an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act in Wilsonton Heights early this morning.

About 5.20am police were notified about a suspicious device located outside a shopping complex at the intersection of Tor and Hogg streets.

The PSPA declaration incorporates Tor St, Hogg St, Holberton St and High Court Dr.

Toowoomba Police have declared an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act in Wilsonton Heights this morning.
Toowoomba Police have declared an emergent situation under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act in Wilsonton Heights this morning.

Businesses and residences in the nearby vicinity have been evacuated and road closures are in place around the cordoned area.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area.

Specialist police are currently attending the scene to assess the situation.

EARLIER 7.06: A shopping centre in Hogg St, Wilsonton Heights, to Toowoomba's north-west remains cordoned off this morning.

Toowoomba police blocked off the area near Baillie Henderson Hospital after "an emergent situation" was declared about 5.30am and the shops and businesses evacuated.

Police received a report of a suspicious device found outside the shopping complex at the Intersection  of Tor and Hogg Sts about 5.20am.

The area bordered by Tor, Hogg and Holberton Sts and High Court Drv remains cordoned off by police this morning and motorists are advised to use alternate routes.

The bomb squad has arrived on scene, the specialist investigation are at the scene.

The area remains cordoned off.



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