RESIDENTS are trying to return to normal today after the chilling car- bomb blast which sparked chaos across Hartlepool.
Around 25 police officers were joined by five members of a bomb disposal team, as well as ambulance and fire crews, in the aftermath of the blast.
It followed the gruesome discovery of the body of 58-year-old town man David Bagley in the wreckage of his Nissan Micra in Old Cemetery Road.
A second bomb disposal team, as well as police community support officers, were then scrambled to Hartlepool Marina when the operation became centred around Mr Bagley’s flat above V Bar.
Flats at Navigation Point were evacuated yesterday morning and residents were not allowed back into their homes until 10.30pm after it had been searched by bomb disposal experts over fears it could have been booby trapped.
But nothing was discovered that would pose further risk and it is understood Mr Bagley intended to take his own life.
Residents and business owners today said they were glad to be back in their properties, but shocked by the tragedy.
Phil Goodin, 60, owner of Marina News, said: “He had been in the shop a few times but he did not seem anything out of the ordinary.”
He added: “We are glad to be back open, but what happened had to be done. Everything went smoothly, it was very unusual, but the police seemed to handle it.”
Navigation Point resident Jonathan Sowden, 41, got back into his home at around 11.30pm last night and added: “It was very strange, but it is understandable for safety that we were evacuated. It is such a shock what’s happened.”
Detective Superintendent Gordon Lang was quick to rule out terrorism when he addressed the media at a Press conference at Hartlepool Police Station, but he told the Mail the size of the operation was equivalent to what the emergency services are trained to do in the event of any terrorist attack.
Det Supt Lang said: “If this had been a terrorism incident then the response from ourselves and the other emergency services would have been exactly the same.
“This is a highly unusual situation, one I have not experienced before, but the safety of the public has to be paramount in an incident like this.”
Det Supt Lang is leading the investigation into the incident, which started at around 3am yesterday morning and caused disruption to hundreds of people across Hartlepool.
After the initial blast at Old Cemetery Road, teams of police then swooped on the marina to evacuate homes, boats and businesses while bomb disposal experts carried out a sweep of the flat where the dead man lived.
A 750ft cordon was placed around the dead man’s home to allow a search of his property to be safely carried out.
Hartlepool Borough Council set up a rest centre within the Maritime Experience for people unable to return to their homes.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool was placed on “high alert” and three ambulance crew members and two police officers who were first on the scene at Old Cemetery Road were decontaminated after suffering sore throats
Det Supt Lang said that a detailed forensic examination of the car was carried out, with similar checks taking place in the flat.