A quiet seaside town in Cleveland was embroiled in a full-scale terror alert yesterday when a woman believed to be carrying "suspicious items" was surrounded by armed police in an eight-hour stand-off.
The woman, wearing a head dress and scarf over her face, was walking near the pier in Saltburn-by-the-Sea with a rucksack when she was confronted by officers armed with sub-machine guns.
Sniffer dogs and a specialist army bomb disposal unit were also called to examine the contents of her bag.
The woman sat with her hands on her head before being forced lay face down on the ground. After an eight-hour standoff, which lasted between 11am and 7.20pm on Tuesday evening, she was eventually arrested under the Mental Health Act.
Earlier that day, she was reported to have visited a hardware shop in the area. She had been traced to the seafront where armed police sealed off the area and evacuated the promenade.
In a statement, Cleveland police said: "Police received information that a woman in Saltburn might have suspicious items on her and became concerned for her welfare."
Will Murray, who was working in the pier arcade, said he and his colleagues became trapped when the police and bomb experts appeared on the scene. He told local news site Gazette Live:
"I turned around and saw loads of police come running with guns and dogs.
"The woman was sitting in a shelter just a little bit further along from us and they got her to come and take a backpack off.... Over an hour and a half, they got her to move away from the bag."
"I don't think they realised we were in here until it was too late to get us out."
Thousands of holidaymakers and surfers flock to Saltburn every year. Its attractions include a Grade II renovated pier and one of the world's oldest cliff lifts (pictured, top).