At Canterbury High School, head teacher Phil Karnavas said secretarial staff received ‘repeated’ calls from an adult male claiming an explosive device was hidden in the school.
He said: ‘The exact words, I believe, were ‘bomb on site, shrapnel will take children’s heads off’.
Counter terror police probe ‘robocall’ threats to bomb 85 UK and US schools in 24 hours
12:47, 24 May 2016
Updated 13:04, 24 May 2016
By Scott Campbell
Schools across the UK and in 10 US states received telephone threats today and yesterday as hundreds of children were escorted off the premises
Counter terror police are probing bomb threats made to more than 85 schools in the UK and dozens more in the US.
Officers are looking into anonymous calls that threatened pupils with beheadings and shootings in UK and a similar pattern of “robocalls” in America.
The elite South West Counter Terrorism unit, which is the national lead for linked alerts, has launched an investigation in the UK.
Meanwhile FBI agents and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are probing a series of calls in the US.
In many cases, pre-recorded were reportedly made, warning officials of hidden bombs.
Children at Carluke Primary School were evacuated
At one UK school, “repeated” calls warned of a bomb on site and that “the shrapnel will take children’s heads off”.
One teacher told Mirror Online that the caller had threatened to shoot pupils and detonate a bomb.
Another school official added that the message was pre-recorded and featured an American voice which looped three times over a minute and a half.
The caller told a receptionist that “if the school called the police the bomb would be detonated immediately”.
Discovery Primary School in Peterborough was one of those that had a suspected hoax bomb threat
An ambulance was among the emergency services called to the school
In Nashua, New Hampshire, students at Amherst Street School were evacuated after a caller apparently told teachers explosives were hidden in the building.
In the UK today at least 14 schools were plunged into chaos after threats to bomb, shoot and behead children.
Police Scotland said “a number of schools” in the central area received a telephoned threat today and that two have been closed down.
Canberra Primary in South Lanarkshire has been “cordoned off” and pupils have been moved to Mossneuk, according to parents.
Separately, children from Carluke Primary in the same area were evacuated to nearby High Mill.
Bomb threats were made at the following UK schools today:
- Ringwood School, Hampshire
- Bloomfield Primary School, Bangor
- Linn Primary School, Antrim
- Ballysally Primary School, Coleraine
- Leadhill Primary School, Castlereagh
- Abbey Primary School, Newtownards
- Carluke Primary School, South Lanarkshire
- Canberra Primary School, South Lanarkshire
- Dunrobin Primary School, North Lanarkshire
- Donfoot Primary School, Ayr
- Perth High School, Perth
Two others in Northern Ireland
A “number” of other schools in Scotland across the central belt
Dave Taylor, who has children at Carluke Primary, described a scene of “concern and panic” in South Lanarkshire.
He told Mirror Online: “When you hear something like that it’s always a worry, especially when there are kids involved.
“No alarm went off at the school. It was just a case of getting everyone out.”
Police and fire crews swarmed the scene in South Lanarkshire
A Police Scotland spokesman added: “Police Scotland would like to reassure the public that at present these do not appear to be credible threats, however they are being taken seriously.
“Staff and police are working with local authorities and are currently searching school buildings.
“Some schools as a precautionary measure, have been evacuated. Significant enquiries are underway.”
Perth High School received a “hoax threat” but did not evacuate pupils on the advice of police.
Police Scotland police statement
In Co Down in Northern Ireland, pupils and staff have been evacuated from a primary school and police are guarding the scene.
Early reports from the scene indicated that it was understood a gas leak in the area close to Bloomfield Primary School, Bangor was the suspected reason for the evacuation.
However, a parent at whose children attend the school said it was “definitely not a gas leak.”
She told Belfast Live: “The parents were taken into the church hall and told by PSNI that the school had received and automated message that there was a bomb.”
Another parent said her husband had arrived to collect the children and he was initially told it was a gas leak.
Bloomfield Primary School in Northern Ireland was among those evacuated
She said: “My husband was told by teachers initially when arriving at the Church that it’s just a gas leak and nothing to worry about.
“He pointed out that there wasn’t one fire brigade at the school or on its way down the carriageway.
“I’m guessing we were being told gas leak to not cause a panic.
“After 15 minutes or so, the police came to the church and spoke to all the parents saying the school received an open call playing a recorded message on a loop saying there is a bomb.”
She added: “The teachers did absolutely brilliantly in evacuating the school safely and efficiently. I can’t speak for all students, but my daughter in P2 was not panicked and her and her friends were happily bouncing about.”
Parents are said to have received a text message shortly after 9.30am to inform them that pupils had been evacuated.
Pupils at Carluke Primary were moved to a nearby school
They were advised to collect their children from Lisnabreen Presbyterian Church nearby “as soon as possible.”
A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said that the force will liaise with others in the UK to probe if the threats are linked.
Temporary Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “PSNI are investigating a series of malicious communications to schools across Northern Ireland today.
“At this stage there is no information to suggest the incidents are terrorist-related, however enquiries continue to establish the facts.
Canberra Primary School was also affected, police confirmed
“We will liaise with other UK Police services who have received similar calls, to investigate who is responsible and whether these incidents are linked.”
Hundreds of pupils have also been evacuated from Milford National School in Limerick after the school received an “automated” message.
At least 27 schools across the country were plunged into chaos yesterday during GCSE exams amid a series of bomb threats.
Thousands of pupils were evacuated in schools from Kent all the way up to Newcastle after a series of anonymous phone calls.
Barming Primary School in Maidstone was among those evacuated
Police have been forced to close primaries and secondaries while responding to the threats which have left parents panicked and confused.
It was initially thought that the calls were isolated to a small number of schools in Kent but reports have emerged of disruption across the country.
Bomb threats were made at the following schools yesterday:
- Canterbury Academy, Kent
- Barming Primary School, Maidstone
- Voyager Academy, Peterborough
- Discover Primary School, Peterborough
- Wootton Upper School, Bedfordshire
- Redwood School, Rochdale
- Neighbouring Oulder Hill School, Rochdale was also evacuated
- Emsworth Primary School, Hampshire
- Kingsham Primary School, Chichester
- Whiteley Primary School, Fareham
- Rosebrook Primary School, Stockton
- Cranmere Primary School, Surrey
- Mayfield Primary School, Cambridge
- Blacon High School, Cheshire
- Crabtree Farm Primary School, Nottingham
- Lindisfarne Middle School, Northumberland
- Charville Primary School, Middlesex
- Dafen Community Primary School, Llanelli
- Pinhoe Primary School, Devon
- Maldon Primary School, Essex
- Barnwell School, Stevenage
- Charlestown Primary School, Cornwall
- Middleton Primary School, Leeds
- Ringmer Primary School, East Sussex
- Caversham Primary School, Reading
- Devonport High School for Girls, Plymouth
- Down Hall Primary School, Rayleigh, Essex
All the pupils at the Canterbury Academy in Kent were pulled from class, including 240 who were sitting a GCSE English exam.
Police were called to the site and conducted a painstaking search of the buildings, but were unable to find anything.
Parents received a text reading: “We have evacuated the school with police agreement following 3 phone calls regarding an explosive device. Lessons will resume tomorrow.”
One student told Mirror Online: “We thought it was just a regular fire alarm but then we were told it wasn’t a drill and were escorted to the far end of the field and held there while the police conducted a search.
“I don’t feel safe going into school anymore and yet we were expected to carry on our days as if nothing ever happened.”
Charville Primary School in Hayes called in police who swept the building with dogs after pupils were evacuated.
According to Kent Police, Barming Primary school in Maidstone was also closed this morning after an “anonymous phone call”.
Matthew Manders, from Maidstone, has three children at the school.
He told KentOnline: “I feel terrible, not knowing what is going on and not being kept in the loop.
“My family is my life and I won’t be the only parent rushing back to make sure my family is alright.”
“It is absolutely terrifying. I don’t know why anybody would do something like this.”
Two schools in Peterborough were also evacuated and a road was closed following a bomb threat.
Voyager Academy and Discovery Primary School were cordoned off by police.
One student said: Why put a bomb in discovery with children like it makes no sense.
“That really scared me I literally thought a bomb was going to blow up in front of us.”
A mum planning to send her daughter to Voyager said she was now ‘petrified’ to do so.
“This happened at Voyager school in Peterborough,” she said.
“I was there today for a meeting as I’m supposed to be getting my daughter in this school in the next day or two as an In-Year admission. Now I’m petrified.
Canterbury Academy head teacher Phil Karnavas said: “It’s almost certainly a hoax but with what’s happening across Europe I’m not prepared to take that gamble.”
He added that secretarial staff received “repeated” calls from an adult male claiming an explosive device was hidden in the school.
Police confirmed that an anonymous call was made at 10.13am and that the school was evacuated as a precaution.
According to reports, Emsworth Primary School in Hampshire has been evacuated with staff and children moved to the nearby Glenwood School as police probe a bomb threat.
Headteacher Kate Fripp told local news website UKNIP: “There has been a security incident at Emsworth Primary School today.
“All children are safe and are at Glenwood School receiving refreshments.
“The police are on the school site and we expect to be allowed back in within the hour.”
Two more schools – Whiteley Primary and Kingsham Primary – have had security alerts, according to the website.
Children were also sent home from Wootton Upper School in Bedfordshire, police said.
Meanwhile, pupils at Down Hall Primary School in Rayleigh, Essex, were evacuated from the building following a ‘threatening’ phone call.
One furious mum said she was only told of the evacuation at the end of the school day, when her children returned home clutching a letter from the headteacher.
The letter read: “Dear parents, a threatening call was made to the school this morning and pupils and staff were evacuated as a precaution.
“Police were made aware and attended the school. The call is now being treated as a hoax and is being thoroughly investigated.
“The safety of our children is our number one priority and we take matters such as these very seriously. It would be inappropriate to comment further while that investigation is ongoing.”
The mum, called Karen, claimed her two children were evacuated ‘onto the school fields’ alongside hundreds of other pupils and teachers ‘for hours’ – without her knowledge.
She told the Mirror Online she was shocked to hear about reports of bomb threats to UK schools via social media, adding: “Any security risk, we should have been told at the time.”
Another mum, whose children attend Middleton Primary School in Leeds, also claimed she was not informed of a threat made to the school.
She told us: “I got no notification from the school, I heard through my friend. I initially thought they’d found something, so I rushed there and collected my children.”
The mum, named Marie, said pupils at the school were evacuated on to the playing field until the threat had been investigated – something she only found out later on.
“I’m not going to take my kids back to school until I’m 100 per cent sure nothing is going to happen,” said the panicked care worker.
Mirror Online has attempted to contact Down Hall and Middleton Primary about the claims.
Oulder Hill School and Redwood School in Rochdale were also evacuated today after a call warning of a“suspicious package”.
Stuart Pidgeon, head teacher at Redwood School, said: “A phone call was placed to Redwood school this morning that led staff to believe a suspicious device had been placed within the grounds.
“Following a full evacuation of pupils and staff at Redwood and Oulder Hill schools, police and senior staff determined that there was no device and pupils have now returned to class,
“The circumstances behind the phone call will be investigated by Greater Manchester Police as they deem appropriate.”
Cranmere Primary School in Surrey and Blacon High School in Cheshire were also among those evacuated, according to reports.
A parent at the school told Get Surrey: “We were sent an email and a text from the school saying the school had been evacuated and our children were safe and being taken to Esher High School and to come and collect them.
“There was police everywhere and police at Esher High. We were given our children and asked to go home.
“We are still waiting to hear what happened.”
In Stockton, Rosebrook Primary School has also been put into lockdown.
A post on the school’s Facebook page says: “You may be aware of police presence at school.
“We have received a threat to the school but please be assured the children are safe, we are dealing with the incident and the school is on lock down at the moment.”
A spokesperson for the school gave no comment when asked about the threat but many parents commenting on the post are worried at the lack of information provided.
It is understood parents received a text message about the threat.
One parent commented: “Im going to pick my daughter up! Cant just send us a text and expect us to sit at home while our children are in that school!!!”
Another user wrote: “Morning nursery kids have been let out but nobody else is allowed in or out of school now, gates are all locked. No idea what’s happened but they are keeping the kids safe inside.”
Cleveland Police has been contacted for comment.
Hundreds of children were also evacuated from Mayfield Primary School in Cambridge, Pinhoe Primary School in Essex, Maldon Primary School in Essex, Barnwell School in Stevenage and Dafen Community Primary School in Llanelli.
Stay at home mum Hayley Thompson, 24, from Maldon, told Mirror Online she was “scared” after hearing about the bomb hoax calls.
She said: “They’re literally threatening children. It’s got to that level where no-one’s safe.
“As soon as the people get caught they need to go to jail, something needs to be done, because it’s scary.
“If it’s some sick pupil playing jokes I can’t understand why they’d do it to a primary school as well. It just puts so many doubts in your mind – whether it’s a group of people or just children being stupid.
“It definitely looks more and more like it’s well thought out, but then why primary schools? It’s disgusting.”
Parents of Pinhoe students received a text from the school, reading: “Please can all pupils be collected from their classroom today.
“We will look after those pupils who normally walk home until they can be collected.
“This is a precautionary measure following a malicious phone call to the school. Police are aware.”
Meanwhile Crabtree Farm Primary School in Nottingham “swiftly” contacted police after receiving a call and pupils were evacuated.
Lindisfarne Middle School in Northumberland received a call but police established there was “no cause for concern” and the school was not evacuated.
In February bomb threats were made at six schools in Birmingham, alongside additional threats in Glasgow.
Police in Paris and Sydney were investigating similar incidents.
Edgbaston High School for Girls, where Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is a pupil, received a call – along with five other schools in Birmingham.