Pandemonium erupted among Christmas shopping crowds on London’s Oxford Street on Friday (24 November) evening as armed officers raced to respond to reports of shots being fired in the area but a Metropolitan Police statement said there had been no evidence of gunfire, casualties or suspects.
“Given the nature of the information received, the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers,” a Met spokesperson said. The operation was later stood down after an hour with armed police stationed around the area for reassurance.
The panic which rapidly spread right through the capital’s prime retail destination and adjacent shopping areas like Regent Street with its festive window displays and hundreds of overhead lights, had been jam-packed with shoppers hunting for Black Friday bargains when the incident happened shortly after dusk.
A Reuters witness said panicked shoppers had fled Oxford Street and Oxford Circus underground station.
The witness saw an elderly lady and a man carrying his child knocked over in the rush. “There were people running in all directions. I didn’t know which way to run,” the witness said.
The British Transport Police said they had received a report of one woman suffering a minor injury in the panic. Transport for London, said Oxford Circus and Bond Street stations, which had been briefly shut due to the incident, had later reopened.
A similar false alarm occurred on Exhibition Road in July when a minicab driver careered off the road near the Natural History Museum. The incident was later ruled a traffic accident by police.