Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch Bomb Scare

You just can't make this stuff up:

Buildings were evacuated, a street was cordoned off and a bomb disposal team called in after workmen spotted a suspicious object.

But the dangerous-looking weapon turned out to be the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, made famous in the 1975 film Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

[...]

They evacuated a pub and another building in Tabernacle Street, while office staff in another building were stopped from leaving.

But when the bomb squad arrived, they quickly established there was no danger and the street was declared safe. In the film, the grenade was used to slaughter a killer rabbit. ...

Alberto Romanelli, who owns the Windmill pub nearby, said the police action in ordering his pub to be evacuated had been as ridiculous as the film scene. "They evacuated the pub while they were doing X-rays and stuff," he said.

"It all lasted about 45 minutes before they decided it was nothing -- which I thought was pretty obvious from the start. I lost a good hour's worth of business."

I used to catalog examples of the war on the unexpected, but stopped because they were just too many of them (see also here and here), but this one is just too funny to ignore.

EDITED TO ADD (3/20): Lest you think this is tabloid hyperbole, here's the story in a more respectable newspaper.

Posted on March 20, 2009 at 3:10 PM • 43 Comments

Comments

SuomynonaMarch 20, 2009 3:47 PM

If the person who hid the 'grenade' under the hydrant cover has his (or her) DNA on the National DNA Database, he could soon be in for a bit of fun under one of our many new anti-terror laws - making the cops and fire service look a bit daft gets you ten-to-life these days...

nickMarch 20, 2009 3:56 PM

In the USA, a person can be charged for the crime of causing a bomb scare if a "reasonable person" could mistake an item for a bomb--whether or not causing a bomb scare was the intent.

Don't know about UK law. They tend to be slightly worse about things like that than we are (due to Ireland perhaps?). At any rate, there's probably a 60% chance someone charged with this would go before a judge who has seen the move, and would therefore literally laugh the case out of court.

RowanMarch 20, 2009 4:29 PM

@nick

Don't suppose you have a cite for the US statute regarding bomb scares... sounds pretty interesting.

Chris SMarch 20, 2009 4:33 PM

The "Holy Hand Grenade" ... found on "Tabernacle Street".

Riiiiiiight.

Someone is having fun.

ScaredMarch 20, 2009 4:37 PM

And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.'

Petréa MitchellMarch 20, 2009 4:52 PM

So, Suomynona, you're saying that these days, people *do* expect the Spanish Inquisition?

luttonMarch 20, 2009 4:54 PM

c'mon, is this the UK version of the Onion? Look at these other stories:

3,000 police on alert for sand-pit protests to block summit

You've been framed by Google's Street View

'Booze bus' to run all year as binge drinking rockets

Apocalypse now? No, the doomsters are wrong again

Don’t blame the Eighties for our own failed era of greed

ScaredMarch 20, 2009 5:06 PM

The slightly more boring Telegraph has the story too:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5018294/Pub-evacuated-after-Monty-Python-prop-mistaken-for-grenade.html

I couldn't remember what it looked like in the movie, except that it didn't look like a hand grenade (at least not one form this or last millennium):

"The fictional weapon looks more like a golden ornament than a hand grenade; it was based on the Sovereign's Orb used at royal coronations."

Petréa MitchellMarch 20, 2009 6:35 PM

If it's true to the movie, the main parto of it should be an ovoid thing about hand-grenade size. Then there's a cross sticking out of the top, which is where the resemblance to the orb comes in. IIRC, the cross is the handle for pulling out the pin.

RoboticusMarch 20, 2009 9:46 PM

Remember the AquaTeen 'Bomb scare'? It was stupid to put the signs up without permits, but they were essentially home-made lite-brites. According to Wikipedia "Berdovsky and Stevens were arrested on the day of the incident and charged with placing a hoax device to incite panic, a felony charge that carries a five-year maximum sentence, and one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor" and the attorney general claimed that the two were trying to "get attention by causing fear and unrest that there was a bomb in that location.". They ended up with community service. If they had Middle-eastern sounding names they would have been in Gitmo.

MysticKnightoftheSeaMarch 20, 2009 11:47 PM

According to a related story (listed along the original story in "The Telegraph", a man was arrested for keeping a long bow (a neighbor was made afraid), and THEN they found "... homemade explosive devices turned out to be harmless 'science fiction-style' equipment..." and cordoned off the area and evcuated some 100 flats in the immediate area.

Apart from the "terrorist theatre", I was surprised at the concern over the long bow. I own a long bow. It was my brother's that he used to learn archery in the boy scouts (cue Bluebottle here). I hadn't realised that the UK had become so restrictive.

Clive, you're from that side of the pond. Any comments?

"One...Two...Five..."
"THREE, m'Lord..."
"Right..."
*>Blam

MKotS

AnonymousMarch 21, 2009 6:18 AM

@nick

Yes, but where do you find a reasonable person nowadays?

They all seem to be scared to death, and a scared to death person doesn't seem to be reasonable most of the time.

EpimortumMarch 21, 2009 6:39 AM

@Anonymous
"They all seem to be scared to death,..."
That is unfortunately the most succinct and lucid statement about the general populace that I've read in a long time.

And yes, frightened people typically tend to be hysterical. How far we've come in such a short time but we're still burning "witches".

AnonymousMarch 21, 2009 7:52 AM

"In the USA, a person can be charged for the crime of causing a bomb scare if a "reasonable person" could mistake an item for a bomb--whether or not causing a bomb scare was the intent."

Right. The HH doesn't even look like something technical or explosive more like something out of a church. Maybe cops and fire service are not reasonable anymore.

vaderMarch 21, 2009 7:53 AM

Sorry: Last comment "HH doesn't even look like something technical or explosive" was me, vader.

vaderMarch 21, 2009 8:00 AM

"It was stupid to put the signs up without permits, but they were essentially home-made lite-brites."

Yes, that is as far as we have come today. You can't leave something that DOES NOT lok like a bomb in public (or put it up as it may be) without a "permit", because it could -- TATATAA - be a bomb. How ridiculous is that?

Next time in this theater: Forgot my umbrella on the park bench, now I got five years in jail, because it suspiciously looked not like a bomb.

This really has to stop. The overall picture is one of insanity not of responsibility.

Clive RobinsonMarch 21, 2009 8:43 AM

@ nick, Anonymous at 6:18 AM

"Yes, but where do you find a reasonable person nowadays?"

Under English law it used to be "A reasonable man sitting on a Clapham Omnibuss"...

I don't you folks but the last time I saw an Omnibuss it was in the London Transport museum and nobody was alowed to sit on it. So I guess by definition nobody can now be a reasonable person...

@ MysticKnightoftheSea,

English law is an awkward thing to live with...

With regards the long bow it is still an offense "not to practice with it and maintain yourself ready" to be called by your lord and master when he musters up the vilains and free men to go and do there foresworn duties...

Likewise edged/penetrating weapons the definition is different in different laws. In one law a blade length is given (which is where the common conception of less than four inches comes from). But as the Met police have been using a different set of laws (effectivly carrying an "offensive weapon") where the criteria for what is or is not "offensive" is "in an officers opinion". Which can mean just about anything you might have on you (your nailfile for instance or comb, keys, pencil, pen, belt, shoe laces, watch strap, etc, etc even a book or newspaper).

And when a magistrate pulled out a penknife out of his pocket when he was explaining what he considered to be or not be an offensive weapon the press hounded him (although it looks like they where egged on by certain interested parties).

The trick the Police are trying in the UK is to try and frighten you into a "caution". The way they explain it it sounds like an "administrative" arangment where as going to court is going to forever ruin your life. But the almost oposit is true as that is not how the law sees it and you end up with a criminal record that due to the "bad charecter gateway protocol" NEVER expires. Likewise it prevents you from having anything to do with vulnerable people so all the careing proffessions, teaching and charity work will forever remain out of your alowed activities as well as many associated jobs such as "odd job man", maintanence engineer, taxi driver etc where you "might" come into contact with vulnerable people (so basicaly most jobs, so, so much for "rehabiliation").

The thing is accepting a caution is "pleading guilty" without any evidence presented by yourself. If you go to court your defense becomes part of the court records so your side of the story is kept for as long as required and can be used by you at any time to defend yourself.

The opinion of a police officer who might need to get their arrest quota needs to be open to public scruitiny it is your basic right to have a defense against any charge made against you by an independent adudicator. And if you say to the Police right up front you will only go before a jury of you peers you automaticaly put the police an the back foot as they either have to use a different charge or face ridicule in front of a jury and judge.

Oh and remember in the UK always carry your passport and if the Police stop you get it out and show it to the officer and ask him to read out aloud what is written in the front cover from "their boss"... You then tell them to write that they has done so in their note book as part of the "official record". If they refuse you tell them that they are legaly obliged to do so.

What you have done is kick away the officers right to arrest you to "verify your identity" and force them to acknowledge this. Which for most things stops them arresting you as they legaly are not alowed to. Also they know they are now walking a bit of a tight rope and will have to do everything by the book. And as most officers do not know what is written in the "book" they are now on thin ice.

If they are daft enough to not immediatly comply you say "I belive you are impersonanting a police officer which is a criminal offense" and that you are now going to take "independent steps to verify their identity". If they question your right to do so you simply say "It's satutory".

By informing them you do not belive they are police officers they are now in the position of not "having lawfull authority untill they are identified as police officers". So they have been left in the position of not being able to do very much at all until you have "independantly verified" their identity. And they further become open to a charge of "unlawfull detention" etc which is a bit of a show stopper...

You have effectivly removed their "lawfull authority" you can also refuse to get into any vehical or be touched by them (it's assult at that point). If they even attempt to you can then inform them that you are now moving to a "place of safety for your own protection".

If they fail to alow you to independantly verify who they are they are or move to a place of safety they are in for significant problems in court. And if they do they get a load of grief from the station inspector or higher who you drag out to verify them. Which is a lose lose situation for them.

And if you do end up in court you or your brief can point out that you reminded the officer that he has a legal duty of care towards you as an individual which puts him in an awkward position legaly as effectivly if it can be shown (and in most cases it can with a clever brief) that they have failed in their duties...

Importantly it also shows in court that you where behaving in a reasonable fashion and the police officers where not. Which might appear a small point but infront of a jury it has kicked the credability of the police officers right out the door whilst boosting yours a very large amount (and with a jury credability goes one heck a lot further than "dubious evidence" does).

Once upon a time the most important piece of advice was, Never put yourself in a postion where you need to know all the "wriggles" to "get your self off the hook". Unfortunatly in this "new terrorist world" just pausing for breath is enough to get you into trouble so sadly you do need to know.

EpimortumMarch 21, 2009 1:11 PM

Thank you very much Clive. That is potentially VERY useful information.

report thy neighborMarch 21, 2009 8:54 PM

The Metro Police sort of encouraged this:

http://cms.met.police.uk/news/publicity_campaigns/new_campaign_urges_londoners_to_report_suspicious_activity

"Londoners are being asked to trust their instincts and report suspicious behaviour to help combat terrorist activity in a new counter terrorism advertising campaign launched today.

People across the capital are being urged to pass on any information about unusual activity or behaviour to the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

The key message of the campaign is: 'Don't rely on others. If you suspect it, report it.' "

MysticKnightoftheSeaMarch 22, 2009 12:38 AM

Thank you, Clive.

I presume keeping one's passport on their person works for a visitor to you lovely island?

I've been there once before, and have been dutifully impressed with it's combined sense of history, dignity and decorum. And occasional fun (Do they still do that bit of Queen Beth's Table out at Hatfield? And are they ever going to do a revival of "No Sex Please, We're British"?)

Sorry, folk's, that was very much off-topic.

US law is no picnic, either, and the rules change, sometimes drastically, when you step over this boundary or that.

My wife and I were camping & hiking our Colorado mountains. We passed a british couple headed down the mountain as we were headed up. I think I startled them a little bit by having a .45 cal revolver on my hip.

My wife (blessed soul that she is) merely said later, "They can say they met a real western cowboy..." We both laughed as nothing could be further from the truth.

Out in the woods there is little problem with wearing a gun openly, though in town it could get you run in for "creating a disturbance". Thankfully, that's what concealed carry permits are for, and Colorado is now a "Shall Issue" state, meaning unless there's a reason not to (prior criminal record, etc.) the state is obliged to issue the permit.

MKotS

averrosMarch 22, 2009 1:56 AM

> Out in the woods there is little problem with
> wearing a gun openly, though in town it could
> get you run in for "creating a disturbance"

Oh, I get it. In a town wearing a gun openly is creating disturbance only if this person is not also wearing funny blue overalls and thuggish expression on his face.

AppSecMarch 22, 2009 7:56 AM

So let me get this straight.. People won't spend the money to incorporate a potentially baby saving device for fear of a lawsuit, but we'll call in the bomb squad for a bomb scare from the Holy Handgranade?

What's next? Calling in the National Guard (or the UK version) for an attack by a wooden badger?

Clive RobinsonMarch 22, 2009 5:37 PM

@ report thy neighbor,

"The Metro Police sort of encouraged this"

And not for the first time either...

And they all fall into the catagory of "Self DoS" attacks, that waste resources.

For instance do you remember suspicious men with beards and bags near Christmas time (I posted on one of Bruce's pages about it we all had a good laugh)

Then there was reporting people that had two or more modile phones (I posted about that as well).

There have been several others but they are getting quite nasty now with the "This is the sound of a bomb not going off... because a neighbour reported... a man living on his own..."

How long before we start lynching people simply because they are not living with someone. I thought we were past the "Witch finder General trials" that have so darkened the English charecter in times past.

Clive RobinsonMarch 22, 2009 6:07 PM

@ MysticKnightoftheSea,

"I presume keeping one's passport on their person works for a visitor to you lovely island?"

Yes and no, there are a bunch of questionable "imigration" laws that come into effect that have the effect of removing many of the inbuilt protections for "nationals" (that is you can be lawfully detained until your immigration status is verified, and no a passport is not nescisarily sufficient proof of status).

As and when the more questionable aspects of these imigration laws has been tested in court the judiciary tend to strike them down but you don't want to be a test case...

The UK is not a bad place to live outside of the major cities but our rights where being removed by the current political incumbrents even prior to 9/11. Worse they have alowed the rules to prevent coruption by elected and non elected persons paid from the public purse to be totaly disregarded much to our countries detriment and world standing.

For instance "Fred 'the shred' Goodwin" who is one of the 25 people world wide who has been fingered for the current disaster that is the financial markets was a close advisor to the current PM when he was Chancelor and responsable for setting the standards and oversight by which the UK financial markets should be regulated.

There has been a policy of bringing in "industry personalities" to run government organisations responsible for setting policy. Needless to say very much the most of the results have been to sgnificantly favour deregulation of markets etc...

We need real democracy in the UK not the "Monkey in a suit" of "representational democracy", But I digress and the Moderator is going to give me a "Naughty Naughty" if I carry on (and quite right to ;)

Clive RobinsonMarch 22, 2009 6:21 PM

@ AppSec,

"What's next? Calling in the National Guard (or the UK version) for an attack by a wooden badger?"

Although we do have "weekend warriors" in the UK (TA's) they are somewhat different to the US National Guard for a number of reasons. They are under the direct control of central Gov not Local Gov and are only answerable to the Military Chain of Command. "Calling them up" (Part 2 Orders) is quite an involved process and they effectivly become full time soldiers and not an adjunct to them.

With regards to "a wooden badger" coincidently I was actually sitting on one today (Kew Botanical Gardens has a "Badger Set" for Children to play in and there is a tree trunk carved as a badger for weary parents to sit on 8)

NDMarch 23, 2009 4:19 AM

I suspect Clive would be done for "wasting police time" if he tried the old I know the law better than you do stunt.

Given that the man on the bus normally would not carry a passport, carrying one might be thought as being a suspicious activity and it would be right to assume Clive was upto no good.

gregMarch 23, 2009 4:47 AM

@ND

I live in the EU but I am not a EU citizen. Many countries in the EU require that I carry ID. Either a passport or something that qualifies as a "national ID". Some countries it is a fine if you don't.

I have never been asked for ID outside renting skis, staying in a hotel (but not always), at the airport (but not on trains) and for using the internet in Italy.

Last time i went to Germany i forgot my passport and didn't notice till i got home.

Clive RobinsonMarch 23, 2009 6:53 AM

@ ND,

"Given that the man on the bus normally would not carry a passport, carrying one might be thought as being a suspicious activity"

Most people in the UK carry some form of Photo ID these days due to even bank staff beliving they are entitled to know who you are just because you want to pay a bill...

Most have drivers licences or work ID cards (I have neither so it's my passport)

As for,

"and it would be right to assume Clive was upto no good."

I don't know where you live, what you do or your chosen method of transportation.

But I live near London UK and tend to walk as much as I can and use public transport where required.

It is an unfortunate fact that is not mentioned very often that as a pedestrian and using public transport I will come up against the "boys in blue" about ten times more frequently than the avarage (who presumably chose to drive).

Oddly having worked in some of the most dangerous part of the world the only times I have been attacked by others or stopped by the Police is within the UK and all but a couple of times where I have been shot at all where within just a few miles of where I live. Which is considered by the residents of the borough to be one of the best places in the UK to live...

Having been into other parts of London on a very regular basis where street / drug / gun crime is so high you are statisticaly "a victim" just walking down the street and having had no problems what so ever makes it all the odder.

And some of the local police now know me well enough that we are on first name terms and chat about our children...

As for,

"I suspect Clive would be done for "wasting police time" if he tried the old I know the law better than you do stunt."

No it's not likley to happen, for "wasting Police time" to be the case you would have had to aproach them or deliberatly mislead them. Insisting on your rights is still (supposadly) lawfull in the UK for now.

-ac-March 24, 2009 1:12 PM

Dear Press,
Please consider covering incidents like this in detail and publish estimated costs in as much detail as possible. (lost business, police overtime, bomb squad cost for a call). An remember to post any casaulties.

Run this tally for a year against, say, cost of your lead pant program. Or another salient issue. A running count would be splendid.

Funny how putting an issue into dollars and cents and lives puts things into persepective. And your journalist gets to have some enjoyable time collecting sources and doing some investigative journalism.

Anonymous 1April 15, 2009 9:57 PM

Clive's advice is most interesting, but after having seen the frightening images of the way one woman protestor and an innocent man were treated by the Police at the G20 meeting (the innocent man subsequently died), I would not be too eager to impliment his suggestions.

While he may be legally accurate, I am concerned what would happen before any court case.

Crawfish UKApril 16, 2009 5:44 AM

I see a lot of wise comment in Cryptogram, but I feel that you are all taking a pop at the wrong target.

The story sounds very funny now in hindsight, for those of us whose daily lives involve little risk of being blown up. But none of us know in detail the circumstances in which the object was found or what it really looked like. The point is that the police are not experts on IEDs and will call in military EOD teams if in doubt. They will treat the object as a bomb until they have established that it is safe (sometimes this involves destroying it). They do this because their job is dangerous - although much of the time they are called out to false alarms there are still plenty of genuine finds. Although terrorist attacks are currently rare in the UK explosive devices are often placed by criminals, vandals or disturbed individuals. Also, there are a great many items of World War II unexploded ordnance found in the UK many of which the layman would not be able to identify. As an EOD officer you can't afford to be dismissive of this possibility, so caution is the rule.

None of this has anything to do with DNA databases, photo ID cards, anti-terrorist legislation (no one was arrested as a result of this incident, as far as I can see), security "theatre" or the right to carry firearms in Colorado. It's the result of bitter experience and many casualties.

It's like the Fire Service - when you suspect a fire you call them and they come out. You don't expect them to dismiss the call as a hoax without first investigating, perhaps having first consulted the local pub landlord.

Have a look at these stories (especially the first one) and see if you still find the operational procedures of our bomb disposal teams comical.

http://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/news/news.aspx?newsid=70

http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/mablethorpe/news/Explosion-live-bomb-calls-puts-pressure/article-864267-detail/article.html

http://www.wiltsglosstandard.co.uk/news/4273786.Hand_grenades_found_in_the_Cotswolds/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/bomb-blows-up-under-car-of-teacher-in-liverpool-403173.html


JohannApril 16, 2009 10:38 AM

Crawfish, regarding "none of us know in detail the circumstances in which the object was found or what it really looked like."

Most of us do, we've seen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

It does *NOT* look like a weapon.

AnonymousApril 21, 2009 6:46 PM

The public looking for bombs?

About 30 years ago I worked in a UK armaments factory where we had regular bomb alerts due to IRA "activity". They asked for volunteers to search their work area for the bomb. In a munitions design department everything looked like a bomb, hell, half the things were bombs!

Fortunately the "bombs" were usually cardboard boxes with the word BOMB written on the side in big letters. Exactly the way a terrorist would write it. I'm surprised it wasn't a big black ball with a smouldering piece of string coming out of it.

I guess what I'm saying is that all we can expect the public can do is look out for suspicious objects in places they shouldn't be.

SteveApril 21, 2009 7:16 PM

Thanks for the wording Clive,

"With regards the long bow it is still an offense "not to practice with it and maintain yourself ready" to be called by your lord and master when he musters up the vilains and free men to go and do there foresworn duties..."

If I remember correctly it was one of Henry VIII's laws to prevent the demise of the English longbowman and the wording was along the lines of "every able bodied man was to spend an hour every Sunday practicing" and the rider was "if he accidently kills anyone while practicing he wasn't guilty of murder".
Not sure if manslaughter was a crime back then.

GregoryMay 26, 2009 8:17 AM

Reading this my first thought is "Geocache". It's amazing how fast you can get a few city blocks closed off because someone hid a film canister with a piece of paper in it.

Google "geocache bomb threat" for a great chuckle. We've had the local bomb squad detonate a small tree in a park because it had a film canister on a branch.

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