'I caused Norfolk bomb scare'

Kim BriscoeThe man who sparked a major police operation involving a bomb disposal unit today protested his innocence, claiming he was simply carrying out scientific experiments at his home.Kim Briscoe

The man who sparked a major police operation involving a bomb disposal unit today protested his innocence, claiming he was simply carrying out scientific experiments at his home.

Police cordoned off a home in Wroxham over the weekend and searched the property, saying they had received a call that there were chemicals on the premises.

However, today Nicholas Witham, who was arrested over the incident but has not been charged, said he only had standard chemicals in the shed at his Norwich Road home for preparing slides and specimens for his microscopes.

Mr Witham, 38, branded the police response as 'over the top' and chose to speak out in attempt to clear his name, saying he was worried his reputation had been damaged by the police presence at his family's home.

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He said: 'I still can't get over what happened. I was banged up for more than 20 hours and the police were here for two days with the house roped off.

'The way the police dealt with it was totally over the top.

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'All I had was standard laboratory chemicals in the shed. I don't know why it escalated this far.'

Mr Witham, who is originally from Cardiff, lived in Ireland for 10 years and took a masters degree in biotechnology at University College Cork.

He moved to Wroxham with his wife and two daughters two and a half years ago, to study for a PhD at the University of East Anglia, but has been off sick with anxiety and depression, something he claims has not been helped by his experience at the weekend.

The incident started when he said he ordered some oxidising agents and general solvents from a chemicals company at the start of August to use in his hobby of microscopy.

He said: 'I have bought chemicals off this company before and had no problems.

'I spoke to the company that supplied the chemicals and they told me that if you make an order for a certain combination of chemicals then they have to inform a police liaison officer and then you are assessed to see they are suitable to be purchased by you.

'The company said police normally have a chat and they had never heard of this happening to a customer before.'

Mr Witham was arrested at 2.15pm on Friday. The bomb disposal unit from Colchester arrived on Saturday morning during the day forensic teams wearing gloves searched the house and took photographs, with police officers standing guard at the gate.

Mr Witham said: 'The first I knew of it I got a knock on the door on Friday at about lunchtime and they said they were from special branch and asked about me buying the chemicals on the internet.

'I had nothing to hide from them and so I invited them in and showed them the shed. They seemed to have no problem but then went out for an hour. Then they came back and arrested me under the explosives act.

'It was a godsend my wife and two kids are in Cardiff at the moment so it was just myself here.

'I understand that the country has become so paranoid we can't trust our next door neighbours these days. I understand the police need to investigate everything, but there's ways and means of doing it.

'I think funds could have been spent better investigating other crimes.'

Police searched the entire house and Mr Witham said they had removed his computer and a number of other items, such as papers.

He said: 'Other people buy these chemicals and don't get victimised like this.

'It's destroyed my reputation around here.'

A spokesman for Norfolk Constabulary said: 'Our priority is the safety of the public and we will always act on information. We were proportionate in our response.

'A 38-year-old man has been released on police bail and the investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident continues."

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