Tucked away in a quite part of Birmingham known as Shard End, two men were busy assembling a bomb in the back of a small van. They had rented a small, detached house with a garage on its side. The bomb was a simple, but large device designed to detonate and send most of its power upwards through the roof of the van. At about ten o’clock in the morning, one of the men who had been building the bomb in the small van drove it out of the garage and started his journey into the centre of Birmingham.
In the control room of the Birmingham city police to team of officers monitoring the various computers and screens linked to the CCTV cameras dotted around the city were going about their usual duties. Although the staff of the control room where aware of the possible bomb threat to their area there was more than enough goings on in the area they covered to keep them busy and not able to ponder on the possibility of a terrorist attack.
As the bomber approached the large roundabout known as, Bordesley Circus, he got caught up in some traffic which slowed his progress. He expected this so was not concerned and just waited in the traffic as it moved forwards toward the roundabout.
Although there was a lot of noise and movement within the police control room, the officer in charge had his attention drawn to a screen positioned to his left by an alarm sounding and a red box flashing on the screen. The red alert contained some text that said, “Manual verification required for an ANPR alert”. The ANPR system or automatic number plate recognition to give it its full title was a system that connected cameras around the city to a central computer system that covered the entire country and enabled the police to track vehicle movements. This type of alert did not happen often so he knew he had to get straight on to it. The alert triggered because a vehicle within the Birmingham city boundaries appeared to have the same number plate as another vehicle logged as being in another part of the country at the same time.
While he was looking at the captured image of the vehicle, the control room commander realised it was the same type of van used for the river Clyde incident in Scotland. There had in fact been two vans of the same type stolen at the same time and all forces around the country where on alert looking for the second van. Not only did the sighting of this van mean there could be something going on in his area, the commander knew he had to make an urgent call to London as well.
Sitting in his office in London, Reece Leach was reading the statements made by the bombers captured during the recent attempt to blow up a nuclear submarine on the Clyde in Scotland. The telephone on his desk started to ring so he reached forward and picked up the handset.
“Good Morning, Leach speaking.” he stated into the handset.
“Superintendent Short, Birmingham City Police here.” said the voice at the other end of the line.
“How can I help sir?” replied Leach.
“We have had an alert raised on a van you may be interested in here in Birmingham.”
“OK, where is the van heading?” replied Leach.
“It’s heading towards the centre of Birmingham, we are following its progress via the cities CCTV system.” came the reply.
“Right” said Leach, “Please alert your officers and other emergency services be prepared to move quickly and keep me informed”.
“Will do,” said Short and he hung up the telephone.
The bomber arrived at the Bullring Shopping centre and drove into the underground car parking area. As expected, the car parking area was full of cars with people heading towards the shopping area of the centre via the various exits and lifts. The bomber drove around for a few moments and managed to find a parking place in the centre of the upper parking area. He reached behind the driver’s seat and grabbed a small box with two wires attached to it. This box was a simple switch unit that contained a timer unit for the bomb and had been set to complete the detonation circuit 10 minutes after activation.
Having monitored the van entering the underground parking area of the shopping centre, the police where activating the procedure for evacuating the shopping centre and its surrounding area. Superintendent Short had instructed officers to contact the shopping centre security office and tell them there was a live bomb alert and they should evacuate immediately. Other officers had already called the fire brigade, ambulance service and the local bomb squad heading to the centre from their base on the outskirts of Birmingham.
The bomber got out of the van and headed towards an exit that would enable him to access the area outside the shopping centre in the shortest possible time without having to go through the actual shopping area.
Once Short was satisfied all the emergency services had been mobilised, he picked up his telephone handset with the intention of calling Leach in London to bring him up to speed with events. Short was interrupted from making this call by the sound of a distance thud and slight vibration of the control centre furniture.
Back in the shopping centre, people were screaming and running out of all the exits. The bomb had detonated in the car park and caused complete panic in the shopping area above. Although the bomb blast had not managed to get through the car park ceiling, it had caused a fireball within the car park and that had caused other vehicles to catch fire and explode. The result of this was a lot of smoke had made its way up the various staircases and elevator shafts that lead to the shopping area and this along with the sound of the explosions had caused people to panic.
By now, the fire and ambulance services were starting to arrive at the scene and a command post had been setup nearby in order to control the situation. A number of police officers had been sent to the shopping centre and were starting to assist with the evacuation of the public through the various exits and sending them towards the perimeter that had been setup around the danger area. One of the control room officers had been given the task of monitoring the driver of the van using CCTV. Things were very hectic but he had managed to do this and was informing officers in the area of the National Express coach station that the driver had entered the coach station building and that armed officers were heading to the area.
Because of the number of passengers in the coach station, it was going to be hard to make an arrest without putting even more members of the public at risk. No one knew if the van driver was armed or not, so the armed response unit commander decided to assume he was, and act accordingly. The commander decided to send in some plain clothed armed officers to follow the driver until they felt a safe opportunity arose and they could make the arrest.
The fire service was managing to get the blaze that had taken hold in the car park under control and were taking steps to assist injured people leave the area and get medical assistance. There were a number of bodies scattered around the car park but the fire officers could do nothing about this. Their priority was to extinguish the fire. They also knew that the crime scene investigators would locate and deal with the bodies later, once they had completed their investigations.
Although no one in Birmingham had contacted Reece Leach directly, he knew what was going on as an intelligence service officer had called him from within the building where he was located. The officer had told him that a bomb had gone off in car park of the Bullring shopping centre and that there were a number of fatalities and casualties. He also knew that the bomber had been located in a bus station near to the shopping centre and armed officers where in the area preparing to make an arrest.
With the assistance of the control room officer watching the bomber, two armed police officers had managed to position themselves near to him and were waiting for a chance to make the arrest.
The bomber was continually looking around at his surroundings but the moment he was looking away from both the police officers one of them shouted, “GO”. At this point, both officers moved towards him very quickly, grabbed his arms and bundled him to the ground. As this happened the members of the public that were standing nearby moved away and other officers quickly joined the two that had grabbed the bomber. The bomber was soon brought under control, hand cuffed and searched. Within a few minutes of the arrest, the armed response commander was using his mobile telephone to contact Superintendent Short to give him a full update.
After getting this update Short collected his thoughts and picked up his telephone handset in order to call Leach and let him know what was going on. He dialled Leach’s direct line number and waited for an answer.
The call was connected and Short heard a familiar voice say
“Hello Leach, just calling to give you an update,” Short said.
“We are still dealing with the incident at the shopping centre but we have the bomber in custody,” Short continued.
“It would appear he was planning to head to London as you expected.”
“Thank you for that, we have a good idea of where he was heading and who he was going to meet with, so we will look into dealing with things from here now,” replied Leach.
Leach replaced the handset of the telephone onto its base unit in order to terminate the call.
He paused for moment thinking about the fact it was not possible to stop the events in Birmingham but then quickly moved his thought process to how he and his team were going to continue the fight against these groups who seemed hell bent on causing death and destruction wherever and whenever possible.