Support has been flooding in for the victims of a cruel hoax at the centre of a terror scare which saw Knaresborough completely locked down.
Anti-terror police, armed with guns and tasers, evacuated the entire High Street and locked down the local secondary school as they interrogated staff at the town’s Paragon Pizza.
The four Bangladeshi men, who said they were accused of having bombs and guns at the takeaway, were later released after it emerged it was all sparked by a malicious hoax call.
And now, as the owner of the shop has spoken of his anguish at what happened, the whole community is rallying around to show united support.
“They are really nice guys,” said Knaresborough resident Ellie Spencer. “They’ve never caused any trouble. It’s disgusting that anybody could do this to them. It must be so hard for them today.
“But whoever did this is going to find egg on their face - they will not get the reaction they wanted.”
Police pledge to catch cruel hoaxer
Investigating detectives, who said they had been told of an “immediate threat” to members of the public, have now vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
“Our primary concern was to ensure the safety of members of the public and an immediate response to the incident was put in place,” said a spokesman.
“Following extensive and swift enquiries following the calls, officers established that the calls were in fact, malicious hoax calls.
“Officers have thanked the staff and owners of Paragon Pizza for their full cooperation during this incident. The incident has caused them considerable distress.
“The Major Crime Unit is now conducting an investigation into the incident to bring the person or people responsible for the malicious communications to justice.”
Victim’s fears after terror raid
Speaking late last night after being interrogated for several hours by anti-terror police, Paragon Pizza owner Razaul Karim told the Knaresborough Post and Harrogate Advertiser he was “angry and upset” about what happened.
“I was really shocked,” he said. “I have never seen anything like this in Knaresborough.
“My colleagues were handcuffed. They know nothing - we are just hardworking people.”
Speaking to our reporters as he was released, he said his fear was that people in the town would now remember him for scenes splashed across TV screens on Wednesday - and not for anything he has done over his last nine years in Knaresborough.
“I have got a good shop, and everybody saw the armed police, it is bad for our reputation,” he said, close to tears. “Everybody loves Paragon Pizza.”
Mr Karim, who was also stopped and searched at 6pm, says has no idea where the hoax call may have come from.
Showing his wrists, bruised by handcuffs after he was taken into interview by police, he said: “I feel really angry. It’s frightening.
“I am a family man, I have got kids.”
He continued: “I try to help Knaresborough Cricket Club.
“Yesterday I was celebrating Eid with my family.
“Now I am concerned for tomorrow. If my kids ask why I’ve been arrested, what do I tell them?”
Eye witness accounts
Images started to emerge late yesterday afternoon of startling scenes in Knaresborough.
Published on social media outlets, they appeared to show four men held at gunpoint in the street, surrounded by scores of armed officers, dogs and trained police officers.
One eyewitness, Sarah Hanman, lives next to the scene on Briggate with her 12-year-old son Kieron.
She said she looked out of her window to see dozens of guns trained on her home, which was surrounded by 10 to 15 policemen with dogs and tasers.
“When I first looked out of the window all I could see was all these guns pointing at my living room window. Then the police started screaming for us to get away from the window.
“I felt terrified as I didn’t know what was happening.”
Church a ‘refuge’
The High Street was completely cordoned off, with passers-by evacuated, shops shut and residents told to stay inside.
Around 250 pupils at King James’s School were kept inside as the school went into lock down at around 4.30pm.
Ellie Spencer, a Slimming World consultant who had been due to hold a class in the Methodist Church on Gracious Street, said the hall became a refuge for those who had nowhere to go.
“People weren’t allowed to leave the building,” she said. “They were saying it was safer to stay inside, and there were lots of young people with us. We just pulled together.
“We were really worried, we didn’t know what was going on. We were looking on Facebook for updates. It’s not something that happens in Knaresborough! It’s a nice sleepy market town.
“People are saying it was a bomb scare. What if it had been real? It’s terrifying to think of the damage it could have caused.”
And now, as the community in Knaresborough comes to terms with what has happened, residents are rallying around the staff at Paragon Pizza.
“I hope the people of Knaresborough will go and give their support to the owner and staff after the horrific hoax on them today,” said Graham Richards on Twitter.
And another resident said: “The poor guys at Paragon Pizza, what a Wednesday! Bet they need a sit down and a brew.”
In the hour that our reporters spent with the four victims last night, numerous people came in to the Pizza shop to show their support.
One man even brought them a takeaway - saying quietly that he imagined they hadn’t had time to eat.
The property’s landlord, Andy Wright, said the men, who live in Harehills in Leeds, deserved to be left alone.
The town councillor, who was interviewed by anti-terror police said: “They are very family focussed, I have worked with them for nearly 10 years.
“I have worked closely with them, they are my good friends.”
Mr Wright added: “I’m feeling very emotional about it all, I have not had anything like that happen in my life.
“They have asked me about their business and they are very worried if this will affect it.
“Somebody has been quite malicious to try and accuse them of something. Somebody is trying to be disruptive.”
Click here for a full video interview with the victim of the terror scare.
Click here for a video of the drama unfolding.
Click here for our report as it happened.
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