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Unexploded hand grenade found in Hampstead Heath pond

Detonation creates 'pantomime' puff of smoke on banks of Heath pond

12 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

A cordon was put up by police while the bomb was detonated on Saturday lunchtime

PART of Hampstead Heath was sealed off by police on Saturday lunchtime after anglers hooked an unexploded Second World War hand grenade from a Heath pond.

Detectives and officers from the Metropolitan Police’s bomb disposal squad were called to the Heath’s number 2 pond just before 11:30am, after a fisherman using a magnet accidentally picked up the grenade. It is believed to be a type-36 “Mills Bomb” explosive from the Second World War.

Michele Martin was out shopping for a Christmas tree with her 19-year-old son near Hampstead Heath overground station, when she saw five police cars and two vans race up South Hill Park.

The 54-year-old said: “It was obviously something. Then we were walking back to the car park and noticed that they had started to cordon off the area with police tape all around the pond.

Robert Barta, who was fishing with friends near the path between Hampstead 1 and 2 ponds, said: “Police started to come down [From South Hill Park Gardens], and asked us if we had given them the call. We said no, and they went over to the two guys. I asked them what had happened, and they said they had pulled out a hand grenade.”

As detectives sealed off the area while they dealt with the recently retrieved explosive, dozens of onlookers broke from their Christmas shopping and Saturday morning walks to see what was going on.

“There were two guys, both of them were in camouflage flack looking like fishermen,” said Ms Martin. “They were two brothers from Watford who had come down for the day. The one had found two pennies and had pulled out this pineapple-shaped thing. He was a bit scared and they called the police and they came really quickly.

“There were a lot of people, a lot of families out for Christmas with babies, buying trees and stuff. Some people were stopping and saying: ‘Oh we’d better get away if it’s an unexploded bomb’, and moving off quite quickly, some watching, some people saying to the fishermen: ‘Thank you so much, that’s such a dangerous thing to have around here, you’re a hero’.”

Police cars and vans parked in South Hill Park gardens. Pic credit: Robert Barta

Just over 45 minutes after they had been called, the bomb squad detonated the device on the bank of the Hampstead number 1 pond, creating a “firework-like” explosion according to one angler, and leaving a small crater.

Ms Martin said: “It was a bit of an anticlimax in the end. There was a puff of very white smoke, almost like a pantomime when a baddie comes out in a puff of smoke.

“Everyone was a bit like: ‘Oh my gosh they’ve done it.’ It wasn’t scary, the police seemed to have it really under control. In the middle of Christmas shopping and all of that going on, it was quite a strange event going on.”

Officers reopened the area just after 12:45pm.

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