Armed police lock down Oxford Street amid panic

24 November 2017, 16:53

Thousands of shoppers fled in panic as armed police swooped on London's Oxford Street and Oxford Circus Tube station after receiving reports that shots had been fired.

Crowds of people poured out of Selfridges department store, all Underground trains were stopped in the area, traffic was blocked and officers locked people inside shops.

The alarm was raised shortly after 4.30pm. It was an hour-and-a-half before Met Police gave the all-clear.

During that time, armed officers searched Oxford Circus Tube station, Selfridges and other shops.

Police have released images of two men they want to speak to over the incident.

A statement from British Transport Police said: "Officers believe an altercation erupted between two men on the platform."

They are appealing for information from anyone who may have seen the row in Oxford Circus Tube station.

The incident sparked rumours and false reports of shots fired in Selfridges, a gang fight on the Tube and of a lorry surrounded by police with blood on the pavement - none of these have proved to be true so far.

Eyewitnesses reported being caught in "stampedes" and said there was "pandemonium" as police treated the incident as if it was terrorist-related.

However, Met Police said they could find no evidence of shots fired or any suspects.

They added: "Given the nature of the information received, the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers.

"Officers working with colleagues from British Transport Police carried out an urgent search of the area."

:: Oxford Street alert as it happened

Several people were injured while trying to leave the area - seven were treated at the scene and nine were taken to hospital.

British Transport Police said there was "a significant level of panic", adding that it was "examining the circumstances of the incident which resulted in the station being evacuated".

Pictures and video on social media showed armed officers at Oxford Circus station and people being led away from Oxford Street.

Selfridges later said the evacuation of its shop was a precautionary measure and there were "no reported incidents in store".

Bryce Malcolmson, who works in Soho, said he was in Oxford Circus Tube station when he heard a call over the loudspeaker for a police officer to attend one of the platforms.

He told Sky News: "Suddenly I just heard screaming and people running out of the station. Everybody turned round in sort of pandemonium and started trying to exit the Tube as quickly as possible.

"I got up to the top by the ticket barriers and they were all open. I ran out on to the street but it was almost as if no one knew anything had happened down below.

"Within… a couple of minutes there were armed response units and police cars absolutely everywhere. I think people were so unsure what had happened they were running in all directions."

Tourist Lanna Woodward said she witnessed the aftermath of the panic on Oxford Street.

The 20-year-old from California said: "Before it all I saw about 30 police officers speeding down the street.

"We were in the Kingdom of Sweets and then saw a massive crowd of people running and screaming. People were climbing on top of each other.

"The store we were in was locked down, the manager wouldn't let us leave - they said there had been a shooting at the entrance of the Tube station."

Paying tribute to the "swift response" of emergency services, mayor Sadiq Khan urged Londoners to "remain vigilant and don't panic".

He said: "It is vital that we are not complacent - if in doubt it is always best to err on the side of caution and call the police on 999."

:: Anyone with information on the two men should call British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40.