Armed siege at bowling centre

SHOCKED bowlers were forced to flee an Ipswich alley after a man wielding a gun was believed to have locked himself in a toilet.

SHOCKED bowlers were forced to flee an Ipswich alley after a man wielding a gun was believed to have locked himself in a toilet.

The Solar Bowl centre, next to Morrisons in Sproughton Road, was still sealed off early today after a quiet Sunday night out turned to drama for dozens of bowlers.

Employees from the neighbouring Morrisons supermarket and filling station were also escorted to safety by police after the gunman, thought to be a 19-year-old man from the town, refused to give himself up.

One eyewitness described how the blond gunman, wearing a blue and white hooded top, pointed the pistol at one of his friend's heads before he was tackled to the ground.

The suspect then ran into the leisure centre, entering the toilets.

Staff set off the fire alarm and dozens of customers, many still wearing their bowling shoes, calmly left the premises and were asked to wait outside.

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Several police cars quickly arrived on the scene and the force helicopter hovered above the site.

At about 10.30pm armed officers arrived at the bowling alley as well as police dog handlers. Delivery trucks and night-shift staff at Morrisons were turned away by officers manning a cordon that had been set up around the site.

Last night a police spokesman confirmed that armed officers were at the scene and were treating the incident seriously.

The spokesman said: “We were called at 9pm to Solar Bowl in Sproughton Road, Ipswich, to reports that a male was in the premises with a firearm.

“People were immediately evacuated from the building and Boss Hall Road was closed to all traffic.

“We are in attendance with firearms officers, dog handlers and the force helicopter has been attending too. We are not in a position to confirm the nature of the gun.”

A night out for staff and regulars from a village pub ended in drama as the 15-strong group's bowling match was interrupted by last night's events.

The team, from the Shepherd and Dog pub in Forward Green, near Stowmarket, had been enjoying a game at the Solar Bowl site when the fire alarm suddenly went off and everybody was asked to make their way outside.

Several members of the group were still wearing their red and blue leather bowling shoes as they waited outside the complex.

Matt Hall, 27, from Stowmarket, said rumours quickly began spreading among the bowlers that a man had been seen brandishing a “BB (ball bearing) gun”.

He said: “The fire alarm went off and they said 'someone's got a BB gun' and they brought in all the firearms people. There were a lot of people (waiting) in the car park.”

Another member of the group, 17-year-old Courtney Budd, said there was a lot of confusion among the customers as they were escorted out of the building.

She said: “We don't even know what it's about - someone held up a BB gun to the CCTV (camera).

“They said we would get our shoes back, but we don't know when. We were standing quite close and they (the police) told us to go quite far back, then they said they had to send in specialist teams.”