UK: Exeter bomb suspect 'was Islamic convert'

"He is mentally ill but was radicalised and taken advantage of"



The man arrested for setting off an explosive device in a city centre restaurant in the West Country was identified tonight as a convert to Islam who had been mentally ill. The Giraffe

The centre of Exeter was evacuated at lunchtime following a blast at the Giraffe restaurant at the Princesshay shopping centre.

Devon and Cornwall Police said Nicky Reilly, 22, was arrested in connection with the incident. He had suffered lacerations to his eye and some facial burning. Nobody else was injured in the blast which happened when the recently opened shopping centre was crowded with shoppers.

After the blast, police evacuated all the shops in the area and sealed off the city centre with police tape. Hundreds waited behind the cordon, as local people were urged to avoid the area.

Later the cordon was extended, moving the onlookers 100 yards further back. Exeter bus station was evacuated and cordoned off, with all vehicles and passengers leaving the complex.

Piic of Nicky Reilly (22) who has been arrested in connection with the explosion in Exeter city centre

Nicky Reilly , 22, pictured at the scene of the explosion in Exeter city centre. 

Deputy chief constable Tony Melville, speaking just yards from the restaurant tonight, said: “Witnesses described how a male entered a toilet in the restaurant shortly before an explosion was heard.”

He said police and other emergency services went to the scene and the man was arrested in connection with the explosion.

Mr Melville said: “This male, who we now know is called Nicky Reilly, suffered serious facial injuries but these are not life threatening. He is currently in police custody undergoing treatment at a hospital." Mr Reily was taken to hospital some miles away in Truro, Cornwall.

Firearms officers were sent to the scene as well as sniffer dogs and specialist search teams. A Royal Navy bomb disposal team brought out a remotely controlled device to help investigate the area. A large number of police cars, police vans and three fire engines were also in attendance.

The incident happened at a time when the recently opened shopping centre would have been crowded with members of the public.

Juliette Joffe, a director of Giraffe, confirmed there was an explosion inside the restaurant. Around 15 people would have been working there at the time, she said.

“All we know at present is there was an explosion in the Giraffe in Princesshay and the Princesshay has been evacuated,” she said.

Alison Fewins, 27, from Exeter, was shopping with her friend, Louise Platt, also 27 said: “We were out shopping and were about three or four shops away when we felt a vibration and heard a noise which we thought was building work.

“We didn’t connect it with any kind of explosion. A few people were running around and we heard police cars.”

She went on: “I am a bit shaken. It’s all a bit scary that it happened here.”

Assistant Chief Constable Bob Spencer said: “We are carrying out a careful evacuation of the premises using the police and other emergency services that are at the scene.

“We will update the people of Exeter about what has happened as soon as we can. In the meantime I’d urge motorists to stay away from the city centre area and road delays are likely.”

Police tonight confirmed that armed officers had searched an address allegedly linked to Reilly in King Street, Plymouth.

Mr Melville said: “Our investigations so far indicate Reilly, who has a history of mental illness, had adopted the Islamic faith.

“We believe, despite his weak and vulnerable state, he was preyed upon, radicalised and taken advantage of.”

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