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Home Sevenoaks News Article
A pensioner has been remanded in custody accused of a string of offences in connection with a bomb scare.
Reginald Esqulant, 73, is charged with blackmail, taking a car without the owner's consent, driving while disqualified and with no insurance.
Esqulant, of Fawkham Road, West Kingsdown, entered no plea to any of the offences when appearing at Medway Magistrates' Court yesterday.
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He was remanded in custody to appear at Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday, March 10.
Police have charged Esqulant in connection with the discovery of a suspect package which sent the town's High Street into lockdown.
The road was closed and bomb squad sent in after a suspicious package, thought to be linked to an earlier attempted robbery, was found at Santander bank on Monday.
The suspect item turned out to be a cardboard box and concrete slab.
The area was evacuated at around 1pm and army units from Shorncliffe and Northolt were sent to the scene and detonated the item in the street just after 5pm.
A Kent Police spokesman said: "It is believed the incident is linked to a report of an attempted robbery at the location shortly before the package was discovered.
VIDEO REPORT: Pensioner arrested after 'concrete slab' bomb scare in bank. Ben Kennedy reports
"Nothing was stolen in the incident and nobody was injured."
He added no one has been arrested and it was established the device posed no threat to the public.
Cordons were set up between HSBC at the London Road junction and the junction of Pembroke Road and Suffolk Way and on London Road between Pembroke Road and Rockdale Road.
It reopened not long after 6pm.
A police forensics van was spotted at the scene.
Two crews from Kent Fire and Rescue Service were also at the scene as a precaution as was South East Coast Ambulance Service.
Sevenoaks Leisure Centre reported an influx of people using their facilities.
A Santander spokesperson said: “Santander can confirm an incident occurred in its Sevenoaks Branch this afternoon. Our staff acted quickly and professionally and contacted the police. The branch has been evacuated and police are managing the incident. We understand the closure of the branch may inconvenience our customers and we would ask them to use online, mobile or telephone banking for any urgent requirements they have, whilst the branch is closed.”
A Sevenoaks School spokesman said they had not been impacted by the incident and are continuing to monitor the situation.
An employee at The Black Boy pub, on Bank Street, said: "We were just asked by police to close our doors at about quarter to three, nobody has really been told what's going on."
Buses were unable to serve Sevenoaks bus station.
Dominic Gill, owner of Oakley Day Nursery and Preschool in Rockdale Road was looking after 30 children.
He said: "It is taking a bit of time for parents to get through because of the sheer weight of traffic on London Road.
"We have had several parents calling in to ask about their children. As long as the cordon is cleared by 5pm parents shouldn't have any trouble picking up their children. If it does take longer we will of course stay later to take care of them.
"The children are unaware of what's going on, but some are enjoying watching the blue flashing lights.
"I saw what I think was a bomb disposal van go past. It was sort of light coloured with people in army fatigues sitting in the cab.
"I am pretty sure there was no rush to evacuate at first. People were just walking out. It was very calm and then police cordoned off the road."
Eye witness Rob McBride was just finishing his lunch when the drama started, he said: "We were evacuated from a Sevenoaks restaurant because of a bomb scare at Santander round the corner. At least we had finished our food!"
Mr McBride was not the only diner affected.
Marco Arpino of Valentina Italian deli in the High Street said: "A lot of people have left town because of the scare. When it happened noone knew what was going on. We haven't been evacuated but when the High Street was closed suddenly lots of people were calling for the bill."
Pizza Express employee, Jozef, said: "We had a table of two in the restaurant when we were told we needed to evacuate, since then we haven't had any communication. The team of staff, around 7 or 8 of us, have been told to stay in the shop."
The story as it happened
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