The seige of Paradise Circus came to a dramatic end last night when police overpowered the man who had threatened to leap from a bridge during a 28-hour stand-off that brought parts of Birmingham to a standstill.
The stand-off, which began when he climbed over bridge railings at around 4pm on Wednesday, ended when tiredness finally set in and officers seized the opportunity to make an arrest at around 8pm.
The man, believed to be homeless and from Latvia, was detained after drawn out negotiating tactics, which have been defended by police.
Throughout the night the team of four negotiators - three men and a woman - came within touching distance of the man and supplied him with food, coffee, cigarettes and a jacket to keep him warm.
At one point earlier in the afternoon they had even managed to coax him down to the steps in Chamberlain Square, but he wriggled away and jumped back over the railings.
As darkness fell the tiredness appeared to set in, he started to shiver and and he let out anguished screams with his fists clenched as he tried to stay awake.
The negotiators seized their chance when they stood up one by one, surrounding him, before grappling with him for 30 seconds whilst calling for help from officers waiting inside Paradise Forum.
Before the man was overpowered, Chief Insp Sean Russell said there was no limit on the time police negotiators would take as they tried to talk him out of jumping 30ft from a bridge above Paradise Circus.
The man at the centre of the drama was said to be a homeless Big Issue seller aged in his late 20s or early 30s.
Onlookers said the man was from Latvia asked for a passport to return to his homeland after the death of his parents.
They also said he was well known in the area and one said he was banned from the Paradise Circus shopping complex and the library.
A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “Before the safe conclusion of the stand-off, police officers had pleaded for patience as they defended their softly-softly approach to the man who brought Birmingham city centre to a standstill."
At a cordon set up to keep bystanders away, some onlookers chanted at the man to jump.
Most seemed angry and frustrated with the disruption and an argument even broke out at a cordon inside Paradise Forum when an office worker defended the man from other angry onlookers.
“Negotiations can take days on occasions,” Chief Insp Russell had said on Thursday. “We have to reason with him, gain his trust and reassure him that we aren’t going to harm him and are going to help.
“We don’t want to create frustration but we need to maintain safety for the public and the person on the bridge.
“It’s a difficult situation where we’ve got a man saying he’s going to throw himself off a bridge.
“We have a duty of care to him and the public. It’s a delicate balance.”
The stand-off sparked a second day of chaos on the roads with a string of closures around the city centre yesterday on the busiest routes into the city.
He repeatedly became agitated when the police negotiators tried to approach him.
Police also appeared to have set up for the night after they brought in a large control room van for the team of negotiators, which appeared to panic the man when he saw it drive into Victoria Square.
A team of Operational Support Officers also arrived. Armed with tazers, and they stood waiting out of sight inside Paradise Circus.
Tailbacks during the morning rush hour were so big that they stretched through the tunnels, onto the A38 and even affected traffic on the northbound carriageway of the M6.
Roads hit by closures were Paradise Circus from Great Charles Street Queensway and the Queensway Tunnel at Paradise Street.
Paradise Forum was also made a no-go area to pedestrians. Pedestrians walking from Broad Street were diverted through the back doors of Paradise Forum, through Newhall Street and onto Colmore Row.
Business leaders warned the transport problems would cost city firms hundreds of thousands of pounds and police would not confirm the huge costs of policing the incident.
John Lamb, of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “The disruption will be big. There will be people trying to get around who can’t and it will affect the flow of goods in and out of the city.”
West Midlands Police said it was too early to put a figure on the policing costs involved in the operation but there were no shows scheduled at either the Town Hall or Symphony Hall on Wednesday night.
Organisers of a ‘Crime Night Out’ event at Birmingham Library Theatre, next to the bridge, made sure it went ahead despite the roads problems by re-directing the audience of 76, through another entrance.