A man found in a car in Birmingham with his hands bound and surrounded by gas canisters had been kidnapped and warned he had been placed next to a bomb.
Police chiefs said the Birmingham man, described as Asian and in his 30s, had been placed in the white R-registered Nissan Micra, against his will.
He was being treated in hospital for a suspected broken leg as the police hunt for his abductors behind the “reprehensible” crime began in earnest.
Forensics specialists carried out a painstaking examination of the car in the hunt for any crucial clues to the man’s attackers.
Army bomb disposal experts, firefighters and specialist police negotiators were on the scene in Saltley after a shocked trucker driver raised the alarm at 10.23am yesterday.
The car was found parked half on the kerb, near a scrap yard at the junction of Landor Street and Clarel Drive.
The victim was lying across the front seats of the car surrounded by the canisters that were described as being the size of beer cans.
The alert brought widespread disruption to the city’s rail network delaying trains to and from New Street train station as a 500 metres exclusion zone was set up around the car.
A no-fly zone was also implemented over the area. A small number of workers at nearby factories had to be evacuated.
Coun Ayoub Khan, cabinet member for community safety at the City Council, said an eye witness had told him he had seen “foam coming out of the man mouth and said he was unconscious”.
Mr Khan, (Lib Dem, Aston) added: “It seems that this man is a victim rather than the assailant. He said he could see some bottles tied to him or something like that.”
A bomb disposal officer from the Army’s Explosive Ordnance Department wearing full protective equipment brought the seven-hour security alert to an end at about 5pm after approaching the vehicle to manually check the device.
Chief Supt Tom Coughlan, from Queens Road police, said the man had been safely removed from the vehicle and was due to be interviewed by detectives hunting for a motive for the incident.
“This incident has now become a criminal investigation,” he said. “The man appears at this stage to have been placed in the car against his will possibly with a view to scaring him. He has been told that there is a bomb in the car with him.
“We are seeking to establish the actual nature of the device that was placed in the car.
“This action is reprehensible. It has placed the victim, members of the public and emergency services at risk. I would strongly encourage anybody with any knowledge of this incident and the motivations for it to contact the police.”
Apart from an injured leg, the victim’s health was “fine”, he said.
Police said while nothing had to be diffused, they were closely examining the device and what was inside the canisters.
Chief Supt Coughlan said: “There was something physically that could represent some sort of device.
“We know it consists of gas canisters but we are not sure of the viability. The canisters appeared viable but until they have been properly assessed then we cannot know for sure how serious this threat was.”
He added: “This was clearly a kidnap situation and almost certainly there will be a criminal motivation to it. He has been the victim of a serious crime. We will pursue those who did this with vigour.”
The incident affected the West Coast Mainline out of Birmingham New Street station forcing some services to be cancelled and other re-routed.
Trains between New Street and Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and Tamworth, Staffordshire faced delays of up to 50 minutes. There were also disruptions to services to London, Leicester, Reading, and trains to the North East were diverted via Lichfield.