Eyewitnesses to shootings inside a busy Birmingham nightclub in which four people were injured have told of their terror.
A wave of panic spread through Digbeth’s Custard Factory complex after two shots were fired during a busy urban music event on Saturday morning.
About 20 minutes later a mob of up to 30 men stormed security barriers and ran in to the arena before another two shots were fired, clubbers have said.
Last night three men, aged 20, 23 and 25, from Wolverhampton and Birmingham, remained in a stable condition in hospital.
A 25-year-old woman who was treated in hospital was allowed to go home. All had been shot in the legs.
As a huge police operation gets under way, the force was facing questions over why it apparently took half an hour for armed response units to enter the venue even though it knew the event had been declared “high risk”.
“It was blind panic after the first shots were fired – just total mayhem,” said Taye Armani, a model and part-time TV presenter from London.
“As we were trying to get out we saw a man lying on the ground with blood pouring out of his stomach and people trying to help him.
“The police were very slow to get there – it was 10 minutes after the second shooting that they showed up.”
The drama began to unfold just after 1am during the Urban Music Gathering which took over the venue from 8pm for a 10-hour party.
A man who had been selling food on Heath Mill Lane outside the venue said he believed that the first shots were fired close to the Space 2 area of the club.
“It seemed to be just a normal night and then I heard some shots and there was a real commotion and loads of people screaming inside,” said the vendor.
Mr Armani, aged 26, said he had driven up to Birmingham with his 37-year-old sister, Madeline Steele, and had been inside the club for just 10 minutes when there was the first signs of trouble – and the pair left immediately.
At that stage, an estimated 2,000 were inside the club while many more were queuing up to get inside.
Taye said that 20 minutes later, a 30-strong gang overwhelmed bouncers and stormed inside the venue.
Two more shots were then heard inside the complex – but armed police only arrived and enter the club that 10 minutes after that, he said.
Police said they could not comment on claims that there had been a delay between the initial shootings and their entry to the club or links to the city’s drugs gangs.
They have appealed for witnesses and say they will look at CCTV footage to try and identify the gunmen.
Forensics officers were at the scene throughout Sunday and carried out a painstaking fingertip search of the premises.
Supt Matt Ward said last night: “In terms of how long the response too, it will be subject to the usual review.
“We hope the forensic search of the building will be completed by tomorrow.”
Promoters were facing a backlash from angry punters who were offered assurances that the event would be safe and free from trouble.
A Facebook advert for the event stated: “This event will be monitored by West Midlands Police to ensure you have the best event possible.”
One poster, Philip Campbell, wrote on Facebook: “Yeah man I want my money back! What kind of big event boasts police dogs and airport scanners to get in and people are still getting guns in!!?”
The Custard Factory distanced itself from the events.
A spokesman said: “The music event did not take place in the Custard Factory itself – it was in a converted factory next door.
“The event was not hosted, sponsored, organised or managed in any way by the Custard Factory although we do have a business relationship with the company responsible for the event.”
The promoters were not available for comment last night.
An employee from the venue, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s an event which has a high-risk profile and at previous events there has been some sort of police presence.
“It was predominantly urban music which does tend to attract the odd troublemaker.
“It was total mayhem in there last night.”