A LARGE part of a town centre was evacuated and cordoned off after a suspicious package was found outside a shopping centre.

Police and fire crews were called to Darlington town centre shortly before 2.30pm on Monday afternoon when security guards from the Cornmill shopping centre spotted an unattended bag which had been left by a bin outside the Queen Street shopping centre.

An area of Northgate, between Costa Coffee and Evans, was then cordoned off by police and surrounding shops and offices had to be evacuated.

Both The Cornmill and Queen Street shopping centres were evacuated and closed while police waited for sniffer dogs to arrive.

After extending the cordon to McDonalds and around to Crown Street police gave the all clear at around 3.40pm, initially allowing shop workers back in before taking down the cordon.

Speaking at the scene yesterday, Inspector Nadim Khaliq said: “We had the sniffer dogs in and they found no signs of explosives in the bag.

“I opened it up afterwards and found it to contain an old Playstation One.

“We evacuated such a large area of town for the public’s protection.

“Obviously in this instance there were no explosives, but I would always say that it is better to be safe than sorry.

“Incidents like this are very rare and our response was appropriate."

Susan Young, Cornmill centre manager, said: “On the advice of the authorities we had to close the centre for a short time this afternoon while a security issue was investigated in the town centre.

“We take the welfare of our visitors very seriously, and, although it was highly unfortunate that we were forced to close, we are always willing to co-operate with the police on such matters.

“I’m pleased to say that the situation was soon resolved and the Cornmill was reopened for business.”