The investigation into a terrorist plot to blow up the London Underground took a dramatic twist on Saturday when police raided a house in a market town in Devon. Counter-terrorism officers cordoned off streets surrounding the property in Newton Abbot 24 hours after arresting a teenager 200 miles away in north London. Security sources told The Telegraph that they believed the 19-year-old, who was tasered outside a university on the Holloway Road, close to Arsenal’s football ground, was acting as a ‘lone wolf’.
It is not clear how the suspect, who was described by some eyewitnesses to the arrest as a white male with a long beard, is linked to the residential address in Newton Abbot.
On Thursday, a suspect device was found onboard a London Underground carriage on the Jubilee Line near the O2 Arena and entertainment centre in Greenwich.
The discovery of the device, which had wires and a clock, prompted the Ministry of Defence to warn military personnel of the danger of a ‘severe’ threat on the Tube.
Police began searching the property in Tudor Road in Newton Abbot on Saturday afternoon after a second suspect device was discovered at the address.
Devon and Cornwall Police evacuated the street and neighbouring roads at about 2.45pm.
A cordon remained in place for about four hours.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Officers attended an address in Newton Abbot, Devon as part of enquires into the suspicious item at North Greenwich Underground Station. “Whilst there, officers found an item they deemed suspicious. Officers evacuated the address and alerted Devon and Cornwall Police.
“Devon and Cornwall Police in conjunction with SO15 are now dealing with the item.”
The house is just yards from the town’s police station on nearby Baker’s Hill.
One resident said: “This is a very quiet street. Where the house was raided there are a number of rented properties. People do come and go.”
Phil Smith, 62, was refereeing a football match at Baker’s Park in Newton Abbot when police cleared the pitch.
He said: “I was the referee and we were eight minutes into the match when suddenly a policeman appeared on the touchline and said ‘Sorry, you are going to have to stop playing and get out of the park – we want to land some helicopters on the football pitch’.
“He said there was an incident but couldn’t say anything about it.
“He proceeded to hustle us all off and then he went to the children’s play park and hustled all them out and was trying to get the car park clear as well.”
On Saturday Devon and Cornwall Police said in a statement the suspect device found in Newton Abbot had not posed a threat.
The force said: “We can confirm that following initial investigations, the device found at Tudor Road, Newton Abbot, is not viable. Therefore, the cordon will be lifted and residents from the evacuated properties will be allowed to return to their homes. We thank them for their patience and co-operation in this matter.
“Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to support the Metropolitan Police with their investigation.
“Further forensic searches will continue at the property in question. A police scene guard will remain in place whilst this work continues.”
British Transport Police confirmed that they had increased security arrangements because of the discovery of the device on the Tube device and would be stepping up patrols.
The discovery of the suspect device and the subsequent arrest came 11 years after the 7/7 bombings when the London transport network was targeted in a terror attack that killed 52 passengers.
The teenage terror suspect was later arrested outside London Metropolitan University about 10 miles from where the suspected bomb was discovered in north Greenwich.
Witnesses described the young man being dragged to the ground by plain-clothed masked officers carrying machine guns.
Specialist forensic officers will examine the suspect package found in London over the weekend and sources said it would be early next week before they could determine exactly what it was.
Scotland Yard said the arrest came “following the discovery of a suspicious item on a tube in north Greenwich”.
A statement said: “The 19-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorism acts, under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He has been taken to a London police station where he remains in custody.”
Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the suspected bomb. The arrest came as security experts warned that militants from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant may try to attack the UK as a reprisal for its support for the offensive on Mosul.