Radioactive canister stolen from Bacup is found at Rochdale shopping centre
A RETAIL park was cordoned off for three hours after a deadly stolen canister of radioactive material was discovered by shoppers.
The yellow canister of Iridium 192 is believed to have been taken from a van in Bacup.
Officers set up a 100-metre cordon around The Point Retail Park, in Rochdale, following reports of a suspicious package being found yesterday, shortly before 12.45pm.
Rochdale Leisure Centre was also closed during the alert.
The park was shut off for more than three hours as firefighters and a Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) team were called in to make the scene safe.
The foot-long 15kg canister was spotted next to a kerb behind a Staples store.
It was assessed and declared safe before it was removed by a team of experts in hazardous materials.
It was stolen between 1am on February 16 and 3.20am on February 18 from a Peugeot van parked outside a house in New Line, Bacup.
Superintendent Chris Hankinson, from Greater Manchester police, said: “This caused some disruption but we have to put the safety of the public first.
"The information came through via Crimestoppers and as soon as we were aware, a team of highly trained officers were deployed.
"They instantly recognised that this was a radioactive substance and the necessary safety procedures were put in place. The canister was assessed and no leaks or breakages were found.
“Further tests were conducted at the site as a safety precaution and I can reassure community that there is no existing risk to them.
“The emergency services and local council have worked very closely with ourselves to help ensure that no one has come to any harm and that minimum disruption was caused. We are still working to find out who was responsible for leaving the canister at the retail park and enquiries are ongoing.”
A statement from Greater Manchester Fire Service said: "Firefighters and a Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) vehicle were sent to the address where they are currently working with police colleagues to recover the item.
"As a precautionary measure police have put a 100-metre cordon in place and traffic diversions have been put in place around the area.
"DIM vehicles are provided by Government to fire and rescue services across the country. They are operated by highly-trained officers and can detect, identify and monitor a large range of chemicals and substances."
When it was stolen, the material was being transported from Scotland to the south of England by a courier who had stopped overnight.
The Health Protection Agency had warned that anybody who came into contact with it should seek medical advice urgently.
If exposed, the material can increase the risk of cancer, cause burns, radiation sickness and even death.
The canister, which requires a key to be opened, has a thick layer of lead on the inside protecting a smaller canister, which contains the Iridium 192 Large amounts of Iridium 192, which is intended for industrial use, can increase the risk of cancer due with its high-energy gamma radiation levels, and it can also cause burns and acute radiation sickness.
It is a metal often used in industrial gauges that inspect welding seams and can also be used in medicine to treat certain cancers.