Police investigate suspected chemical attack at College of West Anglia

Police are investigating a suspected chemical attack at a college in Norfolk that left 30 learners needing medical attention.

One block of the College of West Anglia was evacuated and one student was hospitalised as a precaution after people at the King’s Lynn campus began experiencing breathing difficulties on Friday (November 7) morning.

A nearby road was sealed off for more than two hours while emergency services scoured the scene. The building was fully open this week, with teaching taking place as normal.

A college spokesperson said: “The police and fire service have confirmed their belief that the cause of Friday’s incident was the introduction of a substance to the third floor area by a person or persons as yet unknown.

“Discussions with the emergency services suggest that this is likely to have been a CS type substance, mace or pepper spray but this has not been confirmed.

“It is being treated as a criminal act and the college will be working closely with the police to identify the culprits.”

Grant Cotterell, station manager at Norfolk fire service, said: “We got a call around 11am about a suspected gas leak. When we got to the scene, the students had been evacuated and were on the grass area in front of the college.

“Incidents like these have the potential to be very serious. The kids were coughing and some had watery eyes.

“We are unsure as yet what the cause was. We’re handing the investigation over to the police and the college.”

A spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) said: “The trust dispatched two response cars, an ambulance, an ambulance officer, our hazardous area response team (HART) and our air ambulance colleagues at Magpas.

“One patient has been taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital by land ambulance for further assessment and care, but is not thought to be in a life-threatening condition. At this stage it’s not anticipated that any other patients will need further treatment at hospital.”

The incident came just days after police in the North East arrested Liam Lyburd at his home on suspicion he had made a pipe bomb that he was preparing to detonate at Newcastle College.

The 18-year-old is due to appear at Newcastle Crown Court on November 20 charged with possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, possessing ammunition with intent to endanger life, and five counts of possessing an explosive substance, namely a pipe bomb, with intent to endanger life.

For more on the College of West Anglia incident, including comment from the principal, see edition 118 of FE Week, dated Monday, November 17.