Man held job centre staff hostage while wearing fake suicide vest in North East siege

Maxwell Brennan
Maxwell Brennan

A man has been jailed after he took staff at a job centre hostage while wearing a fake suicide vest around his waist.

Maxwell Scott Brennan, 28, was armed with a fake suicide vest, a kitchen knife and a machete when he walked into the Job Centre Plus on Clifford Street in Byker, Newcastle, on June 9 this year.

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It was just before 8am and the building was just opening up when Brennan forced himself through the front door as staff turned up for work.

He immediately let the majority of those in the building leave before ordering one female staff member to tie up one of the two men also being held hostage.

Police were on the scene less than two minutes after receiving the call - at which point all they knew was a potential suicide bomber was holding the woman and two men hostage.

Officers acted quickly to shut nearby roads, establish a cordon and close the nearby Metro station in preparation for the worst case scenario.

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One-by-one the hostages were released by Brennan until just one male staff member was left alone with Brannan.

Around 23 minutes into the siege specialist negotiators were able to make contact with him through the phone of the last remaining hostage.

It was through this method of communication that they persuaded Brennan - who claimed he just wanted more support for his mental health - to release the final hostage.

Around an hour and 18 minutes after entering the building Brennan eventually handed himself over to police - but only after stripping down to his boxer shorts on the orders of specialist firearms officers.

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He was taken into police custody before he was later charged with false imprisonment, possession of a bladed article and communicating fake information about a bomb hoax.

Brannan's fake suicide vest was in fact made up of deodorant cans and components of a games console which he had tucked inside a stab vest.

He also had a fake detonator - actually a dictaphone - strapped to the vest and was carrying a holdall stuffed with wires to give the impression it was a bomb.

Brannan, of Shipley Walk, Byker, admitted the charges at an earlier court hearing but this afternoon. He was jailed for five years and four months by a judge.

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Northumbria Police Acting Superintendent Dave Pickett, of Central Area Command, praised the response of his officers and welcomed the lengthy custodial sentence handed down to Brannan.

He said: "This was a fantastic response by our officers who were on scene in less than two minutes with specialist firearms officers there in less than nine minutes.

"At that very early stage it became clear through witness statements that we were dealing with an agitated individual who appeared to have explosives strapped round his waist.

"Our primary objective was to preserve the life of those inside the job centre and the surrounding area and it was a huge operation.

"The victims involved were terrified and the way they conducted themselves during the hostage situation is truly amazing. Their bravery has to be commended.

"They were also vital in us setting up a line of communication with Brannan and getting him on the phone to our negotiators was crucial.

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"From there we were able to persuade him to take off the vest and walk outside with his hands above his head and surrender himself.

"It was only then that we discovered the suicide vest was a fake and I'm sure the people of Byker understood why we had to take all the precautions we did.

"Local residents should feel hugely reassured by the actions of their local police officers that day and the safe conclusion of the siege.

"I am immensely proud of them and glad that their actions preserved the life of all those involved and has led to the conviction of this individual.

"His victims will suffer from the trauma of this incident for the rest of their lives but I hope this lengthy custodial sentence brings them some closure."

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