Officer pulls pin on grenade risk

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014
David Simpson
CHRIS HILLCOCK/ Fairfax NZ
DANGEROUS JOB: Strategic Traffic Unit constable David Simpson has been praised for his actions in dealing with a highly explosive hand grenade found by children in Ngaruawahia.

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A police officer drew on his military experience when a woman in a car pulled up next to him with a grenade in the back seat of her vehicle.

Strategic Traffic Unit constable David Simpson's quick actions potentially saved Ngaruawahia from an explosive situation when he was on duty in the town's centre on June 21.

Simpson was approached by the driver on Great South Road who asked for advice about a grenade her children found.

The former British Army Infantry explosives expert had seen many grenades and when he walked over to the woman's vehicle his first thought was: "Don't panic Captain Mannering" a line often used in the old British sitcom Dad's Army. "I've seen enough grenades to know that this one was pretty bad," Simpson said.

He described the grenade as old with severe corrosion. "I knew I had to get it out of the town centre which was busy. So we took it back to her paddocks which is in a remote location dug a hole and placed the grenade inside it."

The grenade, which could be about 100 years old, was the third explosive device Simpson had dealt with in six years working as a police officer in Ngaruawahia.

"A lot of people have old keepsakes like grenades that have been passed down [to the next] generation, or they've found it. It is quite common in this area," Simpson said.

Simpson notified the New Zealand Defence Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) who detonated the grenade in a secure location.

The member of EOD who detonated the device commended Simpson's actions in segregating and cordoning off the "highly explosive" device. He also commended the mother for alerting police immediately.

The bomb expert said there was a chance it could have exploded. "If there was or was not a detonator inside the main body was unknown, so we always err on the side of caution and take the worst-case scenario which is a primed high explosive hand grenade."

North Waikato Senior Sergeant Gill Meadows also praised the constable's actions. "I think he's done an absolutely fantastic job in this case," she said.

Explosive devices are common in areas such as Ngaruawahia which used to be home to former New Zealand Defence Force bases.

Research on the grenade found it was a type first constructed in 1915 by Williams Mills, a hand grenade designer from Sunderland, UK. He designed what is known as the Mills bomb which had several variations. These and similar models were used by the British army until 1972 and within the NZDF until the 1960s. florence.kerr@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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