'Mortified' couple apologise after donating grenade to D-Day centre in Portland

Derek and Deborah Morgan handed in a grenade as a possible donation to Castletown D-Day Centre on Portland. Credit: BMP Media

A couple has profoundly apologised after they sparked a bomb squad call-out and police cordon when they handed in a grenade as a donation to a wartime museum.

Officers were called to Castletown D-Day Centre on Portland after 12pm on Wednesday (July 20) after Derek and Deborah Morgan handed in a grenade as a possible donation.

It is believed that the grenade was then placed inside a tank as staff called police officers and explosive ordnance disposal to attend the scene. As a result, Castletown was closed by police for several hours as they erected a 50-metre cordon and blocked residents and business owners from entering the area.

Mrs Morgan, who was on holiday from Exeter, visited the museum with her husband when they offered the grenade as a donation to the D-Day Centre. She was confident that the grenade was deactivated, yet the device caused the police and explosive ordnance disposal team to be called.

An apologetic Deborah told DorsetLive: "My husband was left some war artefacts and medals by his father after he passed away. He had always been informed that the grenade had been made safe.

"We visited the D-Day museum last year and said that we would return this year and donate the grenade. This as I say was done in all innocence and we are absolutely mortified about the disruption and trouble it caused especially to the museum, the local traders, the people on the cruise liner, other holiday makers and of course to the people of Weymouth.

"As I personally work for an emergency service, we also apologise to all the services involved in the incident as we appreciate what pressures they are working under at these particular times."

Businesses were forced to close and residents had to leave their homes while the explosive ordnance disposal team were called Credit: BMP Media

The grenade was described by Mrs Morgan as a "grey dark brown" colour and felt "quite heavy".

She also admitted "we had been assured that it had been made safe" and the object had been in their house for the last five years. The married couple also wanted to apologise to residents and businesses across Portland and Weymouth for inadvertently causing the disruption.

At the time, residents were unable to return to their homes unless for exceptional circumstances, with one unable to reach his home to get ready for work. One pair of tourists from Wales who parked their vehicle in the Castletown Car Park were unable to get their car and had to wait with their two dogs near the police cordon.

Businesses in Castletown were forced to close, but some venues which opened after the police cordon lifted were able to see the funny side of an unusual incident.

One local said: "It’s a very serious thing that has happened but also unbelievable. Why did that person think it was a good idea to hand in a live grenade? That’s all I want to know".

The Castletown D-Day Centre, which marks Port of Portland's role in the D-Day landings and pays tribute to US troops who departed the port, was closed for the rest of today.

While the museum welcomes donations, they clarified that people should "report any potentially hazardous items to the police rather than bring them into us, even if they believe the item to be safe".

Castletown was closed by police for several hours as a 50-metre cordon was put in place Credit: BMP Media

A spokesman for Castletown D-Day Centre said: "A World War II British hand grenade was brought into Castletown D-Day Centre by a member of the public as a donation. To be safe we immediately alerted the relevant authorities, who took the safety precautions witnessed earlier today before the grenade was safely taken away by the Royal Naval Explosive Ordinance Department to be dealt with in a controlled manner.

"We sometimes receive donations of medals, uniforms and alike but do always advise people to report any potentially hazardous items to the police rather than bring them into us, even if they believe the item to be safe."

A Dorset Police spokesman said: "Dorset Police received a report at 12.09pm on Wednesday, July 20 of a grenade being handed into an address in Castletown on Portland. Officers were in attendance and laised with the EOD. A 50-metre cordon was been put in place. The EOD attended and the roads have reopened at around 3.50pm."

An Army spokeswoman added: "An Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from 621 Sqn, 11 EOD&S Regiment in Portsmouth responded to Admiralty buildings, Castletown on July 20, at the request of Dorset Police. The team identified 1 x Grenade HE No5 which was safely removed."