THE BBC has been left red faced after police raced to reports of a robbery at a newsagents, only to find it was a television reconstruction they hadn’t been told about.
Producers of the programme Crimewatch neglected to tell Northumbria Police they were using actors armed with weapons to film a scene at Mills Newsagents in North Shields, North Tyneside.
A terrified passer-by phoned 999 after seeing the actors brandishing a hammer at staff and police raced to the scene.
Eyewitness Jim Selby, 46, who watched the drama unfold from his home, said: “I saw people with balaclavas on and dressed up as assailants getting onto push bikes outside the store. I knew it was fake because there was a film crew following them.
“But then about 10 minutes after they had gone a police car raced up to the a shop and a copper ran into the shop.
“However, the film crew had gone by the time the police got there and I thought something else had happened after they’d left. Crimewatch Roadshow were reconstructing a robbery that took place in February where two offenders threatened staff with a hammer and then made off on BMX bikes with a small quantity of cash.
A BBC spokesman said: “Crimewatch has a proud history spanning 25 years of working closely with police forces across the UK, and has been working with Northumbria Police over the past three weeks for the Crimewatch Roadshow.
“However, it’s apparent that on this occasion there was a serious lapse in communication on the BBC’s part and the Crimewatch Roadshow team was not clear enough to the police about the exact nature of filming.
“We’re urgently reviewing what happened to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“We have apologised to Northumbria Police and the officers on duty, and would like to extend that apology to the local community.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “The force is currently working on a series of shows with Crimewatch due to be broadcast in the summer and are aware of filming taking place in various areas of the force.
“On this occasion we were not made aware of a reconstruction taking place on the evening of Wednesday May 27. As a consequence officers attended within minutes a report from the public of a potential robbery taking place at around 10.10pm in the North Shields area.
“Following discussions between the Chief Constable and Crimewatch we were assured that the reconstruction would not feature in the programme.
“The chief accepted the producers’ sincere apology for what happened.”