Busker leads to 'gun' rush-hour chaos
A BUSKER who was doing "breathing exercises" and carrying a duffel bag led to a gun scare in Melbourne that closed down the entire CBD's rail network and left tens of thousands of commuters stranded.
Rail passengers are still delayed after the hugely busy city loop was put into lockdown when armed police stormed one of the network's busiest stations.
Flagstaff station, in the heart of the financial district, was closed around 8.30am with footage emerging of armed police on platforms.
Passengers on Twitter said there were rumours of a "man with a gun" with several saying train drivers had said there was a person with a firearm on the station.
Paddy Naughtin told AAP he was on the 8.19am train to Mernda when it was stopped.
"A dozen cops (half heavily armed) came running past."
However Police have now said a bag containing an instrument being carried by a busker was mistaken for a deadly weapon by on-edge commuters.
Frightened commuters were forced to flee Flagstaff as police descended on the man. But it was soon discovered he was harmless.
"He was a local busker who was there to play an instrument in town," Inspector Jacob Bugeja told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
BREAKING: TRAINS HELD UP AT FLAGSTAFF STATION DUE TO THREAT, ALL SERVICES HAVE CEASED, POLICE ARE HOLDING RIOT SHIELDS pic.twitter.com/yam71Xjz5O— siri⭐️ (@yeahsiri) March 27, 2019
"There was a bag that the person was carrying and he had his tools to busk with him."
The man was doing breathing exercises on the train when he aroused suspicion, but police spoke to him about 20 minutes later in the city to confirm he did not have a weapon.
The man's bag was later described as a sports duffel bag that looks "nothing like" a gun bag. He wasn't even on the train at Flagstaff having exited beforehand at another `station.
Victoria Police commissioner Graham Ashton told 3AW's Neil Mitchell they acted quickly and searched the area.
"We had a concern that it might be someone with a firearm on a train," Mr Ashton said. "They were after that (search) content that there was no fire arm on the train.
"A rifle case was sighted originally as part of the report."
Mr Ashton said he would be following up with Metro Trains, the city's rail operator, after reports a driver told passengers that there was a man with a gun.
"We have to be really careful about the sort of communications that are put out … you don't want people to be … reacting in a way that might put their safety at risk. We'll follow it up with Metro," he told Mitchell.
The station and rail network has since reopened but it left complete chaos at stations across Melbourne's rail network for several hours with platforms flooded with stranded commuters.
Police have since said they had reviewed CCTV footage and "no offence was detected".
Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Victoria Police for their swift action. "Thankfully it was a false alarm," he tweeted.
Metro Trains said city loop services have resumed after receiving the all clear from police.
Nevertheless, the shutdown led to major delays on all rail lines of up to 30 minutes. Major hubs such as Flinders St and Southern Cross remain busy. As of 11am services are slowly returning to normal.