Police said the ‘device’ found in a book in Bideford on Wednesday was ‘very, very realistic’ – but had been handed to charity shop ‘in good faith’.

A busy shopping area in Bideford was cordoned off on Wednesday after a 'suspicious device' was found in a donation bag left at a Bideford charity shop.

The device, discovered in a book, turned out to be a training aid from the 1980s, designed to look like an improvised explosive device (IED).

Much of Mill Street, Cooper Street and Bridgeland Street was closed on Wednesday afternoon after staff at the Children's Hospice South West shop raised the alarm at around 2.20pm.

A 100-metre cordon was put in place and around 30 adjoining shops and properties were evacuated as a precaution.

Mayor of Bideford Dermot McGeough handed out tea and coffee to evacuees and members of the emergency services. Picture: Graham HobbsMayor of Bideford Dermot McGeough handed out tea and coffee to evacuees and members of the emergency services. Picture: Graham Hobbs

A Royal Navy bomb disposal unit (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) arrived shortly after 6pm and the scene was declared safe at around 6.30pm.

Superintendent Toby Davies praised shop volunteers for raising the alarm and doing 'all the right things'.

He confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident.

He told the Gazette: "The 'device' was a training aid from the 1980s, used by people working in counter-terrorism.

Police cordoned off much of Bideford town centre. Picture: Graham HobbsPolice cordoned off much of Bideford town centre. Picture: Graham Hobbs

"It was concealed within a book and looked like a viable explosive.

"It was handed in to the shop in good faith; it was part of a house clearance and somehow was mixed up with some books.

"It was a very, very real looking device."

Superintendent Davies said it was important to remain alert, especially in the wake of an attack on the tube in London on Friday at Parsons Green.

He said: "We've still got to be alert, it's important to remain vigilant as the national security status remains high."

It comes members of the South West Counter Terrorism Unit (SWCTI) have been visiting communities to raise the message that Devon and Cornwall are not immune to terrorism and a number of perpetrators have had links to the South West.

Following the incident on Wednesday, mayor of Bideford Dermot McGeough thanked the emergencies for keeping the public safe.

Mr McGeough even handed out tea and coffee to those evacuated and members of the emergency services.

The Anti-Terrorist Hotline number is 0800 789321. Information can also be recorded urgently by calling 999, or 101 if it is historical.