A SUSPECTED bomb planted in the toilets of the town’s main shopping centre, sparking panic among shoppers and a full-scale emergency service operation, was a hoax.

Reading descended into a state of panic yesterday (Tuesday) after The Oracle was sealed off and swiftly evacuated after a bag with wires hanging out was found in the toilets.

Police officers sealed off roads surrounding the popular mall while The Army’s specialist bomb unit was called in to investigate the device.

Now, Thames Valley Police have revealed the suspect device was a fake and detectives believes it was planted to cause panic and disruption.

A police spokesman said: “Police cordons were put in place whilst officers investigated.

"The cordons have now been lifted and the shopping centre will re-open.

"One area of the shopping centre will remain cordoned off whilst investigation work continues.

"Officers have found that the suspect item was not a viable device, but at this stage seems to have been placed to cause disruption.

"We would like to reassure the public that there is no credible threat to the public's safety."

The hoax device caused massive disruption across the town as buses and cars were re-routed to avoid The Oracle.

Meanwhile, hundreds of shoppers were stranded in the town-centre while their cars remained inside the centre’s two car parks.

Staff from retail outlets inside the mall sought refuge in a nearby church while others were sent home for the day.

The cordon was lifted late on Tuesday evening and shoppers were allowed to retrieve their cars.

Security teams were on hand to take people up to their cars one-by-one.

Detectives investigating the hoax are yet to make an arrest and have appealed for information.

The spokesman added: “Our investigation continues and we are asking anyone with information that could assist us in this to please call 101 quoting reference 284 12/6/18.

"We would like to thank the public for their patience during this incident which caused disruption to the people of Reading, but it was Thames Valley Police's priority to ensure the safety of the community. We would also advise members of the public to remain vigilant.

"If you have any information relating to this case, please call 101 quoting reference '284 12/6/18', or contact Crimestoppers anonymously."