A MAN has been charged after the town centre was thrown into panic by a suspect package in The Oracle.

Sergio Costa, of Elm Park, Reading was arrested on Tuesday (July 3) by Thames Valley Police after a hoax bomb was left in the toilets of the shopping centre on June 12.

The 46-year-old was charged with one count of a bomb hoax the following day after placing an article with intent to cause fear of explosion or ignition.

Costa has been bailed to appear at Reading Magistrates’ Court on August 2.

The Oracle was closed all day and road closures were put in place after a suspect package was found in the men's toilets by House Of Fraser.

A bomb disposal unit was dispatched along with the hazardous substances team, and word quickly spread that a bag with wires coming out of it had been left in the toilets.

Reading Chronicle:

The incident began shortly after 9am and sparked mass panic among shoppers, who were told to evacuate The Oracle.

Some members of the public inside a police cordon were told to stay indoors while a team of specialists assessed the package.

A police spokesman said: "A 100m cordon was set up in the area while officers and our partner agencies responded to the incident.

"The Oracle shopping centre was evacuated, along with other nearby buildings and areas, and road closures were put in place."

Soldiers deployed a robot inside The Oracle and many nearby restaurants were closed as a precaution.

Other shoppers were unable to get back into the two main car parks for several hours.

Andry Briggs, managing director of the shopping hub, added: “We were pleased with the response, because we were able to identify the threat and get The Oracle closed and keep shoppers away from the area before the centre was opened."