Drink-can bomb a hoax, police say

Drink-can bomb a hoax, police say

A can with the word 'bomb' written on it was found not to contain any explosives, hours after it forced a plane to make an emergency landing.

A soft drink can with the word "bomb" written on it was found not to contain any explosives, hours after it forced an Air Mauritius airliner to make an emergency landing at Melbourne Airport yesterday.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the arson and explosives squad had examined the can overnight and discovered it did not contain any explosives. Officers also swept through the Airbus A340, which was given the all clear.

A flight attendant found the soft drink can at the rear of the plane about an hour into Air Mauritius flight MK943's journey to Mauritius yesterday afternoon.

The word "bomb" was written on paper that was fixed to the can with masking tape.

The plane, carrying 181 passengers and 13 crew, immediately turned around over Mount Gambier and returned to Melbourne Airport where it landed safely at 2.55pm and taxied to a remote part of the airfield.

There have been no arrests so far, and police are still investigating who is responsible for the hoax.

Yesterday afternoon, Victoria Police Superintendent Peter O'Neill said the threat "was enough to cause the captain to take the action to abort the flight".

The plane was met by a full response from airport firefighters, with 13 appliance trucks at the end of the runway.

Passengers were seen leaving the aircraft about half an hour after it landed and were taken to a secure part of the international terminal where police questioned them.

"We couldn't discount anybody on the plane until we were satisfied that they weren't involved," Superintendent O'Neill said.

Air Mauritius vice-president and spokesman Donald Payen, speaking from Mauritius last night, said he was awaiting a decision from authorities on the "serviceability" of the aircraft.

"Following the discovery of a suspicious item on board, the captain elected to return to Tullamarine and landed safely," Mr Payen said.

"The Australian authorities have now taken over the aircraft and passengers disembarked safely and have been transferred to the terminal building.

"We don't have any further indication on when the authorities will release the aircraft."

Police said no threats had been received in relation to the object.

Fouad Elias, of Doncaster, said the pilot had told passengers something "weird" had been found in the plane and he was returning to Melbourne.

His wife, Rita, said police questioned all passengers. "They asked if we knew what happened and they asked us did we see anybody [acting suspiciously]."

One person said passengers had been stuck on the plane for an extra 45 minutes after it was parked away from the main terminal because mobile stairs sent to the site were the wrong height.