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Friday, April 3, 1998 Published at 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK


Grand National security warning
image: [ The Grand National crowds were evacuated onto the course during last year's IRA bomb hoax ]
The Grand National crowds were evacuated onto the course during last year's IRA bomb hoax

Grand National racegoers have been warned to arrive early on Saturday as security has been tightened in the light of last year's bomb scare.

BBC correspondent, Paul Newman on security at Aintree (32")
Security will be tight at Aintree despite the fact that the Provisional IRA, which admitted being responsible for last year's disruption, has renewed its ceasefire.

It is feared the Provisionals or a splinter group such as the Continuity Army Council could use the occasion to call off the ceasefire.

Aintree Managing Director Charles Barnett said: "Searching of all racegoers is required but by using the very latest technology and highly-trained staff we expect to admit racegoers quickly.

[ image: Huge TV screens were used to evacuate the racecourse]
Huge TV screens were used to evacuate the racecourse
"However, the earlier customers arrive the easier it will be to complete the task. Gates open at 7am and we will be laying on plenty of early-morning entertainment."

As part of the increased security, people will not be able to park on the course.

Course evacuated

A warning, using an authenticated IRA codeword, was received at Fazakerley Hospital in Liverpool an hour before the race was due to start.

After a second call Merseyside Police's control centre was alerted and shortly after 1500 the Aintree crowd was told to evacuate.

[ image: Racegoers will not be able to park on the course this year]
Racegoers will not be able to park on the course this year
An hour later the course had been completely cleared and the live TV broadcast had been curtailed after BBC staff were evacuated.

Bomb disposal experts carried out two controlled explosions on suspect packages but police said later no devices had been planted.

Thousands of racegoers, jockeys and stable lads were put up in hotels, guest houses and private homes on Merseyside on the Saturday night.

Race officials, determined not to give in to the IRA, immediately decided to re-run the race on the Monday.

[ image: Tony Dobbin celebrates after winning the re-run race in 1997]
Tony Dobbin celebrates after winning the re-run race in 1997
A crowd of 20,000 was let in free and the race passed off without incident.

Superintendent Ray Revill-Johnson, of Merseyside Police, said many lessons were learned from last year's event.

Contingency plans have been drawn up to deal with anyone making hoax calls and Supt Revill-Johnson warned pranksters they could expect to face the "severest penalties", including a seven-year prison term.

Security measures will be similar to those deployed at airports and any cars parked illegally will be towed away.

"We are determined to ensure that everyone can enjoy this event in safety," he added.

Fans of Red Rum, who won the race three times in the 1970s, will not be able to pay homage to the great horse this year.

His grave is close to the old County Stand, part of which is being demolished.

It is being replaced by the £6m Princess Royal Stand, which will be officially opened by the Princess Royal before Saturday's first race.

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