Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Band quizzed in gig firearm probe

l to r Mark Lenihan, Marcus Harris (standing), Mensah Cofi-Agyeman , Kwame Cofi-Agyeman
The Thirst are a Brixton-based band

A band who had just performed in a Staffordshire pub spent the night at a police station over allegations a firearm had been seen in their van.

Armed police moved in as London-based band The Thirst and their backstage staff left The Oak, in Burntwood, on Saturday night.

Band manager Kingsley Slater said they were eventually released but had been "totally shocked" by it all.

Staffordshire police said they were responding to CCTV operators.

Mr Slater said the four-piece band, from Brixton, had done a sound check at the pub on Saturday afternoon and then gone back to their van to put in some equipment they would not be using.

I thought I was on a film set. Then I saw the lead singer with his hands in the air
Kingsley Slater

He added they had had some time to kill and the van's battery had run down while the stereo was on, so they had gone to buy some jump leads to start the van later.

After the performance he said the singer had left to jumpstart the van and he had followed him out a little later.

"I heard a helicopter, I heard some dogs and I could see a lot of activity," Mr Slater said.

"I thought I was on a film set. Then I saw the lead singer with his hands in the air."

As he came outside, he too was shouted to get down.

"They put me up against a wall and then searched me but they did not find anything," he said.

"They then put me in a van along with the singer."

Eventually the band and two more men were taken to the police station.

'A blunder'

"We had no idea what was going on. They just told us they had had information given to them, but would not say any more than that," Mr Slater said.

The men were later released and their cars were driven over to the police station so they could drive back and pick up their equipment.

"I feel a bit let down," Mr Slater said.

"It was a blunder."

Jamie Knowles of Troubador, the promoter which booked the band, said it had been "terrifying".

He said about 110 people had turned up to see them.

"We were flabbergasted. They are one of the best bands we have ever got up here and then all that kicked off.

Response 'proportionate'

"We could not believe it."

Staffordshire police said they had had a call from CCTV operators who saw two vehicles and people acting suspiciously in a car park in High Street, Chasetown.

They also believed they had seen a firearm in one of the vehicles.

"Armed officers were deployed and six men were arrested outside the Oak pub in Burntwood," a spokesman said.

"After further investigation and viewing of the CCTV footage, the six men were released without charge.

"No firearm was found."

Insp Dave Challinor said the six men faced no further action but that police had responded "appropriately and proportionately."

The Thirst have previously played at Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight festivals.

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