By GEORGIA WESTGARTH
A LOCAL grandmother’s find of an abandoned case in front of Cranbourne Centrelink brought the town to a standstill for three hours on Tuesday.
Annette Togni, 68, was the first person to notice the small case in the gutter, outside Cranbourne Centrelink and Medicare on Tuesday 6 April.
But more alarmingly, Ms Togni was the first person to hear a “ticking” sound coming from the package.
Now terrified to return to the scene on Codrington Street, Ms Togni’s pregnant grand-daughter Martine Regan, also an eyewitness, has told of the dramatic discovery.
“My Nan almost stood on it as she got out of the car, and she immediately yelled “What is that, is that a bomb?”
The pair from Cranbourne North alerted nearby security guards to the strange item, Ms Regan described as a fishing tackle box.
“It was grey and navy blue and had a yellow handle, it kind of looked like a car battery and it was ticking loud enough for my Nan and I to hear it,” Ms Regan said.
“The guard just said that he wasn’t sure what it was, he said he saw someone drop it off.
“My Nan asked if it was safe for us and all the people lined up inside Centrelink to be here, there were children, pregnant women like myself and elderly and he replied, ‘I don’t know, madam’.”
Disgusted at the slow speed of the guards to act on the issue, a panicked Ms Regan and Ms Togni drove to Narre Warren Centrelink.
“I didn’t want to risk it, I want to meet my son and hold him in my arms,” Ms Regan said.
“My Nan was very frightened; she was distraught and started crying, if it was a bomb there was no way we would have survived it if it went off.
“The Centrelink guards were extremely unprofessional, they didn’t clear the area, and they didn’t notify anyone – we definitely won’t be going back to that branch, my Nan is still cut up about it.”
Cranbourne Senior Sergeant Daniel Baynes gave the scene the all clear at 1.15pm after more than two hours of assessment from the bomb squad, who used a robot to approach the locked case.
At the scene, Sen Sgt Baynes told Star News the contents of the case were “personal belongings”.
He has since confirmed it was a first aid kit.
“There might have been a phone charger in it as well, no-one at this point has come forward and claimed it.”
Close to 100 staff from Centrelink and neighbouring firm, Waters Lawyers, were evacuated and police cordoned off Codrington Street between Sladen and Childers streets.
Still tormented by the experience, Ms Regan said her Nan was so petrified, she wouldn’t go out and collect the mail.