London | A man was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving after a car crashed into the gates of 10 Downing Street in London, the official residence of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the Metropolitan Police said.
Sunak was in his office at the time of the incident but left soon after from another exit for a pre-scheduled departure, sources from 10 Downing Street said.
The cordons placed by police around the street have since been lifted even as armed officers remain on guard at the Prime Minister's office, as is usual.
According to reports, counter-terrorism police are not involved in the ongoing police enquiries at this stage.
“At around 16.20 hours [local time] a car collided with the gates of Downing Street on Whitehall,” the Met Police said in a statement.
“Armed officers arrested a man at the scene on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving. There are no reports of any injuries. Enquiries are ongoing,” the police said.
Officers were pictured searching the vehicle's boot and removing a large white sheet.
Officers were seen winding down the heightened security operation on Whitehall, the main political hub of London between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.
Officials inside Downing Street were initially asked to stay indoors but could soon be seen moving out of offices, including from the Cabinet Office which is next door to 10 Downing Street.
Meanwhile, images on social media showed a silver Kia passenger car with its boot open slammed into the gates of Downing Street, which is significantly protected with barriers and a solid double-barrel black iron gate at all times.
As CCTV footage emerged, a handcuffed heavy-set man with white hair could be seen being led away by armed Met Police officers. Eyewitnesses reported hearing a bang and officers shouting at the suspect as taser guns were deployed before the arrest.
Officers were later pictured searching the vehicle's boot and removing a large white sheet.
CCTV footage of the incident being played on television showed the small silver hatchback coming out of a car park next to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) building, crossing Whitehall before abruptly breaking and then driving forward directly into the gates of Downing Street. The security around one of the most famous streets of the world has been heightened ever since the militant Irish Republican Army (IRA) threat in the 1990s.
The main gates remain shut at all times behind additional movable barriers and are opened only briefly for any official cars entering or exiting the street. Any visitors to Downing Street are subjected to strict checks through a side gate.
The incident took place days after a 19-year-old Indian-American man crashed a truck into a security barrier near the White House.
Sai Varshith Kandula, who allegedly praised Adolf Hitler, slammed a rented U-Haul box truck into barriers along Lafayette Square just steps from the White House late Monday. No one was injured in the crash and no explosives were found inside the rented vehicle.