A fake hand grenade sparked the evacuation of three Sunderland homes today after it was found by an unsuspecting gas engineer.
The house in Talbot Road, Roker, in which the training grenade was found, was evacuated along with those either side while a bomb disposal team travelled from Catterick to make sure it was safe.
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: "Just before 3.45pm, today, police received a report of what was believed to be a live hand grenade at an address on Talbot Road in Sunderland.
"The grenade was found beneath some floorboards whilst maintenance work was being carried out on the address.
"The occupant and adjoining homes have been evacuated as a precaution and a cordon put in place."
Simon Weathers, 51, whose widowed mother lives in the house where the grenade was found. said: "They have been doing gas work all the way up the street. The gasman was in the cubbyhole under the stairs when a Second World War hand grenade rolled out."
The bomb disposal team was quickly able to establish there was no threat: "It was a training one, it wasn't live," said Simon.
"Five minutes they were here."
How the dummy grenade came to be in the house, however, is a mystery: "My parents moved into the house in 1944, but no-one in the family has been in the military, so it must have been under the stairs since at least then," said Simon.
Kevin O'Neill, 54, who lives in Talbot Road, said: "The police knocked on my door at about 4.30pm. They just said it was an old bomb that was live and that they were waiting for the experts from Catterick to come up.
"They have not evacuated us, they just told us to stay clear. The police have been great. They have kept us informed."