Smoker who sparked bomb scare with e-cig claims people assumed he was terrorist due to his beard
A smoker claims his BEARD led to him being considered a terrorist when he cleaned his e-cigarette on a bus – sparking a bomb scare.
Chris Barron, 25, was coming home from staying with a friend in Glasgow to his home in Ayr when a fellow passenger mistook his e-cig vapouriser for an explosive device.
The bus was immediately stopped on the M77 as police closed the motorway and swooped on the vehicle to search it – but eventually realised it was a false alarm.
Dual nationality Chris, who grew up in the US but has been in Scotland since 2001, believes the passenger thought he was a terrorist because he had dark hair and a beard.
Chris said: “Without a doubt, this whole thing was caused because people looked at my dark hair and my large beard and made an assumption about me.
“I do not believe that the incident would have happened if I had blonde hair and clean shaven. In the world we live in now, people associate beards with terrorism.
“I understand that we live in an environment of heightened suspicion and tension following terror attacks across the world but it makes me sad to think that just the way I looked can make someone think I was a terrorist – it is quite scary.
“An e-cigarette vapouriser is hardly an unknown thing, they have been around a while now so I think it is farcical that this even happened. It baffled me but unfortunately I do think with the way the world is moving, things like this are going to happen more frequently.”
Leaving his friend’s house in Glasgow, Chris took the Stagecoach x77 double decker bus, which he takes at least 10 times a month.
About half an hour into the journey, while he was rewicking the vaping device, he heard a passenger start saying they could smell burning.
Chris, who is bass player in punk band The Hostiles, said: “I could hear someone saying they could smell burning but I thought it couldn’t be me as I had not lit my vapouriser, that is illegal on a bus and I wouldn’t do it. Besides, it only smells of butterscotch flavour.
“But this person and those they were with were becoming quite agitated about this smell and said they felt unwell so I thought something must have been wrong with the bus.
“Eventually the bus stopped and the driver made us all get off. It was heavy rain and gale force winds so no one wanted to be outside. I went over to the bus driver and showed him my vaping stuff and let him smell it, just in case it could have been that but he said it wasn’t.”
However after 45 minutes the police arrived and began searching the bus. Soon Chris was taken around the side of the bus out of view of other passengers.
Chris said: “They asked me if I had anything electronic with me and I showed them my e-cigarette. The moment the officer saw it he realised what had happened and apologised to me. The bus driver apologised to me too, but I knew it wasn’t their fault.
“We were eventually allowed to get back on the bus everyone on the ground floor where I had been sat before were staring at me. It was very awkward.
“I went up to the top deck and a few people asked me about it up there and couldn’t believe all of that fuss had been over an e-cigarette.”
Police confirmed that officers attended the bus at Junction 4 of the M77 at around 8.35pm.
A police spokesperson said: “We received reports of a man acting suspiciously on a bus. Police attended the scene but found nothing untoward.
“It emerged it was a false alarm raised by good intent. Some passengers then left the bus and did not get back on.”
Chris said: “It was not a nice experience at all and it did leave me disappointed that people will judge you on appearance like that.
“I appreciate that people are worried, but jumping to conclusions like that is not likely to help anyone.
“I think this should be a sign that we should think before acting. I think anyone who found themselves in that situation should proceed with caution obviously but the key thing is to stay calm and rational and not just jump to conclusions without looking carefully about what is going on.
“I may have dark hair and a beard but I have tattoos that were visible, which do not fit in with stereotypical terrorists, and would a terrorist get their bomb out in front of everyone to try and mess with it? It was all a bit silly really.”