A car rented by Bedfordshire police was the subject of a bomb scare after it was parked outside an event in central London that was due to be attended by the Israeli ambassador.
The vehicle had five of its windows smashed in by a specialist team from the Metropolitan police before officers realised it was being operated by another force.
It is believed the Bedfordshire force had rented the black Nissan Qashqai but failed to display a police logbook in the window to show the vehicle was safe.
The car had been parked outside Westminster Central Hall on Tuesday morning before the Israeli ambassador, Tzipi Hotovely, was due to attend an event. Other guests included the Labour shadow ministers Wes Streeting and David Lammy and the Labour peer Lord Levy.
A Met spokesperson confirmed officers smashed windows on the vehicle, but denied a control explosion had taken place.
He said: “The car was a rental vehicle [and] did not belong to the Metropolitan Police Service.” He said officers believe it was operated by Bedfordshire police.
He added: “Police were made aware of a suspicious vehicle on Matthew Parker Street, SW1, shortly after 12pm on Tuesday 16 November. Specialist officers attended and the vehicle was examined.”
A Bedfordshire police spokesperson said the force used the car as part of an operation mainly conducted in London. The hire company involved was unable to verify that Bedfordshire police had rented the vehicle in time to prevent the windows being smashed in.
The bomb scare came a day after the terrorist threat level was increased from “substantial” to “severe”, after an explosion in a taxi outside a women’s hospital in Birmingham.
The new level means an attack is judged to be “highly likely”.
Tuesday’s incident is not the first bomb scare caused by a police blunder.
In 2017 a bomb squad carried out controlled explosion outside a police station in Workington, Cumbria, on a car that had been parked there by a colleague. Officers were unaware that the car had been parked outside the station by an officer who had helped its owner, who had been taken ill.
In 2014, part of Wolverhampton Wanderers football stadium had to be evacuated after police officers mistakenly left an imitation explosive device in an executive box during an earlier training exercise.