A BUSY shopping centre was evacuated after a man was stabbed inside a 99p Store yesterday afternoon.

At around 1pm emergency services were called to the Sovereign Shopping Centre on Christchurch Road, Boscombe, after a man in his twenties suffered stab wounds to his stomach.

He was taken to Royal Bournemouth Hospital with what are believed to be non-life threatening injuries.

Inspector Steve White of Poole Police said the victim was attacked inside the 99p Store and came out of the shop looking for help.

Terrified shopper Catherine Willis said she saw the victim collapsed on the floor.

She said: "I was in Lidl doing my shopping when a security man shouted that we should get out for our own safety.

"There was a bloke sitting in front of the 99p Store on the floor and I think he was the man who had been stabbed.

"I did what I was told because I didn't want anything to happen to me."

A shop assistant, who has asked not to be named, said staff at the centre had been left in shock.

Speaking to the Daily Echo shortly after the attack she said: “A customer came in saying everyone has been told to leave because a man has been stabbed. No-one really knows what is going on.

“There are lots of police. They took one man away and have sealed off an area around the 99p shop."

The shopping centre was closed at around 1pm and remained shut for the rest of the day while crime scene investigators examined the scene.

A man in his forties was arrested at the scene and was last night helping police with their enquiries.

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the attack to come forward.

DI Joe Williams said: "We are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed this incident, which we believe may have happened in the area of the 99p Store within the Sovereign Centre, to contact us.

"We would like to reassure members of the public that there is not any further risk to their safety as a result of this incident."

Witnesses and anyone with information should contact Dorset Police on 101 quoting incident number 8:171 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Branding the attacker a “coward”, Councillor Chris Wakefield, representing Boscombe West ward, said he was “absolutely appalled” by the news.

He said: “It’s undoing all the good work that’s been done in Boscombe.

“Obviously one is thinking about the person that has been stabbed. It’s great to hear that it’s not life-threatening but it’s not nice to hear that something like this has happened."

He added: “Thankfully this is something that is not a regular occurrence in Boscombe. It is generally a very safe place.”