A ‘PRANKSTER’ who walked into a Poole pub wearing a balaclava and a fake suicide belt as a joke sparked a major manhunt involving armed police and the force helicopter.

The man - who was spotted at the Dancing Moose, Ashley Cross, and was accompanied by two other men who filmed the stunt - has since contacted officers confirming it was a joke and no explosives were involved.

He is being questioned by detectives.

While staff at the Dancing Moose declined to officially comment, the Echo understands bar workers quickly realised it was a prank, but it was a customer who called the police.

After walking into the pub in Station Road, around 5.30pm, on Wednesday, the man - wearing a balaclava with cannisters taped to his body - left without saying anything.

Borough of Poole Parkstone ward councillor, and former town mayor, Anne Stribley said: “I think the person concerned must have a sick sense of humour.

“Considering the time and expense of the emergency services understandable response, and the fear and distress it could have caused... it is just ludicrous. I think anybody who does such an idiotic thing should be dealt with quite severely.”

The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is severe, and the ‘prank’ came just hours after eight people were killed in America in what has become New York’s worst terror attack since 9/11.

Dorset Police have confirmed armed officers rushed to Ashley Cross and that the force helicopter was scrambled to the Dancing Moose incident.

Speaking on Wednesday evening, Dorset Police Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Callaghan said: “This was a fast-moving incident and, as a result of initial police investigations, it would appear that this incident was a hoax and not someone wearing a viable device.

“However, extensive resources were deployed to the scene in order to ensure members of the public were protected and an investigation is underway.

“I would like to thank the public for their patience and understanding during this incident and praise the professionalism of the officers deployed.”

At this stage no-one has been arrested.