Staff and customers at a West Sussex Budgens store had to endure a nervous three-hour lock-in when the area around it was cordoned off after a radiation scare.

A canister with radiation warning markings was found in the letter box of the nearby police station, causing the entire area to be cleared. People were told to remain indoors and shoppers inside the Midhurst store were left stranded.

Kavanagh Budgens manager Damien Flynn said that 25 customers were trapped with staff in the store while the device was dealt with. "We were open but nobody could get to us and customers inside weren't allowed to leave," he said. "Some of the customers were a bit worried, but we made everyone as comfortable as possible and gave them all tea and biscuits while they were stuck inside."

The canister was later found to be harmless by West Sussex Fire Service and a specialist radiation unit from Surrey.

Damien said the scare was "a nightmare situation for us and the customers". He added that it had also cost the business £4,000-£5,000.