A LIVE hand grenade which was uncovered in a back garden dates back to the First World War, bomb disposal experts have revealed.

The shock discovery wasmade at about 2.45pm on Tuesday by builders clearing a council property in Fairview Road, Basildon, ready for new tenants.

A bomb disposal team from the Royal Logistic Corps, based at Colchester’s Army barracks, was drafted in to safely remove the explosive while police cordoned off the street.

Sgt James Gittens inspected the metal shell and confirmed it was a live First World War vintage No 23 rifle grenade.

It was safely detonated in a controlled explosion on fields at Barleylands, in Billericay, at about 6pm, after management gave permission for the bomb disposal unit to enter the site.

A convoy of disposal experts, police and council officers had previously visited Mopsies Park, in Basildon, and Gloucester Park, but deemed the locations too built up and busy for the explosion.

Sgt Gittens said: “Moving the grenade away from surrounding houses and blowing it up was the safest thing to do in the circumstances, as old ammunition can be quite unstable.

“The workmen did exactly the right thing in calling the police as soon as they found the item.

“We would encourage people to call 999 if they do have concerns about any suspect items they find and not touch to it.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Three builders from Graysbased Advanced Building and Maintenance, who found the grenade buried in the back garden, returned to the property yesterday.

They are clearing the bungalow and garden on behalf of Basildon Council.

The previous tenant of the bungalow, who recently moved into a nursing home, is thought to have lived there since the Forties, unaware an explosive was buried in the garden.

A Basildon Council spokesman said: “Our contractors were carrying out repair work on the property and returned to the site today.”