Bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion at a Student Loans Company office on a suspect package that turned out to be a Dictaphone.
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Durham Police said officers were called to the financial company's offices in Lingfield Point, Darlington, at around 12.30pm.
The building was evacuated as a precaution during the scare, which saw the attendance of Army bomb disposal experts from Catterick Garrison, NorthYorkshire.
A Durham Police spokeswoman said: "The package was assessed by bomb disposal experts and was found to be non-suspicious - it contained a Dictaphone."
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A Student Loans Company spokeswoman said: "A controlled disposal of a suspect package was carried out at our offices in Lingfield Point.
"The building, which had been evacuated as a precaution on the advice of the police, has now reopened."