A man caused the evacuation of a Peterborough street when he built a series of ‘smoke bombs’ to impress his girlfriend’s teenage son.
Police ordered 15 families living on New Road, Woodston to leave their homes after a series of what were thought to be explosive devices were found at the home where James Need (38) was living on March 16. Scores of police officers, firefighters and paramedics were called to the scene, along with the bomb squad from RAF Wittering, with a large cordon put in place.
Families took shelter in a near-by community centre, and were only allowed back into their homes in the early hours of the morning.
Yesterday (Monday) Need appeared at Peterborough Crown Court after admitting creating the devices, buying chemicals and kit from Tesco and Amazon.
But while the evacuation and operation to keep residents safe cost the taxpayer a ‘considerable amount’, the court heard the devices themselves were not explosive - and were crudely put together. Experts were unable to say how effective the devices would have been - but said they would have produced ‘orange sparks and sporadic flames.’
Judge Matthew Lowe was told that at Need’s house, a ‘revenge list’ was discovered, featuring the names of a former partner and people associated with her, after she had put an end to their relationship in December, and it was initially feared Need was building the devices to threaten - or worse - the people on the list.
However, Caroline Allison, prosecuting, said that was not the case, and the list was not connected to the devices in any way. The court was told Need had built the devices to bond with his current (at the time) partner’s son, as he was interested in science.
Need - who has been in custody since the devices were found - was given a two year community order , and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and a 40 day rehabilitation activity requirement by Judge Lowe.
Judge Lowe said: “You realistically deserve to go to prison, such is the pandemonium you caused and the expense to the public purse.”
But Judge Lowe said because Need had already served the equivalent of a one year prison sentence on remand, he could order the community order in its place.
Miss Allison said the devices had initially been found by Need’s landlord.
She said: “Need was living in a HMO, and his landlady was at his address speaking to another tenant, who was moving out.
“The landlady said Need had moved in in November 2018, and had not paid the rent for some time, as his aunt was ill. She described Need as a smooth talker.
“The other tenant showed her photos of what he described as ‘a pipe bomb.’
“Another tenant showed her the device in a carrier bag, while the cleaner left a note saying there was something that looked like a bomb in the garage.”
The police were called, and one officer found a device made of black plastic piping, and aerosol can and chemicals inside the garage. Other items were also found in a bin and in the house.
Need admitted to police he had made the devices while at the scene, and had searched for instructions online. There were also searches for how to make napalm and mustard gas.
The court also heard how Need had been become infatuated with his former partner after she split with him in December.
Miss Allison said Need had been sending between 10 and 15 messages to the woman a day, despite her saying she did not want anything to do with him. While none of the messages included threats or abuse, she said some of the messages could be seen as ‘manipulative.’
He was arrested by police in March, and he said it would stop. However, the next day he messaged her, and said he would stop. Because she told police she did not support a prosecution against him, no further action was taken.
A few days later he sent another message, and three days after that, he contacted her again. Just two days later, he made four phone calls to her - although she did not answer any of them.
Need pleaded guilty to harassment and making an explosive substance contrary to Section Four of the Explosive Substances Act 1883.
He was given full credit for his guilty pleas, and the court was told he had no previous convictions or cautions recorded against his name.
Along with the community order, he was handed a two year conditional discharge for the harassment charge.
Judge Lowe also put in place restraining orders banning him from contacting his two previous partners