Man who was found with pipe bomb in luggage at aiport jailed for 18 years

A man has been jailed for 18 years for possessing an explosive with intent to endanger life after a pipe bomb was found in his hand luggage at Manchester Airport.

Nadeem Muhammad, 43, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday after being found guilty following a trial earlier this month.

After sentencing, Judge Patrick Field QC criticised airport security for making a "wholly erroneous and potentially dangerous" conclusion that the bomb was not viable after it was seized by officers.

The court heard Muhammad, of Tinline Street, Bury, had been planning to board a Ryanair flight to Italy on January 30 when security officers uncovered the device, made of masking tape, batteries, the tube of a marker pen, pins and wires, in the zip lining of his small green suitcase.

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Muhammad claimed that he had never seen the device before and it had nothing to do with him.

Airport security initially believed the bomb was not viable and, after being questioned by counter terrorism officers, Muhammad, who was born in Pakistan but had an Italian passport, was released.

Judge Field said he had been "alarmed by some of the evidence in the case."

He said: "In these dangerous times it seems to me there's no room for complacency.

"I express hope that security at the airport and policing at the airport will be subject to a review at the highest level."

The court had heard that airport staff swabbed the device, which was later found to contain nitroglycerin, but found no trace of explosive and terminal three security manager Deborah Jeffrey initially put it into her pocket.

Judge Field said: "It occurred to me and I'm sure to others listening to that evidence that by acting that way she put herself, her fellow employees and members of the public at risk."

He said the situation was "compounded" by police who accepted the assurance that the device was not viable and missed an "early opportunity" to arrest Muhammad - who was allowed to board a flight to Italy five days later and another back to the UK before he was arrested on February 12.

Sentencing, Judge Field said Muhammad would "undoubtedly" have carried the bomb on to the plane or into the airport's departure lounge where he would have detonated it.

He said: "If detonated in the confines of the cabin of a commercial aeroplane, this device could have caused not inconsiderable injury and damage to those close to the explosion and this then, on any view, is a particularly serious and grave offence."

Martin Liddiard, defending, said expert evidence showed the improvised explosive device would have been "unreliable" and "unpredictable" and if it had been detonated was only likely to have caused injuries to those in very close proximity.

He said: "This is not, in fact, a case involving the potential for bringing down an airliner.

"The device was never going to achieve that, if it worked at all."

The court heard there was no evidence Muhammad, who had no previous convictions, had a terrorist connection.

But Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, said: "On the face of it here was a man who, for some reason, on the verdict of the jury, was giving up all that he had and the prosecution invite the court to draw the inference that that was for some form of ideological cause rather than some other form of criminality."

Mr Liddiard there was no direct evidence of a political, religious, racial or ideological motivation and there were no "markers" in the defendant's behaviour before the incident.

Judge Field said: "There is simply an absence of evidence here of motivation and I am therefore not in a position to be sure that you were pursuing a terrorist purpose, therefore I cannot conclude this was an offence with a terrorist connection."

But he said he could not conclude there was no further risk.

He added: "There is no evidence of your motivation and given the extreme nature of the offence and the high risk involved, the risk of something happening again remains considerable."

Muhammad was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with an extension period of five years on licence.

Speaking outside court, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: "Both the airport and police have reviewed our security procedure to ensure that operating procedures are followed on every occasion when there's a suspicious incident."

He added: "This is without a doubt an extremely serious incident at a time when people are concerned about terrorism, especially here in Manchester, and, whilst it should be acknowledged that security checks were effective in finding the item, the assessment of the device should have been more comprehensive and should have taken place much sooner.

"These lessons have been learned and reviews of our operating procedures have already taken place."

KEYWORDS: court, manchester


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