A university student has been found guilty of making a bomb using an al-Qaeda magazine and planting it on a London underground train.
Damon Smith, 20, from southeast London, left the device – which prosecutors said was packed with 153g of ball bearings and gunpowder – on the front carriage of a Jubilee line train on the morning of 20 October last year.
Smith placed a rucksack containing the bomb on the train and got off at London Bridge, having set a timer, the Old Bailey heard. Had the bomb gone off, it would have detonated as passengers got off the train at North Greenwich station. Instead, it failed to explode and was spotted by passengers who sounded the alarm at 11am.
There were at least 10 passengers in the carriage at the time, police said. Meanwhile, as the bomb was being discovered, Smith was casually making his way to university, police said.
The next day Smith was Tasered and tackled to the ground, metres away from the Holloway Road campus of London Metropolitan University, where he was a student. The case was investigated by the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter-Terrorism Command.
He was convicted of making or possessing an explosive with intent to endanger life, contrary to the Explosive Substances Act 1883.
Smith admitted to perpetrating a bomb hoax and told the Old Bailey that he had only intended to scare people by creating a device that would emit smoke. His counsel argued that he did not understand the seriousness of his actions.
The court also heard that Smith has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum condition, and also has a keen interest in guns and other weapons. Smith had also collated pictures of violent extremists, including the alleged mastermind of the 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
Police found a blank-firing pistol, a knife, a knuckleduster, and shredded copies of the al-Qaeda magazine showing instructions on how to make a bomb, which were reconstructed by a Met forensic scientist. Police also found a shopping list of ingredients he used to make the bomb on an iPad.
Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Counter-Terrorism Command, said: "Throughout this investigation and subsequent trial, Smith claimed that his actions were meant as a harmless prank and that the object was nothing more than a smoke bomb.
"It is hard to believe that leaving what has been described as an improvised explosive device on a tube train, on a weekday morning, can be construed as anything but an attempt to endanger life. It is fortunate that the device failed to work and that no one was injured.
"At a time when the threat level remains at severe, I find it unlikely that anyone would consider his defence as an appropriate excuse for his actions. The jury rightly disagreed with him and I expect that Smith will now face a significant prison sentence."
Sue Hemming, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Damon Smith’s actions were incredibly dangerous and the consequences had the device worked do not bear thinking about. Although he claimed this was a prank, the bomb he left on the train was clearly designed to cause horrific injuries.
"I would like to express my thanks to the quick-thinking members of the public and TfL staff for the way they dealt with this incident."
Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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