Bomb hoax teenager jailed

HOAXER TAR­GETED HUN­DREDS OF SCHOOLS

The Chronicle - - Front Page -

A TEENAGER who caused mass panic by send­ing bo­gus bomb threats to more than 100 schools in the North East has been jailed.

Ge­orge Duke-Co­han twice tar­geted schools in the UK and US with hoax mes­sages that trig­gered evac­u­a­tions, be­fore phon­ing in a fake re­port of a hi­jacked air­craft while un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The 19-year-old, of Wat­ford, Hert­ford­shire, emailed Marl­bor­ough Col­lege – the Wilt­shire school at­tended by the Duchess of Cam­bridge – and re­ferred to the Columbine High School shoot­ing.

He was jailed for three years by Judge Richard Foster at Lu­ton Crown Court yesterday.

The Recorder of Lu­ton told him: “You knew ex­actly what you were do­ing and why you were do­ing it, and you knew full well the havoc that would fol­low.

“You were play­ing a cat-and­mouse game with the au­thor­i­ties.

“You were play­ing a game for your own per­verted sense of fun in full knowl­edge of the con­se­quences.”

In his sen­tenc­ing re­marks, the judge added: “The scale of what you did was enor­mous.

“Schools were evac­u­ated and, where they were not, those in charge had to take ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sions.

“The pas­sen­gers and crew on that flight on Au­gust 9 must have been ter­ri­fied when their plane was taken to a quar­an­tined area, and, apart from the fi­nan­cial cost, the on­ward trav­el­ling plans and con­nect­ing flights would have been in dis­ar­ray.”

The teenager ap­peared from cus­tody wear­ing a grey jumper with a navy col­lar.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of mak­ing hoax bomb threats in Septem­ber.

Duke-Co­han, who was do­ing an IT course, first cre­ated panic in March 2018 when he emailed thou­sands of schools in the UK warn­ing about an ex­plo­sive.

The Na­tional Crime Agency said more than 400 schools were evac­u­ated as a re­sult. Prose­cu­tor Re­becca Austin said Duke-Co­han, who is autis­tic, sent emails to more than 1,700 schools in the UK be­tween March 16 and 19 this year.

The emails, sent to a va­ri­ety of schools in­clud­ing those that cater for chil­dren with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs, threat­ened to set off an ex­plo­sive de­vice if pay­ment was not made.

They suc­ceeded in caus­ing “alarm and anx­i­ety”, and one par­tic­u­lar email said: “This is a mes­sage to ev­ery­one. We’ve sent in a stu­dent with a bomb.

“The bomb is set to go off in three hours’ time if you do not send $5,000 dol­lars to pay­[email protected]­pvp.com. If you do not send the money, we will blow up the de­vice.

“Our site has all the in­for­ma­tion needed (velt­pvp.com).

“If you try to call the cops we will blow up the de­vice on the spot. Any at­tempt at de­fus­ing it your­self will cause it to ex­plode.”

Po­lice ar­rested Duke-Co­han days later, but he was able to send an­other batch of emails to schools in the US and UK while un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in April. The court heard that Marl­bor­ough Col­lege was tar­geted on April 13 by what was re­ferred to as the ‘Apophis Squad’ hoax emails.

Ms Austin said it was “clear” that DukeCo­han used the in­flu­ence of the Columbine at­tack of 1999 to add “au­then­tic­ity”.

The email sent to Marl­bor­ough Col­lege said: “We fol­low in the foot­steps of our two he­roes who died in the Columbine High School shoot­ing.”

Duke-Co­han was ar­rested for a sec­ond time and re­leased on precharge bail with con­di­tions that he did not use elec­tronic de­vices.

Be­fore long his name was in the frame for a third hoax, re­gard­ing a bo­gus tip-off that hi­jack­ers had taken over a United Air­lines flight from Heathrow Air­port to San Fran­cisco.

De­tec­tives found that DukeCo­han had made the calls to San Fran­cisco Air­port and its po­lice force while he was on pre-charge bail for the two pre­vi­ous of­fences.

Speak­ing to an oper­a­tor, he iden­ti­fied him­self as “Mike Sanchez” and said his daugh­ter had called him in a “distressed state” from the plane.

A tweet sent af­ter the plane landed in­cluded the words “9/11 re­make”. He was ar­rested for a third time at his home in Mutch­etts Close, Wat­ford, on Au­gust 31 this

year. The teenager was sen­tenced to one year for the emails sent to schools and two years for caus­ing the air­port se­cu­rity scare.

The judge said that, for the pur­poses of sen­tenc­ing, he ac­cepted that DukeCo­han has autism.

Schools were evac­u­ated and those in charge had to take ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sions The Recorder of Lu­ton

Duke-Co­han is ar­rested by Na­tional Crime Agency of­fi­cers

Ge­orge Duke-Co­han, who got three years yesterday for the hoax bomb threats

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