Teenager is jailed for school hoax bomb threats

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -

A teenager has been jailed af­ter mak­ing bo­gus bomb threats to hun­dreds of UK schools and spark­ing an air­port se­cu­rity scare.

Ge­orge Duke-Co­han, 19, twice tar­geted schools in the UK and the US with hoax mes­sages that trig­gered evac­u­a­tions, be­fore phon­ing in a fake re­port of a hi­jacked air­craft while un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Duke-Co­han, from Wat­ford, Hert­ford­shire, emailed Marl­bor­ough Col­lege in Wilt­shire and re­ferred to the Columbine high school shoot­ing.

He was jailed for three years on Fri­day at Lu­ton crown court by Judge Richard Foster, who said: “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-and-mouse game with the au­thor­i­ties. You were play­ing a game for your own per­verted sense of fun in full knowl­edge of the con­se­quences.

“Schools were evac­u­ated and, where they were not, those in charge had to take ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sions. The pas­sen­gers and crew on that flight on 9 Au­gust must have been ter­ri­fied when their plane was taken to a quar­an­tined area.”

Duke-Co­han pleaded guilty in Septem­ber to three counts of mak­ing hoax bomb threats. He 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. The emails threat­ened to set off an ex­plo­sive de­vice if pay­ment was not made.

One email said: “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 … we will blow up the de­vice. If you try to call the cops, we will blow up the de­vice on the spot.”

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

Austin said it was “clear” that Duke-Co­han used the in­flu­ence of the 1999 Columbine at­tack 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.”

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

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