Pipe Bomb Plot: Guilty Verdict

Jonathan Sandiford successfully prosecuted Nadeem Muhammad for his attempt to smuggle a pipe bomb onto a plane at Manchester Airport.

Context

When Nadeem Muhammad, 43, passed through Manchester Airport security on 30 January 2017, he was found to be carrying a “crude improvised explosive device” in his luggage. Muhammad, who holds an Italian passport, was attempting to board a Ryanair flight to Bergamo, Italy when the item was discovered. He was questioned by police but not arrested after he told airport officials that someone else had put the bomb in his luggage. On 5 February, Muhammad returned to the airport and flew to Italy.

The jury was told that according to a forensic report, the device was made from batteries, wire, masking tape, a marker pen tube, nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose, and was deemed ‘potentially viable’. This led to Muhammad’s home in Italy being searched and questioning by Italian police. Muhammad was then released and boarded a flight back to the UK on 12 February where he was arrested by UK officers.

Case Details

After the hearing, GMP’s Supt Graeme Openshaw said based on the “overall circumstances”, officers “determined that there was not sufficient evidence or suspicion to arrest [Muhammad] and place restrictions on his movement”. He said that Muhammad was “arrested at the first opportunity” after the ddvice had been fully examined but added, “We accept there were some errors with our assessment of the device on the day and we have already reviewed our practices,”

However, Pat Karney, councillor of Manchester City Council said,

“There’s something about this that doesn’t sit right.

“The airport say there’s no problem, the police come out with the usual line about lessons learned but I just don’t get the narrative that everything worked well.

“Greater Manchester Council owns the airport and I’ll be writing to our councillors who have responsibility for the airport to ask them to demand a full inquiry.”
According to Julian Bray, aviation security expert, the device was very small. If Muhammad had been sitting near the window, it would have blown a hole in the fuselage and possibly caused severe depressurisation of the cabin, causing oxygen masks to drop and some eardrums to burst. However, Bray considers it unlikely that the plane would have blown apart. That said, he argued that “these things shouldn’t happen and there are lessons to be learned from this

What I cannot understand is that not only did the security officer take the device off Muhammad, he was later allowed to board an aircraft.

The police and the airport security need to understand that in the current situation, you cannot afford for a moment to relax the rules, you must be really diligent.”

According to Crown Prosecution Service’s Sue Hemming, Muhammad’s motive “remains unknown”, adding: “However, it is clear that the consequences, had he been successful, could have been disastrous.”

It transpired during the trial that after the airport terminal’s security chief Deborah Jeffrey was made aware of the device, she put it in her pocket before passing it on to police. She told the court she did this so it “wouldn’t go missing” as a swab had revealed no evidence of explosives.

A spokesman for Manchester Airport said the actions of staff had “prevented a potentially dangerous item from being taken on board an aircraft”.

“In this instance, the actions of our security team led to the detection of a suspicious device [and] following its detection, our team handed the passenger and the device over to the police to investigate further,” he said.

Muhammad wept as the majority verdict of 10 to two was given in court. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail.

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