A man, who left a homemade bomb on a tube train, has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, following an investigation by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Damon Joseph Smith, 20, a student of Abbeyfield Road in Rotherhithe was found guilty at the Old Bailey of unlawfully and maliciously making or having in his possession or under his control an explosive substance with intent by means thereof to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the United Kingdom, contrary to section 3(1)(b) Explosive Substances Act 1883.
On 20 October 2016, officers from the British Transport Police (BTP) were called to North Greenwich Underground Station after train staff reported finding a rucksack containing a suspicious device in the front carriage of a train travelling eastbound on the Jubilee Line.
The station was evacuated while specialist officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and BTP attended and made the item safe. It was taken away for forensic examination and subsequently found to be an improvised explosive device (IED) comprising of almost 153g of low explosive material and shrapnel, including ball bearings.
An investigation was immediately launched by detectives from the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command. As a result of extensive CCTV analysis, Smith was quickly identified as a suspect.
He was captured on camera carrying a holdall shortly after 10:30am that morning as he entered Surrey Quays Station where he caught an Overground train to Canada Water before switching to a westbound Jubilee Line train. He got off at Southwark before boarding a train in the direction he had just come from.
Smith got off this tube train at London Bridge, leaving the rucksack – which had been concealed in the holdall – behind. There were at least 10 passengers in the carriage. Only 19 minutes had passed since he first entered Surrey Quays.
A short time later, one of the passengers saw the abandoned bag and it was reported to the driver at Canary Wharf. The driver, having noticed wires and a clock, radioed ahead.
At 11.00am, the train and North Greenwich Underground Station were evacuated; the device was later found to have been set to go off at approximately 11:02am. As events developed, several miles away Smith casually made his way to university.
On 21 October 2016, at 12:25pm, Smith was arrested under the Terrorism Act by officers, assisted by armed colleagues, in the street on Holloway Road, N7. He was taken to a south London police station where he was interviewed about his actions the previous day.
During a search of his home, officers found a blank firing pistol, a BB gun (pictured), a knife and knuckleduster. When officers examined his social media accounts they discovered that Smith had ‘liked’ a number of videos relating to explosions and had shared articles, on social media, about the current threat level.
More significantly, officers discovered a number of shredded documents. These were carefully reconstructed by a forensic scientist and found to be pages from an online magazine that gave instructions on bomb-making.
A ‘shopping list’ of bomb materials – created on 2 September 2016 – was recovered from his iPad. Components to make an IED were also found at the house.
As a result of all of the evidence accrued, Smith was charged on 26 October 2016.
Commander Dean Haydon, the head of the Met’s 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.”
Assistant Chief Constable Alun Thomas, head of BTP’s Specialist Operations, said, “Smith’s unattended bag was spotted by a passenger who brought it to the attention of staff, who in turn contacted police. This highlights the importance of being vigilant when travelling on the railway network, and reporting anything suspicious.
“British Transport Police, along with our partners at the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police, regularly train and prepare for incidents such as this and were able to respond swiftly with their specialist skills.
“It is very fortunate that in this incident the device failed to work, was safely contained, and no one was injured. We are pleased that the jury returned a guilty verdict and hope the sentence will demonstrate that actions like Smith’s have very serious consequences and are never ‘a harmless prank’.”
The Metropolitan Police Service works closely with the British Transport Police and other partners across the capital, including Transport for London, to ensure the safety of the travelling public.
As part of this, we are continually reviewing our plans to keep people safe on London’s transport network as we operate at a heightened level of alert.
As ever, the public should always remain vigilant, and report any suspicious activity to the police by calling the confidential anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321. In an emergency dial 999.