Ex-teacher admits threat to blow up shopping centre
A former English teacher pleaded guilty yesterday to threatening criminal damage, having talked of a plan to blow up Europe's largest shopping complex.
Saeed Ghafoor made his threat to prison officers while serving a jail term in February this year. He claimed he would target the Bluewater centre using three limousines loaded with gas canister explosives.
The authorities took Ghafoor's threats extremely seriously, despite the prisoner's belief that Bluewater was in Exeter, Devon.
When officers told him that the centre, the target of a previous fertiliser bomb plot by Islamic terrorists last year, was in fact in Kent, he said he had not yet fully "finalised" his scheme. Pierce Arnold, for the prosecution, told the Old Bailey: "Mr Ghafoor made the threat. We do not know if he could have carried it out. It was not a bomb hoax. It appeared on the face of it to be a serious threat by someone who was not happy."
Ghafoor, 33, of Southampton, Hampshire, who appeared in court via a video link, made the bomb threat while serving a 12-month sentence at Haverigg jail in Cumbria, having threatened to kill his sister, the court heard.
The first officer to hear his claim believed him a fantasist but took his remarks seriously. Ghafoor said he was protesting at the involvement of British and American troops in Afghanistan. He was also seen by the prison imam, who formed the impression that the prisoner was susceptible to brainwashing.
The court heard that senior officer Dawn Pugh went to see him and he told her: "I am planning to bomb Bluewater shopping centre in Exeter." She told him the complex was in fact near the Dartford tunnel off the M25 in Kent.
After being released on licence on 7 March, Ghafoor was arrested, questioned at Carlisle police station and charged. A psychiatrist told police he had no mental disorder, but he did have a history of domestic trouble and threats to destroy property.
He was remanded in custody for reports before sentencing next month.
*A Bristol teenager has been remanded in custody at the Old Bailey, accused of trying to make a suicide-vest bomb at his home. Andrew Ibrahim, 19, known as Isa, of Westbury-on-Trym, appeared via video link from Belmarsh prison for the 15-minute hearing. The judge, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith, told Mr Ibrahim that his trial could take place in January next year.