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Antrim teen's hoax US bomb calls included 1999 gun massacre Columbine High School, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 25/02/2016

Ben Megarry faces 23 counts of issuing bomb threats against buildings and landmarks in the US including JFK airport
Ben Megarry faces 23 counts of issuing bomb threats against buildings and landmarks in the US including JFK airport

A Co Antrim teenager accused of making a catalogue of hoax bomb calls across the United States is to seek special courtroom assistance because of his severe autism, a judge was told today.

Ben Megarry, 19, faces 23 charges over an alleged campaign targeting schools, airports and other iconic locations throughout America in 2012.

A baseball stadium in Kansas and the famous Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles are among the locations at which he claimed bombs were planted, according to the case against him.

Other alleged locations include Columbine High School, Colorado - where 13 people had previously been killed in a notorious gun massacre back in 1999.

Megarry, of Harmin Park in Newtownabbey, is also accused of making false calls about schools in Texas and California, along with Kansas City, LAX and John F Kennedy International Airports.

Further counts involve fake claims about a County Sheriff's Office in Florida, a Walmart Sore in Missouri, Central Avenue in Cheyanne, and Ambassador Bridge, Detroit.

The case was referred to the Police Service of Northern Ireland by US authorities in 2012.

Following enquiries with law enforcement agencies Megarry has been charged with 23 counts of communicating false information causing belief of explosives.

He was due to appear before Belfast Magistrates' Court today by indictable summons for a preliminary enquiry to establish if he has a case to answer.

But his lawyer revealed the case could not proceed because of issues about his client's condition.

Michael Madden told the court: "The defendant is severely autistic and he is understandably getting support from a number of charities.

"They have suggested intermediary services could be involved at this stage."

It was suggested that type of support could be made available for any evidence to be given.

District Judge Liam McNally queried whether intermediaries can be involved at the Magistrates' Court stage.

However, he accepted that exceptions may be possible for proceedings to have an accused committed for trial.

Adjourning the case for two weeks, Judge McNally confirmed the hearing was to go ahead on March 10.

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