Teaching assistant admits bomb hoax
A teaching assistant who made a bomb threat from a pupil's email account because she could not face going to work is facing jail.
Students Holly Littlefield, 16, and Vicky Francis, 15, were arrested and held in police custody for 10 hours after the scare at Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey near Norwich.
But it later emerged Zoe Gregory, 26, had sent the email from Miss Littlefield's account without her knowledge on Sunday, February 8, as she prepared to return to work the following morning.
Today married mother-of-two Gregory pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates' Court to carrying out a bomb hoax and unauthorised access of an email account.
Chris Brown, mitigating, said she had been suffering from post-natal depression and acted out of "sheer desperation".
"She had reached the point where going back to school was the last possible thing she wanted to do," he added.
After the incident, fellow pupils called the girls "terrorists" and dubbed Miss Littlefield "Holly Bin Laden", the court heard.
Outside court, Miss Francis said she had known Gregory since joining the school in year seven.
She added: "We always liked her so, of all people, I never thought it would be her.
"When I was arrested I was so frightened, it was the scariest experience of my life because I've never been in that position before."
Miss Littlefield's mother Lesley said: "We are pleased she has admitted it.
"The girls have been through a horrible time at school and hopefully now their class-mates will realise the truth."
Magistrate Jeanne Heal said it was a serious offence carrying a maximum term of seven years in prison. The sentence will be decided at Norwich Crown Court on a later date.
Mrs Heal added: "What makes this a worse offence than you might imagine is that two young girls were in custody for 10 hours and were interviewed by police.
"They were also on bail and during that time they must have been under stress."
Prosecutor Lisa Britton said both girls had been left distressed by the ordeal and had been teased at school.
Gregory told police she had overheard Miss Littlefield's password at school but could not explain why she sent the threat.
The email was sent to her own work account and she then reported it to the school's principal who contacted police.
Officers raided Miss Littlefield's home and later arrested Miss Francis after being told that she also had access to the account.
But investigations later proved the email had been sent from Gregory's father's house.
Miss Britton said: "The most important aspect is the impact on the girls.
"They were arrested, knowing they had done nothing wrong."
Miss Littlefield spent three weeks on police bail and Miss Francis two while the crime was investigated.
In a statement read to the court, Miss Littlefield said: "I was crying and distressed at being held in a cell."
Mr Brown said Gregory had been suffering from the onset of depression but been forced to return to work because of financial circumstances.
He added: "If she had known at the point of pressing send what her actions would have led to, then of course she wouldn't have done it.
"It was an extraordinary act of reckless stupidity born out of sheer desperation."
He said she felt no malice towards the girls and had acted out of desperation at her own situation.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Ormiston Academies Trust, said Gregory had been dismissed.
He added: "We will not tolerate any action which disrupts the education of students at our school."