As it happened: Knaresborough hoax accused in court

York Crown Court
York Crown Court
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Shamsul Islam has been found guilty of causing the bomb hoax which shut down Knaresborough High Street in October 2013.

By Laura Hill at York Crown Court

Friday afternoon summary (November 21):

Judge Stephen Ashurst said the police’s reaction to the hoax calls was ‘hardly surprising’ at York Crown Court.

On October 16 2013 every single armed police officer in the North Yorkshire was called to Knaresborough after anonymous 999 calls claimed a bomb was being made in Paragon Pizza on 16 High Street.

Judge Ashurst said: “It is hardly surprising that when the information was given the authorities sprung into action and a major incident was launched involving all armed officer in North Yorkshire and the town of Knaresborough was shut down for hours. It appears that innocent men were arrested. Somebody was communicating false information.”

The prosecution summed up and Barrister Paul Newcombe alleged that

Shamsul Islam had a motive after the staff at the pizza take away unwittingly revealed his brother’s insurance scam when he was stopped by police the night before.

Mr Newcombe said the calls were not a prank and the caller knew they would be taken seriously.

“This is not a case that the police have over reacted. Can the police not react in this day and age?”

The prosecution said that Islam was ‘hot with fury’ after the insurance scam was exposed.

However the defence dismissed this as a motive as ‘a contrived grudge by the prosecution’.

Mark Foley said: “Paragan pizza staff said nothing but the truth, what did he expect to say? Why should any grudge be born from this?”

The jury were told by Mr Foley that phone mast evidence was ‘very dangerous’ as it could not pin point exact locations of the phone making the hoax call, just the mast the call used.

He said: “He may have been near the hoaxer at the time the hoax call was made. It doesn’t tell you that the person was anything but near the same mast.”

The jury have been told the evidence before them is circumstantial and Judge Ashurst warned them not to try and compare the voices they have heard in court with the hoax caller themselves.

Thursday summary (November 20):

This afternoon (November 20) Shamsul Islam took the stand.

Islam admitted that he gave his brother’s name - Habibul Islam - when stopped by West Yorkshire Police on October 15 because he had no driving licence or insurance.

Islam denied that the voice on the 999 call was his and said he had never been to Paragon Pizza, the centre of the police raid sparked by the hoax calls.

He said: “I never made them calls. I don’t know anything about those calls.”

Prosecuting Paul Newcombe said: “You are lying to this court and this jury. You have got no problem with lying to people in authority, you lied your head off to the police when stopped. At a time of Eid, which is a holy time, you lied to the police.”

The court was played extracts of the footage captured by a BBC cameraman who was filming for TV show Traffic Cops the night Islam was stopped by officers.

PC Kellet was heard on the phone to Paragon Pizza asking if Habibul Islam lived at 16 High Street and was told no by Mr Ramen, a chef at the take-away.

Mr Newcombe said: “You left the car having been humiliated in front of the BBC camera crew, being investigated for fraud. The police were laughing at you at points. And you knew it was going to cost hundreds of pounds and there was a possibility it was all going to be on national TV. Who did you blame for getting you in that situation?”

The court then heard extracts from the 999 call and the hoaxer tells police that ‘Ramen’ and ‘Ahmed’ are have made a bomb at the pizza shop.

Mr Newcombe alleged that Islam made the calls to get revenge on Mr Ramen who had uncovered Islam’s insurance fraud to police, by telling them Habibul did not live at the address of the take-away as he claimed.

The day after Knaresborough town centre was shut down by armed police following the bomb hoax, Islam was arrested in Leeds for dangerous driving.

On October 17 he was involved in a high speed police chase, before he crashed his brother’s blue VW Golf on Harrogate Road and ran off. He was arrested and three phones which are linked to the SIM card used to make the hoax calls were found in the glove box.

The prosecution alleged that Islam was “desperate to get away from police” because he knew the phones were in the car.

Islam denied this and said the phones were put in the glove box by his friend, Shajon Miah who had been in the passenger seat.

Islam admitted he was carrying a quantity of crack cocaine at the time of his arrest and said: “I didn’t know anything about the glove compartment. I was thinking about getting arrested, I was desperate because of the drugs.”

Thursday morning (November 20):

The jury have been shown footage from BBC tv show Traffic Cops which had filmed Islam being stopped on Roundhay Road in Leeds.

West Yorkshire Police Officers were heard deciding to stop the blue VW Golf as it was insured to a Knaresborough address.

Shamsul Islam gives his name as Habibul Islam, his brother, and claimed he works at his uncles take away - paragon pizza- and lives upstairs.

An officer ask Islam “We think you insured your car to Knaresborough because it is cheaper than Chapel Town.

“You won’t believe how common it is.”

Islam said: “I swear to god I wouldn’t do that Honest to god.”

The officers then called Paragon Pizza and spoke to a chef who told police that no staff live in the flats upstairs and that Habibul Islam works there a couple of times a month.

Still Islam insisted he lived at 16 High Street, Knaresborough he said: “I swear to god, you can come and see me there tomorrow, I’ll give you a free curry.

“I have been in Leeds to see my mam and girlfriend and I did my prayers in Leeds for Eid.”

The police then called Islam’s mothers house in Chapeltown and spoke to his sister who said that Habibul lived at home.

Islam was cautioned and told to produce documents at Killingbeck Police station.

Wednesday summary (November 19):

The man accused of making the hoax bomb call which shut down Knaresborough told police that Islamic fundamentalists were planning an atrocity on a grand scale, a court heard.

On the first day of his trial at York Crown Court today (Wednesday), Shamsul Islam, 23, was accused of making three hoax calls to the police and Crimestoppers warning that a bomb was being wired up at a pizza parlour on Knaresborough High Street.

The “terrifying” calls prompted a full-scale emergency police response as officers swooped on the town to evacuate houses and local businesses.

In the first call, at about 2.45pm on October 16 last year, a man made an anonymous call to West Yorkshire Police falsely claiming there were men at Paragon Pizza who were conspiring to plant a bomb “somewhere tonight”.

The caller said he had seen “a lot of unusual activity”, adding: “Tonight they are planning on wiring some bomb.”

Five minutes later, the man called Crimestoppers, the crime-fighting charity, warning them: “They have made a home-made bomb which they plan to plant tonight at Paragon Pizza. There is a gun in the back office and a look-out at the front of the shop.”

He said the men were “Muslim fundamentalists” who planned to leave the premises and plant the bomb to go off at about midnight.

A third call was made to police at about 5.30pm, when the caller told operators: “There is going to be a bomb plot in Knaresborough. They’ve got equipment and everything and today is the day when they are moving it (the bomb) and planting it. They’ve got liquids and it’s going to be getting moved shortly.”

The caller claimed that the men, whom he referred to as “brothers”, were from Beeston in Leeds and had links to the 7/7 bombings in London.

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said the man who made those calls from a mobile phone was Islam.

“He clearly wanted this call to be given top priority and (spark) a major incident,” added Mr Newcombe. “Of course the men in the (pizza shop) were completely innocent.”

The 999 call was played to the court and the West Yorkshire Police dispatcher was heard telling a colleague in North Yorkshire Police Control Room that the caller “seems genuine.”

The prosecutor said the calls were not a prank but a deliberate attempt to frame the pizza workers for a ‘bomb plot’ which never existed.

The jury was told that Islam, from Leeds, had been stopped in a VW Golf car the day before and gave officers false details, claiming to be his brother Habibul Islam and providing them with a false address – Paragon Pizza.

When police called the pizza takeaway, they were told that Habibul Islam, 22, did not live at the address but had worked there part time.

Shamsul Islam was arrested for the offence and, according to the prosecution, decided to get his revenge on the pizza staff by concocting a bomb plot and trying to pin the blame on them, in the hope that the Terrorist Squad would pounce on their premises.

“It’s absolutely pathetic (but) he had a clear motive, however ridiculous and unreasonable,” said Mr Newcombe. “He was brazen and shameless, lying for his own ends.”

The court heard a statement by North Yorkshire Police Chief Inspector Alan Westcott who said that every single armed police officer in North Yorkshire had been called to Harrogate to deal with the incident along with dog units and riffle trained officers.

He said: “This very quickly became an escalated serious incident. It significantly withdrew resources from other activity across the district.”

Three employees from Paragon Pizza were stopped by armed police at around 4:45pm on the way to work and handcuffed before they were taken to Knaresborough Police station and searched “under the terrorism act”.

Manager Razual Karim, who has owned the family-run business in Knaresborough for eight years, arrived in Knaresborough separately at around 5pm when he was also stopped by police and arrested at gun point.

In a statement read out in court he said: “I felt very shocked and embarrassed when I was cuffed by the police as there were people around and I am well known.”

He added: “I have felt quite traumatised by what has gone on. When I sit on my own I do worry.”

Police information analyst, Richard Wilkinson said the first two hoax calls went through the same aerial in Leeds as other messages thought to be between Islam and his girlfriend who was in a different post code.

The prosecution claimed that Islam had made the calls from the same SIM card in three different phones from locations which phone records suggest he frequented regularly.

Voice analyst, Kirsten Kerchevel told the court that the hoax caller’s voice was consistent with Islam’s voice, with no differences, but said his voice was only moderately distinctive. Defending Mark Foley said: “But you can’t say that it is him as many other people may have the same features in their voice.”

Islam – who is charged with three counts of communicating false information with intent to make the authorities believe that there was a bomb plot – denies he was the caller.

He had pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice in relation to the driving matter at a previous hearing.

At the same hearing, his brother Habibul Islam, of Spencer Place, Leeds, admitted perverting the course of justice and making a false statement to obtain insurance after producing his insurance details to the police to cover his brother’s driving offences and giving a false address – Paragon Pizza – to his insurance company.