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 cell site analyst, Richard Wilkinson said the first two hoax calls can be traced to same post code in Leeds as other messages thought to be between Islam and his girlfriend who was in a different post code, where the third hoax call was made from. The prosecution claimed that Islam had made the calls from the same Sim card in three different phones and made the final call while visiting his girlfriend.
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.
Shamsul Islam’s trial continues.