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UK teen gets 3 years jail-term over hoax bomb threats

Devdiscourse News Desk London
Updated: 07-12-2018 20:16 IST
UK teen gets 3 years jail-term over hoax bomb threats

A teenager IT student who sent hoax bomb threats to over 1,700 schools in the UK and triggered an American airline security scare has been jailed for three years, a media report said Friday.

George Duke-Cohan, 19, sparked nationwide panic and a transatlantic investigation from the bedroom of his home in Watford, Hertfordshire, the BBC reported.

He pleaded guilty at Luton Crown Court in September to three counts of making hoax bomb threats. It followed an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Duke-Cohan caused widespread panic in March when he emailed more than 1,700 schools, colleges and nurseries across the UK to warn about an explosive. Hundreds of the schools were evacuated.

He was arrested days later but in April, he sent another batch of emails to schools in the US and UK while under investigation.

The teenager claimed a pipe bomb had been planted on the premises.

NCA investigators, working with the FBI, also found that while on bail for the bomb hoaxes, Duke-Cohan had made a fake report of a hijacked US-bound plane via phone calls to San Francisco Airport and police.

He claimed there was a bomb on board flight UAL949, which was travelling from Heathrow to San Francisco with 295 passengers.

Jailing him, Judge Richard Foster said: "You knew exactly what you were doing and why you were doing it, and you knew full well the havoc that would follow.

"You were playing a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. You were playing a game for your own perverted sense of fun in full knowledge of the consequences.

"The scale of what you did was enormous," the judge was quoted as saying by the report.

His defence barrister said psychology experts had described Duke-Cohen as very immature, but the prosecution said he craved attention from his followers on social media.

Marc Horsfall, senior investigating officer with the NCA, said Duke-Cohan had few real friends and spent "a great deal of his time online".

He had no previous convictions and lived with his mother and sister.

However, he was linked to a cyber-hacker group on Twitter calling itself the Apophis Squad - and developed a number of online aliases.

In January 2018, the IT student was expelled from West Herts College for issuing a bomb threat.

His first bomb hoax email was prompted by a disagreement with the owners of VeltPvP, a US-based server that allows users play the game Minecraft.

Duke-Cohan was annoyed at not being given access to higher levels within the game, the NCA said.

The email warned a student had entered schools with a bomb - and demanded USD 5,000 to be deposited in VeltPvP's account.

More than 400 schools across the UK were evacuated before the email was dismissed as a hoax.

Duke-Cohan was arrested at home within two days, and his laptops, USB sticks and mobile phones were seized, the report said.

(With inputs from agencies.)