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Man behind bomb hoax that led to 44,000 pupils being evacuated is jailed

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A man who claimed he had planted bombs at schools across the UK – affecting more than 44,000 children – has been jailed for more than four years.

Andreas Dowling, 24, told police he had planted bombs containing dynamite, sarin gas – a nerve agent – and radiation, before threatening to shoot any survivors with assault rifles.

In total, he made 107 fake bomb claims across the UK, Canada and the US – 75 of which were in Britain.

He also attempted to disrupt the 2015 Superbowl and targeted the Houses of Parliament, Exeter Crown Court heard.

The court heard Jewish schools were ‘over-represented’ as targets in the British hoaxes and were selected ‘based on racial or religious identity of the students’.

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Prosecutor Simon Laws told the court that Dowling said bombs at the Jewish schools he targeted would go off at 4.20pm – a reference to Adolf Hitler’s birthday of 20 April.

He said: ‘It is an occasion of celebration in far right circles. It was only the Jewish schools that this unusually precise time was given.’

Mr Laws said hoaxes affected over 44,000 pupils and said ‘the fear and disruption caused by the UK hoaxes was very considerable’.

In February 2016, Dowling claimed there was a bomb in a parked car outside the Palace of Westminster and staff and MPs had ’30 minuted to evacuate’.

The phonecall finished with the sounds of ‘allahu akbar’, gunfire and screaming.

Dowling used fake Twitter and email accounts as well as text to speech software to hide his identity from police in the UK and North America.

He was responsible for an outbreak of bomb hoaxes in the US and Canada targeting schools, police departments and the Superbowl in 2014, Mr Laws said.

The prosecutor said: ‘As was to be the case in the UK, a feature of the North American hoaxes was the repeated targeting of the same institutions.

‘The threats used were chilling and intended to be taken seriously. He revelled in his ability to evade capture.

‘It was not until US investigators discovered a group of fellow hoaxers that his identity was revealed.’

Dowling’s motivation for making the bomb hoaxes ‘appears to be mixed’, he added.

‘In messages online the US offences were to do with punishing the US government and law enforcement agencies for what he saw as their criminality and corruption and/or an apparent grievance about the Ebola virus.

‘In the UK there is an attempt to get money out of it by offering to close schools for pupils in return for payment. Some of the offences were motivated by racism.’

Dowling accepted making the US bomb threats but claimed he was part of a wider network known as The Evacuation Squad and did not make any calls in the UK directly.

At a previous hearing Dowling, of Torpoint, Cornwall, admitted 30 counts of communicating false information with intent between October 2014 and February 2016.

He also pleaded guilty to a single charge of ‘encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence believing it would be committed’ under the Protection of Children Act 1978.

This related to Dowling threatening to ‘ruin the life’ of a 16-year-old girl in the US unless she sent him a nude photograph of herself.

Dowling, who was born with a ‘profound hearing impairment’ and uses a cochlear implant, was ‘encouraged’ by others to take part and his offending was ‘out of character’, his defence lawyer Richard Smith said.

Mrs Justice May said: ‘One has only to imagine the extreme anxiety head teachers must have felt receiving news of a bomb threat and how pernicious and cruel it was to make those calls.’

She sentenced Dowling to four years and five months in prison.

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