Passengers on the London Underground were saved from a shrapnel bomb attack when the initiator in the improvised device failed, a court heard today.
Student Damon Smith allegedly left the device on a Jubilee line train at North Greenwich station in South East London before heading to his morning lecture.
Smith, 20, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was obsessed with weapons and had pictures of Islamic State fighters on his computer, the Old Bailey was told.
He allegedly stood in front of the TV to take a photo of himself with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Islamic terrorist killed in a raid after the Paris attacks in 2015.
Smith, of Bermondsey, claims the device he planted was only a smoke bomb – and he used ball bearings just to make it look ‘real’ for a prank.
Forensic investigators found some of the tape wrapped round the device was singed – indicating it may have partially functioned, the court was told.
It had a battery and a wall clock with a nail driven through the clock face at number two so the minute hand would come into contact at the ‘ten past’ position and complete the electrical circuit.
The initiator – the component designed to set off the main charge – comprised a modified fairy light with the glass bulb broken coated with the accelerant power from matches.
The main charge was made up of 152.8g of the explosive material found in sparklers contained in a silver metal flask. A pound of ball bearings had been stuck to the device using PVA glue.
Had it detonated the ball bearings and shards of metal from the flask would have been projected through the train, causing serious injury to anyone it came into contact with.
Explosives expert Lorna Philp said that the device was viable but the initiator may not have been powerful enough to ignite the powder from the sparklers.
‘It would have been capable of setting off the material contained in this devices – namely the sparkler charge. But sparklers have quite a high ignition temperature.
‘Anyone who has ever used a sparkler knows that you might have to hold it in the flame for quite a while before it ignites.
‘It’s my opinion that this flash of flame [from the initiator] was not sufficient to cause the sparkler composition to ignite in this device.’
The court heard that the chemical scraped from the sparklers was still in lumps, but had it been ground up and more tightly packed it would have been much more explosive.
‘Had it ignited in this type of metal container it can be made to explode,’ said Ms Philp.
‘The metal fragments would have the potential to cause injury to persons and damage to property in close proximity to the device.’
She described the ball bearings as an ‘an attempt to increase the damage that this device would cause if this device had functioned’.
‘The ball bearings can only be there to cause additional fragments and cause injury and damage – you would not find them in a smoke producing device.’
‘Smoke producing devices will generally have a hole or a vent to allow the smoke to escape when the explosive substance is burning.
‘There was no vent within the sealed metal flask in this device.’
Had it functioned, she said the metal fragments would have been projected at least tens of meters, reaching the end of the carriage and potentially causing injury to any persons on board.
On the morning of October 20, Smith caught the train from Surrey Quays – an Overground station close to his home in Rotherhithe – at around 10.30am with the device in a black Adidas holdall.
At Canada Water he boarded a Jubilee Line train and changed at Southwark to go in the opposite direction, the Old Bailey heard.
He primed the timer mechanism on the device on the train by inserting batteries into the clock and then left the bag on the train between Southwark and London Bridge.
Two members of the public spotted it and alerted the driver at North Greenwich station. But the driver thought it was lost property and took it with him into his cab.
As he headed on towards North Greenwich, he looked inside and was horrified to see wires protruding from the back of the clock.
Both the train and platform at North Greenwich were evacuated and the device was then made safe by a cutting wire.
Had the device detonated as planned it would have gone off just as passengers were leaving the platform, the court heard.
The weapons-obsessed teenager wanted to cause carnage in the capital, his trial heard
Smith was caught on CCTV exiting London Bridge and heading for a Starbucks on Borough High Street where he took off the hoodie he was wearing and left without buying anything.
He was then tracked making his way to his university campus in Holloway, North London.
From about 11.30pm onwards Smith began carrying out Google searches to try and find news about the terror attack.
Jurors heard Smith suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, meaning he has difficulty with social interaction and can become fixated on certain activities.
Jonathan Rees QC said: ‘What is plain from the evidence you will hear is that the defendant had a keen interest in guns and other weapons. This particular interest may have been a function of his Autism Spectrum Disorder.’
Smith grew up in Newton Abbot in Devon but had moved to South London with his mother after being offered a place at London Metropolitan University to study computer forensics.
He told officers that he had been brought up a Christian but thought Islam was ‘more true’ because the Koran predicted scientific facts such as fingerprints.
Police found a blank-firing, self-loading pistol at his address and discovered that he had uploaded a video of him firing the gun to YouTube, the court heard.
He also had a carbon-dioxide powered revolver designed to fire ball bearings and a sheath knife which had also featured in YouTube videos.
An image of a handgun labelled ‘2016 Islamic State fighter’ was found on his university computer, and he was found to have ‘liked’ various videos of explosions.
A torn up shopping list was also found with a hand-drawn diagram of an electrical circuit and a shopping list of the ingredients needed for a bomb.
He had also listed the ingredients needed for a pressure cooker bomb in the ‘Notes’ app of his mother’s iPad, jurors heard, and he had also written ‘Face paint to blend into the LGBT crowd’.
The list ended with the phrase ‘And keep this a secret between me and Allah InspireTheBelievers’.
Smith is alleged to have made or acquired a substance between October 18 and October 21, contrary to section 3(1)(b) of the Explosive Substances Act 1883.
He denies possession of an explosive substance with intention to endanger life and cause serious injury. The trial continues.