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Teenager who threatened to blow up Barkingside school, jailed

PUBLISHED: 18:07 07 December 2018 | UPDATED: 18:35 07 December 2018

Kantor King Solomon was evacuated earlier this year after it recieved a bomb threat. Photo: Google

Kantor King Solomon was evacuated earlier this year after it recieved a bomb threat. Photo: Google

Archant

A teenager who threatened to blow up a Barkingside school unless he was paid $5,000 has been jailed.

George Duke-Cohan, 19, of Mutchetts Close, Watford sent bogus claims to Kantor King Soloman High School, Forest Road on March 19, 2018, causing hundreds of pupils to evacuate the building.

He targeted 1,700 schools in total across the UK and the US and the National Crime Agency said more than 400 schools were evacuated as a result.

Prosecutor Rebecca Austin said the emails were sent to a variety of schools including those that cater for children with special educational needs and succeeded in causing “alarm and anxiety”.

One of the messages sent out by Duke-Cohan said: “This is a message to everyone. We’ve sent in a student with a bomb.The bomb is set to go off in three hours’ time. If you do not send 5,000 dollars USD to payments@veltpvp.com. If you do not send the money, we will blow up the device. Our site has all the information needed (veltpvp.com).If you try to call the cops we will blow up the device on the spot. Any attempt at defusing it yourself will cause it to explode.”

Police arrested Duke-Cohan days later, but he was able to send another batch of emails to schools in the US and UK while under investigation in April.

The court heard that Marlborough College was one of the facilities targeted by what was referred to as the “Apophis Squad” hoax emails.

Ms Austin said it was “clear” that Duke-Cohan used the influence of the Columbine attack of 1999 to add “authenticity”.

Duke-Cohan was arrested for a second time and released on pre-charge bail with conditions that he did not use electronic devices.

But before long his name was in the frame for a third hoax, regarding a bogus tip-off that hijackers had taken over a United Airlines flight from Heathrow to San Francisco.

Speaking to an operator, he identified himself as “Mike Sanchez” and said his daughter had called him in a “distressed state” from the plane.

A tweet sent after the plane landed included the words “9/11 remake”.

He was arrested for a third time at his home on August 31, 2018.

Today, (Friday, December 7) at a Luton Crown Court sentencing, Judge Richard Foster told Duke-Cohan that the “the scale of what you did was enormous”.

“Schools were evacuated and, where they were not, those in charge had to take agonising decisions,” he said.

“The passengers and crew on that flight on August 9, must have been terrified when their plane was taken to a quarantined area, and, apart from the financial cost, the onward travelling plans and connecting flights would have been in disarray.”

Duke-Cohan has previously pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and the judge said that, for the purposes of sentencing, he accepted that the defendant has autism spectrum disorder.

His defender, Anya Lewis, described the 19-year-old as “vulnerable” and “remorseful” but in his sentencing remarks the judge said Duke-Cohan had “bragged” about his offending and had said how “funny” it was to make hoax calls.

He also added that what Duke-Cohan did was “far removed from anything that could be described as naivety or a cry for help from a sick person” and said: “Your fascination with computer hacking and your motivation of seeking notoriety is indicative of your high culpability.”

The teenager was sentenced to a total of three years behind bars -one year for the emails sent to schools and two years for the airport security scare.

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