London Underground bomb was a 'prank', student tells court

Duncan Gardham, Security Journalist

A university student with an interest in Islam planted a homemade ball-bearing bomb on a tube train in central London, a court has heard.

Damon Smith, 20, from Newton Abbott, left a bomb in a rucksack in the front carriage of a Jubilee Line tube train on a weekday morning in October last year.

Had the device worked, it would have exploded just as people were being ordered off the platform at North Greenwich, jurors at the Old Bailey were told.

The court heard that Smith had a keen interest in Islam, guns, explosives and gambling, and collected pictures of extremists, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the 2015 Paris terror attacks.

Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting, said the defendant had built an "improvised explosive device" containing ball bearings, which he believed would "explode and endanger the lives" of those travelling on the train.

Smith, who suffers from "high-functioning autism", had just begun his first year at London Metropolitan University, studying for a degree in computer forensics, at the time of the incident.

During his police interview, Smith told officers that he had been brought up a Christian but thought that Islam "was more true" because the Koran had "predicted" scientific facts such as fingerprints.

Smith accepted building a device and leaving it on the tube train, but said it was a "prank" and that he had no intention of harming anyone.

He told police he had built a smoke bomb and added the ball bearings to make it look like a real bomb so the train would be stopped and it would be reported on the news.

But when officers searched his home, they found an Apple iPad mini which had a deleted 'Notes' document titled "Pressure cooker bomb materials", created on September 2 2016.

The list included nearly all of the components used in the construction of the bomb found on the tube, including a cheap clock from Tesco and ball bearings that were explicitly described in the list as "shrapnel", the court heard.

Tube driver Adrian Clarke initially thought the abandoned rucksack was lost property and took it with him to the driver's cab.

On the way, he took another look and spotted wires protruding from the back of a clock.

The bomb detonator had gone off but had not set the main device off, jurors were told.

Smith, who was 19 at the time, is an only child and has been estranged from his father since he was very young, the court heard.

He denies charges under the explosive substances act and the trial continues.