Man ‘caught with explosives and cyanide in makeshift lab in shed’

Police arrive to search the home Harry Whittaker shared with his mother in Caddington, Beds
Police arrive to search the home Harry Whittaker shared with his mother in Caddington, Beds - UKNIP

A man who was arrested when counter-terror police raided a makeshift “laboratory” in a garden shed has appeared in court charged with possessing explosives and poison.

Harry Whittaker, 31, was first detained when he called an ambulance to the home he shared with his mother in Caddington, Luton, suffering from breathing difficulties.

When a brick building was searched at the back of the property, officers reported finding a canister of potassium cyanide and two explosive devices.

Prosecutor Sally-Anne Russell told Westminster magistrates’ court: “The initial investigations started on April 18. This was when the defendant called an ambulance service reporting breathing difficulties.

“He said that he had been handling chemicals and provided a list of 27 chemicals.”

Ms Russell said police had searched the shed on May 6 and it is alleged they discovered a large number of chemicals, including a metal canister bearing the label “potassium cyanide extreme danger”.

She added: “The defendant lives in a three-bedroom house in Luton that the defendant shares with his mother, and what he calls his ‘laboratory’ is located in a small brick building in the rear of the garden.

“There was a large print of a periodic table on the wall and one of the windows of the shed was shattered.

“A number of neighbours reported hearing loud bangs from the shed and garden over the years – regular bonfires with thick smoke.”

Suspect had long-standing interest in nuclear physics

The court heard Mr Whittaker, who appeared in the dock unshaven and wearing a prison issue grey tracksuit, had a “long-standing interest in chemistry and nuclear physics”, was highly intelligent and suffered from Asperger’s syndrome.

He is accused of four counts of possessing an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose and possessing a regulated substance without licence.

District Judge John Zani remanded Whittaker into custody at the hearing on Tuesday and said all five charges would be tried at crown court.

Addressing Mr Whittaker, he said: “‘You’ll appear there, which will be Southwark Crown Court, on June 18, it may be in person or may be via video-link.”

Mr Whittaker replied: “Thank you Judge.”

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said searches of the address were now complete, but added officers were still working to “ensure the safe removal of all materials”.

He said: “I’d like to thank the local community for their support and understanding as we continue to carry out this work.

“Finally, I ask that people avoid commenting or speculating any further about this case now that charges have been made, so that the criminal justice process can run its course.”