Nadeem Muhammad, 43, was set to board a Ryanair flight to Italy on January 30 when security officers x-ray scanning cabin baggage at Manchester Airport uncovered the device, made of masking tape, batteries, the tube of a marker pen, pins and wires, inside the zip lining of his small green suitcase. One of the senior security officers with many years service, is then said to have put the device in her uniform pocket 'for safe keeping' after an initial swab found no explosives traces.
On Tuesday, Muhammad was found guilty by a majority verdict at Manchester Crown Court of possession of explosives - with intent to endanger life or property.
The court heard airport security had initially believed the bomb was not viable and, after being questioned by counter terrorism officers, Muhammad, who was born in Pakistan, but had an Italian passport, was released, then five days later boarded a flight to Italy.
Superintendent Graeme Openshaw of Greater Manchester Police’s Specialist Operations unit said: “Based on the overall circumstances of his stop and the information presented at the time, police officers determined that there was not sufficient evidence or suspicion to arrest the man and place restrictions on his movement.
“Following subsequent forensic examination of the device carried out by police, it was determined that it could be viable and the man was arrested at the first opportunity.
“We accept that there were some errors with our assessment of the device on the day and we have already reviewed our practices, however this incident has demonstrated the effectiveness of the airport security checks where the item was successfully detected and the passenger intercepted.”
The court heard airport security officers had initially swabbed the device taken from inside the zipped inner lining of the bag after it went through the X-ray scanner, but the later swab had found no trace of explosives.
Terminal 3 security manager Deborah Jeffrey is said to have initially put the pipe bomb, (which was subsequently found to contained nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose, into her pocket [for safe keeping] before passing it to police.) Ms Jeffreys later reaction to the news isn't recorded...
A spokesman for Manchester Airport said: “We are proud of the work that our teams do to ensure the safety and security of passengers. In this instance, the actions of our security team led to the detection of a suspicious device.
“Following its detection, our team handed the passenger and the device over to the police to investigate further. These actions prevented a potentially dangerous item from being taken on board an aircraft.”
Muhammad, of Tinline Street, Bury, told the court he had not seen the device before it was discovered in his bag and it had “nothing at all” to do with him.
The jury had been told there was no evidence of a motive or that the incident was linked to terrorism.
The businessman broke down and sobbed in court as the verdict was announced.
The device was forensically examined by police on February 8 – some days after Muhammad had been allowed to fly to Italy. The bomb squad only being called in after it was found to be suspicious.
About this time Muhammad was questioned by police in Italy on February 9 but was released again. Three days later, February 12, the suspect then flew back to the UK and was arrested when he arrived at Manchester Airport.
In all the he jury spent nearly 16 hours considering their response to the evidence before finding Muhammad guilty of the charge on a majority verdict. By a majority of 10 to two.
Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter terrorism division in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “Despite extensive investigation, Nadeem Muhammad’s motive for attempting to take this device onto a plane remains unknown.
“However, it is clear that the consequences, had he been successful, could have been disastrous.”
Muhammad was remanded into custody ahead of his sentencing hearing set for August 23.
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