Man jailed after explosive liquid found in bathroom

Darren James
Darren James

A CONVICTED armed robber from Bulwell has been jailed for 15 years for storing a deadly explosive chemical in the bathroom of his flat.

Police raided the home of Darren James (26) as part of a routine search for a stolen car.

But they ended up having to evacuate his neighbourhood, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

For inside the flat, they found a stash of nitroglycerine, which is used in the manufacture of dynamite.

An explosives expert said the amount of explosives found would have been enough to blow up a house and, depending on its purity, “kill lots of people”.

The court heard that quantities of the nitroglycerine were stored in cupboards at the flat on Central Avenue, Mapperley. James had since moved to Bancroft Street, Bulwell.

Officers also found an illegal shotgun, an air rifle, ammunition and stolen knives and axes. They also recovered the stolen Renault Megane car they were originally looking for.

The discovery of the nitroglycerine, on Thursday October 13 last year, prompted an evacuation of hundreds of people from the area and the adjoining Plains Road. More than 60 homes and businesses were affected.

A primary school was forced to close and a 100-metre cordon was set up around the flat.

The bomb-disposal squad was called in and carried out a controlled explosion of the nitroglycerine in the back garden.

The court heard that detectives explored the possibility that James had connections to terrorists. But there was no evidence of this.

Nitroglycerine can explode if dropped and becomes more unstable as it degrades. James claimed he was trying to make fireworks with the volatile explosives.

Steven Coupland (prosecuting) said: “The only logical inference is that he intended to use that explosive for general criminality.”

At a previous hearing in March, James pleaded guilty to a total of 13 offences.

These included making an explosive, possession of a firearm without a certificate and when banned, burglary, handling stolen goods and breaching a prison sentence.

The Renault Megane had been stolen six months earlier, although James wasn’t charged with the theft. The camping equipment and the knives and axe found at the flat had either been stolen or received by James between July and October last year.

The court heard he committed his first offence at the age of 13 and previously served three years in youth custody for two armed robberies.

It was said he was “a loner and eccentric”. His counsel, Steven Gosnell, said: “There was no intent here. No plan for the nitroglycerine to be used in any particular way.”

Residents reacted with dismay to the discovery of the explosives. They said they were frightened for their safety and that of children in the area.

They feared someone could have been killed if the chemicals had detonated.

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Chief Insp Melanie Bowden, of Nottinghamshire police, said: “Darren James’s previous criminal history was obviously known to the police. But the presence of nitroglycerine or firearms in the flat was not suspected.

“We were acting on intelligence that suggested he may be connected to the theft of a car, and that information clearly proved to be correct.

“However, once officers found what they believed to be explosive substances, we took immediate steps to maximise public safety.

“It is still not clear what James’s motive was for possessing or making nitroglycerine.

“Naturally, we have explored the possibility that he may have been intending to use them to harm other people or to engage in some form of violent extremism. But we have found no evidence to suggest that he planned to do either of those things.

“This sentence should make it abundantly clear that the illegal possession or creation of explosives is viewed by the courts as a very serious offence.

“James had stored these chemicals in a flat in a busy, residential area.

“There is no knowing what might have happened had they been ignited, either accidentally or deliberately.”