A man who set off an explosion on a busy Saturday morning after threatening to blow up Leamington police station has been given an extended prison sentence as a danger to the public.
A judge at Warwick Crown Court had heard that alcoholic Darrell Parker’s list of previous convictions included at least two earlier threats to blow up other police stations.
The explosion sent debris flying for a 20-metre radius, and Parker, of Hearthway, Banbury, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless whether life was endangered.
The 48-year-old was given an extended sentence of four years in jail, of which he will have to serve two-thirds, and will then be on licence for the rest of the term and for a further five years.
Prosecutor Michelle Heeley said that at around 8.30am on Saturday December 13 last year Parker was spoken to by security staff at the justice centre in Newbold Terrace, Leamington, and made a one-fingered gesture as he walked away.
Parker then went to the front office of the nearby police station where, as he was rambling about trying to find his family, he was asked to put out his cigarette.
He was then asked to leave, and as he did so he swore at the civilian officer, threatening to return and bomb them.
Although the officer did not take the threat seriously, he contacted the town centre CCTV staff with a description of the defendant to ask them to keep an eye on him.
A little later Parker went to the Home Bargains store where he picked up some lighters and lighter fluid before asking for a can of lighter gas. When he was told they did not stock it, he asked for a can of deodorant instead, and then left and was back near the police station within minutes.
Just as the town was starting to get busy with Christmas shoppers, Parker put a paper bag containing the deodorant can on the ground, poured lighter fluid over it and lit it, sending flames two feet high.
A couple who saw it considered going over to try to put the flames out, but fortunately did not do so - because moments later the can exploded, sending fragments flying about 20 metres. The area between the corner of Hamilton Terrace and Euston Place was then cordoned off.
The description of the man responsible matched Parker who was arrested shortly afterwards at the railway station. When he was interviewed Parker, who said he had problems at home, claimed he had bought the deodorant to spray himself because he smelled, and that the decision to use it to cause an explosion had been taken on the spur of the moment. But Miss Heeley said that had to be considered in the light of what he had said earlier at the police station and what he had initially asked for in the shop.
At an earlier hearing the court was told that Parker’s previous convictions included threatening to blow up a police station in 2006, a bomb hoax in 2007 for which he was jailed, and a further threat to blow up a police station in 2011 when a judge at Oxford Crown Court gave him a community order.
Robert Lindsey, defending, said: “Thankfully no-one was hurt and the damage caused was minimal. The device was not particularly sophisticated, although it did explode.”
He suggested the incident had been ‘a cry for help’ by Parker, who had been an alcoholic since he was 14 but had ‘now engaged with treatment’ while on remand in prison where he has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“If he abstains from alcohol, the risk is low; and he has been in custody and away from alcohol for nine months now.”
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told Parker: “It is a really serious offence, because if you set a fire or cause an explosion you can’t control it, and if it gets out of control you can very easily kill or seriously hurt someone.”