A BEDROOM chemist who sparked a two-day evacuation of a Sheffield suburb when police discovered bomb-making chemicals at his home has been locked up for 18 months.
Fifty homes were evacuated in Intake, roads and air space were closed and trams were diverted after dangerous high-explosive TATP was found at the house 35-year-old James Curtis shared with his mother in Ridgehill Avenue. Sheffield Crown Court heard TATP is ‘extremely hazardous’, and has been used to detonate improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Curtis denied trying to make a bomb - telling police the explosive was ‘just rocket fuel’.
A 200 metre cordon was thrown around the area, 40 police officers were deployed, and the Army bomb squad was called to carry out two controlled explosions last May.
The court was told Curtis was a loner who ‘lived in a world of his own’. From a young age he had a ‘fixation’ for rockets, chemicals and explosives.
Jailing him, Judge Simon Lawler QC said: “There was a potential and serious risk to the public, you were responsible for that and it can’t be overlooked. An immediate custodial sentence is unavoidable. The reaction was understandable, particularly in this day and age.”
Rachel Harrison, prosecuting, said police discovered the chemicals when they executed a drugs warrant at the address on May 10. She said the TATP - triacetone triperoxide - was in a box on top of a kitchen cupboard.
“The defendant obviously had a great interest in chemistry,” she said. “The Army was called, the police vacated the house, and the bomb squad attended.
“Twenty people had to leave their homes, although two elderly residents refused.
“The road was closed and there were traffic diversions.
“At 8pm the cordon was lifted, but it was reinstated at 9am the next day after a pipe bomb was discovered in the shed. It was lifted again at 11pm,” she said.
“A huge number of different chemicals was recovered including a wide variety of explosive substances.”
Curtis’ computer was seized, and police found he’d searched the internet for information about chemicals.
He admitted two charges of making explosives and one of possessing them.
Danny Simpson, defending Curtis, said he suffered a depressive illness worsened following the death of his partner. He said his fixation with rockets, chemicals and explosives was ‘the only thing he had any interest in’.
“It’s not suggested for one moment he was intending to harm anybody or anyone,” he added. “They were not in any way preparations for a weapon of any sort.”
Judge Lawler told Curtis he ‘knew what he was about’ with the TATP, adding: “You’ve clearly had an interest in explosives and rockets for many years.
“I accept you had no hostile or malicious intent with regard to the public, but you knew this material was serious, it was hazardous, and it was dangerous, and that’s the serious aspect of this.”