Brett Ainley: ‘Lonely’ Rotherham hoarder found with ‘dangerous’ explosive devices hidden in sunglasses case
and live on Freeview channel 276
As he sent Brett Ainley to begin his prison sentence, the Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, told him: “These were dangerous devices, and could easily…have caused injury if not death to someone standing nearby.”
He added: “Both contained ball bearings which would have become missiles in a small radius, had the devices exploded.”
Sheffield Crown Court heard how the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were recovered by police during a search of his home address at Treefield Close, in Wingfield, Rotherham on June 23, 2023, in connection with unrelated drug matters.
Prosecutor, Caroline Abrahams, told a hearing held on November 22, 2023 that the IEDs were discovered inside a sunglasses case, stored within a satchel placed next to his sofa.
Ms Abrahams said that when officers approached the satchel where the IEDs were stored, Ainley, aged 42, said they were ‘just fireworks’.
Following the discovery, a bomb disposal unit was sent to the area, causing ‘disruption’ to members of the local community, continued Ms Abrahams.
She said a forensic expert subsequently determined that both devices were ‘viable’ IEDs, containing a black powder, most likely from a rocket motor.
“The defendant was arrested and interviewed. He mentioned he had taken the items from his son, later clarified it was his son’s friend, some years before, had put them in a satchel and had forgotten about them,” Ms Abrahams told the court.
Ms Abrahams continued by saying the Crown did not accept the account Ainley gave in interview, and that his ‘fingerprints had been found on some of the black tape’ associated with the devices.
The defendant was not on any terrorism watch-list at the time the offence was committed, the court heard.
Ainley pleaded guilty to a single count of possessing an explosive substance for unlawful purpose at an earlier hearing.
Defending, Richard Adams noted that prosecutors had not sought to suggest that Ainley had ‘any ulterior motive’ or that there was ‘evidence of any malign intent’.
He described Ainley as someone who was ‘eccentric, a little insular and odd'; and referred Judge Richardson to the body-worn footage taken by the officers who conducted the search, which, he suggested, would highlight those behaviours in the defendant.
Mr Adams told the court that Ainley was a collector of items such as road signs, ‘pristine’ and ‘boxed’ Hot Wheels type cars, along with Marvel comics, which could also be seen papered on a wall of his flat. Mr Adams suggested Ainley’s interest in collecting such items verged on ‘kleptomania’.
“He came by these items on finding his son, and his friend using them to rat or rabbit. Concerned about their welfare, he took them, put them away, and had done nothing with them for what he thought was four years,” Mr Adams said.
He also told the court that Ainley has found the five months he has spent remanded in custody ‘particularly traumatic,’ and in addition to his own health complaints following a stroke in February 2023, Ainley was also extremely concerned for his parents’ deteriorating health.
Jailing Ainley for 16 months, Judge Richardson said that while he accepted his assertion that he was simply storing the IEDs there is ‘a strong need for deterrents’.
He continued: “The word must go out that if individuals have devices of this kind in their home, punishment of some substance will follow.”
“I accept you did not make these items, you acquired them. But it is of concern that you know someone who was prepared to make these items. Instead of destroying them at once, you kept these dangerous items in your home.
"You live a lonely existence, you engage in extremely curious behaviour, by keeping a whole range of items in your extremely untidy and disordered home. You collect items, and seemingly, cannot dispose of them,” Judge Richardson told Ainley, adding that in his view, Ainley ‘hoarded’ the IEDs, ‘in common with other items’.
He told the court that he felt able to moderately reduce Ainley’s sentence from one of 18 months to 16 months behind bars, owing to the ‘situation in prisons at present,’ particularly for defendants serving shorter sentences.
Judge Richardson ordered the forfeiture of the IEDs found in Ainley’s possession, but said ‘they will not be destroyed because they will be useful for training purposes’.