A former altar boy has been jailed for 15 years for planting a home-made bomb on a busy Tube train.
Weapons-obsessed Damon Smith built the device at home with a £2 clock from Tesco after finding an online al-Qaeda article entitled Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom, the Press Association reported.
Smith, 20, claimed it was a Halloween prank but was found guilty of possession of an explosive substance with intent following a trial at the Old Bailey.
The autistic defendant smiled in the dock as Judge Richard Marks QC sentenced him to 15 years in a young offenders’ institution with an extended period of five years on licence.
The judge said that although Smith had an interest in Islam, he was not motivated by terrorism.
But he told the defendant: “Quite what your motives were and what your true thinking was in acting as you did is difficult to discern with any degree of clarity or certainty.
“Whatever the position, the seriousness of what you did cannot be overstated, not least against the background of the fear in which we all live from the use of bombs here and around the world, an all too timely reminder of which were the events in Manchester earlier this week.”
Mitigating, Richard Carey-Hughes QC had said it was a tragic case for Smith and his mother.
He said: “This is a difficult climate to ask for mercy for someone convicted of this type of offence. Nevertheless, we do so and we invite my Lord to extend mercy. This case is different. It seems unique and so is this young man.”
The lawyer refuted the suggestion by one psychiatrist that Smith was “indulging in sadistic fantasy”.
Smith was “sorry” for the fear and disturbance he caused and has “learned his lesson”, the barrister said.
Carey-Hughes added: “We asked him this morning ‘Would you make another bomb?’ and he said ‘No, never, I don’t want to be in jail’.”
The root cause of Smith’s actions were in his autistic disability, he said.
The court heard that experts were divided over Smith’s future risk to society.
But Judge Marks pointed out that the defendant, who showed a lack of empathy, had constructed other devices before planting one on the Tube.
The trial had heard that Smith packed a rucksack with explosives and ball bearing shrapnel on the morning of October 20 last year.
The college student was caught on CCTV as he travelled on the Jubilee Line, casually flicking through a text book before getting off and leaving the bomb on the floor, timed to go off within minutes.
At least 10 passengers were in the carriage at the time and some of them spotted the abandoned rucksack and alerted the driver.
The driver at first dismissed it as lost property and took it into his cab and carried on towards North Greenwich, jurors were told.
During the journey, he spotted wires coming out of the bag and raised the alarm as he pulled into the station.
Had Smith’s bomb worked, it would have exploded just as commuters were being ordered off the platform, the jury heard.
The defendant went on to college and, on returning home in the evening, checked the internet for news of what he had done.
Upon his arrest by counter-terrorism officers, Smith admitted making the bomb but claimed he only meant it to spew harmless smoke as a Halloween joke.
He told police he had been inspired from watching someone on a YouTube channel called Trollstation doing a bomb prank.
A search of Smith’s home in Rotherhithe, south London, revealed his fixation with guns, explosives and other weapons.
Police seized a blank-firing self-loading pistol and a BB gun, both bought legally, as well as a knuckleduster and a knife which he showed off in an online video.
Police also uncovered torn-off scraps of shredded paper with bomb-making instructions on it and a “shopping list” of components.
Smith told police he was interested in Islam but denied being an extremist, even though he had posed next to an image of the Brussels-born Islamic terrorist alleged to have masterminded the attacks in Paris in November 2015.
In his defence, extracts of a psychiatric report were read out confirming an autism spectrum disorder.
He had been interested in bomb-making since the age of 10 and said it was “something to do when he was bored”.
Smith, who grew up living with his mother in Newton Abbot, Devon, said he had thought about putting a bomb in a park but decided it would be “more funny” to delay train passengers.
Judge Marks concluded that Smith was a dangerous offender.
He told him: “I am influenced by your history of preoccupation with weapons and bombs as well as by your condition which makes it difficult for you to empathise with others and to understand and fully appreciate the very serious potential consequences of your actions, as this incident amply demonstrates.”