In the Media

Jailed fireworks fan had 'shoe bomber' explosives in garden shed

PUBLISHED April 13, 2012

A rocket enthusiast made the same high explosive used by "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in his garden shed using chemicals bought on eBay, a court has heard.

Philip Leonard, 36, created substances capable of inflicting "life-threatening injuries" to people near the home he shared with his partner and their two children, using instructions found online.

Philip Leonard admitted four charges of making explosive substances for an unlawful purpose

Taunton crown court heard on Friday that when police raided the house in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, on 20 January they found the explosives stored close to unstable chemicals, increasing the risk of an accidental explosion.

Residents were evacuated from their homes as a 100-metre exclusion zone was established around the property in Beatty Way.

The court also heard Leonard had been conducting small explosions out in the Somerset countryside. Sentencing him to two years in prison, Judge Stephen O'Malley told him: "I'm pleased that there are systems in place which identify to the authorities people who are doing things like this.

"What the investigators, police and others, found in January when they raided your home was a potentially very dangerous situation with four different explosive substances which singularly or combined had the potential to cause serious injury to people and property.

"My main purpose in sentencing you has to be to bring home to you and others the gravity of what you did."

Leonard, who admitted four charges of making explosive substances for an unlawful purpose at an earlier hearing, will serve two years concurrently for each charge.

Prosecutor William Hunter said Leonard was not a terrorist but simply had an interest in pyrotechnics. Nevertheless, he said, if the explosives had exploded they could have caused serious injuries to anyone in the vicinity.

"The police went there because they had learned he was purchasing items which were of concern," he said.

"The way the explosives and chemicals were being stored in close proximity to each other, there was potential for a serious fire to be caused. The materials should not be stored in the same shed.

"He had in his possession high explosives; he knew they were dangerous."

Patrick Mason, defending, said Leonard had become increasingly reclusive and depressed, not seeing anyone outside his family, since a civil claim after a car accident in 2002 had ruined him financially.

"He is someone very damaged by the experience of 10 years ago," he said. "He had an interest in pyrotechnics and fireworks for some time and he was able to indulge his interest via research on the internet.

"He experimented in relative safety in the middle of nowhere, making small detonations. It was rockets really that he was interested in."

He added that Leonard's partner had left him since his arrest.

Chief Inspector Peter Saban of Avon and Somerset police, said Leonard was a "stupid man".

"He is not a domestic terrorist. This is a man simply in his back yard combining chemicals to create explosives," he said.

"Nevertheless it is a really dangerous thing to do, and not a reasonable thing to do. If there is a message to get across to anyone thinking of doing this, it is 'you are playing with fire."