Damon Smith

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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.
~ Judge Richard Marks QC[1]

Damon Smith (November 23rd, 1996[2] - ) is an English bomber who, at the age of 19, planted a bomb on a London Underground train in 2016. He had an interest in weapons including bombs and in Islamic extremism, but was not a terrorist; his motivations are unclear. He claimed the device was meant to be a prank smoke bomb but was convicted of a more serious crime.

Background

File:DSmithFlashingCash.jpg
Damon Smith posing with money, probably earned from online poker games.

Smith was born in Devon and grew very close to his mother after his father became absent from the family.[3] He has Asperger's Syndrome,[4] which is an autism spectrum disorder.[2] This does not affect intelligence but does lead to reduced empathy and can cause intense, narrow interests;[3] this may have influenced his obsessive weaponry interests.[4] It also makes social interaction difficult for him.[5]

He grew interested in weapons and bombs aged 10, and at 12 obtained nunchucks and a baton from the USA.[4] As he grew older he became interested in violent Islamic extremists, particularly Islamic State, and in mass murder.[5] He was raised as a Christian.[6] He used videogames to reenact mass shootings.[5] Online poker was used to fund weapons purchases.[2]

Specific villains looked up by Smith include Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (the Boston Marathon bombers) and London nail bomber David Copeland.[4] He also posed with a photo of Paris terrorist Abdelhamid Abaaoud.[2] Three months before the bombing he moved to London[5] after gaining a place studying forensic computing at London Metropolitan University.[3]

Failed bombing

File:DSmithBomb.jpg
Smith's partially-exploded failed bomb.

Smith left his bomb on a London Underground train on October 20th, 2016.[2] He shoved it under a seat on an underground train between Southwark and London Bridge stations before going back the way he came.[6] Passengers alerted the driver to Smith's unattended rucksack and it was taken into the train's cab for safekeeping as presumed lost property.[1] The driver spotted wires as he drove on and raised the alarm.[4] Had the bomb worked, it would have exploded during evacuations of the train and platform at North Greenwich station.[3] He had timed it to explode 13 minutes after he planted it.[4]

File:DSmithContainer.jpg
The metal container used for the bomb.

Smith had packed the device with ball bearings.[4] He had downloaded Al-Qaeda's magazine Inspire.[6] It contained instructions used to build the device, titled Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom.[4] He made several modifications, all of which weakened his weapon's potential for harm.[3] It used a £2 Tesco clock as a timer.[4]

Investigation

Smith was rapidly identified. The next day, October 21st, he was tasered and arrested in North London.[3] Police searching his former home in Devon discovered a second possible bomb in its attic, triggering an evacuation of the area.[3]

File:DSmithGun.jpg
Smith posing with his BB gun.

Smith admitted his offence but claimed it was a harmless prank inspired by YouTube channel Trollstation.[2] He said it was a smoke bomb for Halloween.[1] Police discovered lawfully-owned weapons including a knife, knuckleduster, BB gun, and blank-firing revolver.[1] His iPad had a shopping list for bomb-making equipment which included the phrase "keep this a secret between me and Allah #InspireTheBelievers."[3] Hi computer included pictures of himself with guns, one of which was titled 2016 an Islamic State fighter.[4] He was charged with possession of an explosive substance with intent in breach of the 1883 Explosive Substances Act.[3] In order to be found guilty the prosecution had to prove he meant to endanger people or damage property.[3]

Trial

Smith went on trial in 2017 at the Old Bailey.[4] At trial he admitted a bomb hoax charge instead of the more serious crime.[4] He was represented by Richard Carey-Hughes QC[3] His lawyer noted the changes Smith made to his weapon's design, claiming "If you’re looking for a bang, you don’t choose something that makes a fizz."[3] However, explosives experts said the bomb was very close to being a viable device capable of serious maimings.[5] The jury convicted Smith in two hours.[2]

During police interviews and trial Smith behaived abnormally, laughing and smiling. The judge ordered jurors not to hold this against him. The jury was also warned not to be swayed by emotions, be that sympathy for Smith's mental health problems or anger at hi actions.[3]

The judge ruled Smith was not a terrorist but his reasons for the attack were unclear.[6] On May 26th, 2017 Smith received 15 years in prison with an extra 5 years on licence.[5] This followed Carey-Hughes acknowledging mercy was difficult to seek in such a case, but that this was still appropriate for Smith.[2] He also rejected a psychiatrist's claim Smith had sadistic tendencies.[2] Smith was sentenced days after Salman Abedi bombed the Manchester Arena, killing 22.[5]

References