Jail for hoaxer who threatened vicar

A serial bomb hoaxer whose targets included a group of overseas students and a Northumberland vicar was jailed yesterday after being branded a public danger.

A serial bomb hoaxer whose targets included a group of overseas students and a Northumberland vicar was jailed yesterday after being branded a public danger.

Paul Bell made a series of calls to the co-ordinator of the US-based St Cloud State University at Alnwick Castle warning "American students will die" and "We love to kill Americans".

He went on to make calls to the Rev Murray Haig, of St Michael's Church in Alnwick, repeatedly warning he and fellow Christians would be killed and claiming the church would be bombed.

In a further hoax call he made a bomb threat to a call centre in Lancashire prompting the evacuation of more than a thousand workers.

And just days later as world leaders made their way to the GI summit at Gleneagles in Scotland, he made calls to police warning bombs were about to go off at junctions on the M9 and M77.

Bell, who used Middle-Eastern and Irish accents during the calls, yesterday admitted four offences of communicating false information and two of putting a person in fear of violence by harassment.

The 43-year-old - who has a previous conviction for harassment when he made a series of threatening calls to a former partner - asked for 11 similar offences to be taken into consideration.

He was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court for three years with two years extended licence by Judge David Hodson who said a deterrent sentence was necessary.

The judge said he concluded Bell, who suffers from bi-polar affected disorder, made the calls at a time when he was in a manic mood probably as a result of failing to take his medication.

He said he accepted Bell, of Narrowgate, Alnwick, had behaved in a way he would "never contemplate" when in a stable mood. But he told him: "All these offences to a greater or lesser degree caused huge distress, alarm, fear, apprehension and disruption to a significant number of people.

"The fear and apprehension you caused is made the more intense when there are actual bomb incidents in this country and all too often with tragic results.

"Indeed one only has to think of the bombings in London within a few days of the calls you made. Offences of this kind demand custodial sentences. Not only does the public expect proper punishment for those that commit them, but also anyone else that might be tempted to commit similar offences must know there will be serious penal consequences."

Richard Bloomfield, defending, said Bell, was a well-educated man whose life had been blighted by mental illness.

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