Man caught with homemade explosive after firework went off in house to impress girlfriend

The man said his plan for the IED was to "blow himself up" as he was suicidal.
Alex Kesteris GrahamAlex Kesteris Graham
Alex Kesteris Graham

A man was caught with a homemade explosive device in the same room where he set off a large outdoor firework to impress his girlfriend.

Alex Kesteris Graham had bought two Rocking Robot Rockets from a shop last June and filmed himself as he launched one indoors, which caused £300 fire and scorch damage and extensive smoke at the property in South Tyneside.

Footage of the launch of the Category three firework in the room at the shared house captured Graham laughing at the explosion, while his partner coughed and appeared distressed, as the smoke alarms in the building activated.

Newcastle Crown Court heard when firefighters arrived they discovered Graham had adapted the second firework into a potentially deadly improvised explosive device, which was filled with nails and stored in the same room.

Prosecutor Nick Dry told the court: "The fire crew found the other rocket in the room, which had been packed with nails and taped up, perhaps with a view to the emission of shrapnel on ignition and explosion.

"The device was examined at a forensics laboratory and found to be a viable improvised explosive device, capable of causing harm and damage."

The court heard investigators also found ball bearings, a BB gun, a baseball bat and a modified catapult in Graham's room.

Mr Dry said Graham was questioned at the scene, where his partner was "hyserical" and added: "He told officers he had just set off a firework to impress his girlfriend."

An examination of Graham's YouTube channel showed an interest in explosives and bomb making.

Graham, who had been drinking and taking drugs,  said his plan for the IED was to "blow himself up" as he was suicidal and had not considered the harm that could have been caused to others.

Mr Dry added: "The Crown say he had an obsession with weapons and explosives. He had created an improvised explosive device and stored it in the very same room which he then launched a firework, running the risk the two could have ignited, resulting in far greater damage."

Mr Dry said it was "sheer chance" more harm was not caused by the indoor firework  and added: "The potential for serious harm by setting off a firework in a confined space, where the IED was being stored, with persons present, speaks for itself."

Graham, 27, admitted possessing an explosive device and arson.

Robin Patton, defending, said Graham has mental health problems and a troubled background and added: "He has not, in fact, caused harm to anyone. It did not, in fact, go off.

"He has not harmed another human being with these activities this day. The damage has been minimal."

Mr Patton said Graham has gone through a "drying out process" in custody on remand and gained certificates and wants "another try to make more of his life."

Judge Robert Spragg sentenced Graham to two-and-a-half years behind bars.

Judge spragg told him: "You purchased two fireworks from a nearby shop, known as Rocking Robot Rockets, which were category 3 indoor fireworks.

"You ignited one in your room, which you recorded on your mobile. It caused a large explosion and significant amounts of smoke. "You could be heard laughing, your girlfriend was coughing. "Smoke and fire alarms went off and a fire crew attended. There was significant smoke, a small fire and scorch marks around the room.

"The fire crew found another rocket, which had been packed with nails and taped up."

Judge Spragg said he accepted Graham had made the IED to harm himself and not anyone else but added that his use of drink and drugs had made his mental health worse.

Judge Spragg added Graham had been "showing off" when he set off the firework and added: "Your partner was hysterical. You said you had set it off to impress her."

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