George Duke-Cohan, 19, has been jailed for three years at Luton Crown Court after making bogus bomb threats to hundreds of UK schools and sparking an airport security scare
An autistic teenager who sat in his bedroom at home bombarding more that 1,700 schools with hoax bomb threats has been jailed for three years.
George Duke-Cohan twice targeted schools in the UK and US with hoax messages, and caused havoc when he posed as a worried father claiming his daughter, supposedly on a flight from Heathrow, was on a hijacked plane with four gunmen armed with a bomb.
The 19-year-old, from Watford, pleaded guilty in September to three counts of making hoax bomb threat and was sentenced today at Luton Crown Court.
Jailing Duke-Cohan for three years, Judge Richard Foster said: ‘You knew exactly what you were doing and why you were doing it, and you knew full well the havoc that would follow.
‘You were playing a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. You were playing a game for your own perverted sense of fun in full knowledge of the consequences.’
Duke-Cohan stood nervously and fumbled with his pullover sleeves as he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Judge Foster continued: What you did was far removed from anything that could be described as naivety or a cry for help from a sick person.
‘The scale of what you did was enormous. Schools were evacuated and were they not those in charge had to make agonising decision.
‘The passengers and crew on that flight must have been terrified when their plane was taken to a quarantined area and apart from the financial cost the onward travelling plans and connecting flights would have been in disarray.
‘Your principal mitigation is your early guilty pleas. Other mitigating factors are your age and lack of maturity, the fact that you have no previous criminal convictions and, to a limited extent, your functioning deficiencies which have contributed to a diagnosis of autism.
The 19-year-old, from Watford, pleaded guilty in September to three counts of making hoax bomb threat and was sentenced today at Luton Crown Court
‘You need help whilst in custody and thereafter while on licence, to channel your skills for a lawful and useful purpose.’
The teenager first created panic in March 2018 when he emailed thousands of schools in the UK warning about an explosive.
More than 400 schools were evacuated as a result, according to the National Crime Agency.
Police arrested him days later, but he was able to send another batch of emails to schools in the US and UK while under investigation in April.
His messages claimed a pipe bomb had been planted on the premises.
Duke-Cohan was arrested for a second time and released on pre-charge bail with conditions that he did not use electronic devices.
Before long his name was in the frame for a third hoax, regarding a bogus tip-off that hijackers had taken over a United Airlines flight between UK and San Francisco.
Detectives found that Duke-Cohan had made the calls to San Francisco Airport and their police force while he was on pre-charge bail for the two previous offences.
More than 400 schools were evacuated as a result, according to the National Crime Agency. Police arrested him days later, but he was able to send another batch of emails to schools in the US and UK while under investigation in April
He was arrested for a third time at his home in Watford, Hertfordshire, on August 31 this year.
NCA senior investigating officer Marc Horsfall said Duke-Cohan’s actions caused ‘serious worry and inconvenience to thousands of people’ and he had carried them out ‘hidden behind a computer screen for his own enjoyment’.
In mitigation, Anya Lewis told the court how Duke-Cohan was a lonely boy who was friendless at school and frequently bullied by peers.
She told Judge Foster this streak of lonlieness continued in custody, where she said he was goaded by prisoners and prison officers alike.
She also told the court that his parents separated when he was six years old and he lived with a physologically abusive father until he was 13 – and from whom he is now estranged.
Ms Lewis claimed he was manipulated and groomed in the online community from whom he desperately sought the validation and acceptance lacking from his real life.
She also cited a suspected diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) for both his troubled personal life and later offending, which Judge Foster referenced while sentencing – citing a report from consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr. Tim Rogers.
‘He is of the view that there is a range of evidence in support of a diagnosis, but accepts that other medical professionals may take a different view.
For the purposes of sentencing, I accept that you do suffer from that disorder,’ Judge Foster told Duke-Cohan.
‘However, to say this is an excuse for what you have done is an insult to the many thousands of suffers who lead law-abiding lives. Importantly, Dr. Rogers expresses this as a result of his consultation with you:
‘Mr Duke-Cohan alluded to ordinarily hidden feelings of shame, insecurity, vulnerability, and humiliation that had given rise to fantasies of, and a search for, success, power, acclaim from prominent hackers and the achievement of wider online notoriety’.’