Woman whose bomb hoax shut down RAF Fylingdales is spared jail

A woman whose bomb hoax forced a military radar base into lockdown has received a suspended prison sentence.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 8:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 8:55 am

Laura Woodwardsmith, 24, told police she was on her way to the site with explosives strapped to her.

Woodwardsmith, who had necked nearly two bottles of wine, called North Yorkshire Police’s control room to warn them that RAF Fylingdales in Pickering was about to be blown up.

“She was saying she was going to blow them up in the next half an hour,” prosecutor Andrew Semple told York Crown Court.

RAF Fylingdales.

“She said she had secreted explosives that had been planted around the perimeter of the base and told the police (operator) that it was serious.”

Woodwardsmith, who gave the female operator her real name, said the explosives could be activated remotely by a mobile phone, adding that she was “just up the road (from the base) and had further explosives attached to her and that she was going to make her way towards the base”.

She then contacted the base - an anti-ballistic-missile site dubbed ‘Son of Star Wars’ due to its strategic importance to both the UK and US governments’ network of early-warning systems to prevent nuclear attacks - and repeated the same threats to a services officer in several phone calls.

Operational firearms commanders were instructed to call Woodwardsmith on her mobile but when they did so, she said she “had a bomb and was making her way to the base”, said Mr Semple.

She rang back 50 minutes later, at about midnight on August 27, to say she had been “targeted by the Government and (that) she was a victim of gang-stalking”.

She then demanded that “only Ministry of Defence police” should come to her home – a caravan in Goathland, where she lived alone with two dogs.

She said that if North Yorkshire Police turned up, she would “shoot them in the face”.

Military commanders took the threat seriously enough to lock the base down for over four hours and call in armed patrol officers.

Security barriers remained closed between 12.14am and 5.30am due to “compromise to one of the most strategic assets in the country”.

Military commanders finally managed to persuade Woodwardsmith that she should seek “immediate help” and call an ambulance because it was clear she was in the throes of a mental- health crisis.

More than four hours after the initial alert was raised, police turned up at Woodwardsmith’s caravan.

“Four officers attended at her remote caravan outside Goathland at 5.25am,” said Mr Semple.

“By that time the defendant was in her nightie, half asleep. No explosives or firearms were found, but when told about her (imminent) arrest, she appeared to be revelling in the attention and was even to say, in excited surprise, that she had hoped to have been shot by officers.”

Woodwardsmith was hauled into custody and admitted she had hoped to have been shot “by way of suicide by police”.

She told officers she had not been taking her anti-psychotic medication. Woodwardsmith, who lives on farmland on Beck Hole Road, Goathland, was on a previous suspended prison sentence at the time for clobbering a man over the head with a bottle of wine on the streets of Middlesbrough, causing a cut which needed stitches and caused “intermittent amnesia”. She also had previous convictions for battery and possessing Class B drugs.

She pleaded guilty to making a bomb hoax and appeared for sentence on Monday.

Defence barrister Andrew Petterson said although Woodwardsmith had endured an incredibly “tragic” childhood, the chilling bomb hoax was an “exceptionally-serious” case, albeit “committed while (she was) in a mentally-distressed state”.

Woodwardsmith, originally from Wales, had been receiving psychiatric treatment in Whitby.

Judge Sean Morris told Woodwardsmith: “You have pleaded guilty to making a bomb hoax to one of the most sensitive military installations in Europe. They had to put in procedures, but it was obvious… that you were mentally unwell.”

Mr Morris said that ordinarily an immediate jail sentence “ranging in years” would follow for such an “exceptionally-serious” offence, but because of Woodwardsmith’s “horrendous” life and the fact she was clearly remorseful, he could suspend the inevitable jail sentence.

The 16-month sentence was suspended for two years. Woodwardsmith was also ordered to complete a 50-day rehabilitation course under the auspices of the Probation Service.