Bury St Edmunds: Man is found not guilty of giving false information about a bomb in Debenhams

A MAN has been found innocent of giving security staff the false information he had an explosive device in Debenhams department store in Bury St Edmunds.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Arc shopping centre - where this Debenhams store is located - on June 18 last year as a result of the alleged bomb hoax.

But following a trial on Monday magistrates in Bury found Steven Cook, 35, of Cambridge Close, Haverhill, to be not guilty of communicating false information to James Hostler and Colin Montgomery that an explosive device was present in the store.

The court heard Mr Cook was approached by Mr Hostler, a loss prevention officer at Debenhams, and Mr Montgomery, an Arc security guard, after he had been to the toilets on the first floor in Debenhams.

Mr Cook was taken to a room off the shop floor where he was asked to provide information for a banning order form, but he said he would not fill out the paperwork because they would not tell him why he was being banned.

The intention was to ban Mr Cook from the store as there was a suspicion he had been using the toilets for drug-taking, but the defendant denied in court he had ever used drugs.

Mr Hostler claimed the defendant kept looking at his rucksack and was swearing under his breath and when he asked him what the problem was he said ‘there might be a bomb in there’.

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And Mr Montgomery claimed Mr Cook told him, when Mr Hostler was out of the room, that it was a ‘grenade with a timer device on it’ and was asked ‘are you afraid to die?’

But while Mr Cook admitted saying “either you think I’m a shoplifter or I’m a terrorist,” he denied saying or suggesting he had a bomb or explosive device.

He said he pressed Mr Hostler and Mr Montgomery to search his bag to prove he was innocent of whatever they suspected him of or to call the police to carry out the search.

Mr Cook, who used to work for Greene King and British Sugar, said he had just wanted to go to the toilet and then go to work.

“What they done, they pulled up an innocent bloke and put me through all this.”

He described how his life had been turned upside down as a result of the accusation. “Why would I walk into Debenhams and say I have got a bomb and lose everything I have got?”

Jim Spencer, chair of the bench, said they did not find the charge proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The court heard how there had been CCTV footage of the exchange in the room at the store, though with no sound, which could not be located.

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