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National Gallery bomb scare caused by Tottenham man’s ‘homemade mobile phone charger’

20:04 17 September 2012

Joey Owen outside court. Picture: Ed Wilcox/Central News

Joey Owen outside court. Picture: Ed Wilcox/Central News

Archant

A Tottenham hoaxer sparked a bomb scare at the National Gallery after leaving a package with a red flashing light and wires sticking out of it on a sofa, a court heard today.

Joey Owen, 21, allegedly left the crude device in the corner of a sofa in one of the gallery’s main rooms as tourists milled around.

Owen, of Willoughby Mews off Willoughby Lane, Tottenham, was arrested after returning 10 days later, claiming he needed to find his “phone charger”, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Duty manager Duncan Hales spotted the device in room 30 of the gallery in Trafalgar Square - which houses priceless works including the 17th Century Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez - on the afternoon of October 12 last year.

He said: “I thought this was potentially a very serious situation.”

He warned a colleague to stay away before realising there were no explosives in the device, which was later found to be a green circuit board with an infrared receiver, wires and a battery pack.

Security staff later pinpointed Owen on CCTV footage sticking his right hand into the corner of the sofa, and staff recognised him when he returned.

Usha Shergill, prosecuting, said footage showed him “going back to the same sofa where he placed the device”, adding: “He’s looking at that area, talking to some females, pointing and gesticulating.”

Owen admitted to police the device was his but said he had made it to charge his phone and it “must have fallen” from his pocket when he last visited.

But Ms Shergill said an expert examined the device and concluded it was “not possible to charge a mobile phone” with it.

Owen denies intending to induce others to believe in the presence of a bomb or explosive. The trial continues.

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