July 27 2017, updated 9:34am

Dry-ice bomb prank ends in jail

Last updated 23:42 02/05/2008

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A Dunedin man who admitted leaving dry-ice bottle bombs around Christchurch, injuring a cleaner and bringing the city to a standstill last August, has been jailed.

Raymond Gary Coombs, 26, was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court yesterday to a total of two years and three months imprisonment after pleading guilty to what his lawyer suggested was "a prank gone wrong".

Coombs admitted two drive-off petrol thefts on the day of the bombings, one charge of injuring with intent and four of setting a man-trap.

The injuring charge related to Brian Chambers, a cleaner at the Christchurch bus exchange who picked up one of the bottle bombs which exploded as he started to unscrew the lid.

Chambers told a depositions hearing in January he still suffered ringing in his ears and got headaches from bright lights, such as fluorescent tubes. He was in court yesterday to witness Coombs' sentencing.

Coombs, the depositions hearing was told, admitted to police that he had made the bombs and experimented with them at a Barbadoes Street property before the afternoon bombings.

Made with dry ice and soft drink bottles, the bombs were left at Northlands Mall, a service station, a rubbish bin in the city, a planter box at the Palms Mall and at the bus exchange on the afternoon of August 11.

In court yesterday, Crown prosecutor Kathy Bell said the bombs caused anxiety among the public, with the Northlands Mall explosion causing people to fear part of the building had collapsed.

Chambers had been left with a permanent disability from the power of the explosion, which had been likened to an military thunderflash device, she said.

"This type of conduct needs to be thoroughly denounced."

Defence lawyer Phillip Allan said in researching the effects of dry ice bombs using the Wikipedia internet encyclopaedia he had been referred to a book called One Day in the Life of a Fool.

The book title might well characterise Coombs' actions, he said. Coombs and his two alleged accomplices had taken steps to minimise any harm to the public by placing the bombs in rubbish bins and a planter box.

"They weren't placed where an unsuspecting member of the public would come along and be injured," Allan said.

Coombs, he said, never anticipated what would happen when a bomb exploded in a confined space and "completely regrets" what happened to Chambers.

The incident had to be viewed as a "prank gone wrong".

But Judge Saunders told Coombs he had experimented at a private property before placing the bombs around the city and knew what dry ice could do and the level of noise generated.

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"There were three fools that day," the judge said.

"This type of behaviour must be denounced by the court."

He commended Coombs for being willing to engage in a restorative justice meeting with Chambers and gave him credit for accepting responsibility and pleading guilty.

The judge said the court's concern was that the incident had caused a "great deal of anxiety" among the public and caused traffic gridlock in the central city as emergency services raced to the bus exchange.

He said there was an "element of premeditation" in the experimentation before the bombs were placed.

For injuring with intent, Coombs was jailed for two years three months. He received concurrent terms of two years jail on the man-trap charges and two months jail for each of the petrol thefts.

The judge also disqualified him from driving for six months.

The trial of two other men alleged to have accompanied Coombs on the bombing spree, Damien Gary White, 24, and Scott James Wreford Kelly, 25, has been set down to start on July 7. --NZPA


- The Press

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