Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Judge blasts man who brought bomb to airport

Teen says he forgot about device he and a friend had built for fun

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EDMONTON -- Skylar Murphy admitted in court he put together a pipe bomb with a friend last year and planned to blow up a shed in rural Alberta for fun, but forgot the explosive in his bag until he was in line at the Edmonton airport.

Screening staff found the device but -- in an admitted foul-up -- didn't immediately call RCMP and allowed the 18-year-old passenger to board a plane to Mexico with his family for a holiday.

While recent news of the incident has sparked calls for changes to Canada's airport security system, the judge who handled the case had her own stern words for the young bomb-maker.

"If the authorities had missed that pipe bomb and you had gone in Mexico, through a screening device, you would not even get a trial," said provincial court Judge Marilyn White in a court hearing last month. A transcript of the hearing was released Thursday.

"You would be in a Mexican jail. And your grandfather and your family would be visiting you in that jail. And you would probably be learning Spanish by now, if you survived.

"I doubt you would have survived."

Court heard Murphy, now 19, is a high school dropout and assistant deli manager at a grocery store in Spruce Grove, just west of Edmonton.

He told the judge he researched how to build the pipe bomb on the Internet. He swiped some bullets from his mother's fiancé, an Alberta sheriff, to get gunpowder. A friend supplied the fuse and then they bought the rest of their supplies from a hardware store.

Murphy said he put the bomb in his camera bag because he planned to take pictures when they blew up the shed.

It's unclear if that ever happened, but court heard Murphy was clearly surprised when screening staff at the airport pulled the device out of his bag on Sept. 20.

The 15-centimetre-long pipe had threaded caps on the ends and a fuse nearly three metres long. It was filled with black powder.

A source has told the CBC and Edmonton Journal a screening employee tried to give Murphy back the bomb, but the teen said he didn't want it and it was confiscated. He then proceeded through security and got on his plane.

Four days later, security staff notified RCMP about the find. Mounties arrested Murphy on Sept. 27 at the airport following his return flight home. Explosives experts had determined the device was a functioning bomb.

Murphy pleaded guilty Dec. 5 to possession of an explosive device. He was sentenced to one year of probation, fined $100 and ordered to make an in-person donation of $500 to the University of Alberta Hospital's burn unit.

The judge said Murphy made a "colossal error in judgment" for making the bomb and forgetting it in his luggage.

"Often you see bags and bags of items that people forgot to take out of their carry-on luggage because they just forgot. But I have to say, forgetting a pipe bomb is something bigger than a pair of scissors for your nails," White said.

"Pipe bombs are used to kill people, to destroy property. They are used in war. They are used by terrorists... They are very successful at killing people."

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has said screening staff didn't follow protocol in the case. They should have immediately called on-site RCMP officers, who would have decided whether to arrest Murphy and keep him off the plane.

CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque wouldn't confirm if an employee tried to give the bomb pack to the teen. He called it an isolated incident and said the staff involved have been disciplined and retrained.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2014 A15

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