A middle-age woman posed as a terrorist and sparked full scale bomb alerts after claiming to have planted bombs in Canterbury. Sonya McCulla, 51, stole a mobile phone from a train and then used it to phone in the threats.
She told police and fire services that devices had been planted at Canterbury Cathedral, the council offices, the rail stations, and the magistrates court. McCulla claimed she belong to a terrorist organisation and could detonate the bombs remotely using the mobile, then challenged the police to find them.
But now Canterbury Crown Court – one of places where the bombs were allegedly left – was told that it was all a hoax.
Dressed in a smart blue blazer and white and blue dress, McCulla sat quietly in the dock as Judge Adele Williams heard of her mental health problems. McCulla, of Essex Avenue, Herne Bay was ordered to be detained until the sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act.
She was then taken to a hospital in West Sussex where she will receive treatment for her condition and will only be released when a special Home Office panel considers she is safe to return to the community.
The court was told that the days leading up to the hoax calls she had heard about the death of a former partner and had tried to receive help about her medication.
Judge Williams told her she had received a number of reports and had heard evidence given by a psychiatrist regarding McCulla’s mental health problems. She said McCulla needed treatment in a secure environment in order to protect the public “that is an absolute necessity in my opinion.”
At earlier hearings, the court was told how McCulla, had called police to say she had left devices outside the Cathedral, at the council offices in Military Road, at the magistrates’ court and at both the city’s railway stations.
During the call – made at 9.38am on July 24 – she said she could detonate the bombs using a mobile phone and that it was the police’s job to find them. The hoax sparked a hunt by police for the devices, but none were found. Detectives then used special technology to trace the phone back to McCulla, who was arrested in Herne Bay.
She pleaded guilty to making a false alarm to the fire service and stealing a Samsung mobile phone from Whitstable between July 22 and July 25. Canterbury City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael said:
“The council did receive a bomb threat on Thursday, July 24. The police were called and their very clear advice was that it was a hoax and that evacuation was not required. We took that advice and did not evacuate. We regularly test our evacuation procedures to ensure the safety of staff and visitors. Our most recent test was on Wednesday 30 July and went very smoothly.”