Court hears woman's smoke bomb ordeal

A frail 88-year-old woman narrowly escaped serious injury when a smoke bomb was thrown through her open bedroom window by three young men on a one night 'crime rampage', a court heard.

AN 88-year-old woman narrowly escaped serious injury when a smoke bomb was thrown through her open bedroom window by three young men on a one-night "crime rampage", a court was told.

The pensioner, who has health problems and severe mobility difficulties, had fortunately got out of bed with the help of her carer as she was feeling unwell when the attack took place on her bungalow in Jessopp Close, Scarning.

Her carer described hearing a bang and seeing a "wall of smoke" and said there was a strong smell of sulphur.

The smoke bomb had been thrown by a youth, 16 at the time, who was with another 16-year-old youth. Both had been taken to the scene in a stolen car being driven by Aaron Queen, 19.

Norwich Crown Court was told that Queen had spent the evening with the youths, who cannot be named by court order, and they had gone on a crime rampage on the evening of June 23 last year and the early hours of the next day, stealing 125 smoke bombs from Paintball Skirmish at Holme Hale. They broke into the secure container where the smoke bombs were kept using a stolen blowtorch and gas canister from a Necton garage. They were seen laughing as they drove from the scene.

Carpets and bedding were damaged in the 5.30am attack. Police were called, and one officer crawled through the smoke-filled bedroom to throw the smoke bomb back outside.

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Queen, of John Duigan Court, Moorgate Road, Dereham, and the two youths, both now 17, all admitted arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered. Queen and one of the youths also admitted offences including burglary at Swaffham Rugby Club, in which �2,800 of damage was done and �500 of damage caused to the alarm system.

Queen was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a young offender institution, and the 17 year-old who admitted committing further offences with Queen received a two-year detention and training order. The other 17-year-old, who admitted the single arson charge but was the one who threw the smoke bomb, was given an 18-month detention and training order.

Recorder Guy Ayers told them: "All of the offences took place on one night in June last year in what has been described as a crime rampage." He said the most serious offence had been the arson attack on the home of the pensioner, when all three had agreed a smoke bomb should be thrown through the window.

"It could have easily have set fire to the property and involved dire consequences to the occupier," said the recorder. "It was an incredibly dangerous and stupid act. You must be extremely grateful that nothing worse happened."

Henry Hughes, for Queen, said: "It was extremely unfortunate that the window through which the youth threw the smoke bomb was that of perhaps the only person whose life would have been in real danger had she been there."

He said it was absolute stupidity on his client's part but that Queen had the lowest level of involvement as he had remained in the car.

Mr Hughes said that Queen's girlfriend was expecting their child and he realised his life was in an appalling mess.

Neil Guest, for one of the 17 year-olds, said he had no previous convictions and had shown a great deal of remorse.

Matthew McNiff, for the 17-year-old who threw the smoke bomb, said he also had no convictions. He had admitted the offences at the first opportunity and made full statements to police.