Exeter restaurant bomber Nicky Reilly dies in prison

image captionNicky Reilly was the only person injured when a device exploded in the toilets of the restaurant

A man who injured himself with a home-made nail bomb during a bid to blow up a restaurant has died in prison.

Nicky Reilly, then 22, carried three devices held in glass bottles into the Giraffe restaurant in Exeter in 2008.

Reilly, who admitted attempted murder and preparing an act of terrorism, was sentenced to life in prison and told he must serve a minimum of 18 years.

Reilly, 30, was found dead in custody at HMP Manchester on Wednesday. The cause of death has not been revealed.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said "as with all deaths in custody" there would be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

Reilly had been targeted by extremists ahead of his bombing attempt, according to his mother, who said she was "too upset" about his death to comment.

Analysis: Simon Hall, BBC South West home affairs correspondent

I was there at the Old Bailey when Reilly was sentenced.

In the public gallery, his mother Kim wept through much of the hearing.

She always said her son was vulnerable and preyed on by extremists, who used him by pretending to be his friends.

But Reilly himself showed no remorse.

And he had viable bombs, which could have caused dreadful destruction had they detonated in the way Reilly intended on that spring day, back in 2008.

Former Devon and Cornwall Police Assistant Chief Constable Bob Spencer, who commanded the emergency response to the attempted bombing of May 2008, told the BBC: "My sympathies go to his family and loved ones.

"But Reilly did attempt to commit a terrible crime, and justice had to be done in terms of him receiving a long prison sentence."

image captionPolice believe Reilly, shown entering the Giraffe restaurant, was encouraged by extremists in Pakistan

Sentencing Reilly at the Old Bailey in London, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said it was "sheer luck or chance that [the bombing] did not succeed in its objectives".

"The offence of attempted murder is aggravated by the fact that it was long-planned, that it had multiple intended victims and was intended to terrorise the population of this country," he added.

Police believe Reilly was encouraged by extremists in Pakistan.

In 2004 he changed his name to Mohamed Rashid Saeed-Alim, and began to download videos on bomb-making and martyrdom.

He had been preparing to detonate the bombs, containing about 500 nails, at the Giraffe restaurant when one exploded in his hands.

Dozens of customers and staff fled the restaurant in panic.

Reilly - who converted to Islam between 2002 and 2003 - had learning difficulties and Asperger's syndrome.

He received a separate 16-month sentence in July for attacking staff at Broadmoor high security psychiatric unit in a row over prayers.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMP Manchester prisoner Mohamed Saeed-Alim died in custody on Wednesday 19 October.

"As with all deaths in custody there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman."

More on this story