Northern Ireland

US bomb hoax calls: Newtownabbey teen to stand trial over threats to major airports

Ben Megarry Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ben Megarry was 15 when the alleged hoax bomb calls were made

A County Antrim teenager is to stand trial accused of making hoax bomb threats to major airports and the scene of a high school massacre in the US.

Ben Megarry faces more than 20 charges over an alleged campaign targeting landmark locations across America.

One threat was allegedly directed at Columbine High School in Colorado where two students killed 13 people in 1999.

A previous court hearing was told that Mr Megarry, 19, of Harmin Park in Newtownabbey, has "severe autism".

Mr Megarry is alleged to have targeted international airports in New York, Los Angeles and Kansas City with false warnings, as well as a baseball stadium in Kansas and Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

Investigation

Several other locations, including schools and police office and a supermarket, are also said to have been the subject of hoaxes, according to the case against Mr Megarry.

He was 15 at the time of the alleged offences that are said to have been committed over a six month period in 2012.

The case was referred to the Police Service of Northern Ireland after an investigation by US authorities.

Mr Megarry appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Thursday for a hearing to decide if he had a case to answer.

He was accompanied by a representative from the National Autistic Society.

Complex

The judge granted an application to have Mr Megarry returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court and released him on bail until the proceedings begin.

A defence lawyer told the court the prosecution was "novel and voluminous".

"The case itself is a complex one, involving multi agencies and FBI witnesses," he added.

The judge said: "I certainly haven't come across this type of case where someone in Northern Ireland is allegedly making these types of calls to schools in America."