North East Wales

Denbigh ex-mayor John Larsen jailed for 18 years for bomb explosions

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Media captionJohn Larsen, a former town mayor of Denbigh, was behind blasts that left the community living in fear

A former mayor has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for a series of explosions in Denbigh which a neighbour described as sounding like a "battlefield".

John Larsen, 46, got a "thrill" from his actions, which had the potential to kill, Caernarfon Crown Court was told.

The explosions happened in the Lenten Pool area from January to April.

In the most serious incident, he blew up a Land Rover, showered ball-bearings and shrapnel over a large area.

Larsen was found guilty earlier on Thursday of three counts of arson, one of causing an explosion likely to endanger life and another of possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.

Judge Merfyn Hughes QC said it was "a very unusual case and these are very serious offences".

Image caption Fuse wire and other paraphernalia found at Larsen's home

Larsen was mayor of Denbigh in 1999 and was a town councillor at the time of his arrest.

The trial heard Lenten Pool was plagued by the sound of loud bangs, with incidents taking place two or three times a week culminating in a main attack on a Land Rover in March.

Larsen was arrested by police at his nearby home on 19 April.

North Wales Police found a manual on pyrotechnics in his house, a computer file named "gunpowder mix", modified fireworks and rockets, and ball-bearings.

He told officers he had a legitimate interest in fireworks and had bought some materials online.

But the court was told Larsen got a "thrill from what he was doing and the attention it was generating."

Resident Shirley Clarke told the trial: "People often said they were fireworks - they were not fireworks.

"They were humongous. They were more than fireworks, it was like a bomb."

In evidence another neighbour, Trevor Jones, said the noise was like a battlefield - and the bangs and explosions became gradually louder, sounding like artillery fire.

The blast under the Land Rover on 24 March showered ball-bearings and shrapnel over a large area, smashing windows.

Image caption Larsen's explosions smashed windows

One resident found that a ball-bearing had hit a headboard on their bed.

An explosives expert said the ball-bearings had either been packed or strapped onto the device and would have been ejected from the bomb at "several hundred metres per second" with the potential to cause serious injury or even death to any passers-by.

Larsen denied the charges throughout his trial. The former stonemason, who stopped working in 2004 after injuring his back, said his hobbies were photography, fireworks and "hand magic".

He said he made "fireworks, not bombs".

Prior to his arrest, Larsen gave interviews to the media, including BBC Wales, saying how people were "terrified" by the "scary" the situation.

After the hearing, Det Ch Insp Andrew Williams said: "During this period, John Larsen came to the fore as a local leader and the community trusted him.

"He betrayed that trust in a terrible way and he now faces the consequences of his actions."

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