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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK


Mardi Gra bomber confesses

Eltham High Street, London, after an attack on Sainsbury's

A 61-year-old man has admitted to being the Mardi Gra bomber who attempted blackmail against Barclays Bank and Sainsbury's supermarkets.

[ image: Edgar Pearce: Mardi Gra bomber]
Edgar Pearce: Mardi Gra bomber
Edgar Pearce pleaded guilty at London's Old Bailey to 20 charges, including possessing firearms and explosives, wounding and several blackmail attempts from December 1994 to April 1998, when he was arrested.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

His brother Ronald, 67, was jailed for a year after he admitted possessing a stun gun. Both men are from Chiswick, west London.

Peter Gould reports: "There was nothing idealistic about his motives"
Other charges against Ronald Pearce were dropped after it was accepted by the prosecution that he was not involved in the extortion campaign, which involved a wave of attacks.

There were more than 33 incidents in and around London since the Mardi Gra bomber first struck in December 1994.

[ image: The bomber's calling card]
The bomber's calling card
One person was seriously hurt by the devices planted by Pearce in an attempt to extort money. Police at the time feared the attacker was prepared to cause injury and death.

In the first attack, bombs were sent to six London branches of Barclays Bank in video cassette boxes. Three people were injured when some of the devices exploded.

Andrew Bomford reports: "Greed was his downfall"
The front of the video boxes showed a picture from the film Reservoir Dogs with the words "Welcome to the Mardi Gra (sic) Experience" printed on top.

In November 1997, small explosive devices blew up outside two branches of Sainsbury in west London and police defused another device outside a third store of the same chain in the same area.

In July 1997, police revealed that an extortionist had written to Sainsbury plc threatening to bomb the company's stores unless it paid "a considerable amount of money".

Peter Gould reports: "The campaign proved relentless"
Other targets included homes, telephone boxes and offices.

Pearce was arrested with his brother after they visited a bank machine, in a surveillance operation involving 1,000 police officers.

[ image: An advert placed to contact the blackmailer]
An advert placed to contact the blackmailer
The exact amount the bomber demanded has not been made public but it was reported to be about £10m.

In court on Wednesday, Pearce, wearing a beige and cream knitted jumper and tinted glasses, stood with his hands crossed as he pleaded guilty to each charge.

His brother, who had been sitting next to him in a grey sweatshirt and jogging trousers, was led from the dock after he was sentenced.

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