Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Bomb cache bus driver Gavan 'obsessed with weapons'

Terence Gavan
Terence Gavan had been making bombs since he was 10

A former BNP member who turned his bedroom in his mother's house into a bomb and weapons factory has been jailed for 11 years.

From the outside, the house in Batley, West Yorkshire, betrayed no sign of Terence Gavan's sinister pastime.

But when officers from West Yorkshire Police entered the property with a search warrant as part of a firearms investigation in May 2009, they were to discover the largest cache of home-made bombs and other weapons ever seen in the region.

The rest of the house that the 39-year-old bus-driver shared with his mother was "immaculate", according to police, in stark contrast to the tangle of bomb-making equipment, improvised weapons and materials filling the locked attic room.

Police spokeswoman Claire Forbes told BBC News: "He had a bedroom where he made the devices and his mother had no idea they were there.

More than 50 explosive devices
About 40 knives
A crossbow and arrows
More than 30 firearms, including pistols and revolvers
Firearms-related documentation

"It was quite a concealed room. There was a door, then you went up some steps and it was up there."

Gavan was arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, under the Terrorism Act 2000.

It took police and Army bomb disposal officers six days to search the room and explode some of the devices to make them safe, during which time shocked neighbours in Colbeck Terrace had to be evacuated.

Police uncovered 54 explosive devices, including nail bombs, pipe bombs and a booby-trapped cigarette packet, and 12 firearms - three of them loaded - plus devices in whisky bottles and aerosols.

There were also materials for making more devices, including fireworks, weedkiller, hydrogen peroxide and gunpowder. Gavan was also apparently in the process of building a rocket launcher.

Gavan revealed he had spent years honing his skills in the hidden workshop, accumulating an arsenal of weapons over the course of a decade.

Guns in Terence Gavan's room
Guns were crammed into cupboards at the house in Batley

Born and brought up in Batley, 39-year-old Gavan had spent time in the RAF and Army before becoming a bus driver.

As a member of the Royal Dragoon Guards he had weapons training and was disciplined nine times - once for possessing live rounds - and spent several months in military detention.

Gavan was discharged from the Army when he was jailed for six months at Bradford Crown Court in November 1993 after he produced a firearm in a "threatening manner" during an argument in a pub in Dewsbury.

However, West Yorkshire Police had no idea of the extent of his involvement with weapons until they came across his name as part of a larger investigation into the manufacture of firearms.

After his arrest he revealed he had been making bombs since the age of 10, saying he had "an obsession with things that went bang".

He told police he made the weapons for the "illicit thrill of owning them" and that he was "learning his trade and as time went on he got better".

Gavan was charged under counter-terrorism laws despite little clear evidence of what, if anything, he had intended to use the weapons for.

However, the Old Bailey heard he had a "strong hostility" towards immigrants. Among his possessions was a list of names, including a neighbour of one of the 7/7 bombers, which the court heard he was planning to target.

Gavan's BNP membership had lapsed, though material related to the party was found in the room, including letters to him from the party and a copy of its magazine, Hope and Glory.

Police also found bomb-making manuals, books and magazines about guns and the military and a computer file of the Anarchists' Cookbook, described as a "how to" manual about anarchism and explosives.

'Unique case'

A note in one of several handwritten notebooks found in the room read: "Patriots must always be ready to defend his country against enemies and their governments."

His lawyer, Paul Greaney, said Gavan had a "long-standing preoccupation with firearms and explosives" dating back to his childhood, and what he did was "carried out for no other purpose".

But Det Ch Supt David Buxton said he was "an extremely dangerous and unpredictable individual".

He said: "The sheer volume of home-made firearms and grenades found in his bedroom exposed his obsession with weapons and explosives.

Ammunition found in Terence Gavan's room
Ammunition and grenades were among the items found by police

"He was not simply a harmless enthusiast. Gavan used his extensive knowledge to manufacture and accumulate devices capable of causing significant injury or harm and as such he posed a very clear risk to public safety."

He added: "Our investigation revealed Gavan's violent potential and while he had no single cause of agenda, he represented no less of a threat to our communities."

Gavan admitted 22 counts relating to the manufacture and possession of improvised explosive devices, firearms and ammunition plus six offences under the Terrorism Act for the possession of weapons manuals.

Passing sentence at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Calvert described Gavan as "a lone operator with what amounts to almost an obsession with guns and explosives".

He told him: "Your case is unique. There is no case in which such a long and persistent course of manufacture of both guns and explosives combined with possession of material likely to be useful to those who commit terrorist acts has ever been before a court before."

The judge said the weapons had "the potential to cause serious injury if activated" although there was no suggestion Gavan had tried to use them to hurt people, sold them or passed them on.

But as he begins his 11-year sentence, it is still not clear what, if anything, the bus driver turned bomb-maker spent so many years preparing for.

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