21 years' jail for the Mardi Gra bomber

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THE MARDI GRA bomber was jailed for 21 years yesterday for his three-year reign of blackmail and terror. Edgar Pearce showed a "cynical disregard" for the public in his campaigns against Barclays Bank and Sainsbury supermarkets, the Recorder of London, Michael Hyam, said in the Old Bailey.

Pearce, 61, from Chiswick, west London, admitted 23 offences of blackmail, wounding, possessing firearms and causing an explosion. He was sentenced to a total of 224 years but all the various terms were made concurrent.

"Your motives were greed and an insatiable appetite for notoriety," said the judge. Some of Pearce's devices, spanning a period between 1994 and 1998, were potentially lethal and it was only good fortune no one was killed or seriously injured.

He fell into a police trap while collecting pounds 700 - the only money he received - from a bank cash machine in April last year. Nadine Radford QC, for the defence, said Pearce, a heavy drinker, suffered brain damage in 1992 when he had a stroke. This had caused a personality disorder and led him to carry out the blackmail conspiracy, she said. Part of his brain had been destroyed, reducing his life expectancy and his ability to understand the consequences of his actions. "He never intended, in his own mind, to cause someone injury," she added.

But the judge told Pearce: "Your plan was to terrorise members of the public. From the start of your criminal activity, you made it clear you intended to target staff and customers. This is a measure of the fear your activities instilled into members of the public. These offences were undoubtedly so serious that only a very substantial custodial sentence can be justified."

Sainsbury reckoned his campaign cost the company pounds 640,000 in lost trade.