Bomb expert guilty of car blast

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A reservist soldier was found guilty today of trying to murder his pregnant wife by booby-trapping a car with a hand grenade.

Nicholas Fabian, 33, planted the high-explosive device in the driver's footwell after nurse Victoria Fabian confronted him over an affair.

The explosion happened as Mrs Fabian, also 33, started to drive away in the borrowed Mazda near the family home in Highview, Vigo, Kent, on March 5 last year.

Her eight-year-old son, who was also in the car, managed to get out unscathed while her unborn child also survived unharmed. Mrs Fabian gave birth to the healthy baby boy three months later.

At Maidstone Crown Court Fabian was found guilty of attempted murder and causing an explosion likely to endanger life.

Fabian, wearing a suit and tie, showed no emotion as the jury of eight women and four men returned its verdicts after just an hour's deliberation.

Mrs Fabian attended court today but was not in the courtroom to hear the verdicts read out.

Judge Andrew Patience QC formally discharged a third charge of causing GBH with intent against Fabian.

Sentencing will take place from 10.30am tomorrow.

During the blast, shrapnel ripped through the driver's compartment, causing massive leg injuries to Mrs Fabian, who still walks with the aid of crutches.

Her son Charlie, now aged nine, escaped to safety through the passenger door.

Seeing his wife alive and screaming in agony, Fabian helped her out of the wrecked car before fire caused by shrapnel penetrating the engine engulfed it.

During the two-week trial, jurors heard that Fabian had stolen a hand grenade from a firing range during weapons training in north Yorkshire.

Prosecutor Graham Reeds QC said Fabian's marriage was marked by "more downs than ups". But despite their stormy marriage, Mrs Fabian fell pregnant with their second child.

She suspected he was being unfaithful with Jackie Phillips, a woman Fabian knew through work and with whom he is said to have been "infatuated".

Mobile phone records showed he sent Ms Phillips text messages declaring his love for her in the days leading up to the explosion.

One message read: "Hello sexy, I love you so much xxx." The last text was timed at 11.59am, about an hour before the grenade detonated.

Mrs Fabian wrote her husband a letter confronting him about her suspicions and also over a credit card debt of £1,400 she discovered he had run up.

Part of it read: "I just feel that you're taking me for a fool. Whether it's because you're protecting me or you're scared, I don't know."

She left the letter out while she went to work a late shift at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital on March 4 before returning home at around 10.20pm and talking the contents through with Fabian. After this, she "thought they had resolved their problems", Mr Reeds said.

Mrs Fabian told the court: "We agreed to put it behind us. We watched something on telly. We were hungry so we had a pizza and a cuddle on the sofa."

Describing the blast, she wept as she said: "The windscreen shattered and there was a loud bang.

"I can remember thinking a tree or something had fallen on the car and Charlie was asking me what had happened, and I couldn't feel anything from my waist down so I told him to get out of the car."

She said the next thing she remembered was "Nick running towards me, crying".

"He was trying to get me out of the car. I remember feeling that I was losing a lot of blood."

The explosion blasted holes in her legs and she needed skin grafts to repair the damage. She remained in hospital for two months.

Asked what their relationship had been like, Mrs Fabian said: "He was a good husband and a good dad."

But questioned further, she added: "There were ups and downs. Probably more downs."

Mrs Fabian fled the courtroom when Ms Phillips gave her evidence, in which she said Fabian had promised he would leave his wife when he returned from Afghanistan.

Ms Phillips said: "He said that he didn't love her any more, that they were only really together for the sake of the children."

She said she received hundreds of texts from Fabian during their 10-month relationship and he had told her he wanted to marry her and have a baby with her.

She admitted that he had never told her his wife was pregnant, and reacted with "disbelief" when she found out about it in news reports after the explosion.

Mr Reeds said there were two opportunities for Fabian to have planted the device in Mrs Fabian's borrowed Mazda.

The first was later on the night of March 4 when she went to bed and he went back downstairs.

Activity on the family computer showed that someone had looked at the ArmyNet website, along with child support information and jobs websites, until after midnight.

The second opportunity was when he took the dog for a walk the next morning.

On the day of the explosion, the family was intending to go out for lunch after dropping the Mazda back at Mrs Fabian's mother's house.

Mrs Fabian got into the Mazda along with Charlie, her son from a previous relationship, at around 1pm, while Fabian got into his own car with their son Harry, who was then aged three.

As Mrs Fabian pulled out and started to drive away, an explosion ripped a hole inwards through the driver's side footwell.

Investigators found a fly-off lever from an L109 British Army issue explosive grenade about two yards from the front driver's side of the vehicle.

They also found a grenade safety pin with a length of nylon attached to it around a yard away from the front passenger side of the car.

In evidence, Fabian told the court he had not planted the grenade and insisted he did what he could to save his wife's life as flames began to engulf the car.

He said: "I put it out with my hands, I believe.

"Her leg was bleeding badly. It was pumping out so I put a tourniquet around the top of her leg to stop the flow of blood, and also just below the kneecap I put one as well."

Fabian said he then got his neighbours to bring out blankets and pillows to make Mrs Fabian more comfortable. He said he held her hand while they waited for the emergency services to arrive.

He told jurors: "I was trying to save her life. In my head I was thinking I was going to lose her and lose the baby as well."

Fabian admitted that after his arrest, hours later, he lied to police that his relationship with his mistress was over.

He said: "At the time I was scared, panicked, and my head was all over the place.

"When I saw the picture of the fly-off lever and pin I got really scared I was going to be charged with the attempted murder of my wife.

"I started splurting rubbish out and once I said it I couldn't take it back and it was escalating."

Fabian admitted that after his arrest he lied to police about his Army training in relation to hand grenades, claiming he had never been in contact with them.

He said he lied because he was shaken up and confused by the explosion, rather than because he was trying to protect himself during the three days of questioning.

"My mind was all over the shop," he said. "I hadn't slept for two days or eaten anything.

"Just hours before, I'd dragged my wife from a burning car. I had blood on my hands, blood on my T-shirt. My head's in pieces.

"I was just thinking about my wife and kids."

Mr Reeds said: "I suggest that they were your last thought, and your first thought was for yourself."

Outside court, Detective Inspector Lee Whitehead, of Kent Police, said the evidence pointed to Fabian trying to make a pipe bomb.

Mrs Fabian has mixed feelings about the conviction because he remains the father of their children, he said.

But Mr Whitehead added that Fabian is a "dangerous" man who was trying to set up a life for himself and Ms Phillips.

He said: "We are pleased with the result. The jury came back very quickly in such a serious and complex case.

"It just shows how much evidence we had against Mr Fabian, and we are just glad that the victim can move on with her life having had such a physical and emotional trauma.

"She has got mixed emotions about the result of the trial. He is still the father of her children. It's difficult to understand how anyone could attempt to kill her while she was pregnant in such a callous manner."

Alistair Dickson, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "Clearly not everyone who has affairs goes on to attempt to kill his wife in such a way.

"It has something to do with the fact that he was a fantasist and an attention-seeker but I don't think anyone will ever know the true motive in addition to the Jackie Phillips motive behind this offence.2