Couple face jail for selling fake bomb detectors they claimed were 'capable of finding Madeleine McCann' made in garden shed

 Samuel and Joan Tree sold 'Alpha 6' devices for thousands of pounds

A couple face a jail sentence after being found guilty of making fake bomb detectors in their back garden which they claimed could find missing Madeleine McCann.

Husband and wife Samuel and Joan Tree made "outlandish claims" that the dud devices could be used to track down explosives and drugs.

But the detectors, known as Alpha 6 and marketed through their company Keygrove, were nothing more than plastic boxes with an antenna strapped on to them containing ripped up pieces of paper.

They were sold for as much as $2,000 (£1,171), despite costing just pounds to produce.

Judge Richard Marks QC gave the pair bail ahead of sentencing but warned them: "You must understand that all options are open to the court and the strong likelihood given the offence of which you have been found guilty is a custodial sentence."

The Trees are understood to have made in hundreds of thousands of pounds after making up to 1,500 of the devices in the back garden shed of their semi-detached home in  Dunstable in Bedfordshire.

Mr Tree had claimed it was possible to find people by putting a photo in the box.

He said he had used the method to look for Madeleine and two other children who vanished in Norfolk some years ago.

One of the boxes was found to have a photograph of missing Madeleine inside, which had been cut into pieces.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC told the Old Bailey: "They claimed that this Alpha 6 was capable of detecting the presence of drugs and explosives and other substances and objects.

"They even claimed on one occasion that it is capable of finding particular people, most notably Madeleine McCann.

"Despite the fact that these plastic boxes plainly could not work, people did, astonishingly, buy them."

They claimed the Alpha 6 could detect substances as small as 15 billionths of a gram at a range of up to 500 metres and was powered by nothing more than static electricity from the user's body.

The prosecutor said: "The impression given is one of sophistication and effectiveness based upon scientific principles.

"The reality was that Samuel and Joan Tree were assembling the devices in the garden of their semi-detached house in Dunstable with plastic boxes made in China and glue and bits of paper."

They were both found guilty at the Old Bailey on Friday of making an article for use in a fraud between January 2007 and July 2012.

Detective Constable Joanne Law, who led the investigation for the City of London Police's Overseas Ant-Corruption Unit, said: "Sam and Joan Tree are criminals who put lives at risk when they chose to cash in on detectors manufactured to supposedly locate anything from hidden explosives to missing persons."

The couple, of Houghton Road in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, will be sentenced on a date to be decided next month.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border