Magistrate denies he made bombs to maim former lover's boyfriend

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A magistrate built nine anti-personnel bombs with "truly terrifying" potential to maim or kill for possible use against his former lover's new boyfriend, a court was told yesterday.

Jonathan Wilkes, 40, who sat as a Justice of the Peace at Bicester magistrates' court, Oxfordshire, is accused of making the highly sophisticated devices packed with metal nuts, including several that could be detonated by remote control, after failing to hire a contract killer to get rid of his rival.

The discovery of the bombs sparked a terrorist alert and extensive police inquiry.

Oxford Crown Court was told that Mr Wilkes, a married man, made the bombs using a plastic water bottle packed with hundreds of metal nuts surrounding a pipe filled with explosive.

Eight of the devices were found buried in woodland on the Eynsham estate in Freeland, Oxfordshire, by a member of the public out walking a dog. Three days earlier a similar device had been found in the hamlet of Syreford, Gloucestershire, placed on a stone wall.

Mr Wilkes denies two charges of possessing the improvised explosive devices with intent to endanger life between 27 May and 25 August 2000.

Simon Mayo, for the prosecution, told the jury the devices were "viable and deadly weapons" and three of the bombs incorporated mercury tilt-switches that would trigger an explosion if the device was picked up or touched.

The court was told that Mr Wilkes, a computer software engineer, formerly of Freeland, but now living in France, was furious when his lover, Colette Cooper, a former work colleague, ended their relationship in November 1999.

He bombarded her with telephone calls and text messages begging her to reconsider, but she "rebuffed his pleas" and started a new life with another man. The prosecution alleges that Mr Wilkes then moved to St Palais-sur-Mer with his French wife, Annie Henriot, and their five-year-old son, and began to devise the bomb plot.

Mr Mayo said: "He began to harbour extreme feelings of animosity towards Miss Cooper's new boyfriend.

"It intensified to such an effect that he was asking his friends whether they knew anyone who could 'get rid of him'.

"He was trying to find someone who was prepared to kill Colette Cooper's boyfriend. No one could introduce such a hitman to him."

The bomb found in Gloucestershire was surrounded by wooden board, which the prosecution alleges was put up to measure the explosive force of the device.

Mr Mayo said: "When detonated it explodes with massive force to distribute pieces of shrapnel in all directions at high velocity."

He added that all the devices were "truly terrifying in their potential to maim or kill".

Police tracked down Mr Wilkes after tracing mobile phone bills and business correspondence, the jury was told. He was arrested after he voluntarily returned from France on 10 July last year.

DNA found on the bombs was matched to his own.

In police interviews, Mr Wilkes denied making the bombs, saying he was the victim of a blackmail plot by a mystery man. He said he was ordered to buy the bomb components as well as make weekly cash payments or his affair with Ms Cooper would be revealed. Mr Mayo said his explanation was "a pack of lies sought to weave a complex web of deceit in an attempt to worm his way out of trouble".

Mr Mayo said Mr Wilkes only confessed to making the bombs when he was "compelled to do" after detectives proved his blackmail story was pure fabrication.

The trial continues today.