Student carried out bomb hoax in Luton’s The Mall after ‘stupid’ dare with colleagues

Luton Crown Court
Luton Crown Court

A promising law student carried out a bomb hoax in The Mall after taking part in a “stupid” dare with colleagues, Luton Crown Court heard today.

Zainab Ali, 21, pleaded guilty to making the bomb hoax while working part-time as a supervisor at Primark in The Mall earlier this year.

At 12.30pm on September 23, Bedfordshire Police received a call from a woman who gave the name “Sarah Parker” and claimed that two men in the disabled changing room of Primark were going to “blow up” The Mall. The caller also said the men were carrying kitchen knives.

Beds Police immediately dispatched an armed response vehicle, but officers found nothing suspicious in the store.

Investigators were able to identify the mobile phone used in the call as Ali’s, despite her efforts to cover her tracks by replacing the phone’s SIM card during the call. The false address “Sarah Parker” had given was also found to be the home of a friend of Ali’s.

The prosecutor stated: “When she was interviewed, she accepted she had made the phonecall and said she had been in the canteen with staff playing a game called 21 dares.

“She said one of her colleagues gave her a SIM card and dared her to make the call.

“She said she felt pressured to play the game and act out the hoax, she felt it would help her fit in with colleagues.”

The court was told that Ali was an exceptional law student in her third year at the University of Bedfordshire, and had won scholarships abroad as well as a placement at a law firm in Central London. A glowing reference was provided by her tutor at the University.

Sentencing her to a 12-month suspended sentence, Judge Richard Foster said: “This is the most ridiculous and pointless act, for which you now have to face the consequences. What a very silly thing to do.

“A bomb hoax is always a serious offence.

“The police and other security services have a difficult enough job to do struggling with resources, without having their time wasted.”

In addition to the 12-month sentence suspended for 18 months, Ali was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, 20 days of rehabilitation activity and pay £250 prosecution costs as well as a victim surcharge.