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British soldiers jailed for firebombing mosque

31st Jan 2014

British soldiers Gavin Humphries, 37, and Stuart Harness, 33 were jailed for 6 years for firebombing a mosque in Grimsby

Aishah Ali

Last month, two British soldiers were jailed for 6 years after firebombing a mosque in Grimsby. Gavin Humphries, 37, and Stuart Harness, 33, admitted the attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre on Weelsby Road that took place just four days after the Lee Rigby murder on May 26.

The pair unwittingly filmed themselves preparing the devices with their own home security cameras in their backyard. They were then caught on CCTV throwing the petrol bombs at the building with worshippers inside. Hull Crown Court heard they threw the devices as if they were lobbing grenades, which they would have been trained to do.

Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, said the bombs exploded outside the main doors of the mosque and said it was “lucky” that the people inside were just on the other side of the doors and realised quickly what was happening.

Despite the dangerous situation, a worshipper ran out through the blaze and put it out with a fire extinguisher. Two community support officers who were patrolling the area as a result of previous incidents at the mosque on Weelsby Road, tracked the pair back to Stuart Harness’ house where they were arrested. They were no injures reported.

They pleaded guilty to arson and the judge said, “This was a crime of violence where a particular religious group was deliberately targeted in an act of retribution.” He added, “This kind of attack cannot be tolerated. A severe sentence is required to punish but, more importantly, to deter.”

A third man, Daniel Cressey, was also jailed, who denied aiding and abetting the two soldiers, but was found guilty.

Sentencing, on December 20, the judge said: “Whatever your feelings of outrage were, you should have allowed justice to take its course.

“As is usual in these cases, the victims had nothing to do with the events that so enraged you. They were entirely innocent law-abiding Muslims who were practising their religion in a peaceable way,” he added.

The judge heard that both Harness and Humphries served in the Army for 13 years with unblemished records and experienced ‘active warfare’ during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Harness had been based at Woolwich Barracks, where Lee Rigby was also based. His defendant said her client apologised for his “foolish, absurd and reckless behaviour” and said he was “ashamed and disgusted” by what he had done.

Detective Stewart Watson, from the Serious Crime Team in Grimsby, welcomed the sentences: “This was a very serious offence that could have resulted in people inside the mosque being fatally injured, thankfully nobody was inside at the time and only minimal damage was caused to the building.”

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