Bomb Hoaxes in Britain’s Schools


First it was lockdown, then it was strikes and now it appears that English school students just can’t get a break.

That old chestnut is back: the hoax bomb call

During my first day of the new academic year, things almost started with a bang. On September 5th, Year 7 students were supposed to have an induction day. However, a couple of hours into the day a bomb threat caused our school to be evacuated for over three hours and the students had to be sent home without their belongings. Police were alerted and investigations followed, but the whole episode turned out to be just a hoax.

Then, two weeks after the first hoax, on September 20th, the fire alarm went off at around 10:45am and everyone had to vacate the buildings once more. At first, we thought it was a fire drill, but after standing in the pouring rain for 90 minutes, we were allowed back into the academy and were informed that another hoax bomb threat had occurred.

This is not just confined to my school in Hull. Two bomb threats were made by a man towards two schools in Oxfordshire, The Marlborough School and Gosford High School. And the King Edward VII Academy in Norfolk was targeted, from which 1,300 pupils had to be evacuated and sent home.

It seems we British students are no stranger to this. In 2018, more than 400 schools across England received a bomb threat, with some threats heralding from the U.S.

Clearly, somebody is either insane or bored and we can only guess why they’re doing this. The schools have to take threats seriously and seem helpless against them; the hoaxers could probably hoax every day if they were so inclined.

The police also seem powerless to prevent such threats but that does not mean they can’t find the culprits. In 2018 they arrested a teenager called George Duke-Cohan for making bomb threats to hundreds of British schools. It is not entirely clear how Duke-Cohan was caught but he did not stop and was caught again. Perhaps he was not the brightest of hoax bombers as there are those who can proxy proxies and hide their electronic footprints in ingenious ways.

Having said that, it is almost impossible to be anonymous online or on a mobile phone network. An email sent from an IP address can be traced to whoever is assigned that IP address at that time. In this way, law enforcement agencies may request a user’s IP address and other metadata from email providers and ISPs to trace who’s behind an email. Even a virtual private network (VPN) cannot guarantee anonymity. Police can intercept your communications remotely if you are suspected of a serious crime such as terrorism or child sexual abuse. Even a so-called ‘burner phone’, much used by criminals, is not untraceable to the person who has used it. While bomb threats are ridiculous and pointless. But tracing computers and phones is time consuming, and the police probably have other more serious crimes to solve.

Still, as a student still at school, I find it depressing and unnerving to think that, once again, students’ learning could be put on hold by people with little better to do than to dream up ways of disrupting the lives of others. Let us hope they find something else to amuse themselves with before long.

Meantime, given that there are some genuine nutters out there who may just plant a bomb, schools – as the IRA famously said – have to continue to get security right every time. A nutcase only has to get it right once.

Jack Watson is a 15-year-old schoolboy, who has a SubStack about being a Hull City fan. You can subscribe to it here.