Pair jailed over arson at mosque in Rigby revenge

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Two former soldiers who firebombed a mosque following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby have each been jailed for six years.

Stuart Harness, 34, and Gavin Humphries, 37, made petrol bombs and threw them at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre while being filmed on CCTV cameras they thought were turned off.

Stuart Harness and Gavin Humphries at the back of Harness's house, making a petrol bomb which they threw at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre.

Stuart Harness and Gavin Humphries at the back of Harness's house, making a petrol bomb which they threw at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre.

They were jailed yesterday by Judge Mark Bury at Hull Crown Court after admitting arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at an earlier hearing. Judge Bury told the pair: “This was a crime of violence where a particular religious group was deliberately targeted in an act of retribution.”

He said: “This kind of attack cannot be tolerated. A severe sentence is required to punish but, more importantly, to deter.”

He jailed a third defendant, Daniel Cressey – who denied aiding and abetting the other two but was found guilty by a jury – for three years.

Judge Bury said: “Whatever your feelings of outrage were, you should have allowed justice to take its course.

Former soldiers Stuart Harness (left) and Gavin Humphries

Former soldiers Stuart Harness (left) and Gavin Humphries

“Instead you carried out a retaliatory act of throwing petrol bombs at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre.

“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.”

Judge Bury heard how Harness and Humphries launched two petrol bombs each at the mosque in Weelsby Road, in Grimsby on May 26, four days after Fusilier Rigby was murdered.

They were spotted by patrolling police community support officers and followed back to Harness’s nearby house where they were arrested.

Detectives found they had earlier inadvertently filmed themselves bringing petrol into the house, building the bombs and leaving with them on a CCTV system at Harness’s home.

Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, said the defendants thought they had turned the system off when they powered down the laptop to which it was connected.

The CCTV footage, excerpts from which were played to Hull Crown Court, showed the whole process of making the bombs until they left in Cressey’s car.

Mr Evans said the bombs exploded outside the main doors of the mosque.

He said it was lucky that the people remaining in the building were just on the other side of the doors and realised quickly what was happening.

They put out the flames despite their fear and there were no injuries and minimal damage.

The judge heard both Harness and Humphries served in the Army with unblemished records.

Mr Evans told the court Harness had been in the Army for 13 years and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Harness had been based at Woolwich Barracks.

Richard Hackfath, defending Humphries, said his client had also served in the Army with distinction, most notably as a close protection officer for senior officers.

Mr Evans told the court the pair threw the devices as if they were lobbing grenades, as they would have been trained to do.

Harness and Humphries, both of Dixon Avenue, Grimsby, admitted arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, and Cressey, of New Holland, north Lincolnshire, was found guilty of aiding and abetting that crime at a trial last month.

Cressey drove the other two men to the mosque but did not throw any of the bombs, the judge heard.

The judge said the offences were all religiously aggravated.

Mr Hackfath said his client was a “thoughtful, moral and caring man” who acted completely out of character on May 26 when he and the other defendants had been drinking.

He said Humphries, who served with the Royal Artillery, was not a racist and the judge noted that he had worked in Qatar, teaching Muslim children English.

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