TORONTO – Alberta resident Skylar Murphy was planning to “blow up a shed” with a pipe bomb seized at Edmonton International Airport’s security screening, according to court documents released Thursday.
The transcript of proceedings, which can be read in its entirety below, suggests Murphy had built the pipe bomb with a friend, and put it in his camera bag since they intended to photograph the shed exploding. He forgot that it was inside the bag when packing for his flight to Mexico, and didn’t intend to take it on the airplane or cause damage to the airport when he arrived Sept. 20, according to the documents.
Murphy told court he learned to make a pipe bomb through “research on the Internet” but said he didn’t have any knowledge of how pipe bombs are normally used.
He said he stole the black powder from ammunition in his mother’s house. The ammunition belonged to his mother’s fiancé, who is an Alberta sheriff. According to RCMP, an investigation found that the sheriff “had no knowledge of or role in constructing the device.”
“As the accused stated in court, he took the powder to make the device without the knowledge or consent of the sheriff. The sheriff properly and lawfully stored his firearms and ammunition as per federal law and policies of the sheriff’s branch,” said spokesperson for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, Michelle Davio, in a written statement.
Murphy got the pipe and screws from the local hardware store. His friend allegedly bought the fuse from another friend, though Murphy said he didn’t have contact with the third person.
Murphy, then 18, was arrested and charged with possession of an explosive substance on Sept. 27, when he returned to the country.
In December, he pleaded guilty to possession of an explosive substance. He was sentenced to one year of probation, and given a $100 fine, plus required to donate $500 to the University of Alberta burn unit.
The judge accepted he had “no intentions on using it while [he] was on the plane or entering another country,” though “incredibly irresponsible.”
“If the authorities had missed that pipe bomb and you had gone, in Mexico, through a screening device, you would not even get a trial, more than likely,” said Judge White, according to the court transcript. “You would be in a Mexican gaol [jail] … learning Spanish by now, if you survived. I doubt you would have survived.”
Global News spoke with a person Wednesday night who saw the situation in question unfold at EIA. The person, who has asked to remain anonymous, says the pipe bomb was clearly visible on the X-ray machine. According to this source, the screener searched the bag, but gave it back to Murphy. It wasn’t until other screeners stepped in that the device was confiscated.
Murphy was allowed to board his flight, and it wasn’t until four days later that the RCMP was called in to investigate.
The federal transport minister, Lisa Raitt, said Wednesday that should not have happened and that she would be following up with the president of CATSA (the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) to ensure airport safety.
Watch below: Francis Silvaggio reports that no one informed police that a pipe bomb was found until four days later.
CATSA originally told Global News on Monday that it can’t apprehend a passenger if something illegal is found. It can only call police. It said it has policies in place to determine when that happens, but wouldn’t go into any further detail. Following the transport minister’s criticism on Wednesday, CATSA spokesperson Mathieu Larocque said he understood Raitt’s concerns and direction, adding that “the security of the travelling public is CATSA’s top priority.”
Larocque repeated that sentiment on Thursday:
“We have completed a full review last fall of the incident. Corrective actions have been taken. We want to assure the travelling public that we have taken steps to ensure that it does not occur again. We screen more than 51 million passengers per year. We have procedures in place to face these types of situations. They were not followed during that incident and that is why we did a full review and took actions.”
Watch below: Laurel Gregory reports on the impact the incident is having on Canada’s security reputation
Watch below: Former CSIS agent, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, slams air security agency for pipe bomb breach
Michael Kempa, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, says he was “stunned” over how the situation was handled.
“Canadians have heard a lot about how poorly the Americans look at our security apparatus…Incidents like this just diminish us in the eyes of the world,” he said.
“It’s basically like a black eye on the Canadian security system — and it’s one that we should be prepared to deal with quickly and demonstrate to our partners that we are taking it seriously.”
Watch below: More from Kempa
Others, like Bob Murray of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, are somewhat more forgiving.
“The reality is, with so many airports – so many people and tight restrictions – this thing is bound to happen,” Murray said.
“What’s important to bear in mind is it was caught. They removed it and people remained safe. People need to keep that in mind.”
You can read the full court document here:
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