Caught in the act
Less than an hour after ringing police to warn of a bomb in the courts, hoaxer Robert Somner stood outside the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building to watch the chaos unfold.
In a Royal Gazette video of the evacuation on Monday, the 36-year-old amateur boxer could be seen leaning casually against a wall on Church Street in the company of other bystanders.
Somner, who was caught on CCTV footage making the call from a Hamilton pay phone wearing the same blue hoody, was remanded into custody over the incident after a court appearance yesterday.
He pleaded guilty in Magistrates’ Court to attempting to pervert the course of justice by making a 911 call to police, stating that “there is a bomb in the court building”.
Somner, of Cottage Hill Road in Hamilton Parish, also admitted making a false statement that suggested there was an explosive on the premises of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building.
Prosecutor Maria Sofianos, who described the offences as a “very serious matter”, called on the courts to make an example of him.
Ms Sofianos said Somner’s actions had caused a lot of inconvenience for government employees, as well as wasted time and expense.
She added that the offences appeared to be an attempt by Somner to avoid dealing with a civil matter on Monday in which he owed a huge amount of money.
Ms Sofianos said the Crown was seeking a “short, sharp shock as a deterrent to this individual and others” and added that Somner could face up to a year in prison along with a fine.
Magistrates’ Court, Hamilton Police Station and Global House were evacuated and the area was cordoned off after an anonymous call to police claiming there was a bomb in the courts.
Somner can be seen in the video footage of the incident taken by The Royal Gazette on Church Street after the buildings were evacuated.
A post made on his Facebook page, under the name “Bobby Somner”, at 9.49am on the same day said: “Bomb scare at the courts this morning.”
Somner told the court yesterday that he had been under a lot of stress in the past six to eight months and that this had taken a toll on his mental health.
He said: “I am struggling right now. I am struggling mentally. I am struggling financially.
Somner added: “I made an irrational decision and it is what it is.”
Ms Sofianos told the court that Police Operations in Prospect received a 911 call at 9.22am and a male caller stated “there is a bomb in the court building” before hanging up.
She said police immediately returned the call but the line appeared to connect to “what sounded like a fax line”.
Police alerted the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and various departments in the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building, instructing them to evacuate along with staff in the adjacent Global House.
Emergency services blocked off the area and police contacted BAS/Serco to monitor CCTV footage of the area.
The 911 call was traced to a pay phone at the back entrance of the Bermuda Telephone Company on Washington Street opposite the Hamilton Bus Terminal.
Police reviewed area footage, which showed a male dressed in a blue hooded top covering his head, black pants and black sneakers at one of the pay phones.
A forensic support officer attended the scene to examine the phone for DNA evidence.
The Dame Lois Browne-Ewans Building was searched by police and staff but nothing suspicious was found and the all clear was given at 10.40am.
Ms Sofianos added that a further review of CCTV footage showed a male wearing the same clothes in the area of Victoria Street and Cedar Avenue before walking to the bus terminal.
He was then seen walking back to Court Street and into the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building a short while later.
A police officer recognised the defendant from the footage and Somner was arrested at his home at around 1pm. He was taken to Hamilton Police Station where he gave a “no comment” interview.
Later that day, police reviewed a YouTube video from The Royal Gazette, which featured an interview with police media relations manager Dwayne Caines.
The video showed the defendant watching the proceedings with members of the public on the sidewalk across from the entrance to the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building.
Ms Sofianos told the court that Somner had a committal warrant for $11,661 and that he had been contacted by a court bailiff to attend court that morning.
Defence counsel Sara Tucker initially objected to Somner being remanded, and said she would be seeking an absolute discharge, to which magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo responded: “Is that a joke?”
But Mr Tokunbo added that he was interested in a social inquiry report to determine: “What would drive a person in 2018 to make a call like that?”
Mr Tokunbo agreed with the Crown that given the gravity of the offence, a “short, sharp shock” was warranted.
He also pointed out that Somner could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Mr Tokunbo ordered an “expedited” social inquiry report and remanded Somner in custody until February 9.
Somner responded: “So any financial issues I had are now going to be made worse, basically.”
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