A man accused of planting an explosive device which closed the Fishergate Centre on one of the busiest shopping days of the year was identified due to his distinctive walk, a court has heard.
On the first day of his trial at Preston Crown Court, 25-year-old David Rutherford was accused of planting a device - made from a firelighter, an aerosol can, a Lego box and a toilet roll tube - in the men’s toilets at the shopping centre on December 17.
Bomb disposal experts were called in and the shopping centre was closed while the device was made safe.
Richard Archer, prosecuting, said: “Shoppers in Preston, as no doubt elsewhere in the country, were getting ready for Christmas. The Fishergate Centre should have been open as normal that day and no doubt the tills would be ringing as loudly as the Christmas bells.
“However that day there was very little shopping able to take place at the Fishergate Centre.
“Shortly before 9am a stallholder Glen White discovered someone had placed a hand-made explosive on a toilet in the men’s lavatories, lit it, and walked away.
“The Fishergate Centre was evacuated and bomb disposal experts were brought in to make safe the device. It was a costly and nerve wracking exercise.
“Initially, Glen White though the man in the toilet, Alex Gonzales, was responsible. He was wrong.
“The evidence in this case points very firmly in the direction of David Rutherford.”
The court heard CCTV taken from shops and businesses across the city tracked Rutherford from Preston Bus Station to the Fishergate Centre where he was seen entering and leaving the men’s toilets.
Officers who arrested him noticed he walked with a distinctive gait, identifying him as the man on the CCTV.
A search of his home revealed four Lego mini-figures, which matched the type which would have been contained in the box used to make the device.
His computer equipment also revealed he had looked up local news reports about the incident.
Rutherford, of Barry Avenue, Ingol, has significant learning difficulties and has been deemed unfit to enter a plea to the charges of making an improvised incendiary device with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property, and doing an act with intent to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause injury or damage to property.
Forensic scientist Robert Lewis examined the device and confirmed it met the criteria for being an improvised incendiary device in accordance with the Explosive Substances Act.
The trial - which is expected to last three days - will hear evidence from Mr White, Mr Gonzales and a number of other witnesses involved in the incident.