Surfer in Canada averts tragedy in Attleborough

Teachers and police intercepted a teenager who boasted on an internet chat room that he was going to burn down a high school.

Teachers and police intercepted a teenager who boasted on an internet chat room that he was going to burn down a high school.

The chilling message from the Attleborough High School pupil was picked up thousands of miles away from a web user in Canada, who contacted Norfolk Police.

The 16-year-old was was yesterday detained under the Mental Health Act (March 18) after he walked into the school on Tuesday morning armed with a knife, matches and what is thought to have been a canister of flammable liquid. Police are continuing with their investigations.

But a potential tragedy was averted after members of an online chat room phoned the school and the police to warn them of the danger.

Officers praised the actions of the internet users, which enabled Attleborough High staff and officers to act quickly when the youth arrived at the school at about 11.30am on Tuesday.

It came after the 16-year-old boy posted a message on an internet forum at about 10.40am to say he was going to inflict criminal damage on his school using explosives.

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But the teenager was stopped in his tracks after a fellow online user from the UK contacted the school, while another chat room contributor, from Montreal, Canada, phoned police.

By the time officers arrived at the school, in Norwich Road, Attleborough, the boy had already been taken to an office and his bag containing the knife, matchers, and suspected flammable liquid were confiscated.

Superintendent Katie Elliott, of Norfolk Police, yesterday praised the response of the teachers and pupils and the actions of the online community.

'We are in the very early stages of a serious investigation into a serious offence where a young man is in custody. At the same time we want to reassure the public and pupils that their safety has been paramount to us.

'It is an isolated incident in Norfolk and it is not something that happens very often. We are confident that it is an isolated incident for Attleborough.

'It goes to show that things written on the internet can be viewed across the world and we thank the person who has read this and done something about it,' he said.

The 16-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of threats to commit criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon and was questioned at Thetford police station.

Police said the boy's home address was searched following his arrest and a computer was seized and sent for 'urgent analysis' and the fuel canister had been sent for forensic testing.

Supt Elliott added that all pupils had their bags searched as a precaution, but nothing further was found.

Stuart Bailey, headteacher of Attleborough High School, yesterday said that the incident had been dealt with by senior school staff in a 'professional and calm manner.'

'We had been made aware of the student's alleged intentions and stopped him before he entered the main school site. I am very grateful to the person who did the right thing and made us aware.

'School security is of paramount importance at Attleborough High. While yesterday's incident is clearly not welcome, I am pleased with the manner in which it was dealt with both by my staff, and by Norfolk Police.'

'We have kept children and parents informed as soon as we have been able to, but I hope parents understand we are bound by the nature of an ongoing police investigation,' he said.

Officers were at the scene of the incident for most of Tuesday afternoon, while the school, which has more than 950 students, continued to operate as normal.