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IT'S LIVE AND DANGEROUS; This boobytrap alarm could kill or seriously maim MERCURY INVESTIGATION.

Byline: AMARDEEP BASSEY

IT is supposed to be used out in the fields by gamekeepers to deter poachers - but an pounds 11 DIY shotgun security system is being sold throughout the Midlands as a home alarm.

For less than pounds 12, our undercover reporter was able to walk out of a city centre gun shop armed with the device, dubbed an Alarm Mine, despite fears that it could maim or kill.

Advertised in the window as a device that 'fires 12-bore shotgun cartridges and protects property from intruders', the booby-trap is available in stores across the region.

Our reporter was told that the self-assembly Alarm Mine would protect his home from intruders.

The device came with no setting-up instructions apart from a small notice on a scrap of paper warning that it could cause injury to humans or animals if positioned in the wrong place.

There was no advice as to what the right place might be.

Last night, Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood said the product posed a 'mortal danger' to children and the elderly who could accidentally trigger the mechanism.

'I will be writing to Birmingham City Council's trading standards office to see if this contraption conforms to current law,' he said.

'I find it amazing that it is legal in this country - especially in the current climate when we are trying to clamp down on the use of any type of firearm.'

The Alarm Mine works by detonating a blank shotgun cartridge when activated by a trip wire, which can be attached to door handles, gates or other boundary fixtures.

Despite its being designed primarily for outdoor use, making it popular with gamekeepers, our reporter was told he could place it in the garage of his home to deter burglars.

Shock

'Just make sure the catch is on after you've pulled the spring back and that all the family are aware where it is,' said the shop assistant. 'Or they could be in for a nasty shock.

'It's only a blank but the gunpowder has the same number of grains as live ammunition. If you get too close, it could easily take off your arm or leg.'

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said the force would not recommend householders to use the Alarm Mine, although it was not illegal.

'The cartridge is not fired as such,' she said. 'But there is still the potential of severe injury from shrapnel and accidental detonation.

'We would not encourage its use and would instead recommend other measures like planting thorn hedges, installing good lighting, alarms and surveillance equipment.

'We would certainly not support any action which could result in harm or injury to anyone.'

Our investigation highlights the growing concern about the extreme measures some householders are now taking to protect their property.

Three years ago, unemployed electrician Paul Humphreys was fined pounds 100 and ordered to pay pounds 129 compensation to a policeman whose uniform was set alight after he accidentally activated an Alarm Mine.

Pc David Wilson was looking for stolen goods when he tried to get into Mr Humphrey's garden shed, which was booby-trapped by the do-it-yourself device.

Vandalising

Last month Ruby Barber, 93, was told by Northampton Council to remove barbed wire put up after she had been burgled four times.

Derbyshire pensioner Ted Newberry was ordered to pay pounds 4,033 compensation after firing at a young man vandalising his allotment.

A spokesman for Alarm Mine wholesaler, Henry Cranks, said: 'It is only a noise-manufacturing device and is not intended to harm.

'It should not really be used indoors and it should come with a full set of instructions.

'The Alarm Mine has been used for decades by gamekeepers and country squires and it is a very useful deterrent when used properly.

'It is designed to be a second line of defence at a boundary like a fence or gateway. But it is proving more and more popular with ordinary householders who are sick of persistent break-ins.'

Michael Fabricant, Tory MP for Lichfield, is aiming to reform the 1984 Occupier's Liability Act and will next month present a Parliamentary Bill which would allow homeowners to deploy 'static defences' like barbed wire and electric fences.

He said: 'The Alarm Mine would not be covered because it is a secret trap and clearly is not static. But it is a sad reflection on the state of the country and its police force that people feel the need to use a device like this which could quite clearly be a hazard.'

CAPTION(S):

'PROPERTY PROTECTION' ... the Alarm Mine on sale
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2001
Words:762
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