Basildon's 1997 hoax bomber Dean Platt jailed
A man who brought "sheer terror" to a town centre when he planted a series of fake bombs in a shopping centre in 1997 has been jailed for two years.
Dean Platt, from Verbena Gardens in Basildon, Essex, was caught after a forensic breakthrough, police said.
The 44-year-old planted the fake devices at Eastgate Centre in Basildon between January and November 1997.
He admitted four charges of placing a hoax bomb and was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court.
Det Con Andy Copley said Platt was caught after a forensic breakthrough.
He was arrested in February 2016 on unrelated offences. His fingerprints were found to match those at the scene of each hoax.
"Bomb-like packages", made from digital stopwatches, circuit boards, wire and candles wrapped in black tape, were planted by Platt at the shopping centre on 3 January, 29 January, 18 April and 11 November 1997.
'Chaos and fear'
He attached a written warning to each one - the November note said the "device was set to go off in 10 mins and there is 12 more in Eastgate".
Essex Police said the fake bombs "brought chaos and fear to the streets of Basildon".
Eastgate Centre was evacuated, the bus station and surrounding streets were closed and train services were suspended.
An Army bomb disposal unit carried out controlled explosions on the devices.
Det Con Copley said: "Platt carried out these bomb hoaxes without any thought for the sheer terror they would cause at a time when those living in the UK were subjected to repeated and horrific terror attacks by the IRA."