Firebomb rioters implicated by mobile phone archives
Text messages, photos and chat logs found on mobile phones helped police build a compelling case against a group accused of a riot in which a Nottingham police station was firebombed.
The targeting of Canning Circus station was the most high-profile incident during two nights of disorder in the city last August.
Now four men and two teenage boys have been convicted of taking part in the riot while 10 others have admitted their involvement in the disturbances.
Police said a search of phones taken from those arrested close to the scene proved invaluable in working out who was involved and how it was planned.
Key to the investigation was the quick response of officers who made 15 arrests on or close to nearby Holden Street minutes after the attack had taken place.
Video footage of the incident, shot by a member of the public on a mobile phone, showed the firebombers walking from Canning Circus towards a car park behind the Junktion 7 pub and on to Holden Street.
After being handed the footage at the start of their investigation, police were able to monitor the timings and establish that some of the men arrested around the narrow street were the same individuals who had thrown up to 16 firebombs.
Detectives then began to check the phones of those they had detained - and discovered a veritable treasure trove of compelling evidence.
Text messages had been exchanged organising the purchase of petrol and beer bottles, as well as sharing details of how to build a petrol bomb.
They also scoured BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) chat logs which discussed how many people were in different groups around the city and made arrangements to meet.
It helped prove the attack on Canning Circus was not a spur-of-the-moment escalation as some defendants had claimed, but a carefully planned crime.
Most compelling of all, officers found a photo on a phone belonging to one of the ringleaders, Curtis Dejean, which showed petrol bombs which had been prepared and arranged in a shower tray at his home.
In an unusual move, investigators gathered fragments of shattered bottles from the scene and pieced them together jigsaw-style as evidence that the picture showed the same firebombs used at Canning Circus.
DNA tests also tied the group to discarded material they used to mask their faces during the firebombing.
Studies proved the home-made masks had all been torn from the same section of material too.
Det Ch Insp Rob Griffin, who led the investigation, said: "It's very easy to think that [with the men] having been arrested on Holden Street, that completes the case but it doesn't.
"It took many months of meticulous investigation in order to bring the offenders to court and to justice.
"We did a lot of work from the phones which were recovered from the individuals. It was quite telling some of the information these phones held.
"That was really important in proving this group had come together with a common purpose of attacking the police station."
Judith Walker, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "This was a really serious incident here in Nottingham. It caused a lot of fear and brought about a lot of destruction.
"The piecing together of the evidence by the police and CPS is a major cause of [some of] the defendants pleading guilty.
"The fact there was a convincing case to be put to the jury certainly would be a major factor in them entering that plea.
"That's really significant and a factor we view as a real success."