A MAN who made hoax bomb threats to schools in Somerset has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Andreas Dowling, 24, was sent down at Exeter Crown Court yesterday (Monday) after previously admitted 31 charges relating to 107 offences dating back to 2014.

Dowling, of Carew Terrace, Torpoint, made the hoax calls using software to disguise his voice to 75 schools and colleges across Avon and Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire between January and February 2016.

The investigation into the offences, which was led by Counter Terrorism Policing South West, uncovered earlier crimes committed by Dowling in the US and Canada. The FBI and officers in Michigan were also involved in the investigation.

A previous hearing was told his campaign had caused major disruption at schools, police stations and the Super Bowl.

It emerged that Dowling was a member of a small online group which claimed responsibility for a campaign of bomb threats across the world in 2016, causing substantial disruption to the education of tens of thousands of pupils and sparking major policing responses in the affected areas.

Senior national co-ordinator for Pursue Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said: "When Counter Terrorism Policing colleagues in the South West began investigating back in 2016, they were dealing with a constant stream of calls to schools and colleges that were causing serious disruption and distress to parents, teachers and pupils

"These hoaxes had a significant psychological impact on those affected and resulted in long and complex investigations which required significant resources from the many law enforcement agencies involved in both the UK and United States of America.

"I hope this will serve as notice to anyone who considers such acts in the future that no matter how long it takes, or how far we have to travel to gather evidence, we will find you."

Following a search of his home and digital devices, it was revealed Dowling owned an eBook which included chapters about making bomb threats to high schools and another providing instructions about how to send armed response officers to someone’s house. He also had a file titled ‘bomb threats by e-mail’.

An FBI spokeswoman said: "Although these bomb threats were determined to be hoaxes, no threat is taken lightly.

"Each incident is treated as a real event, which drains law enforcement resources that could be utilized for real investigations and emergency response matters, not to mention the unnecessary pain it causes the victim targets.

"This case demonstrates just how crucial international cooperation and coordination is today as crimes such as this, using technology to help inflict fear and anxiety upon others, are truly borderless."