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Bump in the road Mum caught with bomb in kitchen cupboard avoids jail after it emerged she's pregnant

Rebecca Gregory had been warned she was almost certainly going to jail for allowing her then partner Ross Hardy to stash the bomb

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Rebecca Gregory with Ross Hardy

Rebecca Gregory with Ross Hardy

Rebecca Gregory with Ross Hardy

A mum of three who admitted having a "lethal" blast bomb has escaped going to prison after it emerged she's heavily pregnant.

Rebecca Gregory had been warned she was almost certainly going to jail for allowing her then partner Ross Hardy to stash the bomb in her kitchen cupboard.

Hardy had told police he made the bomb, packed with screws and other shrapnel, to use against bullies who were giving him a hard time.

But a judge took a lenient view on Friday as it emerged not only does the 21-year-old have three young children, but she is also expecting her fourth.

Instead Judge Gordon Kerr QC, who accepted Gregory must have been "under pressure" to hide the bomb, suspended the 18-month jail sentence for two years at Newry Crown Court.

Gregory's mum, Samantha, told the Sunday World on Friday the family were "over the moon" Rebecca had been spared going to jail.

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Rebecca with her ex Ross Hardy

Rebecca with her ex Ross Hardy

Rebecca with her ex Ross Hardy

We called at Rebecca's Market Street Court home in Tandragee, Co Armagh, on Friday but were told she didn't want to comment.

But her mum said: "We really thought she was going to prison so we will be celebrating tonight."

And there was widespread joy at the court's decision not to imprison the young mum as sources have told the Sunday World her ex-partner Hardy had exerted a degree of control over her.

"There's no way Rebecca should have been going to jail for a bomb she had nothing to do with," said a friend.

"Ross Hardy made the bomb and Rebecca was under his control. Everyone's glad they aren't together anymore. He's a creep and she's such a nice girl.

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"Rebecca has met someone else and he's great. They are expecting their first baby and they can now look forward to a bright future without this hanging over them."

During sentencing, Rebecca was warned by the judge that if she reoffended, she would have to serve that sentence in addition to any other sentence imposed.

At an earlier hearing Gregory admitted possessing an explosive device under suspicious circumstances after her then boyfriend Hardy constructed the viable blast bomb and stashed it in her kitchen cupboard.

Last month the 22-year-old bomb builder, from Scarva Lodge in Scarva, was handed a three-year sentence but he is already out and a free man having served more than the equivalent of his sentence while on remand.

The charges arise after a viable, improvised blast bomb device, which had to be made safe by bomb disposal experts, was uncovered in a kitchen cupboard at Gregory's former home at Woodview Park in Tandragee in November 2019.

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Rebecca’s mum Samantha this week

Rebecca’s mum Samantha this week

Rebecca’s mum Samantha this week

Previous courts have heard that while Gregory initially claimed she had been told to hide the device by an anonymous male, Hardy made "full and frank confessions" to having built the device at Lovers Lane in Tandragee about a year before it was found.

He admitted to police that "he had found himself in difficulty, physically around that time - he had been picked on in fights" so he had built the bomb "intending to use it, if required, to frighten people who sought to fight him".

Using powder extracted from a firework and a fuse from a banger, Hardy had also added shrapnel such as screws, batteries and a "small torch".

Sentencing Gregory on Friday, Judge Kerr told the court how she claimed to have been "under pressure" to hide the blast bomb in her house, adding that "I'm perfectly happy to accept the proposition that as a result of her association with the co-accused, that this is a case where she felt under pressure".

He added that "I find it inconceivable that she had any malicious intent" in possessing the bomb, revealing that the facts and reports "confirm there is no suggestion or hint that she is connected to terrorism".

Judge Kerr said while the proper sentence would be 12 months in jail, "in view if the fact that she had a young family and that this was an offence she was led to by her situation with another person... and that she has broke all ties to, the appropriate thing to do this time is to suspend that sentence for two years".

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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