Tuesday, 1 May 2012

did the Luton terrorists get their toy car idea from the BBC?

According to the Daily Mail’s Chris Greenwood, the four terrorist suspects arrested in Luton last week got their ideas from an Al-Qaeda publication. But were they also inspired by something closer to home?

click to read more about James Burke on TV Cream

On Saturday 21 April, BBC2 aired TV 73: The Defining Shows. One show included was The Burke Special, hosted by James Burke (right).

The particular episode that presenter Mark Lawson focussed on concerned the IRA. Burke had persuaded the British Army to fly over a small part of a haul of arms captured from the IRA, including automatic rifles and a hand-held rocket launcher, and these were frightening enough. Then, crucially, Burke turned to explosives, and showed how a radio-controlled car could be used to detonate a bomb from a distance.

Gayle Rivers' The Specialist: click to find out more

It is, of course, entirely possible that the BBC is innocent, and that older Al Qaeda members who used to be in the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) got the idea while dealing with their opposite numbers in the IRA: former SAS officer Gayle Rivers stated in his 1986 book The Specialist that the IRA, the PLO and Basque ETA used to traffic arms to each other to frustrate investigations of where they came from. Might ideas also have been exchanged?

The toy-car incident may have happened before TV 73 was aired; so then why, when 70s nostalgia is so big, can you view episodes of BBC2’s The 70s for 3 weeks while TV 73 has been taken off i-player? In addition, there’s no mention of the car in the BBC’s web article, and I heard no mention of Luton at all on Radio 2’s news this morning.

In any case, whether or not the BBC’s broadcast of Burke’s explaining how a radio-controlled car could set off a bomb inspired the Luton terrorists, could showing that clip when the country is at unprecedented risk of terrorism really be called responsible broadcasting?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

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