21 February 2011

Codename "Perjurer"

During the Stockwell inquest (Friday, 8th November 2008), "Codename "Neil"" on page 140, beginning at line 14 says,
"14 them in the car and take them with them. Once again,
15 there was evidence of TATP explosive at the bomb-making
16 factory in Leeds. The other four devices --"
Whilst, as Bridget has point out, during the evidence given by Clifford Todd to the Coroner's Inquests into the London Bombings of 7 July 2005
Hearing transcripts – 1 February 2011 - Afternoon session
, no evidence of the presence of TATP is given.

If we take from this that there isn't any evidence of TATP at Alexandra Grove, what is "Codename "Neil's"" liability for perjury?

Section 1(1) of the Perjury Act 1911 provides,
"If any person lawfully sworn as a witness or as an interpreter in a judicial proceeding wilfully makes a statement material in that proceeding, which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true, he shall be guilty of perjury, and shall, on conviction thereof on indictment, be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding seven years, or to imprisonment . . . F1 for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine or to both such penal servitude or imprisonment and fine."
On page 125 line 11 of the inquest transcripts we can see that "Codename "Neil"" was sworn. Bearing in mind section 1(2) of the Perjury Act 1911 which says,
"The expression “judicial proceeding” includes a proceeding before any court, tribunal, or person having by law power to hear, receive, and examine evidence on oath."
Did "Codename "Neil"" know that the statement he made was false or did not believe it to be true?

If he made the statement knowing it to be false then he is liable for perjury. This is a serious discrepancy; whether anything will come of it, I don't know. But if "Neil" cannot justify his answer when if called upon to do so, I would imagine that he would be facing a term in jail.

19 February 2011

Not so Clever Hans

I've blogged about this before but it seems as though others are catching up.

In short, the police powers of stop and search are found in the section 1 of the Police and Crimanal Evidence Act 1984, where s1(3) PACE 1984 provides,
"This section does not give a constable power to search a person or vehicle or anything in or on a vehicle unless he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that he will find stolen or prohibited articles"
When police use sniffer dogs as a basis for stopping and searching people is this lawful?

It depends upon whether or not the sniffer dog behaviour gives the officer reasonable grounds.

We can only answer that question if we know the (i) false positive rate, (ii) false negative rate, and how the Clever Hans effect is prevented.

The Clever Hans effect being a mechanism whereby the animal's behaviour is a result of unwitting cues given to it by its trainer.

Well, it seems that someone has decided to bother investigating the Clever Hans effect with regard to sniffer dogs - here's a link to the Mind Hack's article that has more details, Sniffing Out the Unconscious.

Link to original article dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10071-010-0373-2.

My previous notes,

18 February 2011

Feasibility Study of Pepper to Ecstacy (MDMA) Route

In a previous post I presented as much data as possiblel to try and determine whether or not Alexandra Grove was a bomb factory or a drug factory. This analysis was based around the chemistry of the substances involved.

In this post I want to pull together the quantities of material necessary in order to make one kilogram of ecstacy (MDMA) - a skeleton costing where the reader is asked to supply his own prices.

Starting Material (kg)Product (kg)Notes
Pepper (225)Piperine (11.24)Assuming 5 % wt piperine in pepper
Piperine (11.24)Piperonal (2.66)assuming a 45 % theoretical yield on the basis of the Erowid Chemistry
Piperonal (2.66)MDMA / Ecstacy (1.0)based on a theoretical yield of 29 % from the UN Drug Report, 2.5 p 4

In short, you're looking at using a quarter of a tonne of pepper to obtain over a kilogram of MDMA.

This analysis doesn't include any labour or other raw materials.

It doesn't look like a commercially viable process to me. As to whether or not the Alexandra Grove crew did this feasibility study is anyones guess.

But when trying to answer the question drug factory vs bomb factory, it is a useful piece of information.

17 February 2011

Alexandra Grove: Bomb Factory Or Drug Factory?

Whilst reading transcripts from the 7th July bomb inquests (Coroner's Inquests into the London Bombings of 7 July 2005 Hearing transcripts – 1 February 2011 - Afternoon session) with a view to understanding the chemical nature of the bombs that were used, apart from hydrogen peroxide, the name of one other chemical kept cropping up again and again: piperine.

Clifford Todd explains (p44 line2),
"1 Our first analysis on some materials from
2 Alexandra Grove showed us the presence of a material
3 called piperine. It later transpires that that is
4 simply something that is contained within black pepper."
I looked up the structure of piperine ...
... and immediately thought of MDMA/ecstacy.

To see why, you need to be familiar with the structure of ecstacy, and see how it compares with piperine. In the diagram, the lower structure is ecstacy (MDMA)
we are already familiar with piperine.

A bit of googling quickly takes us to the drug site Erowid (very useful site for the study of chemistry, btw), which has a couple of pages dedicated to converting pepper to piperonal.

Piperonal, as is obvious from the wikipedia link, is a starting material for the synthesis of ecstacy.

This is depicted in the diagram below; the piperonal to MDMA transformation is seen
in the chemistry section of the MDMA link.

Further thoughts on hydrogen peroxide/piperine as an explosive mixture

Throughout the Hearing Transcripts (I've only made a close study of Coroner's Inquests into the London Bombings of 7 July 2005 Hearing transcripts – 1 February 2011 - Afternoon session) the purity of the piperine isn't made clear. Nor is it made clear why piperine is particularly effective, when mixed with hydrogen peroxide, as a bomb. The idea of a hydrogen peroxide and piperine bomb is something called a Sprengel explosive.

Quoting from wikipedia,
"Sprengel explosives are a generic class of materials invented by Hermann Sprengel in the 1870s.[1] They consist of stoichiometric mixtures of strong oxidisers and reactive fuels, mixed just prior to use in order to enhance safety. Either the oxidiser or the fuel, or both, should be a liquid to facilitate mixing, and intimate contact between the materials for a fast reaction rate."
Applying this to the purported hydrogen peroxide/piperine mixture; supposedly hydrogen peroxide is the 'strong oxidiser' and supposedly the piperine is the 'reactive fuel'. As for 'stoichiometric', this means there is the necessary amount of hydrogen peroxide to piperine in order to oxidise the piperine to carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen dioxide.

The balanced equation is
2 C17H19NO3 + 85 H2O2 → 34 CO2 + 104 H2O + 2 NO2
From the balanced equation we can work out the proportions of piperine to hydrogen peroxide
PiperineHydrogen PeroxideNotes
2 x 285.3485 x 34theoretical calculation
570.682890assuming 100 % pure hydrogen peroxide
15assuming 100 % pure hydrogen peroxide
110assuming a 50 % w/w hydrogen peroxide

As far as I'm aware, we don't know the concentration of the hydrogen peroxide used; depending upon the concentration of the hydrogen peroxide, the ratio of piperine to hydrogen peroxide would be 1 g to 10 g. Does this sound like a thick slurry to you? It certainly doesn't to me.

A thicker slurry needs more concentrated hydrogen peroxide with all of the associated lack of credibility. If the slurry is thicker without the necessary hydrogen peroxide present to oxidise it, the chances of finding traces of piperine post explosion increases.

The choice of hydrogen peroxide as an oxidiser in a Sprengel explosive is a poor choice due to reasons discussed elsewhere (difficulty in obtaining the appropriate concentrations, instability, etc); but why choose piperine as the fuel?

There aren't any obvious reasons. It is a fuel but I don't get the impression it is a particularly reactive one.

Thinking about the two competing hypotheses: drug factory or bomb factory; there is insufficient evidence to conclude one way or the other. But the idea that it was a drug factory is a sensible and viable hypothesis.

Lastly, I wonder if anyone has tried to repeat the chemistry? Extration of piperine from pepper followed by oxidation with hydrogen peroxide, with a view, perhaps, to making piperonal?

15 February 2011

Pepper and Hydrogen Peroxide Bombs?

I've been following the 7th July Inquests via the J7: 7/7 Inquests Blog. As the inquest has unfolded the J7 group have revealed some absolute shockers that are being simply ignored by other media sources. For those following the blog, if I mention things such as the curious case of the Jag and leading prosecution evidence in other trials that "simply does not exist", you'll know what I mean.

However, throughout all of this process I've always accepted the general thrust of the official narrative. I do appreciate that the official narrative has some very serious shortcomings such as putting the bombers on a train to London that was cancelled but I haven't allowed this to lead me to doubt various threads of the narrative.

But now I'm beginning to doubt one of these threads.

That is, I'm beginning to doubt the nature of the bombs: namely, were they really a mixture of concentrated hydrogen peroxide and pepper?

It was thought that the bombers bought bottles of hydrogen peroxide, concentrated the hydrogen peroxide by boiling away water, and after cooling back, mixing the hydrogen peroxide with pepper to form a slurry. The slurry was transported to London in rucksacks cooled by freezer bags packed amongst the contents. Subsequently the rucksacks were detonated by the bombers.

From the perspective of a chemist, the preceding paragraph has a number of flaws. When hydrogen peroxide is heated it begins to decompose. Hydgrogen peroxide is prone to catalytic decomposition from materials such as rust, metals, metal salts, the list goes on - see Brethericks Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards, which suggests that heating up hydrogen peroxide in a saucepan wouldn't be wise. Mixing the concentrated hydrogen peroxide with an organic substance (pepper) is fraught with hazards; not least that it would be anticipated to react with the organic material in an uncontrolled chemical reaction.

But simply saying that these decompositions and thermal runaways would happen is not possible.

To understand what I'm trying to say, look at the pictures at the other side of this link,
175 Times and then the Catastrophe
the link shows the results of a reaction that wasn't particularly safe. The point is, the unsafe process was run 175 times before the catastrophe.

Getting back to the hydrogen peroxide bombs: although on paper their preparation - from start to finish - shouldn't have been possible, maybe the bombers did manage to do it. Maybe if they had done it one more time, like the chemical plant example above, it would've ended in disaster. From the information given, it isn't possible to know.

The above analysis was gleaned from newspaper and internet reports prior to the inquest.

Now, courtesty of Mr Clifford Todd we have clearer details of what is known about the 7th July bombs because of his contribution to the 7th July inquest, beginning at p38 line 7 of the 1st February 2011 hearing transcript, afternoon session.

Reading the details of his contribution one comes to p58 line 2 where we have the following exchange between Mr Keith (the questioner) and Mr Todd,
"2 Q. You then turn to consideration of the main charge, the
3 hydrogen peroxide/piperine mix, but you've covered that
4 area to a great extent already.
5 You concluded, in essence, in relation to all four
6 scenes, that despite the absence of traces of piperine
7 at the scenes, the absence of any other recognised high
8 explosive, together with the material found at
9 Alexandra Grove, led you to conclude that the main
10 charge was an improvised mixture, a home-made mixture of
11 pepper and hydrogen peroxide?
12 A. That's correct, yes."
I don't believe there is sufficient evidence to come to the conclusion that the bombs were hydgrogen peroxide/piperine mix. A working hypothesis may be that the bombs were a piperine/hydrogen peroxide mix but this isn't a conclusion. The 'absence of traces of piperidine at the scences,' could be because there wasn't any there in the first place and considering the sophistication of the analytical equipment available to the forensics department is the more likely explanation. '[T]he absence of any other recognised high explosive,' means that an explosive was used that was not recognised; I appreciate that this is trite, but it doesn't mean that the piperine/hydrogen peroxide mix was used.

To state that the explosive charge was a piperine/hydrogen peroxide mix is multiplying entities beyond necessity. The narrative would gain a lot more credibility by stating that the nature of the explosive charge was not known.

This would lead to the evaporation of the scepticism around the processing and associated hazards of concentrating hydrogen peroxide and mixing it with an impure organic substance.


There is another piece of evidence that would shed a lot more light on what the alleged bombers were doing at the purported laboratory at Alexandra Grove.

During the proceedings, evidence was lead (p3 line 24 - p4 line 2 of the 1st February Session of the Hearing) in order to connect the alleged bombers to Alexandra Grove. One piece of evidence found at Alexandra Grove was a piece of paper with Tanweer's handwriting on it which contained a chemical formula. Unfortunately this evidence was not made available for publication, for all we know it could give the proportions of pepper to hydrogen peroxide; similarly, it could give the procedure for making piperonal from piperine using hydrogen peroxide, alternatively it could be about anything else.

Lastly, I have alluded to the question of whether or not Alexandra Grove was a drug factory or a bomb factory. I will leave analysis and discussion of that question for another post.

12 February 2011

Gove's Irrelevance

The Telegraph reports, Michael Gove loses High Court case over scrapping school building projects, explaining that,
"Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, lost a High Court battle to cancel school building projects in a landmark case which threatens to slow the Government’s spending cuts."
But in the scheme of things this is an irrelevance.

Turning to the court decision, Luton Borough Council & Nottingham City Council & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Education [2011] EWHC 217 (Admin), Mr Justice Holman makes a point of saying,
"124 I wish, finally, to make two matters very clear so there is no future misunderstanding.

125 First, other local authorities than these claimants will no doubt read this judgment and may consider that they are in the same or a sufficiently similar factual position to claim the same relief. I have stretched a benevolent discretion to Sandwell, who were shortly out of time, for the reasons I have given. The decision is now, however, over seven months ago, and in my view any other authorities would now be far too late to apply for judicial review. I do not mean to trivialise so important an issue, but it may be said that fortune has favoured the brave.

126 Finally, the extent of my decision is that the Secretary of State must, I stress must, reconsider the position of each of the claimants with an open mind and paying due regard to whatever representations they may respectively make. But provided he discharges that duty and his equality duties, the final decision on any given school or project still rests with him. He may save all, some, a few, or none. No one should gain false hope from this decision."
The Telegraph reports explains that,
"Chris Robbins, the leader of Waltham Forest Council, called the decision “a victory for common sense and fair play”. David Mellen, Nottingham council’s portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “This is a powerful judgment and a vindication of all the determination and hard work that has brought us to this point.”"
It isn't.
The process has wasted more money and the result will be the same.

Yes, there is some incompetence on behalf of Gove for not going through the process properly: if he had bothered to discharge his common law, consultative burden, he would have most probably discharged his statutory equality burdens. However, he will simply go through the process again; properly this time, and stop the building programmes.

08 February 2011

JACS-B Image Challenge

At last. I've got one right.

The Journal of the American Chemical Society has an internet feature that takes an image from one of its publications and asks the viewer a question as to what it represents. The picture above is from, Challenge 127.

See if you can answer the question provided at the other end of the link.

05 February 2011

Simply Wrong

The J7: 7/7 Inquests Blog has just released the following utter and complete shocker from,


"Q. Detective Sergeant, just to clarify it, if we could go back to [INQ105680-12] at paragraph 64 , when, in the opening to the Theseus trial, as was widely reported, it stated there that this information was recovered from that mobile phone found at Edgware Road, is that simply wrong?

A. Yes. [ibid p39:22 on]"

"Simply wrong? We can add this 'simply wrong' to the litany of errors anomalies and inconsistencies that J7 have detailed, so far, over the 15 weeks of the 7/7 Inquests. The fact that 'simply wrong' evidence can be used in an attempt to convict 3 men, all found innocent, who faced up to 40 years in prison isn't just 'simply wrong' it's 'simply appalling'."

04 February 2011

Cannabis Cultivation

Auton & Ors v R. [2011] EWCA Crim 76 is a fascinating case where Lord Justice Hughes explains,

"The present four cases require us to consider sentencing in cases of smaller scale, but well planned and resourced, cannabis cultivation operations. Often, but not always, they may be carried on in the defendant's home."

However, it is not only the sentencing guidelines that are fascinating but the description of cannabis cultivation.