A MAN planted a ‘bomb’ and literature related to terror group ISIS on town centre benches in an attempt to panic shoppers and workers, prosecutors allege.

Preston Crown Court heard how Blackburn Town Hall and The Mall were evacuated as army bomb disposal experts and armed police were called to the benches in King William Street, after passers-by assumed the device was a credible threat.

Prosecuting, Rachel White said Craig Slee watched from a nearby doorway as the drama unfolded near the easyCoffee shop.

She said at no stage did he alert officials that the unattended items, which included a laptop covered in electrical tape with a mobile phone attached to it, a silver case with electric tape on it, and books titled The Island Of ISIS and The Girl Who Beat ISIS, belonged to him.

The 49-year-old later told police he was part of the rave collective, Spiral Tribe, and was raising awareness of terror attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka by recording a music video.

The jury was told at 4.30pm on Friday, May 3, Sarah Quinn was leaving work at Blackburn Library when she saw an empty wheelchair with a backpack and a record by rap group Public Enemy on it, next to a bench.

On the adjoining bench there a laptop covered in electrical tape with a mobile phone taped to it, a vinyl record box which was taped shut – which police feared was an improvised explosive device – with the books next to it.

There was also a hot water bottle, a lighter, a bottle of perfume, headphones, an incense holder, a Buddha statue and mini party ring biscuits.

Giving evidence on the opening day of the trial, Mrs Quinn said she was so concerned by what she had seen that she went into Blackburn Town Hall to tell the authorities. Receptionist Deborah Lowe, who had recently undertaken counter terror training, accompanied Mrs Quinn outside and said she “felt sick” by what she had seen and instructed Mrs Quinn to contact the police.

Addressing the jury, Mrs Quinn said: “I stopped initially to see if there was anybody with them (the items). I found it really disconcerting. I walked into the town hall to report it.

“The receptionist came out with me to have a look. I then called the police.”

The court heard police arrived within 10 to 15 minutes and a 100-metre cordon was put in place. Buildings including the town hall, The Mall, Wilko and the Halifax bank were evacuated.

Army bomb disposal experts took the items to Greenbank Police Station where they were X-rayed and found to contain no explosives.

The court heard it was only when police contacted the counter terrorism authorities that Slee shouted over to them to say the items were his.

When officers asked Slee, who was wearing a purple scarf over his head and sunglasses with a lens missing, what the items on the benches were, he said the items posed no risk and he was merely making a music video.

He said he was doing this to highlight attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand and was doing this to promote world peace.

He said he had been travelling to local towns to raise awareness of worldwide terrorist attacks, had a list of questions to ask the public and belonged to the London-based Spiral Tribe.

He said he had intended to strap a Technics turntable to the wheelchair, but it was too heavy and he was waiting for a friend to come along with a bluetooth speaker.

The court heard that when police searched Slee’s property they found nothing of relevance to the investigation.

Ms White said the key issue in the case would be intent.

The prosecutor said: “The prosecution say that it is clear from the items and how they were left that the defendant intended to make members of the public believe they were explosive devices.

“He had a record box but no record player. He said he was giving out records but the box was taped shut. He had left these items unattended in a public space outside a civic building.

“He sat watching from a doorway, perhaps enjoying watching as the drama unfolded and he made no attempt to promote his rave organisation or invite anyone to dance.”

Slee, of Logwood Street, Blackburn, denies placing an article with intent.

The trial continues.