POLICE found hundreds of rounds of ammunition and home-made explosive devices including a grenade at the home of a defendant who has since undergone gender re-alignment surgery to become a woman.

Leeds Crown Court heard Heather Anne Exley, 45, went to Thailand for the painful surgery while on bail following the discovery at her address on April 14, 2014.

Robin Frieze representing her said she had been going through the transition from a man to woman for five to six years. She was trusted on bail to return to the UK and had now undergone most of the surgery required and "can get on with her life."

Exley was today jailed for three years.

Mr Frieze said when the weapons were found, there was an initial suspicion it was linked to terrorism, but after thorough checks it was accepted there was no sinister or ulterior motive for the explosives and ammunition.

Exley had an interest in militaria and chemicals and made items at her home and then did not know what to do with them. She appreciated the seriousness of her actions and the risk involved.

Michael Smith, prosecuting, said in 2012 officers attended Exley’s address in Pen Drive, Hightown, Liversedge, to speak to her because of concerns from the Post Office about chemicals being transported through the mail.

After police checks no further action was taken, but in April 2014 officers again went to the home on suspicion she was producing class A drugs. Although that was not the case, she accepted she was supplying chemicals to others on a small scale through the internet. A search of the house over several days revealed the explosive devices and substances as well as over 2,000 rounds of home loaded cartridges.

Among the items found was "a hand grenade type device found in the defendant’s bedroom."

Police also found ten partially constructed hand grenades in her bedroom without PETN explosives in them and also ten improvised detonators which had been modified from commercially purchased initiators with added explosives inserted.


They also found 9.8 grammes of PETN, a powerful secondary explosive which if detonated by itself could cause serious, if not fatal injuries, but would not be subject to spontaneous combustion.

Mr Smith said various powders including lead styphnate and a jar containing an old deteriorating mixture including nitro glycerine were also seized as well as remote detonating devices.

The ammunition found included one single round .40 Smith and Wesson which had been modified with a hole drilled in the nose so it would expand on impact and 16 jacketed hollow point soft nose bullets again designed to expand on impact.

Over 2,000 rounds of mainly home-loaded cartridges were also found, some strapped into bandolier belts, some in plastic boxes were also found for different sizes of weapons as well as some deactivated firearms.

Exley's computer and written notes revealed her interest in chemicals including recipes for explosives and suppliers of firework pyrotechnics.

She said it all stemmed from an interest in militaria, fireworks and rocket making and Mr Smith told the court "we cannot put a sinister ulterior purpose to this."

But he said the risk was if the items fell into the wrong hands they were potentially lethal. He said there was also no evidence Exley was still making the items at the time of the police raid.

Exley admitted ten charges of having an explosive substance, two of possessing prohibited ammunition and possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate.

Jailing her for three years Judge James Spencer QC said she knew what she was doing was illegal.

"I have read the report that this was something of an obsession you had and the reason ascribed to it whether over-compensation for other problems does not mitigate this," he added.

He said it was accepted her motives were not sinister but she could have come under pressure from others who learnt of it or it could have been stolen by others with sinister motives

"It is the potential for harm caused by the possession of such a quantity of such material"

After the case, Detective Chief Superintendent Clive Wain, the head of the North East Counter Terrorism Uni, said: "I hope today’s outcome at court sends a message to the public that the possession of highly volatile chemicals and explosives is not only extremely dangerous but it also likely to constitute a serious criminal offence.

"Exley had stored these chemicals and explosives in a house in a well-populated residential area and there is no knowing what might have happened had they been ignited, either accidentally or deliberately.

"It is still not clear what Exley’s motives were for obtaining the chemicals, or possessing large quantities of ammunition without the appropriate certification. Whether it was a fascination with explosives and firearms, or her intention was more concerning, thankfully the items were removed before any further steps could be taken."