COUNTY NEWS: Man guilty of threats to kill schoolchildren

A Sussex man who fantasised about becoming a notorious killer was convicted of making threats to kill schoolchildren today (Thursday, September 29).

Court news. NNL-160706-163936001
Court news. NNL-160706-163936001

Zachary Dunning, 19, unemployed, of Athelstan Road, Hastings, was found guilty of making threats to kill children at two schools in Robertsbridge at Woolwich Crown Court.

Dunning had done ‘elaborate’ planning and visits to Robertsbridge ahead of an attack, which was prevented by his arrest, police said.

He was charged with four counts of the offence although denied he would carry them out, but the jury unanimously found him guilty of three counts.

Police were informed by the Sussex NHS Mental Health Partnership Trust of threats Dunning had been making and his attempts to buy a gun.

Dunning told his mental health worker about his thoughts about killing children and then himself, claiming he wanted to be notorious like other American school killers.

They believed his threats to be serious enough to contact the police.

Dunning was arrested and bailed with extremely strict bail conditions to remain at home overnight and not to go to Robertsbridge on January 29.

He was then detained under the Mental Health Act in February and when his detention ended he continued under his bail conditions, but was remanded in custody after being charged in March.

Detective Superintendent Nick May, who led the investigation, said: “The priority for us was always the safety of the children and we did everything in our power to make sure Dunning adhered to his strict bail conditions.

“We worked closely with East Sussex County Council and the relevant head teachers to put measures in place so that no pupils were at risk while an investigation was carried out.

“Dunning indulged in elaborate planning which included extensive internet searches and visits to Robertsbridge.

“Our close working with ESCC was focused on keeping the children safe and prevent Dunning from carrying out this threat, I know we did everything within our power to work with the schools to protect the children.

“I am relieved he has been found guilty for everyone’s safety and thank the council, schools and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for their work and support.”

Dunning will be sentenced on November 25.

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