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Jury clears fake bomb detector salesman who thought he found Madeleine McCann

Hampstead Garden Suburb man Simon Sherrard told the Old Bailey he believed the Alpha 6 device had located Madeleine McCann Hampstead Garden Suburb man Simon Sherrard told the Old Bailey he believed the Alpha 6 device had located Madeleine McCann

Thursday, June 20, 2013
11:23 AM

A Hampstead Garden Suburb man who sold bogus bomb detectors across the globe – which he claimed had located Madeleine McCann – has been cleared of fraud.

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Simon Sherrard is accused of selling fake bomb detectors based on a novelty golf ball finder to governments and armed forces across the globeSimon Sherrard is accused of selling fake bomb detectors based on a novelty golf ball finder to governments and armed forces across the globe

Simon Sherrard, of Hill Rise, admitted selling the useless Alpha 6 devices to governments and security forces including in Thailand and Lebanon

But the 50-year-old was convinced the machines worked as advertised – and on Tuesday he was cleared of fraud following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey.

He broke down in tears and hugged his supporters as the verdict was handed down.

It was claimed the machines could detect minute amounts of explosives, drugs and even human beings from large distances, the court heard.

But experts said the devices were little more than modern-day divining rods, assembled from cheap components and offering no advantage over random chance.

Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Sherrard said he believed the Alpha 6 had been able to “triangulate” the position of missing Madeleine McCann, who vanished in Portugal in 2007 aged three.

It was said a photograph of her was used to “programme” the device, which pinpointed her as “in Ireland or somewhere in middle or northern Europe”.

Mr Sherrard had six agents around the world selling the contraptions, priced from around £1,200 to £13,200, and his Comstrac firm took scores of high value orders, including one for 479 devices worth £830,000.

He told the court he thought the machines were “amazing”, and he believed a secret Russian laboratory had backed the device. He said only one customer said the machine did not work and they did not accept his offer of a full refund.

He was being tried alongside Bedfordshire couple Sam Tree, 65, and his wife Joan, 61, who are accused of manufacturing the gizmos.

The Trees, of Houghton Road, Dunstable, who deny making an article for use in fraud between January 2007 and July last year, face a retrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

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