Gun prank in friend's luggage backfires for soldier at Edinburgh airport

A SOLDIER sparked chaos at Edinburgh airport when a prank to plant toy guns in his friend's luggage backfired.

Matthew Monaghan, 19, from Northern Ireland, waved a water pistol about and told security guards his friend "has a gun too" at the departure terminal.

The soldier had been on a break to Scotland with four friends when he decided to play a practical joke.

But the "joke" landed him in prison for three nights and none of his friends was allowed to board the Ryanair flight.

Meanwhile, a security worker, who failed to spot two toy guns which had been taken through X-rays in their hand luggage, was sacked by BAA over the safety breach.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court a sheriff blasted his "stupid" antics after he admitted breach of the peace.

Fiscal depute Dev Kapadia told the court how Monaghan had been working as a brick layer when he and some friends came to Scotland for a holiday in May this year.

They were about to return to Northern Ireland on Friday, May 2 and were at Edinburgh Airport waiting on their flight.

Although there were security posters up around the airport, warning about illicit items which are not allowed on flight luggage, the group had been playing "jokes" on each other throughout the break.

And Monaghan, along with another, had planted a water pistol and a toy gun in the baggage of two of his friends.

Mr Kapadia said: "Mr Monaghan and his friend had purchased these two guns and had put them in these two bags, but unbeknown to Mr Monaghan, his friend had switched the gun to his bag, so technically he did not know about it."

The men carried the bags through the security checks oblivious of the alarm they might spark until Mr Monaghan found the water pistol and began waving it about.

A security worker in the busy terminal who saw this confronted him.

Monaghan pointed at his friend and replied: "I don't know what you are worried about – he has a gun in his bag too."

The staff member later told police that he had been alarmed by this because Monaghan had not said toy gun or water pistol, only gun.

He said he was worried the items could spark panic among other passengers.

The luggage was re-examined through the X-ray and an outline of what appeared to be a hand gun appeared, although this also turned out to be a toy.

Mr Kapadia said BAA later sacked the person responsible for allowing the bags through unchecked.

Monaghan and the owner of the other luggage, Allen Murney, were arrested and Monaghan was kept in cells over the weekend.

He originally denied the offences but pleaded guilty to conducting himself in a disorderly manner and allowing an imitation fire arm to pass through a security controlled area, putting people in a state of fear and alarm and breaching the peace.

Mr Murney, 21, had similar charges against him dropped as he was unaware of the guns.

Monaghan's lawyer, Di Moore, said her client had only recently joined the army and hoped to serve in Afghanistan following his basic training.

She said: "He spent three nights in custody to reinforce how unfunny it is. He is terrified this incident would jeopardise his army career.

"It was an idiotic prank."

Sheriff Derrick McIntyre, who was handed the offending toys, said: "It's hardly an imitation."

But, fining Monaghan 1350, he told the County Down man he should have known better.

He said: "Being from Northern Ireland you should be even more attuned to how stupid this was.

"Clearly it was a prank, these are quite clearly a water pistol of some sort and a toy gun."

Sheriff McIntyre reduced the fine from 1,500 to reflect the plea of Monaghan, who will also face disciplinary action from the army.