July 7, 2021 5.19 pm This story is over 33 months old

Ex Lincoln police worker jailed for two years over explosives and guns

She had a haul of explosives, chemicals, and weapons

A police worker and YouTube survivalist who made an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) with a modified shotgun cartridge and tampon wick was jailed for 27 months.

Zoe Ashley Watts, 35, a former PCSO who worked for Lincolnshire Police for eight years, was arrested in October after a search at her home on a residential street in St Helens Avenue, Lincoln.

The police raid at her three bed semi-detached house found the IED, along with a haul of chemicals and other weapons including a modified fly swat and two stun devices.

Zoe uses a baseball bat covered in glass and smashes watermelons with faces of famous people including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. | Still: YouTube

Instruction manuals for making a revolver and shotgun and the ‘Anarchists Cookbook’ were also found in Watts’ home which was described as “untidy” and showing signs of hoarding.

Experts who examined the IED concluded it was “potentially viable” and had been made from a modified shotgun cartridge which contained the chemicals nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin.

A tampon wick coated in parafin had been attached to the device and was blackened indicating it had been lit at some point.

Zoe Watts had her own YouTube channel called Survival Mistakes.

Despite being employed by Lincolnshire Police, Watts was a “hoarder” who also ran a survivalist YouTube channel on which she sometimes experimented with fires and explosions, Lincoln Crown Court heard.

Andy Peet, prosecuting, said Watts was employed as a PCSO with Lincolnshire Police but was clearly in possession of weapons, objects and substances that were “inherently dangerous.”

“Plainly her hoarding of those items was not compatible with her employment by Lincolnshire Police,” Mr Peet told the court.

Zoe used to be a PCSO before moving into a different role within the force.

Mr Peet said it was accepted that Watts had no sinister motives and was primarily motivated by her interest in survivalism.

“She made YouTube videos and on occasions would go into the woods,” Mr Peet added.

Passing sentence Judge John Pini QC told Watts that while he accepted she had no malicious intent, he had to pass a substantial prison sentence to deter others from experimenting with such objects.

Zoe Watts admitted her charges in court. | Photo: Stephen Daniels

Watts, 35, who became a civilian worker with Lincolnshire Police after previously being a police community support officer, first came to the attention of Border Force officials, the court was told.

Her home was raided after customs officers intercepted packages containing two butterfly knives which Watts had imported from Holland a month earlier.

A bomb disposal team was called in and nearby homes were evacuated after police discovered the IED, with local residents unable to enter their homes for several hours.

During police interview Watts revealed the IED had been locked in her chemical cupboard for around two years.

She denied any intention to use it but said she thought it could be used as a firecracker or to “blow off a lock, like in the movies.”

Nick Fooks, mitigating, said Watts had no political motives either on the left or right, and had now lost the job of which she was so proud.

Mr Fooks added that Watts was of previous good character and was not diagnosed with autism until the events which led her to court.

Zoe Watts at Lincoln Crown Court. | Photo: Stephen Daniels

Watts, who operated a YouTube channel called ‘Survival Mistakes’, admitted the charge of making an improvised explosive device (IED).

She also pleaded guilty to five charges relating to other items found in her home and two butterfly knives which were intercepted by the Border Force in September last year.

The butterfly knife, the improvised explosive device (IED) and the mobile phone taser found by Lincolnshire Police.

Her guilty pleas were to the following charges:

  • Making an explosive substance, namely an improvised explosive device, between 1 January and 4 October 2020.
  • On October 4, 2020 had in her possession a prohibited weapon adapted for discharge of a noxious liquid, gas or other thing, namely an electric fly swat.
  • On October 4, 2020 had in her possession a prohibited weapon, namely stun gun
  • On October 4, 2020 had in her possession a prohibited weapon, namely a taser stun device
  • On September 5 improperly imported goods, a prohibited weapon, namely a butterfly knife
  • On September 5 improperly imported goods, a prohibited weapon, namely a butterfly knife

The Lincolnshire Police custody mugshot of Zoe Watts.

Lincolnshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Kerrin Wilson said the force had been “shocked” by the case and Watts’ fascination with weapons.

“While there was no evidence to suggest she had plans to use these, the nature of them was disturbing and quite frankly, completely incompatible with what we stand for,” she said.

“We believe the explosive device could have been capable of detonating and causing injury to anyone in close proximity of it,” she added.