Three in court after mustard gas found at wartime RAF base

A man has appeared in court charged with possessing a machine gun and mustard gas at a Second World War RAF base.

Martyn Tasker, co-accused Michaela Tasker and Stuart Holmes were arrested after the discovery of containers filled with the highly noxious substance in Lincolnshire woodland in October 2017.

Tasker, 39, was charged with having a working Bren machine gun, possession of mustard gas canisters, and discharging mustard gas into fresh inland waters.

Mustard gas found
Divers undergoing decontamination during the operation to recover mustard gas bombs from Stixwould Lake, near Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire (Royal Navy/PA)

Michaela Tasker, 31, was charged with possession of mustard gas canisters and discharging mustard gas into fresh inland waters.

Holmes, 50, was also charged with having mustard gas canisters, depositing mustard gas in Roughton Woods, Lincolnshire, depositing mustard gas in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health, and discharging mustard gas into fresh inland waters.

During a short hearing at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, the three accused spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth and were not required to enter a plea.

Mustard gas found
A bomb disposal unit at Stixwould Lake, near Woodhall Spa, Lincoln (Royal Navy/PA)

The court heard that the charges had been brought jointly by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Environment Agency.

Police declared a “major incident” after the canisters were first discovered on the former air force base at Roughton Woods, near Woodhall Spa.

Bomb disposal officers had to be called in and further testing was carried out on the substance at the Government’s specialist Porton Down military research laboratory.

Mustard gas found
One of the First World War mustard gas bombs recovered by divers from the bottom of Stixwould Lake (Royal Navy/PA)

Two people who found the canisters needed hospital treatment for burns and respiratory problems, but were able to go home shortly afterwards.

The highly dangerous gas, a chemical warfare agent, causes severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs of those exposed, and was used during the First World War.

The military shut down RAF Woodhall Spa – which had been a satellite of the main RAF Coningsby site – in the mid-1960s.

Martyn Tasker and Michaela Tasker, both of Longdales Road, Lincoln, and Holmes, of Witham Road, Woodhall Spa, were granted unconditional bail to appear at Lincoln Crown Court on September 12.

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