Security theatrics and Byron Sonne

‘You guys sure as hell didn’t find any combined explosives, ’cause I didn’t make any’

Pat Hewitt/CP

“You guys sure as hell didn’t find any combined explosives, ’cause I didn’t make any.”
Byron Sonne, under interrogation by Detective Tam Bui, June 26, 2010

It’s called “security theatre,” the bombastic display of body scanners and bomb squads paraded out in airports and at mega-events like the G-20 to deter terrorists and make us all feel safe. Does it stop terrorists who aren’t scared by the costumes and gadgets? Or does it miss them entirely while ensnaring hapless goofs who stick out from the crowd?

Those are the real questions yet to be answered in the curious case of Byron Sonne. They likely won’t be addressed until his criminal trial is over (the judge is deliberating now, verdict expected on April 23rd). That’s when, if he is cleared, Sonne has vowed to take legal action against the police for incarcerating him for 11 months and ruining his marriage and reputation.

But we may have to wait even longer for answers to the big questions, as the spectacular security show is back on. Yesterday, police bomb-squads returned to Sonne’s former residence in Forest Hill, two years after their first raid, and dug up his backyard.

They found… something, whisked it to the Leslie Street Spit in a massive convoy, and burned it. Initially they planned to detonate it, but apparently it won’t detonate. So what was in it? The cops called it “explosive material” and CTV reported that it was an “explosive device.” Most likely, it was potassium chlorate, a perfectly legal substance found in matchsticks and firecrackers (also in disinfectants and fertilizer) but which is not itself explosive. I’m no chemist, but the Internet tells me that potassium chlorate is very similar to potassium nitrate, or “saltpetre,” (which I used to buy at Shopper’s Drug Mart when I was 12 and liked to make little smoke bombs).

The remains of this new threat will soon be examined, and hopefully we’ll then learn whether Byron Sonne made a bomb or not. If not, here are some new questions:

  • If the substance was so dangerous, why did the police wait until now to dig it up and destroy it, given that they knew about it for months?
  • Is it a coincidence that the police staged the raid during Judge Spies’ deliberation?
  • Is it a coincidence that the individual cop behind the raid is detective Tam Bui, the same cop who led the investigation against Sonne and who will have the most egg on his face (and possibly, the most liability) if the case falls apart?
  • If Bui is trying to influence the verdict, will there be consequences?

Jesse Brown is the host of’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown


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