DETECTIVES in North Yorkshire have spoken about the part they played in tracking down a teenage hacker who sparked chaos at hundreds of schools and a US airport.

George Duke-Cohan was sent to prison for three years on Friday, after admitting making hoax bomb threats to schools around York including Our Lady Queen of Martyrs RC Primary School in Hamilton Drive and Hempland Primary School, where school bags, coats and lunch bags were searched.

North Yorkshire Police's Digital Investigations & Intelligence Unit worked with the National Crime Agency who found Duke-Cohan made bomb threats to a United Airlines flight travelling from the UK causing the aircraft, part of the airport and 295 passengers to be quarantined when it landed in San Francisco.

Detective Constable Steven Harris and his team helped track down Duke-Cohan following lengthy investigation of Apophis Squad - a team of hackers who disguise their real identities and taunted victims and authorities because they believed they could not be identified.

He said: "We first became aware of Apophis Squad in March when they sent the first round of email bomb threats to schools across the UK. A lot of schools in York and North Yorkshire were affected but we got in touch with the schools at quite an early stage with guidance about how to respond and how they could preserve the digital evidence that arrived in the hoax emails. As a result we did not see the school evacuations in North Yorkshire that took place elsewhere in the UK, but Apophis Squad’s actions still caused a great deal of anxiety for teachers, pupils and parents.

"It was clear from the threats and tweets sent by the group that they originated within the Minecraft gaming community so we directed a lot of our investigative research in that area. Apophis Squad did a lot to try and hide who they really were but through a lot of determined open source investigative work we were able to support the NCA by identifying Apophis Squad members and their activities in both the UK and overseas."

Det Con Harris said he and the team were pleased with the sentence, and hoped it sent a message to other hackers.

He said: "There is an emerging trend among some gamers where they try to identify the real-life details of some of their rivals and then call the police with false information about that person in order to try and provoke a police response - known as 'swatting'.

"We take an extremely dim view of those who engage in swatting attacks, so hopefully Duke-Cohan’s sentence will make the consequences clear. His young age and lack of previous convictions was not a barrier to him going to prison for offences that ultimately arose out of petty disputes within the Minecraft community."