Richard Alleyne / London Telegraph | June 26, 2008

Scientists working for the government experimented with a number of weapons worthy of a comic book hero in order to control crowds without causing long term injury, it has emerged.

The researchers at Porton Down looked into a variety of “non-lethal” devices including “instant banana skins”, spray on superglue that stiffens clothes and “entangler grenades” that cover protesters in nets.

But they rejected most of them – including knock out gas and remote control model aeroplanes – because they were either ineffective or too dangerous.

The government agency, which invented CS gas, was asked to come up with the new weapons by the military after the furore over Bloody Sunday in 1972.

According to recently declassified files from the National Archives, the military wanted weapons that would “incapacitate” demonstrators, allowing them to be captured.

The scientists were given the widest possible brief and came up with a range of weaponry that come straight out of the pages of science fiction novel.

They included a powerful, fast-setting, glue that when sprayed on clothes would instantly set them hard and so incapacitate the wearer and a super-slippery strip of road called an “instant banana skin” which would cause crowds to lose their footing.

The scientists also researched a drug which would safely knock someone out but they rejected the idea worried that anything made people unconscious very quickly risked killing them too. Instead, they worked on an “auto-inject dart” – to be fired from a gun – which contained either an emetic to make them sick or an anaesthetic to make them fall asleep.

However their favoured drugs turned out to be too dangerous. Files show the medical staff advised there was “an unacceptably high risk of death” with the vomit-inducing apomorphine.

The scientists seemed to do better with their “entangler grenade”, another idea they took forward. This would explode in the air into coils of wire, landing on and immobilising protestors. The wire would be covered in fast-setting super adhesive and stick to rioters.

Royal Ordnance was asked to make up 1,000 of the grenades for testing but there the file ends – there is no indication of whether further tests were carried out.

The final idea was a “missile” which could take the place of the rubber bullet. Scientists were very taken with the idea of modifying model aircraft so they could fly into a crowd at speed and knock down individuals.


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