By Adam Shand.
Police are investigating the theft of a large amount of highly volatile and toxic chemicals, some used in bomb production, from a storage facility of Melbourne's Alfred Hospital sometime over the past week.
The Bulletin has learned that the chemicals included compounds previously used in the production of home-made explosive devices and Molotov cocktails. However, a detective from Melbourne CIU said police have not yet ruled out the possibility that the chemicals could also be used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamines.
Police believe one or more thieves broke into a brick storage building at the rear of the Alfred Hospital's Anatomical Pathology department twice between 4pm last Wednesday and 9am on Monday, on the second visit removing selected chemicals in a carefully planned operation. It's understood a lightly secured door opening onto a lane behind the hospital was forced using bolt cutters.
The Bulletin understands that an audit of the missing items is not yet complete but includes a variety of highly flammable chemicals used by the hospital for undisclosed medical and cleaning purposes.
Amongst the haul was 500ml of Isopentane, an extremely volatile and flammable liquid with a boiling point only a few degrees above room temperature. A 2.5 litre container of ethanediol, a thick colourless liquid used in the production of explosives was also taken. Ingestion of as little as 10ccs of ethanediol causes fatal kidney damage to humans.
Some of the volatile chemicals, including ethanediol, have been used in homemade bombs by combining the compounds with sulphuric and nitric acids, both readily available to the public in Australia.
The haul also included 20 litres of chloroform, 2.5 litres of Dibutyl phthalate(DBP), once a common plasticizer in nail polish but now known to cause birth defects. All major producers began to remove DBP from their nail polish in spring last year.
Police searching for the gang have been warned to exercise extreme caution in handling these chemicals.