A TEENAGER who threw 'fire bombs' onto the M3, bringing the motorway to a standstill for more than 11 hours, was linked to the incident thank to an 'artisan' bottle of water.

Nicholas Elger, 17, who can now be identified following the lifting of previous restrictions, pleaded guilty to two charges of arson recklessly endangering life in December, with a not guilty plea to two charges of causing danger to road users accepted by the prosecution.

The incident on the M3 closed the stretch between junctions 9 and 11 for 11 hours on September 23, causing traffic chaos in the region and the local economy losing an estimated £40m, according to Rob Welling, prosecuting.

At a hearing yesterday Mr Welling told Winchester Crown Court that "a voice" had told Elger to kill and he subsequently threw “fire bombs” onto the southbound carriageway in two separate incidents.

Mr Welling added that Elger had told police he didn't regret his actions, but that he regretted not killing someone.

Both devices were thrown to coincide with vehicles passing under the bridge.

Bomb disposal experts were called to investigate the “potentially hazardous material” that was thrown from a motorway bridge but was later discovered to be flammable but not explosive.

Officers also confirmed that a similar incident happened on the same motorway bridge the previous Saturday.

Mr Welling said that police had linked the incident to Elger after finding an empty bottle of 'artisan' Voss water used to carry fuel. The water, along with a number of other items, had been shoplifted from a Tesco store by Elger in preparation for the M3 incidents.

The Winchester teenager, who was detained at a mental health hospital prior to yesterday's sentencing hearing at Winchester Crown Court, had also previously pleaded guilty to eight counts of burglary against Winchester College – during which computer equipment estimated to be worth more than £37,000 was stolen – and two charges of blackmail with menaces against the school demanding payment of £20,000 in the online currency bitcoin.

Over a period of weeks Elger, a boarding student at the prestigious £38,000-a-year private school, broke in and stole various items which he later sold on eBay.

Mr Welling said: "It didn't cross his mind that stealing was a criminal offence... he found the risk enjoyable."

The court also heard that Elger's house master James Fox has become concerned by his behaviour after finding a drawer full of matches and a knife with the name James carved into the handle – the name of an alter ego Elger had created.

Mitigating, Robert Morris said he was a "deeply troubled individual", but had been making improvements while undergoing treatment.

Mr Morris added that Elger had lost his place at a top university, been expelled from school and that sending Elger to prison could undo any progress.

Imposing an interim hospital order detaining Elger at a mental health facility, Judge Keith Cutler described him as a "dangerous young man". He added: "Significant harm could have been done to the public."

While under the interim hospital order, a psychiatric evaluation will be completed on Elger, before his case is reviewed again on May 18.

Judge Cutler warned him that he could be facing considerable prison depending on the outcome.

Following the hearing a Winchester College spokesperson said: “In June 2017, a pupil at the college admitted a series of burglaries at the school.

"In discussion with the boy’s family and the school medical service, it was agreed that he would leave the school to receive the more extensive medical support he required.

"Some months after the boy had left the school, the authorities contacted us following an incident on the M3 motorway.

"This has been a sad and difficult time for the boy and his family, with whom we have remained in contact to offer appropriate support.”