Meeting The Exiled Knight Who Inspired Anders Breivik
Earlier this year, VBS.TV put together a documentary about the Royal Wedding. While we were making the film, we noticed a blogger based in Malta who was convinced that Prince William had been chosen by God to fight the rise of Islam like King Arthur reincarnate. He was Paul Ray, an exiled founding member of the EDL who now leads an anti-Muslim group called The Ancient Order of the Templar Knights. In conversation at the Grandmaster's Palace in the Maltese capital of Valletta, Paul seemed like many things, but he didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd later inspire a psychopath to bomb the Norwegian government and shoot 68 innocent people dead.
When we walked out of the airport to meet them, we weren’t sure who to look out for, but when the two skinheads in matching hoodies with Templar Crosses on their chests started waving, we presumed we’d found our hosts. Paul was immediately welcoming, if not a little suspicious of our intentions. Less affable was the guy he had brought with him. We hadn't met or spoken to him before, but it was clear that his name was probably Nick, because he had ‘MAD NICK’ tattooed on the side of his head.
They drove us to the city of Valletta, and over a coffee Nick introduced himself as a former neo-Nazi who’d spent time in jail for trying to kill a German politician with a pipe bomb. He also told us he'd starred in a Donal MacIntyre documentary alongside Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, a loyalist paramilitary leader on whom he’d modelled himself. He was pretty miffed that we hadn’t previously heard of him nor seem the Channel Five film about him. We were equally as happy not to have known any of this before agreeing to meet up.
In the MacIntyre film, Mad Nick flagrantly breaks numerous international laws and appears to smuggle blood diamonds and arms across Africa. He also marries a black woman, with whom he shares no mutual language, who seems pretty devastated when she discovers his neo-Nazi past an hour before the wedding. Since divorced from this lady, Nick now claims he's due to marry the daughter of deposed Liberian cannibal despot Charles Taylor*.
Whilst Nick admitted that he was only a Christian for ‘political reasons’, Paul seemed really sincere in his Christian beliefs, and talked a lot about helping his local church. He also talked about having taken missionary trips to the Congo, and invited us to film a trip he was planning to Somalia where he would meet hostages and sell computers to pirates. We raised the question of how much security would cost for such a mission, but he said there was no need as he "had God on his side." It was hard to know how to respond to the offer.
Although they met us with a lot of warmth and the day wasn’t without its light moments – introducing Paul to Talking Heads, for example – something gave us the impression they were suspicious about our intentions. Maybe it was the fact they took photos of our faces "in case we tried to smear them."
This made for a few tense conversations about political beliefs and who we’d voted for in the recent general election. They accused us of being faint-hearted liberals, and being such, we didn’t put up too much of a fight.
As friendly as they were, we still had the vibe that something wasn’t quite right. Nick didn't do much to quash said vibe when he told me his friend ‘Mad Dog’ wouldn’t like me because of my Irish name. So it was a bit of a relief when we made it back to the normally depressing airport bar, ending our time with the man whose rhetoric seems to have inspired Anders Breivik to commit the worst atrocity in Norway since the end of WWII.
*Maybe not the most stringent check, but the only "daughter" of Charles Taylor the internet has heard of is one running an email scam from Sierra Leone.