The gunman who carried out the UK’s worst mass shooting in 11 years was a “blackpilled” loner who posted YouTube videos despairing about his lack of success with women only weeks before the rampage.
The gunman, named as 22-year-old Jake Davison, killed two women, two men and a young girl in a six-minute spree in the southern English port city of Plymouth on Thursday night, before turning his weapon on himself. It was Britain’s deadliest mass shooting since 2010.
Shaun Sawyer, the Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable, told a press conference on Friday that Davison had killed a woman at a property in Biddick Drive, Plymouth shortly after 6pm last night, before going on to the street and killing a young girl and one of her male relatives.
He then shot a man and woman on the street – leaving both hospitalised with significant injuries – before moving on to a park, where he fatally shot a man, then on to a nearby street, where he shot a woman who later died in hospital.
"Eyewitnesses have told us that then Mr Davison turned the gun on himself, taking his own life," said Sawyer. He said police believed the first victim had a “familial” relationship to Davison, but would not provide further details.
Sawyer would not be drawn on a possible motive for the attack, although he did say police are not treating the incident as terror-related. But Davison's social media paints a picture of a disturbed loner with deeply nihilistic and misogynist views on society, who had all but given up hope of turning his life around.
Davison, an apprentice crane operator who held a firearms licence, had a YouTube channel on which he had recently posted three videos speaking about his social isolation and struggles with attracting women, heavily referencing terms and debates from “the manosphere,” the misogynistic pockets of the internet where communities like “incels” – the involuntarily celibate – congregate.
While Davison stated in one video that he didn’t classify himself as an incel, he was clearly deeply engaged with the subculture, and agreed with “blackpill” ideology: the fatalistic idea that a man’s prospects and status in life are inescapably determined by his genetics and physical attractiveness.
Experts say that conviction has led some radicalised incels to plot violent “revenge” against society, frequently singling women out as targets. The online subculture has been linked to a number of deadly attacks in recent years in North America since 22-year-old Elliot Rodger murdered six people in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, after uploading a YouTube video outlining his motivations.
In Davison’s last video, posted just over two weeks before the rampage, the gunman, appearing to refer to himself as a virgin, spoke of being “so beaten down and defeated by fucking life” and having lost his motivation to try to change his life through exercise.
“You wake up and you stare at the wall and you’re thinking: nothing’s changed. I’m still in the same position... Still a fucking this, that, virgin, fucking fat, ugly, whatever you want to call it,” he rants.
“I don’t think people really get it. Why do blackpillers always give up? Because why the fuck wouldn’t they?”
At the end of the video – which was viewed by VICE World News before it was removed from YouTube on Friday – he expressed his determination not to give up, saying he sometimes liked to think of himself as “a Terminator.”
“I know it's a movie, but, you know, I like to think sometimes I'm a Terminator or something and despite reaching almost total system failure, he keeps trying to accomplish his mission.”
In another recent video – a reaction to a YouTube debate featuring a prominent “blackpiller” – Davison again expressed misogynist and “blackpilled” views, saying most women “are very simple-minded and they ain’t all that bright” and had no need for below average men.
“Why do you think sexual assaults and all these things keep rising… because the reality is that women don’t need men no more [sic], and they certainly don’t want and don’t need average men, and below average.”
Two days before the shooting, he added a video to his YouTube “liked” playlist of a semi-automatic weapon, one of a number of videos focused on US gun culture on the playlist.
His Facebook and YouTube pages showed he was also drawn to far-right, anti-immigration and libertarian politics, liking content from Nigel Farage and UKIP, France’s Marine Le Pen, provocateur Katie Hopkins and controversial libertarian Stefan Molyneux.
A spokesperson for antifascism campaign group HOPE not hate told VICE World News that while it was “too soon to say what motivated this man to commit murder, we do know that the incel ideology can be dangerous and radicalising.”
“It is built on misogyny, and a twisted, desperate worldview… those who consume incel content have engaged in violent attacks.”
Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute in Radicalisation and De-Radicalisation Studies, said that while he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the Plymouth shootings, the incel community often overlapped with far-right ideology, as “toxic masculinity and violent hatred against women are common threads cutting across most forms of violent extremist ideologies.”
“However, we must understand people who consider themselves to be incels or a member of that environment to be impacted by many different factors apart from political ideologies… especially the role of mental health issues stands out.”
Incel violence has until now been a largely North American phenomenon. Last month, 21-year-old Tres Genco was indicted by a grand jury over an alleged plot to murder sorority members at a university in Ohio, while in March, a 28-year-old Canadian man was found guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder for a 2018 van-ramming attack in Toronto. Shortly before the attack he had praised Rodger, and declared the start of an “incel rebellion.”
But in January, a 22-year-old Scottish incel was jailed for 10 years under the Terrorism Act, for possessing weapons in preparation for an attack. The court heard that Gabrielle Friel was obsessed with mass killings, and idolised Rodger.